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Home > Tips and Hints > Starting Out Index > Bathroom > Toilets

Toilets:  What types can you get?  What about chemical alternatives?  Where to find public toilets. 

Toilet chemicals and alternatives: Old fashioned toilet chemicals were basically Formaldehyde, which is a harmful chemical in the environment.  It doesn’t enhance the bio-degrading of the human waste as it is a preserving agent.  Some 'green' alternatives contained Bronopol which breaks down into Formaldehyde.  These chemicals should be avoided. Read 'Chemical Toilet Products Advisory for Consumers' from the Department of Toxic Substances Control in California USA.  See 'RV Holding-tank Treatments & Deodorizers Deodorizers in Septic Systems' why these products should not be used in septic systems.    



Types of toilets: There are several brands of portable toilet, and most built in are either Thetford or Vacu-flush.  The latter is an odour free system which requires no additives, although they can still be used.  Some travellers have reported problems with the Vacu-flush system when travelling on very rough roads. 


There is also to SOG system, where an extractor fan is added to remove any odours so no additives are needed, and this can be added as a Do it Yourself to most inbuild toilets. 


For longer term independence and environmental consideration, composting toilets are now available in Australia, such as Eco Flo and Enviro Pro.  No chemical attitives, no odours, and weeks between needing to dispose of the contents.


See more about toileting options at Bathroom or Not?

Public Toilet Map  A good resource which includes dump points and public showers.  You will also find additional public toilets to those listed, so don't despair if there is none in town on this list. Public Toilet Map can also be obtained as an App for your mobile device. 


Main Roads Rest Areas Main Roads in each state maintain rest areas on highways.  Maps of these for each state show which ones provide toilets.  In South Australia toilets at rest areas are rare.  There is no map for Tasmania. 
Finding a toilet.  When travelling you will find that most towns have public toilets.  Visitor information centres often have toilets or can advise you where to find ones nearby.   Town or community halls, sports grounds and public parks are other places to look.  Sometimes fire brigade and other community group halls have toilets open to the public, but not always as some are locked.  Signage can usually be found directing you to these facilities, but not all are signed.  Between towns on highways there are sometimes pit toilets at selected rest areas.
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Dump points for emptying your toilet cassette or tank
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How to use the powder


Dissolve a 'cap full' (around a spoon full) in a litre or two of water and add to the cassette before or after first use following emptying.  The movement of the caravan mixes it well even if not pre-dissolved so the powder can be added dry, however some liquid needs to be added when starting.  If needed, extra can be added each day.  If used for ‘nocturnal wee visits’ only, the product is said to be not as effective, in which case more frequently emptying of the liquid is an easy solution.  

We were using Bio Magic and there was a slight musty odour from the cassette when the toilet was used.  I tried the Sodium Percarbonate products and was even happier with the results. It is also a much cheaper product to purchase, so do not mind emptying after only one use if at a dump point when we think we may be some days away from another.  


What is safe for the environment?


There are many safer products available such as Bio Magic and Odour-b-gone tablets. A popular and successful alternative is Sodium Percarbonate in the form of nappy or laundry soaker powders.


Coles Laundry Booster as pictured at left a suitable product, and costs around $2.50 for a one kilogramme tub.   

