You’ve just installed your new marine toilet and you’re ready to set out for an extended voyage. Everything is ready to go except for one little problem…
You forgot to buy toilet paper.
No problem, you think. Just swing by the grocery store and grab a package on your way to the docks. Toilet paper is toilet paper, right?
Unfortunately, no. Using the wrong paper could leave you with a clogged marine toilet at the worst possible time. Make sure your voyage remains a safe and sanitary one by choosing the right marine toilet paper for the job.
Not Just Another Toilet
Marine toilets are extremely reliable and can manage waste effectively, but your on-board septic system isn’t quite as hardy as your home plumbing. That’s because while your home toilet empties into a 4” wide drain, marine toilets plumbing is only 1½” wide. Given those dimensions, any inorganic material flushed down the drain will quickly create blockages that can seriously damage the pump or even crack the porcelain throne.
A good rule of thumb, of course, is to simply avoid using the marine toilet as a trash can. Things like paper towels, feminine hygiene products, and antibacterial wipes, for instance, should never be flushed down your marine sanitary system under any circumstances. These heavy, nonbiodegradable items are certain to cause blockages.
Toilet paper is the one exception to this rule of thumb, but don’t go thinking that you can simply grab a few rolls from your bathroom closet before heading out on the boat for the weekend. Although household toilet paper sheets are technically biodegradable, they’re designed to break down over time within a septic tank or sewage system, not a marine holding tank. When toilet paper doesn’t dissolve quickly enough, it accumulates in clumps that can easily clog up your marine sanitation system.
Marine Toilet Paper vs Regular Toilet Paper
The safest bet is to ensure your toilet remains in good working order is to only use one of the many marine toilet paper brands available. You can usually find a package wherever boating supplies are sold or from most online retailers.
Although it may look (and feel) identical to household toilet paper, marine toilet paper is specially designed to dissolve more rapidly and is 100% biodegradable. You can find it in both 1-ply and a more comfortable 2-ply thickness. Since RV septic systems face many of the same challenges as marine systems, most brands can be safely used in both.
Dometic Ultra 2-ply marine toilet paper is a good example of a specialized tissue product that’s designed to break apart quickly to maintain optimal toilet system flow. Made with 100% recycled fibers, it provides the comfort of household toilet paper without the same risk of creating clogs.
Can You Use Household Toilet Paper in a Pinch?
While marine toilet manufacturers recommended using only marine/RV toilet paper, there are plenty of times when you may be setting sail on short notice and aren’t able to find the right toilet tissue. Luckily, there is a simple test that can give you an idea of whether or not that roll of “off the shelf” toilet paper is likely to create clogs.
For starters, don’t bother with 2-ply or quilted household toilet paper. It’s simply too heavy-duty for your marine toilet system to handle and is sure to cause a blockage of some kind. However, inexpensive 1-ply tissue is often lightweight enough to break down quickly, provided it’s 100% biodegradable.
Here’s a quick and easy way to test your toilet paper:
- Get an empty glass jar
- Fill the jar at least three quarters of the way full with water
- Insert two sheets of toilet paper
- Shake forcefully for 30 seconds
If the toilet paper is shredded and dissolving into the water, it should be safe for your marine toilet. For a more thorough test, you can place a wad of toilet paper (about as much as someone might actually use) into a jar of lukewarm water, stir for five seconds, let it soak for five minutes, and then stir it again for five seconds. If the paper hasn’t turned to pulp before the five-minute soaking period ends, you probably shouldn’t risk flushing it down your marine toilet.
Following these basic guidelines will help you keep your marine sanitation system running smoothly whether you’re using a manual or electric flush system. Keeping your plumbing free of clogs ensures that you’ll enjoy many years of worry-free voyages.
For more information about how to best care for your Dometic/Sealand toilet or other components of your marine sanitation system, talk to the team at Environmental Marine today.