How to Poop in an RV (aka How to Use the RV Toilet)
I know, we RVers are a weird bunch. We can talk for days and days about poop. And toilet paper. And well, toilets.
It’s the curse of the Black Tank.
But for RV newbies, there really are some tips to poop in an RV toilet and to not mess it up.
And more importantly, for RV tailgaters or any RVer that has non-RVer guests, you’ll need to teach your non-RVer friends how to use the toilet. Without it being a big deal. And I have something that will help you with that later on.
Tips for Using an RV Toilet
Man, how do I always get to writing about poop? Guess it is the RV way, because there really is no shame in an RVer.
Pooping is nature and a requirement of life. And we have to deal with all the waste. Oh well, at least we can have a sense of humor about it. (See: the movie RV with Robin Williams)
Here are the basic rules for using RV Toilets:
Only Human Waste and Toilet Paper Down the Drain
Want to see a great debate? Go on one of the big RV groups on Facebook and ask whether you can put toilet paper down the RV drain.
You’ll get hundreds, yes hundreds, of comments arguing about the toilet paper. You’ll see people that say that no way, no how, that they never put toilet paper down into the black tank because you’ll get clogs. Instead, they put it in a trash can next to the toilet and take the trash out each day.
Personally, that seems weird. Plus, I have a dog that has been known to get into things he shouldn’t. Eeewww!
The key is to use septic safe toilet paper. You don’t even need the fancy (read: expensive) RV safe toilet paper. Septic safe toilet paper is more than fine.
But that is the only non-human waste thing that goes down the drain!
No feminine hygiene products. No paper towels.
And no, none of those “flushable” wipes that create giant fatbergs in city sewers.
If those flushable wipes can help create a 10 ton fatberg in London’s sewers, what do you think they will do for your RV black tank?
Oh, and don’t let the kids put toys down the toilet either.
Just stick with the septic safe toilet paper. That’s the only thing that goes down the toilet drain. This will prevent one of those classic RV stories about black tank blockages.
Go with a square/rectangle can to maximize space (rounded corners leave so much empty space) and one with a top so that dogs don’t get in it and odors are contained.
I like the mDesign small step trashcan which has the added bonus of the hands free step makes it easy to throw trash away and not make a mess. And they have a large variety of colors to fit your design preferences!
Water is Your Friend and Your Enemy
When we are out a tailgate or boondocking, we typically don’t have full hookups. Meaning no fresh water coming in and nowhere for the waste to go.
That means we are very high on the water conservation spectrum.
Now, RV toilets are way low flow toilets, at least compared with your regular household toilet. We don’t keep a tank of water there for flushing. This saves us fresh water and also black tank space.
If you are are only going #1 (ie liquid waste) than you don’t need to add any extra water. But if you are going #2, you’ll want to add a very small amount to the toilet bowl before you start.
This will help the waste go down the drain and save you water at the end when you flush.
A Fast Flush
Especially when it is only liquid waste, you really don’t need to use much water to flush the toilet. Instead, you just need to open up the drain and let gravity do it’s thing.
You will want to learn, and then teach guests, how to perform a fast flush to use a minimum of water.
For most RV toilets, this means that you just barely step on the pedal to open the drain and not get a lot of water.
Keep a Toilet Brush Handy
Everyone wants to have a clean toilet bowl. And no one wants to leave, um, skid marks on the bowl.
Most newbie RVers and non-RVing guests will often just try to use more and more water to clean it up.
Instead, you should use a toilet brush. But not those disposable brushes because someone will inevitably throw the disposable head down the toilet and break the first rule above about only human waste and toilet paper.
You’ll also want one that has a stand. That way you can leave it out, right next to the toilet. That will remind people to use the toilet brush to clean up rather than keep running the water.
The bristles also have some weird Clorox coating that they say will help protect against odor-causing bacteria, mold and mildew. I’m not sure how it works, but I’ll just go with magic.
It’s also on the cheap side, so when it gets gross you aren’t going to feel bad about throwing it away.
The RV Toilet Cross
Have you ever been told to make the sign of the cross in an RV bathroom?
This is absolutely nothing religious, unless you consider taking a dump a religious experience.
