Cannister toilets in caravans are an absolute blessing

Caravan cannister toilets are great. Often called Porta Potties, you really appreciate them if you have ever been camping on a dark night, freezing cold and raining. Maybe a bucket in your van or tent saved you stumbling to the nearest toilet block to answer nature’s call. Who cares if you have to empty the bucket the following day. At the time it is worth every penny!

Cannister toilets collect and hold your waste products for several days before you need to dispose of the smelly output.

I can only tell you how our toilet works, but I’m sure others are very similar.

The toilet bowl holds no water like conventional septic toilets. At the front of our toilet is a leaver, which when moved sideways a flap opens in the bottom of the toilet bowl, allowing your output access into the cannister below. You use the toilet in the usual manner and can then flush it from the caravan water supply. Then you MUST remember to close the flap with the leaver at the front of the toilet.

Closing the flap is for several purposes. The main one – it keeps unwanted splashes from the cannister renovating the inside of your caravan as you travel along. The second – helps keep your caravan free of odours from your waste products. Even if urine is all the cannister contains, it can become rather smelly after a few days.


Your toilet odours can be kept to a minimum by adding chemicals designed for that purpose. All caravan and camping stores stock a variety of products. The only downside is they can be quite expensive and you can run out when you are not planning on visiting any towns for several weeks.

Many home remedies can be found on the internet. If you are interested, leave your email address at the bottom of this article and I will send you some ideas.


Most caravan parks and many towns have Dump Points available to empty the cannisters. If you are staying in caravan parks it is no problem, but if you are free camping the ones found in towns are essential. If you are staying well out of town you might have to dig a hole in the bush to empty the cannister. But, NEVER near any rivers, creeks or any sort of waterhole. Stay well away as nobody wants your waste products contaminating waterways.


And NEVER empty your toilet into roadside septic or long-drop toilets. Most toilets are designed to work with bacteria to decrease and breakdown human waste products. If people empty their caravan cannisters into these toilets, chemicals and disinfectants that have been added to the cannisters can easily kill the bacteria and cause the toilets to stop working.

Access to empty your cannister is through a little door outside your caravan. One word of warning is never, that is never let your cannister get too full. They become extremely heavy. We are lucky as our caravan manufacturer inserted wheels on our cannister so it can be wheeled to the dump point. You don’t want to be one of those people struggling with the weight of their cannister as they carry it several hundred metres from their caravan to the dump point.

Things like that can take all the fun out of caravanning.