Wednesday 13 April 2011

The loo debate - cassette or pumpout

I can't keep a blog about planning life on a narrowboat without touching on this topic.  There seems to be such strong feeling on the subject!  The pumpout loo camp say that emptying a cassette loo is a horrible task yet those who bat for the cassette loo team say it's no big deal.  I'm sure it's not a pleasant task, but how bad is it really?

One of the brokers we spoke to on our trip last year said that at some stage of life on a narrowboat there will come a time where somebody (that would be Mick) will have to do the unpleasant task of repairing or dismantling or unblocking or cleaning out the loo - whichever type you have.  His attitude was that you might as well get over it and get used to it and get a cassette loo so you don't have to worry so much about being iced in.  Well... that theory made sense but what about the day to day use of a cassette loo?   We looked at a boat for sale last year and when you opened the bathroom door it smelled.  I don't want that to happen!

What type of loo have you got and why is it the right choice?


Peter Berry said...

Having lots of experience of both types I will give you my input. Cassette / porta potti type, benefits are: Cheaper to run as they are free to empty. Less expensive to install if you are building or refitting. Not worried about having to find a pump out station at inconvenient times, eg as you say, when iced in. Less to go wrong, and easier to fix if they do.
Disadvantages are: They only last maximum 3 days between empties. They are usually plastic, and have that "camping feel". They can have an odour, even if only of the chemicals used. No matter how hard you try, you will at some stage experience a "splash back" when emptying, either from the spout in the disposal, or, particularly when very full, from the vent that has to be opened to allow free flow. Yuk! Rubber gloves are the order of the day.
Pump out benefits are: Porcelain bowl gives the "at home" feel of permanence. Can last up to 3 or 4 weeks constant use between emptying, depending on size of installation. The emptying process is clean, and usually done by somebody else, if a boatyard is used. Once in the tank, you are totally isolated from the waste, and no smells. Just like a home installation.
Pump out disadvantages: Contributes to running costs with average £15 per pump out. If you have a big tank some yards try to charge double, but I always argue the point. I won't be ripped off, a pump out is a pump out! You have to monitor the tank level gauge and plan ahead for emptying. The possibility of equipment failure such as a blockage in the maceration pump.
I fall definitely on the side of pump out. All the disadvantages other than cost can easily be dealt with. We have a large 600ltr tank, and can forget about it. With the other type, emptying comes around far too frequently. You need to buy loo paper that dissolves in water, available from chandlers, and then ensure that everybody, including guests, know not to put anything else down it. And for the times when a pump out is not available, either keep an emergency porta potti, or a manual pump out kit such as this:,%20Light%20Duty
These can be used at some sanitary stations for a free DIY pump out, or, in emergency, can pump waste out to a 25ltr container to make the system usable again until the boat can be taken to a pump out facility. (The container would be emptied in the same way as a cassette). In the event of equipment failure it would be the boat yard tech. that deals with the problem, not me, they are used to it, believe me, I worked summers with a hire fleet mechanic in the mid 70's. You wouldn't believe what some people put down there!

Eddie said...

We have a pump-out on the boat and a cassette on the caravan.
i hate (dislike) caravan holidays,and caravans, lucky i have a brother-in-law who hates boating holidays.

Tyson said...

When you start discusing toilets you are proper boaters!

Anonymous said...

Have you considered a composting loo? ... that's what we are going for on our new build! but we're having a holding tank installed for 'liquid waste',(mainly because our builder, and my partner are both a bit sceptical) and this leaves the option to convert to conventional pumpout later if necessary. Have a look at

Any comments from experienced boating composters would be welcome!