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.
Why Use a Cassette 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 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.
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 old RV. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 11, 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.