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What is a cassette toilet? How does a cassette toilet work? How do you dump a cassette toilet? These are some of the questions we get asked all the time about the cassette toilet system that we use for camper van life. We’ve been using the system since 2017 and share our experiences and tips in this post and video.
The Cassette Toilet System
Watch the video below to learn more about how we use the cassette toilet system or keep reading.
What is a Cassette Toilet or Cartridge Toilet?
A cassette toilet is a permanent toilet with a portable black tank. This toilet system has been widely used in European RVs for decades. It’s becoming more popular in North America as more Class B RV manufacturers are using them in their camper vans.
A popular alternative to the cassette toilet is the portable camping toilet. You can find the portable toilet that we use at Walmart and Amazon.
Why Use a Cassette Toilet Instead of a Traditional RV Toilet?
The portable holding tank is the main benefit of a cassette toilet. Instead of the traditional holding tank, the portable tank can be removed and dumped in public restrooms or at dump stations. This system is great when camping in places without a dump station. Instead of having to drive to a nearby dump station, we can remove the cassette and walk it to the bathroom.
Cassette Toilet Manufacturer
The most well known manufacturer of cassette toilet systems is Thetford. Their line of cassette toilets are used in RVs and boats. In North America, Thetford offers two waste holding tank sizes: 4.5 gallons or 5.1 gallons. With water weighing in at 8.34 pounds per gallon, a full waste tank can weigh more than 40 pounds. That can be a heavy load for one person to carry. To help, the cassette includes wheels and an extendable handle so it can be rolled like luggage.
Dometic is also a manufacturer of cassette toilets. Several models are available in Europe and based on their website, the CTS 4110 is available in the U.S. and Canada. That model has a waste holding tank capacity of 5.02 gallons. Similar to the Thetford, the cassette has wheels and an extendable handle for easier transport from the camper to the dump location.
One concern with cassette toilets is the size of the holding tank. Cassette toilets have a significantly smaller holding tank compared to their permanent counter part. For example, there was a built-in 40 gallon waste tank in our Class A gas motorhome. We could boondock 10-12 days before breaking camp to find a dump station (How to Dump RV Tanks). However, we were limited to dump stations in the old RV. With the cassette toilet, we can dump at a station or a public bathroom.
Different From a Camper Portable Toilet
The cassette toilet is not the same as a portable toilet. The difference is the cassette toilet is permanently attached to the RV or boat. However, both toilet systems have a portable waste tank that can be removed for dumping.
We have used both systems and prefer them to a traditional black holding tank.
This Portta Potti by Thetford is the portable toilet that we use.
How Does a Cassette Toilet Work?
There are three main components: toilet, portable waste tank, and water source. For the purpose of this post, we will focus on the cassette toilet by Thetford: C-260 model. The basic function of the cassette toilet system is the same.
The toilet is permanently secured to the outer wall of the driver’s side of the RV. The toilet bowl turns up to 180 degrees on its base to maximize the small space. Our toilet is limited to 90 degrees due to the space in the wet bath. There is a handle on the outside of the toilet bowl that will open and close the valve to the waste holding tank below.
The flush button is installed on the wall of the bathroom above the toilet. The water is connected to RV’s central water tank. Next to the flush button is the waste tank level indicator. A red light indicates when the waste tank is full. There are models that have their own water holding tank for flushing.
The portable waste tank sits below the toilet. It can be accessed from a door on the driver’s side. There is a lock on the door to prevent theft of the portable waste tank.
How to Dump a Cassette Toilet
1. Make sure the valve blade handle is in the closed position and the toilet bowel is empty.
2. Open the cassette door outside, pull up on the safety catch to pull out the tank.
3. Carry or roll the cassette (it has wheels with an extendable handle) to a dump station or bathroom.
4. Remove the spout on the tank then lift it over the dump hole. With the spout pointing downwards, press the vent button. Hold the tank over the dump hole until all the waste has drained.
5. Pour water into the waste tank, gently swish it around and empty the tank. Repeat the rinse step until the liquid coming out is clear.
To see the steps in action, watch the video at the beginning of this post to see how to dump the cassette toilet.
Our Tips for the Cassette Toilet
These are our personal tips for how we use the cassette toilet. Note: what works for us may not work for you so our top tip is to use the system and figure out a routine that works best for you.
