In this article...
OK, it's time to get personal - let's talk toilets!
Disclaimer: The Dometic 310 toilet was provided to us free-of-charge by Dometic for testing and feedback. However, all comments in this blog post are our own and represent our honest opinions. At no point were we asked to write this blog post or provide a public review.
If you're just using your RV for weekend trips and short camping vacations, then maybe your toilet isn't a huge concern. But as full-timers living in our RV, we want a nice toilet ... erm ... experience!
Last October we upgraded to a Dometic 310 toilet. In this blog post we'll look at why we decided to upgrade, why we chose the Dometic 310, how we installed it and what we think about it after using it for 6 months.
Why did we upgrade our toilet?
I guess the first question is: what makes a good RV toilet?
To me, there were two main requirements:
- It should feel like a residential toilet. For example, a slow-close lids and no flimsy plastic!
- It should be easy to clean.
Our RV came with a Thetford Aqua-Magic Style II toilet, and that's what we used for over a year on the road. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.
On the plus side, it didn't use much water, it was reasonably comfortable and the jets of water when you flushed were fairly powerful, keeping the bowl clean.
However, there were a few negatives that led me to looking for an upgrade.
First, the valve at the bottom often failed to seal shut. This led to the water draining out and bad odors rising back up from the black tank - ew! Even with a thorough cleaning, it would seal for a few days and then go back to draining.
Second, the seat and lid were cheap, flimsy plastic. They moved awkwardly when you sat down, and ours had broken when something fell off the shelf above and cracked the lid (OK, that was our fault). They weren't slow-closing and would make a loud noise if accidentally dropped in the middle of the night...!
Last, and probably my biggest peeve - they were a pain to clean! Rather than being solid, the seat and lid were hollow plastic with reinforcement ribs underneath. Trying to clean all those individual sections was almost impossible!
After our Super Glue repair on the toilet seat failed, I decided to start researching my options.
What did we consider?
Obviously the easiest option was to simply replace the toilet seat with a new one. While that would solve the issue of the broken seat, it wouldn't address the other problems with the toilet.
Similarly, I'm sure it would have been possible to find a nice, residential, slow-closing seat and lid for the toilet. I did consider this option - it would have solved two of my concerns. But there was still the issue of the valve not closing.
We had recently heard from our friends Phil and Stacy at You, Me & the RV that they were very happy with the new toilet they had recently installed - a Dometic RV toilet. I was daunted by the thought of replacing a toilet, but they assured me it was an easy DIY job.
Why did we chose the Dometic 310?
Both toilets are ceramic with residential-feel wooden seats. While there are a number of differences between them, the key differences seemed to boil down to:
- The 320 has a rim on the inside whereas the 310 is rimless;
- The 320 has an elongated bowl whereas the 310 is more rounded;
- The 320 has a standard seat whereas the 310 has a slow-closing seat (and lid).
I also read in a few places that gentlemen tend to prefer the 320's elongated design whereas women find the 310 more comfortable. Whatever the case, since our bathroom is a relatively small space, the smaller 310 (19" deep vs the 320's 22" depth) made more sense. I double checked all the measurements and the 310 just seemed like a better fit.
Since one of my main criteria was a toilet that's easy to clean, the rimless design was a plus point, and the slow-closing seat and lid sealed the deal!
For the past 6 months or more, we had been working with Dometic, consulting for them on their Customer Tech Council to provide feedback and guidance on their products - existing and upcoming. I spoke with one of our contacts at Dometic, and they offered to send us a Dometic 310 toilet.
Delivery & disposal
Having read through the installation manual on Dometic's website, I was confident that I could install the toilet myself. Since the toilet would be coming directly from Dometic, that left the somewhat awkward issue of shipping. We were traveling at the time and a ceramic toilet is a rather large object for most shipping companies to accept.
In the end, the simplest solution was to have the toilet shipped to an RV supply store in Albuquerque, NM where we were headed for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
However, that left me with the dilemma of how to dispose of the old toilet. Since the toilet was essentially working (albeit slightly used and with the valve sometimes leaking), it felt wasteful to simply trash it. At the same time, how do you get rid of an old toilet otherwise!
As luck would have it, the solution soon presented itself. We had chosen to attend the Balloon Fiesta as part of an Escapees HOP (Head Out Program) - the first time we had attended such an event. There was another Escapees event taking place at the Balloon Fiesta - a charity auction run by the Boomers group to raise money for the Escapees charity, CARE.
Could I donate a used RV toilet to a charity auction? Somewhat apprehensively, I posed the question to them....
"Absolutely" came the enthusiastic response! They loved the silliness of it. Given my British background, we decided it would be auctioned off as the "British throne".
I drove across town to pick up my new Dometic 310 toilet. I unpacked it and began installing.
However, halfway through the installation, I discovered the back was cracked - I had somehow missed that in my inspection as I had been unpacking it!
Fortunately, I was able to swap it - but it was already late in the day so I had to reinstall my original toilet again. The next day I returned and picked up a replacement, but my advice is to thoroughly check the toilet for damage when you pick it up. These are heavy and bulky yet somewhat fragile items, so take your time and inspect it before installing!
My misfortune is to your benefit though - as I have essentially now installed a toilet three times. First the broken one, then our original toilet again, and finally the new unbroken toilet.
