The Story Behind Thetford Corporation
The Thetford Corporation story is a classic case of the entrepreneurial spirit that glowed throughout America during the second half of the 20th Century.
There was a need to make the recreational travel experience on America’s new post-war interstate highways more pleasant through advancements in sanitation. Recognizing this, Frank Sargent and his two sons founded the Thetford Engineering Company in 1963.
Like many early business endeavors, Thetford Engineering began as a fledgling company operating out of a garage in Thetford Township near Flint, Mich.
Struggles Turn To Success
There were struggles, of course, but five years of hard work and persistence yielded three products that Thetford continues to successfully manufacture today:
• Slide-blade, porcelain RV permanent toilets (in 1964)
• Aqua-Kem®, the RV industry’s first concentrated liquid holding tank deodorant (in 1967)
• Porta-Potti®, the world’s first two-piece, hand-carried portable toilet (in 1968)
Paced by those products and a mandate to provide consumers worldwide with quality, style, performance and value, Thetford quickly rose to what it is today… the world's leading supplier of sanitation products for the RV and marine industries.
Much has happened in the world and the RV industry since the 1960s.
Now known as Thetford Corporation and headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., the company has amazingly built an estimated 10 million RV permanent toilets and 6 million recreational portable toilets. No one in the recreational sanitation industry comes anywhere near this track record of experience.
And no one knows better than Thetford what products work best with those toilets. In fact, Thetford has the RV industry’s largest – and perhaps only – staff of full-time, degreed chemists.
Heading up that staff is Mary Burrows, the company’s Manager of Chemical Development and the acknowledged expert in RV and marine sanitation. Together, Mary and company boast a combined total of more than 74 years of industry experience.
Product Development & Research
Experience has taught Thetford that it all begins with the production of a wide range of quality products.
In fact, Thetford is the only RV industry supplier to offer a complete range of RV sanitation solutions – as you’ll see on the next eight pages – from toilets to waste evacuation systems to the holding tank additives that help them work the most efficiently.
Regardless of which of these three product areas it’s working on, Thetford brings a commitment to excellence to its new product development:
• Extensive market and product research prior to product development.
• Comprehensive testing before each product is released – and on-going, comprehensive testing of every product after it’s in the marketplace.
• Attention to detail, including all government regulations that effect the product and its packaging.
It adds up to introduction and production of the highest-quality products possible.
In addition, because it’s a matter of trust, work on a product continues even after it’s released. Well known in the RV industry for its “continuous improvement” program, Thetford is always on the lookout for ways to enhance performance and improve the product when it does.
After all, it’s in the spirit of what Thetford has done from its humble beginnings in 1963 to now.
Developed with input from Camping World customers like you, Thetford’s SmartTotes™ are the premium portable waste tote tanks that save time, effort and hassle.
Thetford’s key to building a better mousetrap – rather, portable tote tank – was to interview a wide range of users to discover the problems they had with other tanks – then deliver on the areas where they said totes need improvement…
Are you among the many RVers who are tired of the mess associated with handling and storing an uncapped, loose and dirty sewer hose?
SmartTotes’ ingenious and convenient PermaStore™ System alleviates the need to connect and disconnect the hose, making handling and stowing a hose cleaner and easier than ever.
The built-in five-foot hose stores in a protective cradle until needed. It extends – pivoting the cradle if needed – to the RV dump port then returns to the cradle after emptying.
RVers wanted to prevent overfilling, which leads to an awful mess.
SmartTotes’ innovative and patented AutoStop™ Level Gauge takes the guesswork out of filling – indeed, prevents overfilling by stopping flow when the tank is full. In fact, the red Level Gauge pops up to alert you that the tank’s full and it’s time to empty. And, a new drainage design insures complete emptying of contents.
Handling and storage are also important to users, so Smart-Tote was made much easier to maneuver.
A nifty, rugged and rust-proof Tow Handle is standard on all SmartTote LX models. Pre-assembled at the factory, the Tow Handle pivots for easy walking transit, can hook to a ball hitch for easy vehicle towing and then stores flat on the tank for storage. Heavy-duty wheels give your back a break by making lifting part of the past. LX models have four wheels for convenient transport, eliminating the need to lift.
Current users wanted more capacity and Thetford obliged: SmartTotes come in four sizes ranging from 12-35 gallons (see chart) – up to 20% larger than competitive models. The benefit to you is fewer fill-ups and fewer trips (back and forth) to dump stations – meaning saved time and much less work.
Simply the Best
The result of these improvements is that SmartTotes save time, trouble and money! Yes, Thetford delivered on current users’ wants and needs – right down to their desire for a different color (SmartTotes are a dark grey).
Like many new products, Thetford’s Sani-Con System, a revolutionary new way to empty holding tanks, initially flew under the radar.
