Do Portable Camp Toilets Smell?

It’s time to get to the bottom of this odor mystery!

Okay, I’ve had enough. One of the hardest things to get a straight answer about turned out to be whether portable chemical toilets will smell up your camper. Turns out there is a lot of misinformation out there about porta potties and cassette toilets.




Watching this video, I almost decided against what are sometimes called cassette style camping toilets. I was disappointed because, for one or two people, it’s a great solution. If you don’t want to watch that couple’s entire video, they complain about the smell emptying it being so bad it contaminated their house. I know for a fact that porta potties can smell that bad if you don’t put any chemical in them. But, in the video description, the couple swears they used deodorizing chemical. Personally, I’m still skeptical.

Without a deodorizing chemical in your black water tank, you’re going to have a bad time.

I remember living for years mere inches from 30 gallons of black water waste and rarely had an odor problem. But RVs and campers have bathrooms with a door and vent fans. Black water tanks are outside your living space and RV toilets have water in the bottom to block tank odors. So, I’ve been scratching my head how a smaller, self-contained version of a black water tank could produce an odor that would pollute your living space. Most marine and camper porta potties are just a more compact version of what’s in most campers and RVs.

Doing more reading in camping forums and user reviews, it turns out a lot of people use porta potties out camping. It’s better than expecting the kids to make the dark walk down a woodland trail to the facilities in the middle of the night. Very few people report odor problems, even using them in popup campers, boats, tents and small cabins. In fairness, most people do empty them outside.




So, to put this question to rest once and for all, I’m going to make the ultimate sacrifice and risk the ire of my wife by testing a self-contained toilet in our house. This house, which we inherited when my aunt passed away, is possibly the most poorly ventilated structure ever conceived by man. I can cook fish and smell it for days. Bizarrely, there are no vents in the bathrooms here. So, on the day after Hot Taco Tuesdays at my favorite taco place, the resultant cloud of toxic fumes from our bathroom has been banned by international treaty and the Geneva Convention as cruel and inhuman. Even the dog gives me that look that says, “Dude, that’s disgusting.”

I’m going to set up our camper toilet right here in my office and use it probably more than we

Proof of the chemical going in. Two ounces, diluted by four ounces of water. It’s foamy and smells minty fresh. We’ll see how minty fresh it is next week. Today is Hot Taco Tuesday and I’m feeling lucky!

ever will in the camper. If there is any odor from our Thetford 550P, it will be immediately apparent when we walk in the house. My office is 140 square feet, so any smells will be concentrated here. I’ll also empty it into our toilet and rinse it out in the bathroom. Then we’ll leave for a couple hours and do a smell test when we return. I will use chemical. According to the label directions you use 60 ml, or about two US ounces mixed with four ounces of water.

Stay tuned over the next couple weeks as we get to the bottom of the porta potty odor mystery. No detail will be too small to share and you can expect the straight poop on the results. It’s a shitty job but someone has to do it and I’ll try not to dump on you if it goes wrong. Yes, I’m going to use every crappy cliche I can work into the story because, dammit, I’m taking one for the team here.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion next week. We’re going to blow the lid off this toilet smell story!



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