Which other Sodium Percarbonate powders are suitable?
Coles stores sell Coles Laundry Booster. Aldi stores carry Di San Oxy Laundry Soaker and In-Wash Booster, and Supreme Oxy Active can be purchased from Aldi, Red Dot stores, and other discount stores.  Similar products can be purchased at some of the 'cheap shops' - read the label.  Check for a product with 32% to 35% Sodium Percarbonate.  Most other brands contain other ingredients and less Sodium Percarbonate.  These Sodium Percarbonate around 34% soaker powders are also good products for doing the laundry in buckets whilst travelling and general laundry soaking for stain removal.  For more about the composition of these powders, you can check the Material Safety Data Sheets
Those who do home brewing and use 100% Sodium Percarbonate powder to sterilise bottles, can use a smaller proportion as a toilet additive. 
Leaving the caravan when not travelling - cassette empty or with additive?
On return from your trip or holiday, empty and thoroughly wash the cassette inside and out.  Take the opportuity to ensure the toilet itself and the area where the cassette sits are clean and dry. 
Spray a little silicone or olive oil (as recommended by toilet your manufacturer) onto the seal to keep it pliable and prevent jamming. 
When dry, replace the empty cassettte. 
Although not necessary, the flushing tank can be drained.  Should any mould occur in the flushing tank, treat with a solution of Sodium Percarbonate.
Keeping your toilet clean
Strong chemicals or bleaches are not recommended on the plastic bowls of portable toilets.  They may also damage the seal (blade). 
Any deposits, sometimes called "skid marks", can be wiped from the bowl with a piece of toilet paper at time of use, then a quick flush or spray with water from a cheap hand held sprayer bottle will maintain cleanliness at all times.
Environmental considerations
These Sodium Percarbonate products are considered septic safe and pit toilet safe, and when burying in the ground the slurry disappears quickly and leaves no harmful chemical traces such as the old formaldehyde 'preservative' type toilet chemicals do. 


Products consisting of enzymes are possibly a safe for the environment alternative and may be something to watch for in the future as they become available. 

What other additives are needed?
No additives are needed in the water in the flushing tank, but if desired, a little dissolved sodium percarbonate powder can be added if you are using a sodium percarbonate treatment in the cassette or black water tank.  Previous use of ‘top tank’ chemicals can result in a residue build up of black stringy algae, and sodium percarbonate solution will remove these.    Do not use these chemical additives if using sodium percarbonate in the cassette. 
If you are prepared to empty more frequently you do not need any additives.  People using the Vacu-flush toilets or have the SOG extractor fan fitted do not need additives, but may choose to do so.  Additives are really only used to avoid or mask odours. 
Some travellers add a few drops of Eucalyptus oil to the cassette, and while a tiny quantity will not do much harm to the action of your chosen toilet treatment, it is purely to add a perfume which can readily be done by using a 'scented bathroom block' or a deodorising spray. 
Where to empty your toilet cassette or holding tank
When emptying, seek an authorised dump point (many caravan parks have them).  See lists for how to find public dump points.  If burying the waste, ensure you dig deep, are at least 100 metres away from any water course, a kilometre away from any habitation (town or rural buildings), and well away from the road, preferably not near a rest area.  You are not permitted to empty within a National Park, Conservation or Nature Reserve.  Stop where you can safely pull off the road, but where others are unlikely to stop, ie not near a rest area and walk some way from the road, but not of course onto private property.  Most of all, be thoughtful and "Leave No Trace".
The two brands most widely available that contain principally Sodium Percarbonate (34%) are Woolworths# and Coles brands. 
Select Oxygenated Soaker and Stain Remover or Homebrand Laundry Soaker & Inwash Booster have superseded Woolworths Homebrand Nappy Treatment Plus. # Note: Woolworths soaker now only contains 28% Sodium Percarbonate but should be adequate.  


Professor Ian Jenkins (retired Professor of Chemistry and now Professor Emeritus at Griffith University), states:


‘In my opinion, sodium percarbonate is probably the cheapest, safest, and most effective product to use in portable toilets, provided it is used as directed’.


Read about Professor Jenkins Paper



MSDS for laundry products with suitable quantities of Sodium Percarbonate
MSDS for some other products sold for use in portable toilets with main active ingredient shown where pulished

Changing from other toilet chemicals


If your cassette has been used with chemicals, wash it thoroughly first.  Likewise the flushing tank if any chemicals have been used in it. Then soak it in a stronger than normal solution of your chosen product for twenty four hours. Any chemical residue including use of chemicals in the flushing (top) tank, will conflict with and prevent the proper action of the Sodium Percarbonate.   


Using your toilet when stationery for a period of time
If you are using the toilet while stationary, any products used will not be as effective without mixing from the movement of a mobile caravan.  Give the cassette a gentle shake on removal to take to the dump point.  To minimise chance of clogging the cassette spout or the dump point, keep as much paper as possible out of the cassette.  It can be placed into a small plastic bag such as a freezer bag, most of the air removed and the bag tied off.  This can be disposed of through rubbish disposal sites together with any other rubbish you may have.