1. No Number Two.
The cassette toilet is designed for number one and number two. To save tank space and for an easier rinse, we only use it for number one. One rinse is all that’s required to clean the tank. There are public restroom options to take care of number two. It works well for number two and we have used it for emergencies, but our preference is to use the toilet for number one.
2. Toilet Paper In the Trash.
Another way to save tank space.
3. Dump Frequently.
Dump every two to three days regardless of how full the tank is. Frequent dumps keep unpleasant odors to a minimum.
4. Chemical Free.
To keep the van from smelling like a portable bathroom, we choose not to use chemicals. By following rules number 1 – 3, we don’t need the chemicals. We will add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the cassette after each dump to keep it clean and odor free.
Thetford does make a variety of tank treatment products that you can find at RV supply stores and online.
5. Keep the Lid Down.
Avoid the “splash” by making sure the lid is down before opening the valve blade. Pressure can build in the holding tank that can result in splashing. You don’t want to end up in the splash zone!
6. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness.
Prevent unpleasant odors by cleaning the toilet and tanks regularly. Thetford makes this non-abrasive cleaner.
7. An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.
Read the manual and follow the maintenance recommendations. The valve blade and seal need regular maintenance especially with frequent use.
The cassette toilet is extremely easy to use as long as we follow our rules. The portable waste holding tank is simple to operate and can be easily replaced unlike a traditional holding tank. The system also makes dumping more convenient and we have more options.
If you want to try the cassette toilet before making a commitment, check out the Thetford portable toilet that we use. The basic function is the same.
Cassette Toilet Frequently Asked Questions
After we published the cassette toilet video at the beginning of this post, we received many questions about how we use the system. The following questions were answered in the follow up video at the end of this post.
– What’s the point of the cassette toilet if you only use it for number one?
– You still have to empty the gray tank, why not just use a traditional black tank?
– If you don’t use your cassette for #2, what do you do while remote Camping with no facilities?
– Is there much splashing as you empty the cassette toilet?
– Do you rinse the cassette toilet after dumping it?
– Do you add any chemical or deodorizer to the cassette toilet?
– Is it possible to have 2 or 3 cassettes?
– Do you have any issues with the weight of the cassette toilet when dumping?
– Has anyone ever said anything to you when dumping at a rest stop or other bathrooms?
If you enjoyed this post, check out Composting Toilets for RVs.
If you want a good laugh, read about how we made out with our composting bucket toilet.
56 thoughts on “Cassette Toilet – What Is it? How Do You Use it? Where Do You Dump It?”
The cassette toilet is easier to maintain in terms of maintenance. Simply discard the garbage when it’s full, and the tank and toilet bowl will be cleaned at the same time. Simply fill the tank with water and your preferred cleaning solution.
How much distilled white vinegar do you use in a typical cassette toilet?
It depends on how big the tank is and if there is any smell, etc. Start with a small pour and adjust as necessary. No hard fast rules for how much to use.
What do you use to clean the tank and the toilet I read vinager make the seal leak because it’s bleach. I have to change the seal on mine.
Thetford recommends their non-abrassive cleaner for the Porta Potti.
I enjoyed your video, however, if you only use it for going #1, why not just get a sturdy plastic bottle with a secure lid? For me, I need to have a toilet that is there for #2. When I have to go, which is generally a short time after i wake up, then again after morning coffee, and a third time after breakfast, I can’t imagine “holding it in” while searching for a public restroom.
Thanks for all of your great videos! I don’t think the cassette toilet would work for me. I need to go #2 shortly after I wake up, and having to “hold it in” while I drive around looking for a public restroom is not something I could do or want to do. And if you’re only using the cassette for #1, why bother with the cassette toilet at all? Just get a big plastic bottle.
Where is the follow up video that answers the FAQ about casette toilets? It’s not at the end of the post as stated.
Thanks for catching that Alex. There was an issue with the embed code, but it’s all fixed now. You can also use this link to watch the follow up cassette toilet video.
Good stuff! Thank you!!
Hi guys. Take a look at this video, he recommends using washing powder.
Watch “Toilet cassettes – expert advice from Practical Motorhome’s Diamond Dave” on YouTube
I appreciate your comment that dumping your cassette into a portapotty spreads out the “pyramid”, but I have been at events or places with portapotties enough that I worry that you might cause that portapotty to be filled up more quickly than the company was planning to come empty it. I figure the company uses average usage and you’d be putting in a lot more than that. I follow you on Patreon and know that you always try to do the right thing.
