Can I Use My RV Toilet in the Winter (or Chilly Weather)

When the temperature begins to decline, using the RV toilet and relying on the plumbing system to keep playing nice isn’t a given.

Whether it’s just a local cold spell where the temperatures have dropped steeply in the last few hours if you’re presently up in elevation or winter has truly set in, it’s necessary to take steps to avoid a bathroom problem that you’ll regret!

Using RV Toilet in Winter (or Chilly Weather Conditions)

The trouble with cold weather, particularly in the northern part of the U.S. and in Canada especially, is that the temperatures drop fast.

The exterior black water tank, or other tanks, can easily freeze up if you’re not too careful.

Also, the difficulties aren’t just in the exterior or underside of your RV; they extend into the bathroom areas too.

Getting Your RV Ready for Chilly Weather

A distinction needs to be made between winterizing and adapting to colder weather that may or may not create future problems.

Many snowbirds head south for the winter, to the desert states, or Florida, for instance. This avoids needing to use RV antifreeze to keep the black water tanks from freezing over.

However, not everyone can do this if wishing to reside near elderly relatives and wanting to help them out or holding down a job in a fixed location.

Can You Use a Winterized Toilet?

Sure, you can.

To protect the black tank from freezing, it needs to be devoid of water. Otherwise, the water will freeze and later expand, potentially cracking the black water tank.

Also, there are other issues like the dump valve freezing and breaking due to the colder temperatures too.

Snowing road surrounding by trees in winter

It’s necessary to winterize your toilet to avoid these outcomes.

Here are the Steps for How to Winterize RV Toilets:

  1. Remove all water from the black water tank. Also, don’t ignore the grey water tanks too.
  2. Flush the RV toilet to remove water from it fully too. This may need to be performed more than once until no water remains.
  3. Verify the toilet valve also doesn’t have water left or it will freeze.
  4. Use RV antifreeze to add to the internal plumbing lines, and black water tank. Using RV antifreeze in the toilet, it’ll require over 3 gallons and up to 6 gallons in larger systems.
  5. Instead of water, ensure flushing RV toilet with antifreeze and then refilling it with RV antifreeze is performed after every use.

At this point, your RV is protected from freezing over. This applies whether in a cold season or winter is here.

How Much RV Antifreeze to Put in Holding Tanks?

We’d suggest over 3 gallons.

However, if you plan to use more RV antifreeze because you’ll continue to use the toilet throughout winter, then you’ll need to regularly add more, and extra gallons will be required.

Plus, don’t forget that RV antifreeze in the grey tank is necessary too.

Here is a Splash RV Anti-freeze product, which we believe is highly reliable:

Splash 619526 RV/Marine Antifreeze – Pink (6 gallons)

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Here are some additional, related preparations to winterize better.

5 Suggestions for Winter Bathroom Preparations

#1 Use a reputable RV antifreeze brand and have enough of it on-hand. Ensure its non toxic RV antifreeze that you’re using, so it doesn’t risk hurting people, animals, or plant life too. It has Propylene glycol as its primary ingredient rather than ethanol or an ethanol blend.

#2 Avoid using the greywater tank or accessing water from the freshwater tanks. Continuing to use the RV shower through the winter risks the tanks and lines freezing and becoming damaged. You’re better off using an RV campground’s facilities or showers at truck stops than trying to use your shower.

#3 If using the RV toilet, flush it with pet-safe RV antifreeze each time. Then refill the RV toilet with motorhome antifreeze again. Empty the tanks as often as you’d usually do to avoid waste in the tanks from toilet use from freezing up.

#4 Consider heated tanks and dump valves to avoid them freezing. This will assist you when dumping the tanks later.

#5 Don’t believe that RV antifreeze will thaw frozen pipes. It won’t. It protects them from thawing when there’s no water in the pipes to freeze, but it does not thaw them out once frozen.

Read Also: How to Insulate a Camper for Winter Use

Is a 4-Season RV the Answer?

The idea behind a 4-Season RV is that it’s been designed with systems to weather a winter season or cold snap without difficulty.

This involves redesigning certain RV systems to reduce the likelihood of freezing problems due to extreme cold. The term also primarily refers to newer motorhomes, not likely campers, or trailers.