Then an overwhelmingly positive reaction came pouring in from users who realized that it alleviated the nastiest part of RVing:
“Very, very good and easy to operate,” said Edward P. of Morro Bay, Calif. “It is so easy to dump and put things away when done.”
“Excellent,” said Ed D. a Camping World customer from Keizer, Ore. “Gave all (my) other sewer stuff to the Garbage Man. Installation was a snap.”
“Outstanding,” said Jim S. of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. "When my friends see how good this works, I expect they will be ordering their own.”
Sani-Con produces such a popular response because it’s the cleanest and most sanitary way EVER to empty a holding tank. And, it makes the job easier than pumping gas!
Consumer friendly, the innovative Sani-Con comes completely assembled with nothing else for you to buy. It consists of a heavy-duty macerating transfer pump, a long and durable 1-inch diameter discharge hose, and a universal nozzle.
Unlike the “old” way to empty holding tanks, Sani-Con doesn’t rely on gravity. Its powerful pump macerates waste and can even send the discharge up to 20 feet uphill!
Sani-Con is all about convenience. Its heavy-duty hose stretches to 21 feet - yet amazingly retracts to 7-feet and coils to save storage space. Its nozzle conveniently fits into a vast array of dump inlets - eliminating the need for an adaptor. Importantly, the nozzle’s cap keeps the user clean.
And select Sani-Con models also have a patented bypass for grey water tank emptying without the need to turn on the pump. Lastly, Sani-Con is easy to install – without the need for plumbing modifications.
Evacuation Products: SmartDrain™ System
If you prefer a gravity sewer system, Thetford’s premium SmartDrain™ is the smart choice for a growing number of Camping World customers.
Scientifically designed for a cleaner solution, SmartDrain eliminates the problems associated with other gravity RV hoses and fittings: leaks, difficult connections, messy storage and poor dump-station fit.
At the heart of SmartDrain is the ultra-durable, ultra-pliable SmartHose™. Made with a material similar to automotive sunroof seals and sneaker soles, SmartHose is tested to be 2.6 times more resistant to leaks from abrasion, 46% more puncture resistant, and highly resistant to extreme temperatures and UV exposure.
If you’ve attended shows or rallies, you may have seen a Thetford representative asking RVers to drop SmartHose on the ground and “step on it” themselves. Unlike other hoses that crush easily, SmartHose quickly springs back into shape – to the amazement of all watching!
The key to this resiliency is hidden inside SmartHose: a non-metal, polymer coil that won’t crack, dent or rust. (Other hoses have metal coils.)
It all adds up to the longest-lasting, most-durable sewer hose you can buy! And, as a bonus to all this durability, SmartHose extends to 15 feet and compresses to just five feet to save storage space.
Another big advantage SmartDrain has over other gravity systems involves the SureLock™ fittings attached to SmartHose.
Similar to those on fire and fuel hoses, these industrial-grade fittings feature metal cam-levers for quick, secure and leak-proof connections at each hose end.
SureLock fittings also enable you to easily connect a second SmartHose to extend your hose if needed.
More Smart Features
The SmartDrain System comes complete with everything needed. And it’s loaded with other features that help keep you clean and make the process of holding tank emptying quicker and easier.
For example, a handle on the 90° Nozzle Fitting keeps your hands up and away from the messy sewer area. And, that Nozzle Fitting locks into a Universal Sewer Adapter that fits into virtually all dump ports. No other adapters are needed, nor are weights needed to keep it in place during use.
The Universal Sewer Adapter also has an easy-grip handle to ensure a sanitary connection to the dump port.
For a clean, sealed storage in your RV sewer compartment, the hose ends lock together. The hose also stores in steel bumpers.
An easy-to-grip RV Valve Adapter has four slots that won't break like traditional bayonet ears and tightly seals to the waste valve outlet. It can remain affixed to the outlet for a quick and sure SmartHose connection. Thetford’s attention to detail is seen in the multi-use end cap that tethers to the RV valve adapter to prevent loss.
New SmartDrain is truly the smart choice.
Having built more than 10 million RV permanent toilets, Thetford’s experience in toilet production is unrivaled.
And, also unlike its competitor, Thetford makes toilets in all three product groups – all china, all plastic and a combination of the two – to give Camping World customers like you options when it comes to toilet replacement.
At the top of Thetford’s comprehensive RV permanent toilets lineup is the Aria Deluxe II, which leads the way in comfort, elegance and performance.
Aria is completely made of vitreous china (except for the seat and cover, of course), offer the industry’s most vigorous and comprehensive bowl wash-down, and have a nearly identical, stylish look.
It features a convenient one-touch, Walk-Away Flush™ that enables the user to simply push a button to flush or add water.
The second group of Thetford toilets features models consisting of a china bowl and plastic base: the Aqua-Magic Style Plus and Style II toilets. Obviously, these toilets are lighter and less pricey than all-china toilets, but give you the look and feel of home.
