This is Why You Can’t Replace an RV Toilet with a House Toilet


Everybody wants to feel comfortable when they go out exploring new places in their RV and what better way than to use a household toilet that you are used to?

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Can you replace an RV toilet with a house toilet? No, there are many problems that arise when you try to replace an RV toilet with a house toilet. The flushing mechanism is one of the main reasons you cannot use a standard house toilet in your RV.

While they have the exact same use, RV toilets and house toilets do not work in the same way; the two are not interchangeable. If you’re thinking of doing it, anyway, read this article first.

This Is Why You Can’t Replace an RV Toilet with a House Toilet

Here are some of the top reasons you can’t use these toilets for any purpose outside of their intended setting.

The two toilets are made for different situations. One is plumbed into a plumbing and sewer system, while the other has a “black water tank” that you’ll be emptying yourself. So, the water going in and out of each toilet doesn’t do so in the same way.

Your house stands still. An RV bumps and bounces. The weight of the flush tank is typically only held in place by two relatively small bolts. As the motorhome bounces and sways the porcelain bottom of the tank will not last very long. Every curve in the road will dump water out of your tank onto the floor as you go down the highway.

The trap on the home toilet would be problematic – and stinky. This is because the standard toilet requires extra water to flush everything through the trap at the toilet’s base. RV toilets just drop straight down into the black tank without needing the trap to control gasses.

Trying to keep the water in the trap would be very difficult. Also, the sewer gases from the holding tank are going to leak out into the coach which would be very unpleasant.

Your RV tanks aren’t built to handle the amount to water a home toilet uses. At its most efficient, a home toilet uses a minimum of 1-½ gallons of water every time it flushes. An RV toilet uses about ½ gallon every flush, less if it’s only pee. Simply put, your holding tank would fill up 3 times faster if you used a home toilet.

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Options for Toilets in an RV

There are four main types of toilets suitable for an RV: traditional gravity flush, portable camp, composting and cassette. Depending on your comfort level and what different qualities you’re looking for will lead you to pick a certain type. Keep reading for the pros and cons to these different options.

Traditional Gravity Flush Toilet

This toilet is very similar to a household toilet, so it would be a great alternative since it isn’t viable to put a household toilet in your RV.

These toilets don’t have water tanks at their back; you can only use these toilets when you’re connected to an outside water source (this gives your unit water pressure) or using a water pump to pump water into your RV holding tank.

The Foot Pedal Flush

Newbie RV-ers may be confused when they first see a traditional RV toilet, asking: “Where’s the handle to flush?” Often times there is a foot pedal positioned at the bottom to flush. You can either pull the lever up or hold it halfway down to fill the tank up with some water.

While it’s a known fact that RV toilets use less water, this factor only really depends on how long you hold it. Usually, all it takes is one or two seconds to get everything down the hatch. While conserving water you won’t need to flush any longer than this.

An RV toilet that is traditionally made is formed in hard plastic and can have a plastic or a porcelain bowl, while all the other parts are plastic. You can also choose different heights to fit your needs.

Here are the pros and cons of a traditional gravity flush RV toilet:

Benefits:

  • Is efficient. Doesn’t use much water.
  • Widely available. Easy to find a replacement
  • Inexpensive
  • You don’t have to see your waste

Disadvantages:

  • Odors can be a problem
  • Uses your water supply
  • Have to dump and deal with the waste
  • The black toilet tank can clog up

Composting Toilet

An RV composting toilet is self-contained and doesn’t use any water. It separates the solids and liquids as well. You may have seen this type of toilet on a recreational boat. These are convenient, as there may not always be a water supply or dump everywhere you go. These toilets work everywhere.

The biggest question people usually have over this toilet is if it smells. If they are used properly, they shouldn’t smell, it may be a little earthy, but it won’t smell like a sewer. Since a composting toilet doesn’t allow solids and liquids to mix, you don’t get a sewer smell. In addition, they have a little vent fan that pulls the bowl air outside with a vent.

How to Live with an RV Composting Toilet

In the area where the solids go, you should fill it with coconut coir, peat moss, or sphagnum. There is an agitator inside this compartment that you will turn every time you make a deposit.

All of this helps it dry quickly and get covered. You won’t have to look at or smell it. The liquids container separates from the unit and may be flushed down a toilet or septic tank/dump.

Dumping the RV Composting Toilet

How long is it until you dump these compartments? This depends on how many are in your family. For four people this setup may not be the best due to constant changing. But if you have one or two people the liquids may have to be changed about every other day.

The solids compartment can go about a month and even longer before needing to be changed. This is assuming you are also going to other places during this time. If not, then it only has to be changed at the end of your trip.

Here are the pros and cons of an RV composting toilet:

Benefits

  • You don’t need a dumping station
  • No water which means there is less waste to dispose of
  • Little power needed to consume (only a circulating vent fan)
  • No clogging or disasters with the black tank
  • You don’t have to move your RV to dump the black tank
  • You can also put your kitchen waste in the composting toilet

Disadvantages

  • Changing out solids can be more frequent with a big family or big eaters
  • You may be embarrassed walking around with a container of urine
  • If the vent’s screen gets a hole, you can get bugs
  • Doesn’t work very fast in cold climates
  • It can be hard to clean out if it isn’t managed right.
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Portable Camping Toilet

These are “Mini commodes” that are completely portable and the easiest to install. As far as dumping goes, they will be more challenging. And because of their size, they require more dumping compared to the other two.

Lastly, the waste is raw sewage because it doesn’t separate the solids and liquids. You will dump the waste tank by removing the portable toilet top and bringing it to an appropriate dumping place like an RV dump or toilet.

The problem is obviously that you will see and smell the sewage much worse than being at a sewer dump using a hose from the black tank, or than the composting toilet

This is the main downside to being able to easily install and transport your portable toilet. Some portable commodes may also sit lower than other types which means it will be hard for those that can squat very easily.

Here are the pros and cons of using portable camping toilets:

Benefits:

  • You can take it with you very easily
  • Only requires a bolt down, no real installation
  • Better than having nothing
  • Uses little water
  • You don’t need a dump station to empty it.

Disadvantages

  • Frequent dumping
  • Small holding capacity
  • You have to smell and see the content wherever you go to dump it out
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Cassette Toilet

This toilet is fairly similar to the portable toilet, but it is actually fixed in place, and the waste storage area is accessible from a door on the outside of the RV.

Unfortunately, you also have to get very close to the waste when you dump it. Many ties cassette toilets will be found in small vehicles like vans. You will have a hard time changing out this toilet if your RV comes with it already installed.

Pros and Cons of using the cassette toilet:

Benefits:

  • Better than nothing
  • Uses little water
  • Doesn’t need a dump station for emptying

Disadvantages:

  • Very small holding tank
  • Fairly disgusting to empty out the tank

The Takeaway

While it is not a good idea to try an install a household toilet in your RV, there are plenty of other great types of toilets that you can use instead to make it feel as homelike as possible or be even more comfortable and convenient than you originally thought.

Diane Dee

Diane is a lover of all things travel. She and her young family wanted to explore North America from the comfort of their own home so they bought an RV. After fully rehabbing a 1994 Safari Trek, they set out to explore both Canada and the USA.

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