Living in an RV presents some special challenges. Having the freedom to roam and live anywhere, while at the same time not leaving your home is very alluring.
But the fact that you are always on the road means you cannot be connected to utilities and have to think of clever ways to live a normal life.
While not a very comfortable topic to discuss, toilets and waste disposal is a very important aspect of living in an RV. Failure to plan properly can mess up your experience and in extreme cases even make you back off from this tiny, mobile lifestyle.
On the other hand, planning properly and implementing proven strategies can give you a very pleasant experience.
So off the bat, can you poop in an RV toilet?
Can you poop in RV toilet?
The simple answer is YES, of course you can.
The point of living in an RV is to have a comparable experience to what you would have in a normal stationary home.
Getting rid of waste from our body is a fundamental human function, and what an unpleasant experience it would be if you have to alight your RV every time you need to poop or even just use the bathroom in any way.
The same way it would be hard imagining a passenger plane without a loo, is the same way for an RV.
So yes, you can poop in an RV.
Read: 5 Unique Tiny Houses on Wheels
Should you put toilet paper in an RV toilet?
Modern sewer systems are intricate pieces of plumbing and engineering, designed to be inconspicuous as possible.
In fact for the most part, a sewer system should be invisible. What happens when you push the flush button should never be your concern.
In an RV it is of utmost importance, perhaps more than it would be in a permanent house, that the system works. Many RVers understand this, and therefore their concerns on what to put inside an RV toilet are legitimate.
The last thing you want is clogging. Generally speaking, toilet paper should be safe for an RV toilet.
The quality of toilet paper has come a long way, and nowadays most of the widely available brands will be fine. Some experts will however recommend what is called ‘septic-safe toilet paper’.
Basically, a septic-safe toilet paper is one that disintegrates more easily than others. On the supermarket shelf you’ll find them advertised by such terms as ‘Rapid Dissolving’, ‘Perfect for RV’, etc.
For an RV, you should be looking for a toilet paper that:
- Disintegrates easily.
- Highly absorbent
- Soft but strong.
The reason you want the toilet paper strong is because you should be looking to use as little as possible in every flush. Having one that tears up easily before the job is done will only lead you to use vast amounts, increasing the likelihood of clogging.
Here are 3 other qualities you should avoid in an RV toilet papers.
- More than 2 ply. Again, the less toilet paper used, the better. This can either be in length, or mass or matter. Avoid the 3 ply or 4 ply papers.
- Scented toilet paper. Adding scent involves adding unnecessary chemicals in the manufacturing process. These might end up being unhelpful in the process of breaking down the paper. Avoid scented versions, unless it’s outright stated that whatever chemicals were used will not affect the dissolving.
- Quilted toilet paper. Some manufacturers advertise their quilted toilet papers as septic safe. But I think any step in the manufacturing process to make the layers remain attached to each other more strongly, either by using adhesive or clever patterns, will not be helpful during dissolving time.
At the end of the day it will come down to individual preference. Your toilet habits are not the same as everyone else’s. So, try out different brands before settling on the one you think works best for you.
As a side note, as part of the tiny living movement, I think it would be irresponsible to buy or promote brands made from virgin pulp. We believe in sustainable living and there is no reason whatsoever why we should be cutting down forests to make toilet paper, when we can recycle existing paper.
Read: This Couple Converted a School Bus into an Off-Grid Home and Now Live on the Road
Is Special RV toilet paper necessary?
As we’ve tried to answer above, special RV toilet paper is not necessary. It does help if you buy one specially designed to be appropriate for this use, but spending extra dollars for this purpose may not be a top priority.
As mentioned, you will be the best judge of what kind of toilet paper you need, depending on your toilet habits.
What can you flush (and not flush) in an RV toilet?
Your RV sewer system working 100% as it was designed is paramount in having a desirable time living on board.
A toilet not working correctly can be a deal breaker. We have discussed toilet paper and the best ones to use. So, the first and most obvious thing to avoid is unsuitable toilet brands.
It may not be easy to recognize which are bad for your septic tank easily, but there is an easy test you can conduct. Take a small piece of the toilet paper and drop it in a glass jar. Let it sit for about one day.