While we say that, RV manufacturers are free to make bold claims about how resilient their RV is and that it’s a “4-Season RV.” The truth is that what it means and the steps they’ve taken are entirely up to them.

As the purchaser, confirm the specifics about any changes or upgrades made to qualify for that term in their eyes.

Look for the Following 4-Season RV Upgrades:

More Insulation – Additional insulation especially around the water systems. This avoids them freeing up by keeping them a few degrees warmer than they’d otherwise be.

Enclosed Lines – Water lines need to be relocated to not run beneath the RV’s body and exterior to it. When the lines are enclosed, they stay warmer.

Heated Lines – Some lines may also be heated to further ensure that they won’t freeze. When done so, running water is still provided to facilitate using the kitchen, taking a shower, or using the RV toilet.

Holding Tanks Enclosed – Enclosed tanks prevent them from freezing on the underside of the RV or motorhome.

Dump Valves Internally Configured – The dump valves are used each time the tanks are drained at an RV dumping station. When they’re outside, they’ll likely freeze in cold weather conditions. However, when internally situated, they stand a better chance of remaining operational.

Read Also: How to Keep Moisture Out of RV in Winter

Can You Use a Camper in the Winter?

If you’re towing a camper, these can be used in the winter.

How to winterize a camper to live in?

A camper will require adequate insulation and heating systems.

Many campers start poorly insulated and aren’t designed to handle the winters. Most owners will use them for summer vacations and store their RV in winter, so the issue doesn’t arise often for RVers.

You may have acquired one of the winterized campers that are available. But check to verify that because they’re not as widely available as regular campers. Otherwise, you’ll need to winterize it.

Follow the steps above to winterize your toilet. They shouldn’t be any different in a camper if an RV toilet is fitted.

How to Winterize a Travel Trailer for Living In

Again, the steps aren’t any different here for travel trailers.

Follow these winter preparations because they’ll be applicable to travel trailers too.

Read Also: How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

Should You Use a Different RV Toilet in Winter?

Some RVers wish to keep their plumbing systems fully winterized by cleaning out all the water and filling them with RV antifreeze.

If you’re intent on using an RV toilet in winter, then use one that requires little or no water. This means either a cassette toilet or a composting toilet is required.

There’s some debate in the RV community on choosing a cassette toilet vs composting toilet. We provide enough information below to let you decide for yourself:

RV Cassette Toilet

An RV cassette toilet is designed to fill up the cassette and only visit a dump station to empty the cassette when it’s needed.

Using a cassette toilet in the winter is simple enough. The cassettes will become full within a couple of weeks, depending on the model.

The black water tank cassette unclips and slides right out. It can then to carried or wheeled over to the disposal area at an RV dump station.

Various chemicals are needed to keep cassette toilets smelling acceptable and to clean them too.

Here is the Camco 41541 Portable Toilet, which includes a 5.3-gallon black water tank, a 2.5-gallon flush tank, and side securing latches:

Camco 41541 Portable Travel Toilet for RVs (5.3 Gallon, White color

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Also, there is a useful Camco 41530 Portable Toilet Storage Bag to store the RV toilet away the rest of the year when it’s not required:

Camco 41530 Portable Toilet Storage Bag

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RV Composting Toilet

An RV composting toilet is designed to use no water. It composts the waste over a couple of months, rather than requiring the more frequent dumping out of a cassette.

Emptying the toilet is done every 5-10 weeks for one to two occupants. It’s also more pleasant to do.

Due to the more advanced nature of this type of toilet, they’re usually a significant purchase and often one that causes the RVer to switch entirely to the composting approach.

The Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet is designed to meet all your needs for odorless portable toilet use in all seasons:

Nature’s Head Self Contained Composting Toilet (Close Quarters Spider Handle Design)

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Closing Thoughts

When wishing to continue using an RV toilet throughout the winter, it’s necessary to clear out all the water from the plumbing system and introduce ample amounts of RV antifreeze.

At this point, you’re using the facilities despite the freezing temperatures outside. This goes part and parcel with RVing in the winter.

A second approach to living in an RV during winter if you don’t own a 4-Season RV is switching either to a cassette or composting toilet.

This is more convenient and avoids risking the pipes bursting or the tanks freezing due to their continued use. It’s a risk mitigation strategy to avoid the expense and inconvenience should something go wrong. And it’s perfectly valid too.

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