Understanding 5 common marine toilet concerns and how to avoid them

The Jabsco Lite Flush Toilet

With more than 50 years of experience supplying the world’s premier leisure boat builders with marine toilets, Jabsco is a leading resource for installation advice and troubleshooting of seafaring heads. Proper toilet installation and ongoing maintenance are critical to ensure leisure time on the water isn’t derailed by toilet troubles. Here are five common questions and answers from the Jabsco experts.

1. What causes that rotten-egg smell?
Backflow is one of the biggest complaints among marine toilet owners, which leads to unwanted odors, specifically a sulphurous odor caused by anaerobic bacteria within the water held in the inlet pipework. When the toilet is flushed, the contaminated water is exposed to the air. This typically happens only on the initial flush when opening up the boat after a number of days being idle. It’s important to note this is an inlet issue and is not caused by the discharge side of the system.

Jabsco’s best-selling Twist ‘n’ Lock manual toilet ensures there is no backflow from the discharge pipe into the bowl when the toilet is not in use, and is a simple solution to this common problem.

2. What cleaning products are safe to use?
Another often-heard complaint related to backflow concerns is the column of water held within the discharge hose. Users will often put household cleaners or bleaches into the bowl to clean it, however the chemicals soften the rubber valves and reduce performance. Jabsco Toilet Fresh Clean & Condition is ideal for routine cleaning and preserves the valves.

3. How can I reduce buildup inside the discharge hose?
The discharge hose can also become restricted when uric acid and scale build up, reducing the hose diameter and requiring more pumping power to operate the toilet. This situation can strain the internal valve systems. Ensuring enough water is pumped through the system every time the toilet is used will minimize buildup in the hose. If there is a significant amount of buildup, the hose should be replaced.

4. Why do I need a vented loop?
Anti-syphoning protection is another topic that gets a lot of questions – specifically vented loops or no vented loops. When a marine toilet is installed below the water line with no vented loop it could potentially flood. Without a vented loop, the user is relying on only the the toilet valve to keep the boat from experiencing water damage.

By installing a vented loop between the pump and the toilet bowl (minimum 200mm above static or heeled water lines) the boat is protected by an airlock system that will not allow water to syphon through and fill up the bowl. When the pump starts it breaks the airlock, pulling water into the bowl as required. Users should also remember to always close their seacocks when not using the head compartments.

5. How can I avoid messy pump out?
The correct practice for black (holding) tank storage and pump out is another topic that generates a lot of questions. Once installed, your head needs the discharge set up in one of three ways: directly into a holding tank, overboard or with a three-way valve that allows either option depending on where the boat is at the time. For inland waterways and marinas, pumping directly overboard is prohibited; therefore it is a good idea and indeed a legal requirement in certain areas to have a tank.

When the tank fills up, it can be emptied via gravity feed discharge, a process in which the contents drain through the open seacock. It’s important to check for blockage before you start this process to avoid overspill and messy cleanup.
A more common setup is to install a macerator or diaphragm discharge pump. This pump is positioned near the tank and its sole use is to break up and pump the waste out. A key point when installing either the Jabsco 18590 macerator or the Jabsco 50890 diaphragm waste pump is that the power comes from the discharge side, not the inlet.

This is why users should be sure they are installed as close to the tank as possible.
When emptying the tank, the user should half fill it with water and pump this through to ensure the pump and pipes are free from any obstructions. There are various holding tank additives available that help break down waste to a uniform textured slurry and also minimizes odor that can vent from the tank.

Click here for more technical advice or information on Jabsco toilets.

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