I think it’s safe to say one of the not so fun chores of RV ownership is wastewater maintenance. You can’t avoid it, so here are my top 5 RV holding tank tips to help make the job of waste-water maintenance easier.
First on my list is not adding enough water to the black water holding tank after the tank is emptied. Water is your first line of defense against odors and problems from the black water holding tank. It’s helpful to know what size black water holding tank you have because you want to add enough water to completely cover the bottom of the tank every time you empty the holding tank. One RV holding tank might only need two or three gallons of water to cover the bottom of the tank whereas another one might require four or more gallons of water. Fill the toilet bowl and add enough water to completely cover the bottom of the holding tank. After you add the water add the correct amount of holding tank treatment to the holding tank.
Second on my list is the amount of water you add to the holding tank every time you use the toilet. Think about the toilet in your house, even a water saver toilet uses about 1 ½ gallons of water when you flush the toilet. RVs do not have a tank filled with water to assist in flushing the toilet, so you need to get in the habit of adding more water to the holding tank every time you flush the toilet. This will help control odors and break down waste. Add plenty of water to the toilet bowl prior to using the toilet too. I can’t stress how important it is to keep the water level above the contents of the holding tank; it helps control odors and it helps prevent problems with your black water holding tank.
The third item on my list is controlling RV holding tank odors. RV holding tanks are designed with a vent pipe going from the top of the holding tank to the roof of the RV, to vent the tank and the tank odors. One problem is, holding tank odors accumulate in the tank and can’t really be vented outside because there is no air pressure in the tank to force the gasses up and out of the vent pipe. The real problem occurs whenever wind blows across the vent cap on the RV roof. The higher air pressure forces air down the vent pipe pushing the tank gasses to the only other way out of the system, the RV toilet. Whenever the air pressure is higher inside the holding tank than it is inside the RV, the odor escapes into the RV by way of the toilet when it is flushed. The good news is there are some effective methods to help control these odors, and it doesn’t involve stronger chemicals. There are aftermarket RV sewer vent caps designed to pull the odors from the tank up and out of the RV, and most of these upgraded vents are easy to install too.
Number four on my list is something RV owners learn through experience; to always keep an assortment of sewer hose adapters and extra lengths of sewer drain hoses in the RV. You never know what type or size of sewer drain connection you might encounter, and you never know how far away the sewer drain will be from the RV. One of my favorite adapters is the Universal 90-degree sewer adapter. It works on most smooth pipe and threaded pipe sewer drain connections you will encounter at campgrounds.
Tip number five is to use see-through RV sewer fittings at the campground sewer drain connection. A good wastewater maintenance habit to get into is draining and flushing the black water holding tank to keep it clean and trouble-free. The problem is, when you flush the holding tank using solid color fittings you don’t know when the tank is clean. When you use a clear sewer hose adapter there won’t be any guessing, you can see when the tank is clean as you flush it.
I know I said this was my top 5 RV holding tank tips at the beginning of the article, but you need to take care of the RV’s gray water holding tank too. The gray water holding tank requires some simple maintenance to keep it clean and odor free. After I empty both holding tanks, I add water to the gray water holding by running water down the sink drains. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the gray water holding tank. Next add a gray water tank treatment, or some Dawn dishwashing liquid to the sink drains and run water long enough to get it past the p-traps and into the holding tank. Now when you drive or tow the RV the water and detergent will suds up and move around cleaning the inside of the gray water holding tank.
There are more RV holding tank maintenance requirements than what is listed above, but these top 5 RV holding tank tips will make your job easier and possibly extend the life of your RV holding tanks.
For more information on RV holding tank maintenance and on using and maintaining your RV visit our RV Online Training Center. We offer video training courses and e-book training courses that cover all of this information and more.
Mark J. Polk
RV Education 101