Head 101


I never enjoyed cleaning the bathroom on land and it is no less enjoyable cleaning the head on a boat. However, because a marine toilet (head) uses saltwater, you cannot use bathroom products that you would normally use for home. Do not put anything in your head that you don’t want to have to fish out later. Sorry, but there isn’t a delicate way to explain this.

Using RV/Marine toilet paper will also help minimize clogs because the paper decomposes quickly. Instruct your guests on how to use the head and remind them to be conservative with the amount of TP that they use. Any awkwardness with your new guests will surely disappear after you have this conversation with them.

The second consideration is that the marine toilet is connected to the great, blue ocean through a seacock – a hole in the side of your boat below the water line. You definitely don’t want anything going wrong with this. (We have emergency plugs tied with fishing line to each seacock in case they fail, but I digress.)

Over time, the mixture of urine and sea water creates a hard build-up that can render the hose pipe leading from the head to the seacock or holding tank, impassable. You will have to trust me when I tell you that this is bad news and will result in an unhappy crew.

Enter – Don Casey, a  very helpful boat-guy who has authored several books on topics from marine wiring to sewing your own canvas. This is what Don Casey recommends for maintenance of your head:

Run “…. a pint of white vinegar through the head once a month. Move the vinegar through the head slowly, giving the head a single pump every 4 or 5 minutes. The mildly acidic vinegar dissolves fresh scale inside the head and hoses. When the vinegar has passed all the way through the system, pump a gallon of fresh water through to flush the lines.”

I love you Don Casey! No more scale build-up.

If you haven’t been following Don’s maintenance tips and end up with a stuck, clogged head, Don also provides advice on how to break down the build-up inside the lines. If things are really stuck, you might have to replace the lines, an unpleasant repair unless you enjoy being in a cramped space with human waste all over the place.

Pure white vinegar – a staple on any boat. Happy sails and may your pipes be clean.

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