Having a toilet on-board can be a necessity. You will find yourself far away from shore and you’ll need a functioning toilet. There are several solutions which you can have on the boat, which offer different levels of commodity and practicality.

Marine toilets can (and often are) permanently installed on the boat, and have different waste disposal systems. Portable potties can also be good for this purpose, and some people prefer them. We selected different types of products for our list so you can get familiar with your options. Be sure to go through the buying guide below to learn about features and options available, as well as what to look for when installing one on your boat.

Let’s get started.

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How To Choose The Best Marine Toilet – Buying Guide

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Selecting the right product for your boat depends on the space you have, as well as the amount time you’ll be using it it before you reach a disposal site at shore. Space can always be a problem on a boat, and the marine head you’re going to install is usually going to be smaller than the one you have at home.

As for the practical purposes, your boat can have a holding tank which you pump out when you’re docked, or you can have a cassette toilet which you have to dispose off yourself. More sophisticated solutions (like a toilet which has an electric pump, or a compost toilet) are going to cost more money, which can put some people off and point them in the more economical direction.

Type

Different types of toilets can be put on-board, but they all have some peculiarities which you should be aware of. The price range varies, as well as comfort they offer.

Cassette toilets

This is the same type of toilet people use in their RVs. It can be completely portable, or you can have a toilet permanently installed, with a cassette to hold the sewage. Completely portable toilets are particularly useful for tight spaces because they can be placed in whichever corner you want, and moved out of the way when you don’t need them. A cassette holds everything in until you reach a site where you can dump it in a sewage line on land.

This sounds practical and is usually free to do, but it comes with a few downsides. You are going to have to carry the cassette from the toilet to the sewage yourself or with help of another person, but keep in mind that these can get very heavy and present a problem. Another downside is the smell when disposing, which is not quite pleasant. After you’ve emptied it, you’ll have to rinse it before putting it back into place, and the whole process requires a certain effort on your part.

Pump-out toilets

These are usually a better solution. Some boats will come with this type of toilet pre-installed, or will have piping and a holding tank so you can do this yourself. Two types of pump-out toilets are available – manual and electric. You have to flush and clean the manual toilet yourself. When you’re done with your “job”, there is a lever on the side which you turn in the direction for pumping the waste through the piping and to the holding tank.

You do this with your hand, by pulling and pushing on the lever, and it usually takes 10-15 pulls to get it through the system. If you’re having guests on board, be sure to educate them how to use the toilet properly, otherwise the waste can get stuck mid-way and un-clogging can be a real problem. When it’s pumped out into the tank, you turn the lever to the other side and pump it out again to let the fresh water in the system.

On the other hand, there are toilets that do this by themselves, because they have an electric pump (like the TMC electric marine toilet, for example). This is a great solution because it eliminates the need to manually pump it out, but on the other hand needs to be connected to a power source. Also, marine toilet operation can sometimes be loud, so it’s best to inform yourself in detail about the toilet you’re considering if this is an issue.

Composting toilets

This is a type of toilet which is the most “green” compared to others. It doesn’t use water, but rather separates the liquids from solids. The urine goes into a separate tank which you have to empty, while the solids go in a special composting chamber. There they are mixed with sawdust, peat moss or other organic substance which helps it dry out. You have to mix it from time to time using a handle on the side.

This completely degrades the waste, making it safe to dispose of, and even a good plant fertilizer. Composting toilets are similar to portable potties, meaning they don’t require any particular installation. They are, however, usually larger (and taller) than typical marine toilets, so keep this in mind when measuring the space where you want to install the toilet.

While it depends on the model and manufacturer, composting chambers are usually large enough to be used by two people for up to 30 days. Even though it’s more expensive than other types, it’s a great gift for boaters who want a small impact on the environment. It’s a toilet with low maintenance, no chemicals and no risk of clogging.

Eco-friendliness

This is becoming a larger concern in the recent years, and rightfully so. There are specific rules and regulations about how you are allowed to dispose of the sewage on your boat. You aren’t allowed to dump your untreated waste in the water. There are special on-shore facilities which have pumps to empty your holding tank. If you’re using a cassette toilet, you must empty it when you come to land.

Be mindful of the chemicals you use for disinfection and odor-neutralization for your toilet. Some can be very harmful. This is particularly important if you are on a large vessel which has a treatment system and releases the waste water in the sea. It’s recommended to always use bio-degradable paper, and this is good for both the environment and the piping on your boat (less likely to get clogged).

Finally, the most eco-friendly solution is the composting toilet. We mentioned that it turns waste into an eco-friendly fertilizer, but it has it’s ups and downs as you’ve seen. If you want to try something new and in-line with nature, we certainly recommend trying it out.

Material

Because of the harsher conditions a marine head must endure, it’s also logical to make it from tougher materials. It can be exposed to salt water and other unfavorable factors. For this reason, all hardware should be made from stainless steel to avoid corrosion. As you’ve seen, toilets are either made from high-quality plastic (polyethylene) or they are made from porcelain, much like your toilet bowl at home.