Hello Russos! I stumbled upon a couple of your videos while doing a search for Class B RVs. I like your style! I could retire as early as September, so when the COVID pandemic is over, I’d love to start doing some road trips. The Cassette toilet seems like it might be a good option for me, but I’m having trouble finding a van that has one already installed. Can you direct me to either 1) RV Manufacturers that have the toilet already installed and/or 2) Shops or installers that could install one for me in the Sacramento, CA area. Thank you!
Hey Cathy. Are you referring to the portable toilet that we use now or the permanently mounted cassette toilet that was in the ProMaster van?
I talked to few Tethford dealers and I’m told this Tethford Cassette toilet system can only be order from Europe, is that correct? Otherwise can you please let us know where in the US we can order the kit from?
Thank you in advance
I was able to find it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZEokMi
Hello, I hope Joe’s shoulder is healing. I was wondering what chemicals you use in your porta potty. We have the same one that we plan on using in our cargo camper conversion. If you have a vid about that please let me know. Keep up the great vids and information.
John & Lisa Gillham.
Hi John – we use white vinegar. We’ve found it works better than chemicals without the smell of a Porta Potti.
In your youtube video you did not walk though the cleaning process of the cassette toilet, I did see this, “We will add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the cassette after each dump to keep it clean and odor free.” Do you add the vinegar and leave it in through the cycle? Or is it added during the “post empty” rinse? Also for cleaning the cassette valve, what do you use there? Then there is the question of dumping into a park toilet, I assume you are not dumping the full 6.4 gallons, wouldn’t the toilet overflow?
Thanks much, your video was very informative. And I think I am referring to the toilet in the blue van, permanently mounted. One last question. Is there EVER a reason to have a second cassette for ANY reason? Not to store waste necessarily but breakdown issues etc.
Sorry, lots of questions!!
Hi Gordon – to answer your questions, to clean the cassette, all we would do is add some fresh water (or gray water from the RV) into the cassette and kind of swish it around. For more of a deep clean, we’d dump it, add vinegar then fill it with water and let is sit for a while. After we dumped, we would then add the vinegar. For the seal and toilet, we’d just wipe it down with a rag and a bit of vinegar or a non-abrasive cleaner.
You actually can’t overfill a toilet (unless it’s clogged) because any excess with go down the trap in the back. If you want to see what I mean, fill a bucket and dump it down the toilet.
We wouldn’t personally carry a spare cassette. It takes up a lot of room and that space is precious to us.
Hope this helps – Joe
I am curious how does the grey water system differ from U.S models. Are the hook ups exactly the same or is it an entirely different system?
Since this is a North American RV, the grey water is dumped in the same fashion.
I liked that you explained that one benefit of using a portable toilet is that you will be a place to relieve yourself while you are camping or away from restroom facilities. One reason that I don’t go camping is due to the lack of a toilet on a lot of camping grounds. I will consider purchasing a portable toilet so that I can camp again.
We have a Flagstaff High Wall with a Thetford Cassette Toilet Model #C223CS. Currently the flush does not work even though we were connected to city waster. Should it work whether connected to a city water source or will it only work if connected to the on board water tank?
I will appreciate your help.
Hey Ed – we don’t know with that model and how your rig is set up. Our suggestion would be to call the RV manufacturer as they would be the best to help you and troubleshoot any issues.
Hydrogen peroxide. Smell comes from bacteria. Hydrogen peroxide oxidizes any and all bacteria and fungus. I have used this to clean out my portable urine bottle I use beside my bed, where the smell was bad after a week or so (if I forget to empty it nightly). I fill with water, top with H2O2, and wait till the bubbling stops. Pristine condition again.
-just remember to allow for venting of the gas (hydrogen) when the bacteria is oxidized.
-add hydrogen peroxide after each solid bowel movement, and never worry about smell again.
You were talking about dumping into a porta potty, which confused me until I realized you were talking about Honey Buckets. To me a porta potty are the things Thetford makes. Which brings me to the question, isn’t the cassette toilet essentially a porta potty, except that the upper part is built into your RV? So dumping a cassette tank is exactly like dumping a porta potty tank, except you get wheels on the tank?
You’re exactly right.
