Don’t Flush Your Money Away on RV Toilet Paper!

Do you really need to take out a second mortgage to afford RV toilet paper? Is the specialty toilet paper all it’s cracked up to be, or is it is just a money-making ruse? Will your tank survive regular toilet paper, or are you dooming yourself to the inevitable clog?

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Why You (Really!) Don’t Want to Use the Wrong Toilet Paper

Here’s the thing: Your RV sewer system is pretty primitive. As I’ve ranted about before, your waste-holding system really isn’t much more than an RV toilet, tank, some pipes, and a valve. If you’re lucky, you might have a macerator pump. The whole system depends on gravity with a dash of good luck.

Unlike a residential sewer system, which uses 4” pipe, most RVs only use 3” pipe for the black water sewer drain. The 3” pipe only has about half the section area of a 4” pipe, which means you’re much more likely to get clogs!

Plus, depending on your DWV piping design, your sewer effluent may need to travel through several 90-degree bends before exiting out the sewer valve. The more bends, the more risk of a clog!

And finally, as I broke down in my guide to cleaning RV waste tank sensors, toilet paper can cover tank level sensors and create false readings at your control panel.

That’s why toilet paper choice is important. Use the wrong toilet paper, and you might be shelling out untold amounts of money to fix a black tank leak (ewww!)

Do You Have to Use RV-Specific Toilet Paper?

So do you have to use RV-specific toilet paper?

No, you don’t need to use RV-specific toilet paper. Don’t fall for the marketing hype. Most 1-ply and some 2-ply septic-safe toilet paper brands will do the job. As you’ll see later, you can always test your paper yourself!

Here’s the reason why most people balk at RV toilet paper: It’s expensive. Unlike most products where you pay for higher quality, with an RV toilet paper, you pay for … lower quality! That’s right! You can pay more for toilet paper that practically shreds in your hand during the act of use (don’t ask me how I know).

There’s nothing “wrong” with RV toilet paper. It does what it’s supposed to do: Dissolves almost instantly. But you don’t need to pay the premium at an RV parts store for “special” toilet paper!

The guys at RVGeeks.com did a good job of exposing the RV-safe toilet paper racket. The RV Geeks did the math, and found that Scotts exclusive RV toilet paper cost more than six times the price of good ol’ Scotts 1000-Sheets-Per-Roll stuff. As full-time RVers, they can’t afford to flush all that money down the toilet!

Can I Use Regular Toilet Paper Instead?

Don’t shout for joy and bust out the Cottonelle just yet. Not all toilet papers can be used with an RV sewer system!

Here’s what you absolutely need to know: You need to use toilet paper that breaks down.

Whether it’s RV-specific toilet paper doesn’t really matter. The only test that matters is whether the toilet paper breaks down when soaked. That’s why you can’t flush wipes, diapers, hygiene products, or large goldfish down an RV toilet. They don’t break down quickly, and they WILL cause problems.

At a minimum, you should use septic-safe toilet paper. Most 1-ply and some 2-ply toilet papers are septic-safe, and you should see this note on the packaging.

Better yet, go eco-friendly. Most brands of biodegradable (e.g. bamboo) or recycled toilet paper disintegrate quickly. They are made with shorter fibers, so they break down when dissolved in water. And many of these papers, like Seventh Generation, don’t sacrifice dissolvability for softness and comfort!

To be 100% clear: You cannot use 3-ply toilet paper in an RV! If you like wiping with a plush, ultra-soft miniature paper towel, I’m sorry. Most ultra-soft, plush, and quilted varieties just have too much wet strength.

Here’s the litmus test:

  1. Fill a jar (like a mason jar) 3/4 full with water.
  2. Fold your toilet paper in 2-3 layers and place it inside.
  3. Screw a lid on the jar and shake it around for 10-15 seconds.
  4. If the toilet paper has begun to dissolve or shred, it’s safe for use in your RV.
  5. Alternatively, after 15 minutes, come back and gently stir the water. If the toilet
  6. paper is still mostly intact, it’s definitely NOT safe for RV use!
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Best RV Toilet Paper - Recommendations

Here are some recommended brands for RV Toilet Paper:

  • Costco Kirkland Signature
  • Seventh Generation
  • Scott 1000 / Scott Rapid Dissolve
  • Nature’s Call Bamboo
  • Thetford Aqua-Soft

I know what you’re saying: What if I just can’t give up my Cottonelle? What if all that’s standing between you and #rvlife is the dread of single-ply toilet paper falling apart in your hand on the first wipe??

Here’s what some RVers do: They buy a small trash can with a lid. They put the trash can next to the toilet. They use scented, lined trash bags. They use whatever toilet paper or wet wipes they want, throw it in the trash can, and dispose of the trash bag every day. And before you turn up your nose at the idea of putting dirty toilet paper into a trash can, remember this is a common practice around the rest of the world!

Tips on Using RV Toilet Paper

I feel a bit silly writing an instructional on how to use toilet paper, but here goes!

  • Be a Scrooge. Use as little as necessary to get the job done (but done right).
  • Don’t wad or ball it. A ball or clump of toilet paper doesn’t break down inside an RV black tank. And it could get lodged behind your sewer valve!
  • Drive around, if you can. Toilet paper dissolves best with agitation. If you drive around your RV (or use a portable blue boy tank) before you dump, you’ll help break down the tissue.
  • Don’t use wet wipes. I know, I know, toilet paper is what the Neanderthals used, but wet wipes don’t disintegrate like paper. I don’t care if the package says they’re flushable – they aren’t!
  • It doesn’t matter whether you’re connected to a sewer drain. You need to use dissolving toilet paper because of your RV’s sewer system, not because of whatever dump station you’re attached to.
  • Don’t use fancy scented stuff. K.I.S.S. Avoid tissues with fragrances, chlorine, parabens, or other chemicals. You don’t need ‘em. And the chemicals could potentially mess around with any helpful microbes in your black tank.
  • Water is your friend. Any toilet paper will cause a clog if it isn’t thoroughly soaked and dissolved! Never poop into an empty black tank. Always add a few gallons of water into your black tank before use, and add water as needed! Not to be gross, but you want liquid, not sludge. The stuff should flow like water, not lava. No one wants poop lava. That’s how you keep an RV black tank clean!
  • Instruct your guests. If you’re using a trash can for toilet paper or specialty toilet paper, feel free to print off an 8.5×11 sheet of instructions, laminate it, and post it next to the toilet. Your guests will thank you!
RV Toilet Treatment

Ross

RV engineer by day, intrepid blogger by night (and occasionally weekends). This website is all about how RVs work, and sometimes why they don't. Bookmark pages that you find helpful, and join my email list for exclusive monthly awesomeness.