Both use a flush mechanism that wipes clean with every flush and feature a powerful, full-bowl coverage. Both Style models boast contemporary styling, convenient single-foot-pedal flush and are easy to install.
Many RVers opt for the Style Plus because of its styling and that it’s distinguished by a unique residential-sized, anti-microbial seat and lid that inhibits growth of odor-causing bacteria and mold. Style II is for those who want china, but prefer lighter weight.
The third group of Thetford toilets is the all-plastic Aqua-Magic Bravura and Aqua-Magic V (hand- and foot-flush models). These are the most cost-effective, most-popular and – for those who are concerned with weight affecting gas mileage – the lightest RV toilets on the market today.
Bravura’s single-pedal convenience yields a pulsating flush that provides an instantaneous, full-bowl washdown. Smooth lines and a lift-off seat & cover make it the easiest toilet ever to clean. And, a universal fit means Bravura can replace virtually all existing models.
The top-selling Aqua-Magic V is the most recent in a long line of all-plastic toilets that Thetford has made over the decades that were solid performers year after year.
All Thetford RV permanent toilets are available in white and bone colors and in high and low profiles. They are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, meaning their seat height is at least 17 inches from the floor.
“No matter which of the three product groups or the model within them you choose,” said Thetford Product Manager Andy Bialorucki, “Camping World customers benefit from receiving the performance and quality of the industry leader.”
Aqua-Kem & EcoSmart
Holding tank deodorant selection is not a beauty contest. No ribbon, crown or roses go to the best product – just a nod for a job well done.
Studies show that the two factors most important to RVers in this contest are odor control and waste breakdown.
Odor control is, of course, fundamental to why RVers buy a deodorant. They want a product that works, with the power to eliminate odors around the clock and in all weather conditions.
In terms of breakdown, RVers want a product that quickly liquefies waste and tissue to help prevent clogs and makes holding tank emptying quicker and easier.
Aqua-Kem: Industry Leader
Anyone who has spent any time in the RV lifestyle knows about Thetford’s Aqua-Kem holding tank deodorant.
It’s so well-known because it sets the industry standard both for success – it’s been the top-selling deodorant virtually since its 1967 inception – and performance. Simply put, true-blue Aqua-Kem outsells all of its competitors combined because it performs the best.
It offers the most powerful odor control available today – in all temperatures and operating conditions – for worry-free, odor-free operation. And, its ability to quickly liquefy waste and tissue to prevent clogging is unsurpassed.
Aqua-Kem also has a detergent additive that helps keep a holding tank clean, and it is proven to be 100 percent biodegradable.
While Thetford’s Aqua-Kem story goes back to the 1960s, the history of the company’s EcoSmart product – for those who prefer a formaldehyde-free formula – is recent.
EcoSmart: The New Standard
Manufacturers often face a balancing act when changing a product that’s been successful. That was the case late last year when Thetford upgraded its popular SupremeGreen holding tank deodorant lineup with the Eco-Smart brand.
Although there was brand equity in SupremeGreen, Thetford decided to make an even better formaldehyde-free product and give it a new name.
While some companies claim to be green, Thetford went the extra mile and did what it takes to receive proof. The company's high-quality line of Eco-Smart has been certified-green by a third-party auditor: North America's oldest and most-recognized environmental standard and certification agency, EcoLogo.
The organization's stringent criteria require a holding tank additive to effectively control odors and help decrease waste materials, be biologically-based, have limited surfactants that are biodegradable, be safe to use and be non-toxic. It must not harm living things or accumulate in the environment.
EcoSmart passed all requirements. Eco-Smart's formaldehyde-free formula quickly breaks down and liquefies waste and tissue to prevent messy clogs. Extremely powerful, tests prove it provides up to 70% better odor control than other natural formulas. It also incorporates an additive that keeps tanks clean and is available in liquid or convenient Toss-In form.
In addition, Eco-Smart is offered in a distinctive orange-colored enzyme formula that also quickly breaks down and liquefies waste and tissue. This natural, enzymatic deodorizer includes a detergent additive, allowing tanks to stay clean.
Extremely effective, only four ounces of each formula are required to deodorize a 40-gallon tank. Both chemistries are accepted at all campgrounds, and are safe for black and grey water tanks.
The Best Either Way
Whether you choose Aqua-Kem or EcoSmart, you can be confident that you are receiving a “best-in-class” product.
“We have tested ALL of the products on the market today,” said Mary Burrows, industry expert and Thetford’s Manager of Chemical Development. “I can unequivocally say that no other RV holding tank deodorant has EVER outperformed Thetford’s Aqua-Kem and EcoSmart brands in the areas of odor control and waste breakdown.”
If performance can be a thing of beauty, Thetford gets the nod.