Hello love the videos. Is there anywhere tht has a list for all the different cassette toilets. Different brands ect. We like the idea of removing the cassette from outside the rv. We are going to be travelling from usa to europe. Obviously by boat but then touring europe. Lol. Can other rv toilets use cassettes or just certain makes. Thanks
Hey Stephen. The cassette toilet by Thetford is the one we are aware of. Enjoy your tour of Europe!
Thank you for this information guys! This is really informative. We’re currently in a 25′ travel trailer and are looking to move into a Class B, likely something closer to a Class B+. This information really helped alleviate some of the concerns I’ve had about losing that big black tank!
Do you know if their is a macerator adapter you can use to help break up the clumps of #2. That may make it easier to clean, if you use it for #2. Do you think a macerator might be worth it?
Maybe cassette toilet emptying machines will start to be more prevalent in the US as well eventually. I haven’t really camped much yet but I think that in European camp sites, you basically just shove the cassette into a machine, push a button, wait and out it comes, sanitized and pre-filled with chems (if you so choose). With that kind of setup available, owning a cassette toilet would no doubt be awesome. But it does depend on infrastructure to be availble, like https://www.thetford-europe.com/thetford-machine/what-is-thetford-machine/
You get all the benefits of the cassette toilet and numerous others by going with a composting toilet. Nature’s Head makes what is probably the best fit for an RV, it’s compact and super easy to operate. It’s the most natural, it’s 100% odorless, and the easiest to dump as well. Most likely also the cheapest to operate.
I have a 1993 Adventure wagon class be so I have always had a porta potty. Love your presentation and love to see others using this type of potty now upgraded but still using this basic flush system.
Q about Cold Weather – It looks like you take out the bottom/back of the toilet from the outside of your vehicle. I’m not sure about its exposure – but has it, gulp, ever frozen?
No, we don’t get into weather that cold.
Whenever I ask someone what benefits justify all the many, gross compromises that come bundled together with their cassette toilet system, they usually say that there are more places to dump. I just don’t see how that could be true — at least in the north east half of the U.S.
I understand that in Europe there might be a system of shared dumping facilities outside of campgrounds, but the U.S. is not a big fan of shared public facilities (or shared public anything else… I mean, come on – even the healthcare system is profit-based – don’t get me started.)
In my home city, it’s darn near impossible to find a public bathroom just to pee in.
You go to Panera or whatever, pay for a drink or a bag of chips and then use the code on your receipt to open the locked bathroom door. Here, the smaller highway rest stops are locked most of the time. Gas stations either have a “mini mart”, where you walk through the store to get to the restroom, or they don’ t have public toilets at all. Every rest stop I’ve been to in the last year (as far west as Wisconsin and as far south as Delaware) has been designed so that you enter the main building and walk past the Sbarro or whatever to access the 40-stall bathroom facilities. Most porta-potties are privately rented or owned, not for public use. E.g. I was required to provide a porta-potty for our location in order to have our small wedding in a State Park. Ultimately someone gets a bill – it’s not like the waste disappears down the drain. In our case, including delivery, one day use for under 100 people, and then removal at the end of the event, it cost about $200. That was in 1996.
Serious question –
What’s the furthest out of your way that you’ve had to travel in order to find an appropriate place to dump your cassette?
If you were to make a pie chart of where you typically dump the cassette, what percentage of the pie would be comprised of non-public, non-campground locations (like bathrooms or porta-potties provided by private interests)?
How many times have you dumped on the ground, either greywater or black?
Thanks in advance for any info
Jean – having had both a standard black tank and the cassette, it’s much easier to find a place to dump the cassette and the most we’ve ever had to drive has been a few miles to a public park or something to dump. The nice thing is that not only can we dump in all those standard dump stations, but we also have the other options we mentioned. We also don’t dump either of our tanks on the ground.
Is there an adapter that you can switch from a cassette to hose and back so when you are staying at campsite you can hook up directly to black water in ground.
No there isn’t.
You touched on a couple of the points that are my big concerns; the smell both inside the rig and when dumping (I have no sense of smell so would not realize there was a problem until WAY TOO LATE) and how other people in the US respond to your dumping. The smell is/has always been the biggest concern for me, and after watching The Fit RV’s video when they tried a cassette toilet have become almost obsessed about it — they used the cassette for both (I’m assuming) for only a weekend and their ‘reactions’ dumping it are enough to make most people reconsider. Also, you may want to consider (and if you’ve tried I would appreciate your mentioning somewhere your experience(s)) using one of the off-brand Pinesol cleaners in place of the vinegar if/when there may be longer periods between when you can do a more thorough flush/clean for some reason.
