Beginner’s Guide to RV Toilets & Tips for the Dump Station
Beginner’s Guide to RV Toilets & Tips for the Dump Station
Types of RV toilets and best practices for dumping your tanks.
By: GoLife Staff
Even the most seasoned RVers will likely admit that they struggled with the idea of having to dump the waste tanks before taking to the road for the first time. While not complicated or difficult, it is probably not something you ever thought you would have to do before becoming an RVer – and certainly not a task to look forward to. We get it.
But the flexibility and freedom that comes with RV travel is worth it! (And we’re not the only ones who think so). Plus, it really isn’t too bad if you do it right.
So, whether you are on the fence about RVing because of the dreaded black tank, debating a model with a more up-close waste disposal method (such as a cassette toilet or Porta Potti), or maybe you are a brand new RVer wanting to make sure you don’t have a traumatic dump station incident … this article will help to answer your questions and put you at ease about your RV toilet.
Types of RV Toilets & How They Work
Winnebago RVs usually come with traditional gravity flush toilets, but some of the smaller models made with more flexible RVing in mind have cassette or Porta Potti toilets.
Here’s the difference between the three...
Gravity Flush RV Toilet
This toilet looks similar to what you would expect in a “sticks-and-bricks” home or hotel. Perhaps a little smaller and lighter weight, but the setup generally looks the same. It also has plumbing.
However, in most residential homes, you just flush the toilet and don’t have to worry too much about where everything ends up. Of course it goes somewhere, but you probably don’t even know exactly where that is or how it gets there. In an RV, that changes. You know everything that goes into your toilet is going into your black tank. And you know you have to keep an eye on its levels so that it never EVER gets too full because no one wants to deal with that overflowing. Yuck!
But you can easily avoid issues if you pay attention to your tank levels (shown on the command center on most modern RVs), follow recommended maintenance for cleaning, use a high-quality sewage hose when dumping (that you ensure is attached correctly!), and follow best practices.
Here is an example of part of the RV tank dumping process:
One of the big differences in the cassette toilet compared to the traditional gravity option is that it has a smaller capacity than a traditional RV black tank. While the actual toilet is similar, the tank needs to be removed from the RV to be dumped rather than using a sewer hose. It may sound a little intimidating, but many RVers with this option find it to be easy and offer more dumping flexibility since it could be dumped into a normal toilet as well.
Winnebago EKKO owners Noel Fleming and Chris Miller share how easy their first time dumping the cassette toilet was: “I was floored by how easy it was to dump. There was no waiting in a dump line, aligning the vehicle, or pulling out extra parts like the ‘stinky slinky’ and connectors. I simply removed the portable waste tank from the outside of the rig, extended the spout by twisting it, removed the spout cap, and poured the contents into the dump area while depressing the vent button.”
For more of their tips and insights about using this style of RV toilet, read this guide for RV cassette toilets.
RV Porta Potti
For travelers wanting more space and bathroom flexibility, the RV Porta Potti is a smart solution. This toilet can be stored away allowing what would have been a dedicated bathroom space to be used for additional living and storage space. It is dumped similarly to the cassette toilet, but does have a smaller capacity – expect about 33 flushes.
Here is a description from full-time RVer Nick Riebe on using the RV Porta Potti in the Winnebago Solis Pocket: “It has an exclusive rotating pour-out spout with a cap on the lower tank, piston pump flush on the upper tank, a sealed valve in-between that keeps odors in the holding tank, and an easy-to-read level indicator so you know when it’s time to empty the tank.”
Learn more about using the RV Porta Potti option in this guide.
Tips for a Hassle-Free RV Dump Station Experience
Since most RVs have the traditional gravity toilet with plumbing to the black tank, we wanted to offer some suggestions for having a clean, stress-free dump station experience! While many RV parks offer full-hookups which allows you to be directly hooked up to the sewer, you will likely have to use a dump station at some point.
Dump stations can be found at RV parks, campgrounds, and even some rest areas. They will have a place to attach your sewer hose for dumping your black and gray waste water as well as a hose for any cleanup needed.
1. Align Your RV Close Enough
You don’t want your sewer hose to barely reach the hole at the dump station and not be able to get a secure connection. Making sure to align your RV close enough is key to avoid those issues.
2. Wear Gloves & Sanitize
While following the right procedure for dumping your tanks should mean no messes, it never hurts to wear gloves when handling the sewer hose and touching other items at the dump station. Others before you may not have been so clean and you don’t want to risk getting sick! Gloves aren’t a must, but they definitely help. And, of course, always wash your hands really well after.
After dumping, it’s also a good idea to use a wipe or spray to sanitize the dump station handles and anything you touched on or in your RV while dumping your tanks.
3. Have the Right Sewer Hose & Attachments
A high-quality sewer hose made of durable material along with easy-to-connect attachments can make all the difference when dumping your tanks. Many RVers recommend a clear, curved “elbow” attachment in order to be able to see when the water is running clear and your tanks are fully emptied.
4. Make Sure the Sewer Hose is On the Drain Well
Depending on the dump station, you may be able to use your elbow attachment to secure your sewer hose to the hole at the dump station, but that isn’t always the case. Before you start to dump your tanks, just make sure the sewer hose is secured to your RV as well as on the dump drain – sometimes you will see a rock or something else other RVers have used to make sure the hose stays on.
The key is to just not let the force from dumping your tanks pop the hose off the hole. Because that’s when those messy situations you’ve been warned of happen!
5. Dump Your Black Tank First
When dumping your tanks, you always want to dump your black tank first because then when you dump your gray tank it will help to clean out any residue in the sewer hose from the initial black tank dump.
Once you are finished dumping each tank, you can do a flush by filling it up with water then dumping again. This can help remove any residue. However, if there is a line at the dump station, it is considered poor etiquette to flush your tanks because it is more time consuming.
Watch this video for an example of how to flush the black tank:
6. Don’t Forget to Close Valves & Use Wastewater Treatment
After you are finished dumping, make sure you close all your tank valves to avoid major issues. If left open, waste could leak out. Also, bugs could get in the open valves and create problems.
Treating your black and gray tanks with an RV wastewater treatment can help to avoid issues with odor and preventing clogs. It’s always a good practice to add that after dumping your tanks.
7. Use a Designated Hose for Cleaning Your Sewer Hose
Do not use the same hose you use for water to clean your sewer hose; this can lead to contamination and make you ill. It’s also just very unsanitary and icky. Simply find a non-potable water hose that is distinct from your freshwater hose and keep it stored separately.
After you are finished dumping your tanks, simply unhook the sewer hose from your RV but leave it connected to the dump station hole, then use the designate hose to rinse it out really well. Most dump stations provide a hose to use for this also.
8. Use Good Dump Station Etiquette
When using a dump station, being considerate to other RVers is one of the most important things to remember. Try to be as efficient as possible, clean up after yourself (especially if there are any messes!), and sanitize anything you touched to help stop the spread of germs. As noted above, avoiding flushing your tanks if there is a line is considered good etiquette also.
If you aren’t feeling confident about dumping your RV tanks, consider asking another RVer with a similar setup to give you a lesson. Online groups make it easy to find people to connect with and ask questions. There are also video tutorials and courses available through various websites.
Check out this resource for more tips for new RVers!
We hope this article helps make dealing with your RV toilet and dumping your tanks a little less scary. Remember that your RV dealer is a great resource as well and can help answer your questions when you pick up your RV!