I would highly recommend spending some time cleaning the old toilet thoroughly. While reaching to unbolt it your face is going to be alarmingly close at times, so trust me, clean your old toilet before you start! I was particularly thorough since I would be auctioning it off!
Once I had unpacked and thoroughly inspected the toilet, it was time to begin the install.
Tools & Parts
All the parts I needed were included in the box from Dometic. However, it would be worth having a hardware or plumbing store nearby in case something goes wrong or you need extra parts. For example, the water line for our old toilet was too long, but had it been the other way around I would have needed extra pipe.
The tools needed are pretty simple - nothing more than some pliers and wrenches or a socket set. Exactly what size sockets and wrenches will depend on the existing hardware you have, so a couple of crescent wrenches would probably be a good idea.
Turn off the water
I hope this is obvious, but before you do anything else, you'll want to drain the lines. We were dry camping so for us that was simply a matter of turning off the water pump and then running the toilet flush until the water stopped.
However, if you have hookups then be sure to turn off the main water as well. As a bonus, drain and flush your black tank, since the access pipe will be exposed (along with any odors) when you remove the old toilet. We were boondocking so that wasn't an option for us. Lucky me.
Removing the old toilet
Even though the water is turned off, there will be residual water in the supply lines. I put down some towels on the floor around the back of the toilet to soak up any water.
Other than a being a little tricky working in a small space, it was straightforward to then loosen the pipe fitting by hand and disconnect it from the toilet. A little water dripped out, but not much.
Lastly, I then removed the protective plastic caps from the bolts on the base of the toilet and loosened the nuts. Once they were removed, I could then lift the toilet out and take it outside the RV. Yes, I got some strange looks from our neighbors!
I then thoroughly cleaned down the entire toilet (including the parts I couldn't reach while it was installed) and let it dry in the sun.
Situating the new toilet
Installing the new toilet was almost as simple as removing the old one. I replaced the rubber floor flange seal and attached the new one with the supplied bolts.
The new toilet them simply dropped down on top of the floor flange seal. It looks a little wonky at first, but it'll sit flush (pun intended!) when the bolts are tightened. The most important thing is to get the toilet straight!
This is where I got to on the first installation attempt before I saw the plastic cover at the back of the toilet was cracked - d'oh!
The installation manual is very clear at this point - do not over-tighten the bolts! Remember, the base of the toilet is made of ceramic which will crack if you over-tighten the bolts. Use a torque wrench if you have one, else tighten snuggly but not too tight.
I had deliberately chosen to replace our old off-white, bone-colored toilet with a white one - I just think it looks better. So I used the supplied nut covers instead of the old ones so they would match the white toilet base.
With the new toilet in position, it was time to plumb it in. As I mentioned earlier, our supply pipe was a little too long for the new toilet. It's not flexible, so I removed the elbow, cut the pipe down to length using a sharp knife, and reinstalled the elbow.
I could then easily attach the supply line to the new toilet.
We had chosen to get the Dometic 310 toilet with the optional cleaning wand. This looks like a small shower head with a trigger on it, and allows you to clean the toilet more easily.
Installing it was straightforward - a couple of screws to mount the bracket on the wall, and an easy plumbing connection onto the toilet itself.
And that's it, all done!
After 6 months of using it, what do we think?
Overall we prefer the new toilet - but there are pros and cons compared to the old Thetford toilet we had.
The Dometic 310 toilet is undeniably more comfortable to use. The solid seat and lid are a league above the flimsy plastic of the Thetford toilet, and I do like the slow-close feature.
It's also much easier to clean - I like to use a Clorox ToiletWand. It doesn't take up much room in the compact RV bathroom and while bleach-based cleans aren't recommended in RV toilets, we use it shortly before dumping so the bleach isn't there for long. We've certainly never had a problem with it anyway!
The nice smooth surfaces on the seat and lid don't trap dirt and are far easier to wipe down. The cleaning wand also works well and has a decent amount of pressure.
In 6 months of use, the valve has worked flawlessly - not once has it stuck open and allowed smells to vent back up. Every time we flush the valve closes firmly and effectively.
While overall the toilet is easier to clean, there are some quirks. For whatever reason, we've noticed that "things" seem to stick to toilet bowl more easily. Nothing ever seemed to stick to the Thetford, but we find ourselves having to use the cleaning wand on a regular basis to keep the Dometic toilet clean.
When flushing the Thetford toilet, all the water came out of a nozzle at the back, versus distributed flush holes around the rim (well, where the rim would be if it weren't rimless) of the Dometic. With the flush distributed through more exit points, we've noticed the water pressure is much lower, and it struggles to reach every spot.
Lastly, the Dometic toilet seems to use a little more water, filling our black tank quicker. If you have hookups then this isn't an issue, but for us as boondockers this is something we have to think about. This is in part because we have to use the wand to keep it clean, but after flushing more residual water seems to accumulate in the bowl. It's not a big difference, but does add up over time.
It's more comfortable, feels more like a "normal" toilet and is easier to clean. If you're OK with a little extra water usage then the Dometic 310 is a no-brainer. If water usage is a top concern for you, then be aware that it might use a little more water than you're used to.
For us, although conserving water is a priority, the difference isn't so significant that it's a problem.
Overall, I'm pleased we upgraded the toilet to the Dometic 310. While not perfect, it fits our needs better than the Thetford we had before and checks off all the goals we outlined for the upgrade.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, our "British throne" raised $40 in the charity auction!