How Do Camper Toilets Work?

You’ve probably never given it much thought, but camper toilets do not work like your typical home toilet.

And this difference is important to understand if you plan on using a toilet in your new RV or camper.

So, if you’re looking to get into the RV lifestyle, or are just generally curious, we’ll show you exactly how the different types of camper toilets work. Plus, we’ll answer those burning age-old questions like whether you can poop in a camper toilet or not!

Let’s get started!

Types Of Camper Toilets

To understand how a camper toilet works, you must first understand that there are 3 main types of toilets you can use, each dealing with the “waste” in a different way.

Let’s look at the three different types of RV toilets and learn how each one works.

Full Camper Toilets

A full camper toilet is essentially a toilet that empties into the camper or RV’s black water tank. You’ll typically find these types of toilets in RVs, 5th wheels, and motorhomes that have a dedicated bathroom.

When looking at this type of toilet, or any type of camper toilet, you’ll immediately notice they are different than a home toilet.

First, full camper toilets don’t have standing water in the bowl. You’ll also notice they don’t have your typical flush handle at the top of the toilet. Instead, most models have a handle or lever located near the bottom that you can flush with your foot. And some models have what looks like a kitchen sink sprayer attached to the side of the bowl.

How They Work

As you stand over and peer in the toilet bowl, you’ll notice a drain that is sealed. When you flush the toilet, water is pulled from your vehicle’s fresh water tank, into the toilet bowl, and the drain seal opens allowing the water to flow into the black tank. When the black tank gets full, it is then emptied at an RV dump station.

Tip 1: Before using the toilet, be sure the bowl is around 1/4 of the way full with water. This will help make sure all of the waste is properly flushed down into the black tank. It’s a good idea to add the water when you’re done so it’s ready to go for the next person.

Tip 2: And be sure to use rapid-dissolving toilet paper. This will make it much easier to clean out your black tank later and to prevent clogs.

Tip 3: Ok, one final important tip. Cleaning an RV toilet is also different than cleaning a regular house toilet! Check out our complete guide on how to clean an RV toilet for all the important details.

Portable Camper Toilets

Unlike full camper toilets, a portable toilet does not require your RV or motorhome to have a water tank or black tank to empty into. It’s all handled within the toilet itself.

You are likely to find these “porta potties” in smaller campers, travel trailers, pop-up campers, or any unit that doesn’t have water tanks. You can even use them outside!

How They Work

In most models, freshwater is held in the upper tank of the toilet itself. When you flush the toilet, the water empties out of the upper tank, into the toilet bowl, and then flows down into the lower part (or base) of the toilet. When it’s full, you can then pull out the bottom waste tank and empty it into a regular toilet.

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are similar to portable toilets in that they don’t require your camper to have any water tanks. But, unlike portable or full camper toilets, they don’t require any water at all (well, just a little water to hydrate the composting additive)!

Plus, they compost your solid waste which can be used as fertilizer. This along with the water savings make it the most eco-friendly toilet option out there.

And did we mention they don’t give off a foul smell?!

How They Work

These toilets have a chamber near the back that is filled with composting material like peat moss or coconut fiber. After doing your duty, liquid waste is separated from solid waste. The liquid goes into a special compartment that can be emptied and the solid waste goes into the composting chamber. Lastly, you turn a handle located on the side two to three rotations to mix the waste with the compost material.

Once it’s full, you can empty the liquid waste down a regular toilet (or in a safe manner) and the compost waste you can use as fertilizer. Just be sure to check with state or local laws on disposing of this waste.

Tip: If your bowl gets a little dirty, you can use a spray bottle with a mix of water and vinegar to assist particles down.

Here’s a quick video overview of how a composting toilet works.

Composting Toilets: How Do They Work?

If you’re looking to get a new toilet for your camper, whether it be a full RV toilet, portable toilet, or composting toilet, be sure to check our guide to the Best RV Toilets on the market today!


Can you poop in a camper toilet?

Yes, you can poop in a camper toilet. In fact, you can poop in all three main types of camper toilets, including full RV toilets, portable toilets, and composting toilets. But, keep in mind, you’ll have to discard the waste at a later time.

How do I unclog my camper toilet?

You can unclog a camper toilet using a few different methods including the use of boiling water, septic safe decloggers, and more. Check out our in-depth guide to learn exactly how to unclog a camper toilet the easy way.

Can you use the toilet in an RV while driving?

Yes, technically you can use the toilet in an RV while driving as long as it’s a Class A, Class B, or Class C motorhome. However, if you have a pull-behind, then no, it’s not legal to use the toilet or even be inside the pull-behind camper while driving.

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