Instead, it is taking two pieces of toilet paper and making a cross over the bottom drain of the toilet bowl.
That way, when you do take a dump, the waste is sitting on the toilet paper. When you push the pedal to empty the bowl, gravity will take it all away at one time.
Leaving you with a clean bowl with no skid marks. And using very little water to make it all go away.
Maintaining the RV Black Tank
While we are in the middle of the tailgate, we want to conserve water as much as we can. But we also know that water is good for the black tank.
The RV black tank needs water to function properly. It will help dissolve the more solid human waste as well as the toilet paper into a more slushy type consistency that makes it easy to empty.
Throughout the tailgate, I will add water to the black tank by throwing the dirty dishwater down the toilet. This is a little gray water saving trick that I learned that really helps keep enough water in the black tank while not wasting fresh water either.
Plus, the dirty dishwater will have Dawn dish washing soap in there. It will help further break down the solids and clean everything up.
Also, normally the last night of the tailgate, after the shower, I am pretty much done with all my heavy water usage. I might have a little in the morning but I can run down a lot of the fresh water tank. So I’ll add several gallons of fresh water into the black water tank as I get closer and closer to the end of the tailgate.
Then, when I’m driving home (I dump at the house), the extra water is sloshing all the contents around and putting all the solids into suspension. This will make it easier to dump and avoid the dreaded poop pyramid.
Click here for more tips on maintaining an RV Black Tank
Remind Visitors of the Rules
Often, it isn’t the RV owners that create the biggest problems with an RV toilet.
It is our well meaning friends who don’t know how different the RV plumbing is from the regular plumbing.
And they want to help keep the RV clean, but don’t realize that they are perhaps wasting so much of our water.
Or just don’t know how to open the drain.
That’s why many RV owners decide to put a little “wall art” in their RV bathroom.
It’s great for those that like me, have visitors regularly in their RV but aren’t RVers. A simple reminder of the rules goes a long ways towards keeping the RV toilet running properly.
Here are some cool wall art for your bathroom to remind visitors of the rules:
Or these options from Amazon:
How To Poop In An RV Toilet
Well, now you have it folks. You and your guests will be able to safely poop in an RV.
You never had any idea that there’s so much to know about pooping in an RV, did you?
Now, there’s a lot more to maintaining the RV plumbing system, but you are well on your way to success with these tips.
Like these tips? Pin for later!
For more information on RV plumbing and black tanks, you may be interested in:
RV Waste Tanks Explained
Make Your Own RV Black Tank Cleaning Bombs
RV Gray Tanks: The Other RV Waste Tanks
Essential Gear for RV Waste Tanks
Tips for Dealing with RV Odors
Another tip for weekend warriors: when leaving camp and heading to the dump, put the rest of your ice down the toilet and while traveling to the dump it will slosh around and clean the sides of the tank. You’re welcome.
Maurie, It’s not the ice in and of itself that does the trick. It’s the water as it melts. Any extra water in the tank is beneficial!
At the end of a tailgate or camping weekend, I add a lot of the leftover freshwater to the blank and even the gray tanks before leaving. I want that water to slosh around and around and around. Then when I get home (I dump my tanks at my house), it’s all nice and slippery/liquid and comes out easily. A quick black tank rinse and I’m done. No poop pyramids here.
Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you have any more tips for RVers!
I’m a newbie.. How do you dump at home?
Welcome to RV Life! Lots to learn for new RVers, so I hope I can help.
To dump the black and gray tanks at home, you’ll need somewhere to dump. In my front yard, I have a sewer cutout – basically, the main sewer pipe runs down the middle of the street in front of my house. And there is a pipe that goes from my house to that main sewer pipe. In the middle of my yard is a sewer cutout, which looks like many campground sewer connections. It is the same three inch diameter that the sewer hose connects to, so it is real easy to pop the cover off and hook up the RV sewer hose. Dump as you would in a campground.
If you don’t have a sewer (or septic) cutout, then you’ll want to add an RV Macerator Pump to your RV sewer dump. Without being too, um, graphic, it will chop up the waste to where it will fit through a standard garden hose. You could then run this inside your home to the nearest bathroom to where you park. Because it has a pump, it can travel longer distances and slightly uphill. This will be much cheaper than digging up your yard to add a sewer cutout!