Hey David – there are quite a few people out there who use the toilet for both 1 and 2 and use the blue stuff in their tank. No smells reported. Vinegar works great also. Very few people who use cassettes on a regular basis don’t like them.
For controlling odors, try spraying the bowl with febreeze or other air freshener or a spoonful of pinesol or similar cleaner
Is there a level indicator for the cassette toilet?
Yes there is. A red light will come on when the cassette to close to full.
When you say there are public restroom options for #2, how does that work if you are boondocking or in primitive facilities? Do you drive out to a restroom morning and afternoon and hope you are on the same schedule? Or because of the toilet do just never stay anywhere without easy access to restrooms?
When dispersed camping, we follow the rules for human waste that can be found on the US Forest Service website https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/responsible-recreation
Thank you for this very well-made video with clear explanations and suggestions! My husband and I just closed the deal on a Hymer Aktiv today and he knew how nervous I am about having to deal with black water, so he shared this with me a couple of nights ago. Can’t say I am looking forward to the chore, but you guys sure made it sound tolerable! Looking forward to watching your other videos and learn more about everything that comes with our new camper van!
For the past several years, we’ve been using a Thetford Curve (which has very similar to mechanism of action) as an auxiliary toilet in the basement of our house. It handles regular toilet paper and large poop deposits without any problem. Anything that fits through the inlet, can come out through the outlet pipe. The empty-rinse-reinstall process takes only a few minutes. Under heavy usage, the occassional cleaning with soap and (preferably) warm water will keep it smelling good as new. Our toilet has no residue odor.
I understand the convenience of the cassette toilet, but what/where do you empty the grey tank?
Thanks for sharing John. We find an RV dump station to empty the gray tank.
Great video as always. As you say we in Europe have had cassette toilets for years and are so easy to use. We have a caravan (trailer to you over the pond) which is made by Hymer with a Thetford toilet and like yourselves is used for number ones and for number twos in emergencies. We use Thetfords Aqua Kem® Green additive in the toilet which breaks down the waste and keeps everything smelling fresh. It also breaks down toilet paper so no need to put that in the trash. A toilet paper tip is to use cheap toilet paper as it breaks down quickly. I can’t think what it must be like to empty a black tank??? Keep up the good work. Nice to see your Barcelona video a great city which we love. A big thumbs up to you both.
Thanks Mick and great suggestion on the Kem Green additive. We’ll have to see if we can find it locally.
Hi guys, thanks for the cassette toilet review. I’ve been hoping to see a review on it as I’m seriously considering a Hymer Aktiv 2.0, all due to watching your videos. So, here is another question on how to support you: is there a way to use your amazon link within the amazon app? If so, I’d like to set my app up to go thru your link. I use amazon so much that you may end up rich just from my orders (JK). But seriously, I’d like to help if I can but need the convenience of being able to go thru my app. Let me know if that is possible. Thx! Hope to see you on the road some day. Loved the book. Waiting for Kait’s cookbook too.
Thank you for thinking about us regarding Amazon! While there isn’t a way for us to provide a link that goes through the Amazon App, what I typically do when I buy through other creators we support is to go to their website via my phone and then click on the Amazon link. I can’t tell if it takes me into the app or not because the experience is the same. So something to try?
Great to hear you’re considering an Aktiv! We always tell people before you buy anything, spend a lot of time in it on the lot. Pretend to live in it and really get a feel if it’s right for you. While you’re there, pop into a few other makes/models and compare. Hope this helps and good luck with your search.
Thanks Joe, I’ll give that a try for Amazon, and thanks for the tip on spending a lot of time in it to try it on for size. One of the reasons behind our B-van considerations is that we like to travel with our pups. Fewer and fewer hotels are allowing our pups to stay with us, and I suppose for good reason (lots of folks out there are just simply not responsible pup parents. We think we do pretty well, in comparison). And, a big reason I like the idea of the Hymer is the cassette (dump anywhere). Any other B-vans out there that use a cassette? (That are also good quality vans?). I’m really trying to find the cassette coupled with a dry bath instead of a wet bath. Wish Hymer made one.