Portable toilets are usually plastic. This is for practical reasons, it weighs less than a porcelain bowl, and it’s also more sturdy and damage resistant – it won’t break easily if you hit it with something when moving around. On the other hand, plastic can sometimes be harder to clean compared to ceramics, and requires use of bleach or odor neutralizers to completely eliminate the smell.

Porcelain toilets are heavier and need to be installed like a regular toilet. You’ll need to screw it down and connect it to the holding tank. They look much better, and feel nicer to use. Often they will have a standard-sized seat made of wood, which increases the comfort. They are cleaned more easily, which is a plus.

Footprint And Hooking

There is a designated space for your toilet, and the size can be limited. The measurements of your new head should match those from the old one, or at least be close to them. This way you can be sure you can install it properly, even if you need to drill a few more holes. However, be careful when drilling new holes – you can go too far and damage something by accident.

If you choose a classic portable potty, you won’t need to connect (hook) it to anything. However, with more sophisticated solutions you’ll need to connect to the fresh water hoses (for flushing) and to the piping system which subsequently leads to the holding tank. If you choose to buy a marine toilet with an electric pump, you’ll need a good marine battery to power it.

Smell

One of the biggest concerns when shopping for a new toilet is the odor issue. It’s very unpleasant to have odors spreading around until you empty out the cassette (waste tank) or the boat holding tank. For this reason toilets should have valves which seal off the tank and prevent the smell from spreading.

To additionally help remove it, special deodorizers are either added to the flushing water or put in the holding tank. Boat’s old piping system can also be the cause of an unpleasant smell, so be sure to look into that too when installing the new toilet.

Biggest issue can be from the portable toilets which are not sealed off properly, or aren’t high-quality and start leaking. This is why it’s better to spend some time researching and even give a bit more money to get a reliable product. A solution which eliminates all smells are composting toilets, because the solids are going to be mixed and dried out instead of left in a tank.

Noise

Because of pumps and flushing systems, marine toilets can be pretty loud. This can be inconvenient in many situations. For example, your guests can feel unpleasant when they need to flush because everyone on board hears it. Also, sometimes you need to go in the middle of the night while the other people are sleeping. Using a loud pump-out toilet can wake everybody up.

This is worth mentioning because it can be an issue for some people. If this is the case, modern heads are designed in such a way to minimize noise, but they are not all the same. So it’s not a bad idea to go through some user experiences and see how happy they were with it.

FAQs

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Q: What Is A Marine Toilet?

A: Marine toilet (or a marine head as some people call it) is a toilet which is suitable to be used on your boat. As you know, there are several types available. One thing in common must be that they are sturdy and durable, because of the different conditions compared to your home.

Q: Why Do I Need A Marine Toilet?

A: You are going to spend long hours away from the shore, and some people spend days and even longer time periods. It’s normal that you’ll need to use a restroom during that time, and you can’t simply go overboard. People have used buckets earlier, but these are very inconvenient, and smell really bad.

This is why you need to have a proper toilet on your boat. It’s a much better solution which is clean and can be odorless. You can also use it for a longer time period before disposing, especially if you have a holding tank on the boat. This allows you more time on the sea before you need to connect to a pump station on the shore and empty the tank.

Q: How To Install A Marine Toilet?

A: This is usually not difficult, but it requires some measuring and work. We mentioned the footprint earlier, so you need to know how much space you have, and where exactly you want to put the new toilet. Sometimes (especially if it’s the same manufacturer) the new toilet will have holes in the same position as the old one did. In that situation, your job is simple, you just need to screw it down.

If not, calculate the position where you need to drill new holes. Keep in mind the connections too, you need to be able to plug in the hoses. The toilet also needs to be positioned so that you can use the handle properly (if you have a manual pump) and that you can access parts for repair. When you’ve done this, drill the new holes and fix the toilet in place.

Connect the freshwater and waste hoses (and the power if it’s an electric model) and you’re good to go. Always read the instruction manual, you’ll find lots of useful info in there both about the installation and about how to work the toilet properly and avoid malfunctions. As a useful addition, some portable toilets we featured also come with brackets which allow them to be permanently installed in one place and attached to the ground.

Globo Surf Overview

There is a wide array of choices when it comes to toilets you can use on board, and picking the best boat toilet can make your time much more enjoyable. As we’ve said, it depends on the space available. Some people want something which they can use and then store somewhere out of sight, while if you have a bigger boat you’ll probably want a more conventional marine head, especially if you’ll be sailing for a longer time. Whichever type you choose, you’re making a smart investment.

Have you tried a marine toilet that made it onto our list? Which type and how are you satisfied with it? Is it easy to use and clean? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.

More Boat Reviews:

Globo Surf Marine Toilets Reviews

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Portable marine toilet is a one of the best purchases I bought for my boat. Easy to use, clean, and store. Per your recommendation I got the Portable Toilet with Waste Kit by Cleanwaste.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!