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Caravan toilets: the ultimate guide


You wouldn’t believe how many questions we get about caravan toilets and caravan toilet chemicals, so we’ve put together this article to flush out the facts

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Words by Louise Cottrill


What you need to know about caravan toilets

Some of the main questions are about the type of toilet chemicals to use and what they do. A caravan toilet contains three main parts: the toilet bowl, fresh water flush and waste tank (where the waste is flushed to).

Traditionally, chemicals are used to break down the waste and disinfect the waste storage tank and they are used in different parts of the caravan toilet system.

What is a caravan cassette toilet?

A cassette toilet

(Photo courtesy of Jim Blackstock)

You’ll hear the term ‘cassette toilet’ a lot when it comes to caravans. The ‘cassette’ is the waste water tank you regularly remove to dispose of your toilet waste.

A toilet cassette in a caravan will last a day or two without emptying; a single flush of the loo at home would fill one. This means there is lots of water saved, right there.

How to clean and empty your toilet

Emptying a cassette toilet

(Photo courtesy of Jim Blackstock)

When you pitch up on the campsite, one of the water services you will need to connect is your toilet. Open up the waste cassette and add the required amount of diluted blue toilet chemical.

If you have a flush tank, top up the water and some of the pink chemical here. Some campsites will only allow ‘greener’ alternatives that are better for the environment, so check before you go.

Caravan toilet chemicals

Caravan toilet chemicals

(Photo courtesy of Andy Stothert)

Toilet chemicals are the caravanner's friend. But what are they? How do they work? Are they poisonous? Do some work better than others? Why are some pink and some green or blue?

In a nutshell there are three main types of toilet chemicals: blue chemicals are used for waste breakdown; pink chemicals are used for cleaning and disinfecting, and green chemicals are for eco-friendly users that don’t want to use formaldehyde-containing products.

Many general chemicals (including the pink and blue toilet chemicals) contain formaldehyde, a toxic compound which is banned on many environmentally friendly campsites as it can damage the ecosystems they use to dispose of waste.

These days, there is a good choice of formaldehyde-free chemicals, that are altogether less damaging. The bottle should describe the contents; if not, ask the supplier or find this information on the company's website.

These increasingly use enzymes and natural substances, which aid the decomposition of the waste.

Tips for maintaining your caravan toilet

There's a procedure for using any cassette toilet – lift the lid, open the valve, give the flush a quick go, do your business, flush again, close the valve and drop the lid.

Finally, the shutter valve on the cassette will work much better if you periodically spray it with a silicone lubricant, when the cassette is washed and dried. Thetford makes one, especially for the purpose. Don't use conventional automotive lubricants, which can damage the plastics and rubber seals.

When it comes to toilet roll, luxury domestic toilet paper is simply too bulky, clogging and absorbent to work well in caravan loos and septic tanks. It's a small sacrifice to buy quick-dissolve paper or even to nip to the pound shop and get some cheap paper, which tends to work as well.

You'll thank us one day, when you see someone trying to empty a cassette, leaning over the disposal point while grimly jabbing the seeping lump of blockage with a stick.

The chemical toilet in your caravan uses chemicals to break down waste separately from the toilet bowl in a separate waste tank. In breaking down the waste, chemicals/products you add will also control those unpleasant odours.


What is a cassette toilet?

A cassette toilet is used in caravans and comprises of a toilet bowl, fresh water tank for the flush and a holding tank where the waste is flushed into.

What do these different toilet chemicals do?

Simply put, blue is for breaking down waste, pink is for cleaning and disinfecting. Many of these products contain formaldehyde. If you are looking for an eco-friendly alternative, opt for the green-coloured products that use more natural methods to break down the waste.

When and how should I empty the toilet cassette?

When you notice the cassette is two-thirds full, it is time to empty and clean the cassette. Empty the waste at the correct waste point on your campsite. Depending on the size of your party, the general rule of thumb is empty every day or two.

Can you use house toilet paper in a caravan?

It is not advised that you do. Normal toilet paper you use at home is too dense for the flush system to deal with and will cause you some unpleasant moments when emptying your waste tank.

Can you poop in a caravan toilet?

Yes, you can. Some people choose not to do this if they are on a campsite with facilities.

What is the fuss about formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a toxic substance, which minimises smells because it is a biocide. Formaldehyde kills the bugs in excrement, which are the cause of the bad odours. Although formaldehyde does break down eventually, there are concerns that it can cause real problems until this happens, and as a result, many loo chemicals are now declared 'formaldehyde free.'

Final thoughts

Cleaning a cassette toilet using Eco Green toilet cleaner

(Photo courtesy of Jim Blackstock)

Caravan toilet chemicals are important to ensure your caravan toilet waste is broken down so you can dispose of it easily. Using the right products to disinfect is also advisable. In the world that we live in, caravanners and campsites are moving towards greener methods of waste disposal, ditching the traditional blue and pink potential formaldehyde-containing products for greener alternatives.

Here are some formaldehyde-free alternatives for you to consider:

  • Blue Bio
  • Dometic GreenCare tabs
  • Dometic PowerCare tabs
  • Elsan Organic
  • Elsan Boatkem
  • Fenwicks Top & Tail
  • Olpro Bottom & Top
  • OLChem
  • OLRinse
  • Aqua Kem Green
  • Towsure Toilet Green
  • Blue Diamond When Nature Calls
  • Maypole Eco-Friendly
  • Kampa Green

Others may be available.

Expert Caravan advice to your door!

Caravan Magazine

Caravan magazine has been inspiring caravanners for more than 80 years! We have grown to become a leading authority on caravans, the caravan industry, caravan lifestyle, campsites and caravan travel destinations. We know what our readers want – and that's to make the most of their caravans and their holidays!

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01/09/2023 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

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