Sea toilet maintenance rarely tops the list of favorite maintenance tasks however keeping up with a good sea toilet maintenance schedule can save you a messy job in the long run.
Sea toilet maintenance – prevention is better than cure.
To flush or not to flush…
For cruisers a good ethos to live by is as follows: only send down the heads what has been through you and your crew.
A good sea head can in theory deal with a small amount of paper but you have to bear in mind that it’s a much smaller piece of engineering than the loo at home, with a lot of small valves, twists and turns. The last thing you want to be doing when you’re out cruising beautiful blue oceans is to take apart a mucky toilet. The best approach is to have a small dedicated plastic lined sanitary bin to store the paper. The bag with used paper can be tied up and stashed in a larger dedicated bin liner and put for example in the bilge for later disposal. This solution may not be practical if you’re crossing a big ocean for many weeks but if you have access to waste disposal at regular intervals then this is a far safer option for your sea toilet than flushing paper.
Sea toilet maintenance regime:
At least monthly, or right down to weekly if you’re really dedicated to the pristine porcelain convenience, execute the following steps.
A few hours before turning in and preferably when you’re in a marina where water is not on an extreme budget, fill your bowl with hot fresh water and flush it into the system. Repeat this a couple of times with hot water (be careful not to pour boiling water into your heads as it may crack the bowl, we’re talking hot water from the hot tap not a freshly boiled kettle).
Before you are ready to turn in, do a final fill and flush then chase it with around 1 liter of the roughest, toughest cleaning vinegar you can find and let that pickle overnight. In the morning flush the lot out and return to normal use… or repeat if you feel the heads have been neglected for a while.
Sea toilet maintenance – keep it well flushed:
A good habit to get your crew into is to flush thoroughly to ensure everything is flushed all the way through and out so that no waste remains in the pipes. This will reduce the rate at which buildup occurs inside the pipes. Twenty pumps minimum is a good rule of thumb and a few more won’t hurt.
Sea toilet maintenance – extreme measures:
If you suspect there is a fair amount of build up or the heads have been neglected you may need to give it an industrial clean or overhaul the plumbing. To avoid an overhaul you can use a diluted solution of hydrochloric acid pumped into the heads and left to dissolve the crystalline growth. This is usually very effective but is fairly aggressive on the plastic components and the marine environment so should be treated as a drastic measure. In the US hcl is usually called muriatic acid, in Spain it’s sold as agua fuerte.