Do You Really Need Special Toilet Paper for Your RV?

RV toilet paper is not like the typical two-ply tissue you get at the grocery store. You will want biodegradable toilet tissue since you’re flushing toilet paper and waste into your RV’s black tank. Much like an outhouse, the black tank holds waste underneath your RV until you can rid yourself of it at a dumping station. If your toilet paper does not immediately begin to break down once it hits the water, you may end up with clogs and smells that ruin your RV in ways you’d rather not disclose.

Testing toilet paper is a cinch

Packages of toilet paper being unloaded from a car trunk
Toilet paper being unloaded from a car trunk | Swen Pförtner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Visit the RV Open Roads Forum, and you will read that many people swear that you can use a thin one-ply toilet paper in your RV. That all depends on the brand and smells you are comfortable living with, as most commercial toilet paper does not break down in the black tank. This can cause odor to back up into your RV. 

You can try septic-safe toilet paper, but it doesn’t always quickly degrade. According to Camping World, this can be an issue if you don’t empty your black tank often enough or have several people using the toilet each day. Most RV veterans empty their black tanks every few days if many people are using the RV’s toilet, but definitely every week or 10 days. Toilet paper biodegradability is key to a happy tank.

There is a simple test you can do to decide which brand of toilet paper is immediately biodegradable. This entails a quart jar about half full of water and a couple of squares of the toilet paper you’re testing. Throw the squares in the water after sealing with a lid and shake them vigorously for about 10 seconds or so. If it falls apart, it will make good RV toilet tissue.

Plant fiber is the science

The science behind the test is cellulose. Cellulose is a polysaccharide, a sugar, from plant materials like wood and cotton pulp. These short cellulose fibers are held together by weak hydrogen bonds, making them weak to water. Simply put, you can wipe without it falling apart on you. However, dump it in the toilet, and it quickly begins to disintegrate.

That is why baby wipes and paper towels do not break down in the water, creating nasty chunks of waste that fill your black tank quickly and can clog your RV’s waste hose creating a black tank mess that can solidify, costing hundreds of dollars to cleanout.

Choosing the right toilet paper for your bottom line

Technically, you can use any septic-safe toilet paper that passes the jar test for disintegration. However, you can buy designated RV toilet paper at most camping and larger grocery stores. Just know that it is known to be more expensive than your conventional tissue. Additionally, RV toilet paper also may feel rougher next to delicate skin and tear more easily. Meanwhile, toilet paper with short cellulose fibers helps mitigate easy tearing and often feels soft enough against your skin to do the job.

So what is the recommendation between RV-specific toilet paper and conventional toilet paper? The endgame is that it is your RV and you can buy the toilet paper you want to buy. For some, softness and durability are the only factors in choosing RV toilet paper. However, for RV owners in the know, repairing your RV’s septic line and black tank can get expensive. According to ToiletsMan, spending a little more on RV-specific toilet paper is maybe a no-brainer in the end.

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