The sea toilet.
quite a number of different makes of sea toilet and some of them even have
electric pump out kits which will convert the basic loo to an automatic
They all use
sea water to flush which causes most of the problems with sea toilets. This
is because sea water and urine react to produce calcium which builds up
inside on all the internal parts and causes the pipes to slowly narrow so that when
someone does a ‘brick’ or too much paper is used there is an instant
Most other problems - which
will require stripping the loo down - are caused by people putting things
such as sanitary towels or a handful of tissue or other foreign bodies which
have not been eaten like cotton buds or matchsticks.
Arriving back in England once again
one of the most talked about boaty problems - the marine loo - began to give us
trouble. After 30 years living aboard Mo and I have pretty much solved most
of the problems.
Many of us yotties have now fitted the standard modern plastic pump loo.
Along with many other and older types they suffer from getting stiff
to operate and from blocking.
The stiffness is due to a lack of lubrication and the blocking due to the
reaction of urine and salt water which produces a calcium build up inside
the pump - pipes - holding tank and valves.
In some places an expensive product called 'Head Lube' or something similar
can be bought. This is a biologically degradable oil that is simply poured
into the pan and pumped through.
A much less expensive solution is to use cheap cooking oil in the same way.
This will need repeating every few days.
A longer lasting solution is to clean the system by pumping a little bleach
or disinfectant through the system and then removing the pump top located
under the pump handle. This gives access to the inside of the pump and the
rod and piston / plunger will just lift out. Dry with rag or paper kitchen
towel and then grease with a thin smear of silicone grease. This will last
for weeks. How to cure the calcium problem next.
The blocked loo is one of the most
feared problems of the cruising sailor. It generally happens due to the
reaction of urine and salt water producing a calcium build up. This narrows
the pipes and coats the valves stopping them working.
If you currently have a blockage then you
may well need to dismantle the system to clear it first (YUK) as the
following will only help in keeping it clear. It will be unlikely to unblock
it and may well make it difficult if you eventually need to dismantle the
loo as the acid will be trapped in the system.
The way to keep the system free of calcium is to use hydrochloric acid. In
many countries this can be purchased very cheaply from hardware stores or
In the UK our laws make it difficult to purchase chemicals which are freely
available in other countries. In France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece etc.
it comes in a red plastic bottle and costs around one euro for a litre.
In the UK I have found that garden patio cleaner is strong hydrochloric acid
and in this form is easy to purchase.
To keep the system clear I pour the whole bottle (about 1 litre at 30%
strength) into the loo pan and then slowly, by giving a few strokes every
half hour, pump it through the system.
I do this roughly every 2 to 3 months in an area that is NOT environmentally
sensitive as the acid ends up in the sea!
This has virtually no effect on the plastic and metals in the system but
will kill off any microbes in a holding tank system.
Some people claim that these microbes can help to stop the holding tank
smelling - I prefer not to have blockages!
These are good sea toilets which
use a Henderson type bilge pump for emptying. They have a lid which seals
and the pump sucks out causing a vacuum which then causes flushing water to
be sucked in. A friend has found that hydrochloric acid attacks a small
piece of aluminium in the pump. What he does is to strip the pump and use a
domestic loo cleaner to clean the parts.
I did not realise that there were aluminium parts in these pumps, I think
think that the recent version is all plastic.
Worth checking if you have a Lavac!!
Another method of keeping the system clear of calcium is to use vinegar.
This is considerably more expensive and not as aggressive as hydrochloric
acid so may well be OK where there are aluminium parts in the system. Used
in a similar fashion to the acid it should help to stop the calcium build up
and the need to regularly strip the system.
As far as I am aware all the normal heads such as the almost universal
Jabsco plastic pump type only have stainless parts.
Some years ago I tested all these stainless parts from an old loo along with
some 304 and 316 bolts by leaving them in 50% strength acid. After 3 days I
examined them under a powerful magnifier and found only a slight dulling but
Our current Jabsco is around 6 years old and has not needed the valves or
pipes cleaning yet.