Laveo Dry-Flush Toilet DIY Truck Camper
When it came off the factory line, our 1970 Avion C11 truck camper had a customary RV toilet and black water tank setup. It’s the most common waste solution in RVing today: take a dump and flush it twice. Once into a holding tank of the RV and then again into a sewer. It’s that second step that we desperately wanted to avoid when we launched our renovation project. In our quest to not get our hands dirty, we encounter (and acquired) the Laveo Dry-Flush Toilet.
Rather than writing a review right away, we take a year to get to know the plusses and minuses of this toilet. After many a mile under our tires and many a flush down the toilet, the jury is in. And boy, do we have a story to tell!
Our Past Toilet Experience
In the early days of our travels, we avoid the “waste problem” by not having a toilet. We camp at locations with public bathrooms. Whether that is pit toilet or 24-hour Walmarts matters little to us so long as we can answer nature’s call.
Of course, that comes with its own inconveniences. There are a lot of camping opportunities that do not include toilets. And once we discover boondocking, we finally have to tackle the messy question of waste head-on.
So, we buy a Thetford porta potty. It is a cassette toilet that holds raw waste in a small reservoir until it is emptied into a sewer or toilet. It’s pretty much a mini version of the standard RV toilet and black water tank combo but with a little more flexibility where we can use and empty it. The porta-potty opens up our camping options but emptying it is…unpleasant. Is there an option that doesn’t involve raw waste splashing around? Enter Laveo. Their dry flush cartridges mean that, once the waste is flushed, you never had to see it again.
How it Works
Yes, the Laveo is an elegant solution to a messy problem. It’s a variation on the cassette toilet. Rather than a holding tank for raw sewage, the Laveo sequesters the waste in a cartridge that seals off, much like how a plastic bag of bread is twisted at the end to seal out air. In this case, the waste is the “bread,” and the Laveo cartridge is the plastic bag being spun to seal off the waste. The flexible cartridge sits within the solid walls of the Laveo toilet, but it is squeezed, spun, and expanded using a system of fans and a motorized platform. Each “flush” seals off the waste in the cartridge’s bottom section while gradually dispensing out more of the cartridge from the top. So the toilet effectively knots off each waste deposit while continuing to use one cartridge for multiple flushes. After around 17 flushes, the cartridge is used up and replaced.
As soon as we bring the Laveo into the camper, we are excited to give it a whirl…Cautiously excited. We use water for our first flush. At least, we try to. Because when we push the flush button, nothing happens. The Laveo is not a mechanical toilet like in most sticks and brick houses. Where the flush handle releases water in a reservoir and sweeps waste down a pipe. No, the “Dry Flush” part of the Laveo is a small motor and fans powered by a 12volt “game battery” or connected to a 12-volt power source. We troubleshoot the toilet by hardwiring it to our house batteries and discover that we have a faulty battery. Fortunately, the Laveo Dry-Flush runs off a fairly standard 12-volt battery. Finding a replacement doesn’t take any specialized retailor or preorder. But it isn’t a good start.
Even once we have the Laveo powered, we continue to encounter problems. Light loads and urine are not always sealed in the flush. It seems like weight plays a role in the flush process. In these cases, the flush mechanism squeezes the cartridge bag closed and spins it. But when the fans reveal to expand the remaining cartridge for the next use, the pressure also spins the lower section and releases the past flush. We handle this quirk by adding more weight: either waiting until one of us needs to use the toilet again or tossing some weighty trash.
And there’s another related problem: Sometimes the liquid won’t stay sealed. When the cartridge bag is spun during the flush process, the pressure forces liquid up into the open section. We can counter this issue by adding something solid that preserves enough open space to keep the liquid from being forced out. But, not only does this fail to seal off the waste, but it wastes a “flush.” Even worse, this happens more often near the end of the bag’s lifespan. So it’s possible that what should have been the final flush becomes a complete disaster.
Even so, we are willing to try to make this work. Because we are already financially invested, and if we can figure out the optimal way to avoid the toilet’s unique pitfalls, we may never have to pour raw sewage down a sewer again. And we’ll go through a lot of other unpleasantness to avoid that particular act.
No, those other issues weren’t enough to be considered critical. But 6 months into owning our Laveo, we encountered one that was. According to Laveo, a red line appears on the cartridge once there are only two flushes left. This is not consistent with our experience. In one horrific case, the Laveo’s attempt to complete the cartridge’s final flush nearly floods the camper with urine as the liquid is forced up through the cassette bag. As noted earlier, we have experienced this problem before on a smaller scale, but there was additional cartridge space to capture the escaping liquid in the past. This time there is nowhere to go but over the edges of the cartridge. In the end, we find ourselves in the distinctly unsavory position of having to dispose of a cartridge with a distressing amount of liquid waste unsealed. At this point, I am already looking around for a new alternative to the Laveo. But the casual search becomes a desperate hunt the day we reach the final flush.
The Final Flush
Of course, we don’t realize it is the final flush. We are simply demonstrating the flush mechanism to some friends. “That’s cool” is the consensus. And we don’t think much more bout the toilet until a cold winter’s night after leaving the hospitality and amenities of our friends’ house. I have to go. I’m not quite sure what gives Chris the presence of mind to test the toilet before letting me do my business, but thank goodness he empties a water bottle into the cartridge before I empty my bowels. Because the fans kicked in. They squeeze, and then they suck. But the motor never kicks in to spin off the cartridge. No matter how many times we press flush, the fans run, and the motor does not.
And so, there were are, on the road with limited tools and no replacement parts. The concept of the Laveo may be simple but tinkering with it is not. The body is designed to allow easy replacement of the cartridge and battery but not much else. We can’t see or access the motor. An when we upend the Laveo to see if we might have better luck attacking it from the base, we discover that the platform at the base conceals more than just the motor. The oozing dregs of failed flushes past spread across the floor. I mop up while Chris drags the Laveo outside and continues to inspect it.
Diagnosing the Breakdown
To the best of our knowledge, the cartridge’s critical failure a few months ago left a bit of liquid waste at the base of the Laveo, out of sight. While we did our best to clean up after that mess, the platform concealed the internal spillage, leaving the motor sitting in an unsavory environment. The flush mechanism continued to work but was slowly and imperceptibly failing. And now that it finally gave out, there is no temporary patch to get us through.
Short of proper replacement parts and a larger tool set, we are left with a commode shaped hunk of plastic.
I suppose this is the final major failing of the toilet: there is no manual override. When the toilet fails, it completely fails.
So far, I haven’t been able to reach any technical assistance. I want to get it working again so we can conclusively determine the point of failure. But, either way, we won’t be sticking with this toilet for the long term.
The Laveo by Dry-Flush design is so appealing. Lightweight. No water consumed. Little power is needed. Easy to replace cartridges. No fuss. No mess. But it is a ticking time bomb, and when it fails, it fails hard. The interior workings are hard to access, and the manufacturer is unresponsive. In many things I review, I can find that a product may not be a slam dunk, but it has some value in certain circumstances. But I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the Laveo to anyone. It is far too expensive to justify the poor performance and lack of support from the manufacturers. There are plenty of other options that are less expensive and less prone to failure.