How to use and care for a chemical toilet

This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.

camping in woods
Articles + tips How to articles

Last updated on May 23 2022

There are many reasons why you should consider buying a portable toilet if you are planning on doing long road trips or spending a lot of time outdoors.  Camping and road-tripping in RVs and campervans are some of the leading pastimes in the world.  Having a toilet makes life on the road so much easier.

If you still aren’t convinced, here are the top 11 reasons why you should buy a portable camping toilet.

Once you have made the decision to buy, it’s equally important to understand how to use it and how to care for it.

Unless you re using a relatively primitive camping toilet, the toilet you buy will require the addition of chemicals to keep it clean and working as efficiently as possible.  It is also necessary to treat the waste that is sitting in the holding tank, until such time that it is emptied.

How does a chemical portable toilet work?

All toilets have different levers in different locations but in a general sense, the operating procedure for accessing the tanks is similar.

Do I need chemicals?  Yes, you do.  Even if you have the largest tank possible on your camping toilet, or even those built into RVs, you will still need chemicals to treat the waste.  The waste tank on portable camping toilets is right underneath the seat meaning the contents of that tank is close to you!

More reading: What to look for when buying a portable toilet

The waste tank

The waste tank (most commonly found on the bottom of a portable toilet) uses chemicals to treat/break down the waste which also assists with emptying.  It also helps to eliminate smells and reduces gas build up.

The tanks all have different capacities and unless there is a visual gauge, the user will need to keep a manual check on when the tanks require emptying.

Tip:  Always remember to empty the waste tank in an approved location.

Before emptying the tank, it is important to ensure that the sliding valve between the tank and the bowl is closed off.  If the valve is open, the tank won’t disengage.  Pull the tank out using the handle and screw off the cap on the end.  If your toilet has a rotating spout, rotate it first, then remove the screw cap.

Chemicals must be added to the waste tank before it is used for the first time and thereafter each time the tank is emptied.  They may be added via the open waste valve on the top of the tank or via the emptying spout.

Once empty, ensure you give the waste tank a good flush out.

Add the liquid chemical or drop-in tablets as per the instructions on their labels.  Water should also be added to the tank when the chemical is added.  Don’t ever place just the chemical in the tank when it is dry/empty.

Read our most popular articleHow to empty your portable toilet correctly.

The freshwater tank

Rinsing chemicals should also be added to the freshwater tank.  These chemicals coat the bowl with a protective layer to assist with keeping it clean and also lubricate the seals to prevent wear and tear.

Toilet paper

Should I use purpose-made toilet tissue or is ordinary toilet tissue ok?  Using toilet tissue specifically developed for chemical toilets assists with reducing damage and blockages to the waste tank.  It is also bio-degradable.  In additon, because it will disintegrate, it will not fill up your waste tank as fast, meaning less requirement for emptying.

If you are planning on using something other than what is specified for your toilet, be aware that it could void your warranty.

How to care for your toilet when not in use

The toilet must be emptied when it is not going to be in use.  The last thing you want is a toilet, especially with contents in the waste tank, to be sitting around for any period of time, unused.

Empty out the waste and water tanks, give a good clean, and then allow to dry before putting back together.  It is possible to put a small amount of deodorant and water into the waste tank to help with odor control.

Never leave water in the water tank when not in use, particularly in cold temperatures as it may freeze and damage the toilet.

In freezing conditions, anti-freeze may be required to be added to the toilet.

What kind of chemicals are there?

Toilet chemicals come in a liquid and tablet form.  They are all biodegradable and easy to use.  It really just comes down to your preference as to which one you use.

To correctly care for your portable toilet, don’t ever use chemicals that are not specifically designed for it.  Normal, commercial cleaners can be abrasive and may contain additives that may lead to a deterioration of the rubbers seals and valves.

Using the correct, approved toilet chemicals will help keep your toilet clean whilst preserving and maintaining all the parts.

Browse the portable camping toilet and related products below

Toilet chemicals



Toilet tissue

Toilet treatments

Toilet cleaners

You might also like to read

Author: Carrie