Whatever you do, don’t dump into any storm water runoff (a la Cousin Eddie) or a nearby stream. It is illegal and could be dangerous to you, your family, your neighbors, pets, and wildlife.
Let me know if I can answer any more of your questions!
This can be an awkward conversation to have just before a guest may have to use your toilet so prepping before is a good idea and I like the sign suggestion too. Another tip, one that I also do for our guest is I keep pet waste bags available in our rv restroom for things you don’t want flushed. It keeps some of that trash non visible, tied off and somewhat sealed for odor reasons until you take out the rt trash at the end of each day.. Happy Rv’ing Everyone!
Thanks Tina! The dog poop bags are a good idea. I always have a small trash can that has a lid on it right next to the toilet. It helps to remind people not to flush stuff other than toilet paper.
Anyone ever try a bidet? Seems like a good Alternative?
I’m hearing more and more people trying out a bidet in the RV. Especially after the toilet paper shortage earlier in 2020.
More water and less toilet paper in the RV black tank is never a bad thing. Using more water though may limit how long you can boondock, so if you plan on boondocking for long periods of time it should be taken into consideration. Of course, you could just not use the bidet during boondocking but use it the rest of the time when you have hookups.
The days of using TP (at home or in the RV), are way over for me. Been using a bidet for 3 years and it has changed my life. The first addition I made to my RV was replacing the old toilet and installing a bidet. Not only do “YOU” come away cleaner than ever before, but there is none or nearly zero need for TP whatsoever. Both you and the black tank benefit immensely.
It can be an awkward convo to have with some people, but using TP is such an archaic and ineffective form of personal hygiene. Perhaps it will use more water in some instances but again that’s a small price to pay given the messy alternative of using TP.
Jeff, thanks for letting us know about your experience with a bidet. It’s definitely something that I’m putting on the “to consider” list, especially after this year’s toilet paper crisis. Any particular model that you recommend?
We are still trying to determine our needs before investing in an RV, but we love the Bio Bidet 2000 for our home.
Toni, I really think the bidets are going to really start taking off in RVs this year. Especially higher end RVs.
I love the toilet paper tip. Couple pieces in first can avoid the swirl. LOL
We really like the RV toilet paper by Scott. The price is reasonable and it seems to be a little better quality than some RV Toilet paper. We have used the Scott’s single ply, we actually like the RV Scotts better. We keep a gallon jug (or more) of water in the bathroom near the toilet, or in the shower. The shower works well, near the toilet and there is a drain if a water jug leaks. Than is easy to add water to the bowl without using water from the water tank. We fill the gallon jug(s) of water from any handy tap. We often travel from MI late fall to the southwest so we do not fill any of our tanks prior to leaving MI. The gallon jugs of water get used for flushing until we get to warmer weather. We add black water chemicals and a little water in MI. We do not have any water in our water tank. If fact we try not to have too much water in our water tank when we are on the road, just adds weight to the RV. If we know we have to live off our water tank at our destination we fill up our water tank as close to our destination as possible.
Yes, thank you for the tips! Cold weather RVing, especially when you leaving from such a place as Michigan, presents its own challenges when you are dealing with water in the RV. Not traveling with water in the tanks and more importantly the small pipes throughout the RV is a smart thing to do. I don’t know about you, but no one has time for busted frozen pipes! The jugs of water are a good trade-off so you can still use the toilets in the RV while you are traveling to warmer weather.
Personally, a lot of my travels include extended boondocking – whether at NASCAR or football tailgates or just out in the wild – so I normally travel with a good bit of water in my tanks. But it also helps that I am based in Georgia, so we don’t have to deal with as much cold and freezing weather as you do! I trade off the weight for better boondocking options and flexibility on where I want to go and when. But if I know I am going to a campground with a good water supply, I’ll usually travel with a closer to empty tank (usually about a third or less just for toilet and washing hands, etc no matter what). The good news is that there is no wrong answer with that issue.
We use a Diaper pail for use toilet paper, now we never have problem!
I’m so new to this. I get my TT delivered to the RV resort day after my tomorrow… Thank you so much for the facts of poo in RV life.