Can I use my RV toilet in the winter?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Can I use my RV toilet in the winter? We will explain how to prepare your RV’s toilet and plumbing system for cold days or winter storage.

Can I use my RV toilet in the winter?

Yes, you can use your RV toilet in winter, however, there are certain precautions to take in order to prevent wastewater from freezing, especially on those cold, cold nights.  To prevent wastewater from freezing in your water lines, you will need the following supplies:

  • Two to three gallons of non-toxic antifreeze made just for RVs. You can buy this at any RV supply store. The amount will depend on the size of your RV and the number of pipes you need to flush.
  • Holding tank cleaning solution and a holding tank cleaning stick OR some laundry detergent and a bag of ice cubes
  • Lubricant (eg, WD-40)
  • A water heater bypass kit
  • Tube for the water pump inlet.
  • Tools for removing drain plugs
  • Your owner’s manual
  • A 30 to 50 psi air compressor.
  • An exhaust plug for the city water inlet.

Read the manual carefully for all instructions and warnings on draining the water lines, adding antifreeze, and other winter information. Different RVs may have different specific ways of performing any of the required steps.

Make sure to drain all your holding tanks and pipes into a sewer system (compared to your front yard or some open space in the desert). Since the hot water tank will be clean water, just drain where it is safe. Don’t make mud under your RV. It is slippery (and messy)!

How to protect the RV plumbing from freezing

There are two possible techniques for winterizing your plumbing: A. The method without an air compressor and B. The method with an air compressor. In my opinion, method B is the easiest but requires you to buy an air compressor, which is an additional investment of over $200.

  1. If you don’t have an air compressor: 
  1. First empty the tanks and the water heater of your caravan, including the three tanks (fresh, grey and black water). Rinse thoroughly to make sure there is no waste.
  1. Under the RV, unscrew the drain plugs (if you have one) and turn on all sink and sink faucets, indoor and outdoor showers. Let the water run, then close the caps and taps.
  1. You need to put antifreeze in the pipes of your vehicle. Use non-toxic RV antifreeze, which is designed for temperatures down to -45 ° C. Never use automotive radiator antifreeze, which is poisonous. Approximately 8 litres (2 gallons) will be needed at this step. Each gallon of plastic pipe antifreeze costs approx. $ 4.
  1. Prevent antifreeze from entering the water heater tank by operating the water heater bypass valve (place in Winter mode).
  1. To drain the water heater, unscrew the cap located at the bottom of the tank on the outside, with a 1 1/16 inch wrench. To facilitate the flow of water, open the safety valve located at the top of the tank. Run water to remove lime deposits and rinse thoroughly. Secure the item.
  1. Plug-in the water pump hose and insert it into the gallon of antifreeze to suck the red liquid into the plumbing of your trailer. If the pump is difficult to access, the antifreeze can be poured directly into the freshwater tank.
  1. When step 6 is complete, activate the pump by opening all faucets and showers, until the water is drained. You will then see the completely red antifreeze flowing. Technically, then there will be no water in your pipes.
  1. Pour approximately 225 ml (1 cup) of antifreeze in each of the elbows (P Trap) to remove the remaining water. (including toilet, shower, sink and kitchen sink drains).
  1. Last step: Open all the drain hose plugs to drain the water remaining from the procedure. Don’t forget to close them after this step.

B. If you have an air compressor: 

  1. At an RV centre, get an air compressor water inlet purge adapter (approx. $ 5). Screw it into the water inlet.
  1. Drain the freshwater tank as well as the grey and black water tanks.
  1. Empty the water heater. Unscrew the cap located at the bottom of the tank on the outside, with a 1 1/16 inch wrench. To facilitate the flow of water, you can open the safety valve located at the top of the tank. Run water to remove lime deposits and rinse thoroughly. Secure the item.
  1. Open all faucets, including the showerhead, the flush device, and any water lines that are closed.
  1. Run the water pump for 30 seconds to drain all the water from the pipes. Close the pump.
  1. Connect the air hose from the compressor to the adapter referred to at the water inlet.
  1. Adjust the compressor not to exceed 30 pounds of pressure and blow the water lines until water is no longer flowing from the faucets. Make sure to turn on one faucet at a time to drain everything. You will need help inside to confirm that the air is coming out of the faucets.
  1. Pour non-toxic antifreeze in all drains (P Trap), elbows, toilets and reservoirs.

Restarting your RV in the spring

After winter, you need to remove the antifreeze in the piping and elbows. Using a garden hose, pour water into the drinking water tank. Start the trailer’s water pump and turn on each cold water tap. Let it run until the colour and taste are back to normal.

Fill the water tank and flush the toilet repeatedly. Open the bypass of the water heater and place it in Summer mode. Fill the tank with potable water. Before screwing the water heater element back on, let several tens of litres of water flow to drain it completely.

Run water through all hot water faucets. To make sure you kill all bacteria, rinse the water tank with bleach. I use 1 teaspoon (5 ml) per 4 litres or 1 cup for a 50 gallon or 200 litre tank. I leave the bleach for 24 hours and then drain.

Other tasks to be performed before RV winter storage

  • Clean the fridge and freezer with vinegar to prevent mould. Leave the doors open.
  • Close the propane tanks.
  • Before removing the battery, charge it and store it in a frost-free place. A discharged battery will freeze and no longer function.
  • Place your battery on a shelf in your basement or (heated) garage, never on the floor. Plug it into a smart 2A charger that will keep it charged all winter long.
  • Cover the positive end of the trailer battery leads with electrical tape.
  • To drive away small rodents, place mothballs (mothballs) or fabric softener sheets.
  • Park your RV on dry ground (asphalt, concrete, paving stones, gravel). Avoid wet soil or grass.
  • Raise the front cylinder, to give it a slope backwards so that the water flows well. There is no real benefit to placing your vehicle on jack stands or lifting the wheels. 

The bottom line

If all of the above procedures scare you, you can ask your dealer to do them for you, at a flat rate. And then you can hibernate in your cave, until spring.

If we can be of any further help, please let us know!

FAQ on Can I use my RV toilet in the winter?

How to clean an RV toilet bowl?

To clean your motorhome toilet: Thoroughly dry the gaskets and the valve and coat them with Thetford Lubricant Spray. Wipe them off with a cloth or sheet of toilet paper.

How to dismantle an RV toilet?

To dismantle an RV toilet, you will need 10 pan-head screws to unscrew to release the toilet block, then screws in the floor will have to be found and unscrewed. Disconnect by locating all the wires and pipes that supply the toilet.

How do I prepare my RV for wintering?

Here are a few tips to prepare your RV for wintering:

  1. Empty the water heater. 
  2. Empty and clean the toilet tanks. 
  3. Remove the gas cylinder (s). 
  4. Put the windows in the ventilation position. 
  5. Open the bathroom door. 
  6. Do not unscrew the feet. 
  7. Do not put plastic sheeting on the caravan. 
  8. Put the clean trailer in the garage.


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