If the tissue looks dissolved or has disintegrated into tiny shreds, it is safe for your RV toilet. If it is close to its original form, you might want to avoid that one.
Toilet tissue is about as much non-human waste you want to go into your toilet. It is tempting to flush diapers, baby wipes, paper towels or sanitary pads. But if you really love your peace of mind, avoid that temptation like the plague.
Don’t flush them even if they come with giant ‘flushable’ labels. Disposable wipes, many labeled ‘flushable’, are responsible for clogging municipal sewers across the world. Imagine how much damage they can do to your RV system.
This also goes for kitchen waste like leftover food.
Where does RV toilet poop go?
Just like in an passenger plane, the age-old question of where does the poop go after you do your thing; its final destination – always comes up when we’re talking about an RV.
It is never an obvious answer particularly for people helping themselves in an RV for the first time all those just starting to live on the road.
Toilet and the entire sewage system remains a big mystery to most people with wild speculation running around.
The idea that you could do everything you normally would in a house connected to utilities and municipal water and sewage systems on the road is very hard for many people to wrap their heads around.
So where does the RV toilet poop go?
I think the easiest thing would be to first answer where it does not go.
Just like planes which do not drop their waste from 35,000 feet in the air, RVs do not dump their waste on the road. That would be hazardous and illegal.
To understand waste disposal in an RV you need to know about the black holding tank. It is an equipment/tank under your rig that holds waste water from your toilet.
It is called ‘Black’ to differentiate it from the grey tank which holds other kinds of waste water from the house, e.g. water from showering, cooking or washing dishes.. the soapy kind of water.
There are ‘dump stations’ scattered all over, especially in parks or campsites where RVs often park. All you need is a hose to transfer the waste from both your black and grey tanks, to an underground septic tank.
In most RVs, locating the outlets is easy, and it should be a pretty straightforward activity. Just ensure you are sanitary when doing it, e.g. by using gloves and ensuring the hose and outlet connections are tight enough so there are no leakages.
If you used the right kind of toilet paper, and did not flush down unsuitable items, you should be on your way with empty holding tanks in a matter of minutes.
This video shows you how to do it.
Where are RV dump stations?
Now you know where RV waste goes. But where do you find these dump stations?
Because the Recreational Vehicle culture is so ingrained in America’s way of life, dump stations are pretty common. But the fact that they are not really advertised on TV or have huge signage means you might work a bit to get to one.
You can always use an online tool that points you to an RV dump nearest to you.
Or you can find out about the places they are generally located. For instance, many state or federal parks have dump stations. Campgrounds too.
In some states, some stores offer the service. There are also areas where emptying into sewer lines at designated spots is allowed.
Do RV dump stations charge?
Dump stations can be free for everyone, free for overnight guests, or paid. It’s good you find out in advance.
In cases where you have to pay for the service, the price rarely exceeds $20.
How often should you empty your RV waste tank?
Remember an RV is a moving house. Toilets and plumbing systems would generally prefer to remain stationary.
Although holding tanks are engineered to be strong enough under vehicle movement stress, this strength may be undermined by having a lot of content in the tanks.
A good estimate would be to never let your holding tank exceed 2/3 capacity. This also helps in preventing accidental overflows.
Can you dump RV waste at home?
Perhaps your RV is not your only residence, and you only use it for weekend or holiday activities. It would make sense that you wait until you return home so you can dump all that waste.
It will sure save some money and time associated with looking for a dump station. But are you allowed to do this?
The quick answer is Yes. You can dump your waste in a residential sewer system. If the waste is going into city or municipal sewer however, you might want to check with your local authority as some may have certain restrictions.
What you will almost always not encounter any trouble doing, is dumping the waste into your home septic tank. This is your own private sewage ‘system’ that breaks down the waste using natural bacteria. Chemicals are not even required for the process.
Dumping gray water into your septic tank is okay too. However with this, you should be careful about the cleaning products, shampoo and even dish washing soaps you use.
In a conventional city sewer system, this should not be a concern. In a home septic system though, some chemicals in certain cleaning products may interfere with the natural waste break-down process. A good example is anti-bacterial soaps, which can end up killing the helpful bacteria.
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