RV Holding Tank Maintenance: The Not-So-Fun Side Of RVing

RVing is a great way to make long lasting memories with your family. It is also one the most stress relieving activities we can do. That is until the unexpected happens. As with everything we enjoy, RVs need to be maintained. RVs are no different than your traditional “sticks and bricks” or your everyday vehicle. Performing simple preventive maintenance is just something that has to be done. RV holding tank maintenance is no different. It’s one of those subjects we would just rather not have to think about. It’s not fun or glamorous, and frankly, it just stinks. ( pun intended ). We found a few easy ways to keep your RV storage tanks clean, sanitary, and most of all, not so smelly.

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What Are RV Holding Tanks?

RV holding tanks are tanks that store your wastewater and your fresh water under your RV. Most, if not all, RVs have at least three holding tanks. You have a fresh water tank, a grey water tank, and a black water tank.

Your fresh water tank is, as the name suggests, for storing fresh water. You will mainly use this tank when you are boondocking or dry camping.

Your grey water tank is where your sink and shower water is stored.

And finally, the dreaded black water tank. This tank holds everything that goes into the toilet.

Let’s jump in and talk about RV holding tank maintenance.

Fresh Water Tank Maintenance

The fresh tank is fairly easy to maintain. If your water begins to taste like plastic or is beginning to smell not-so-fresh, you may have bacteria starting to form in the tank. Cleaning and disinfecting your fresh water tank is accomplished in one of two ways.

RV Holding Tank Maintenance

To disinfect using bleach, dilute 1/4 cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water. For example, if you have a 30 gallon tank, add 1/2 cup of bleach before filling your tank. Open your faucets and run your water pump until you begin to smell bleach. Close the faucets, shut off the pump, and let it sit for 24 hours.

Flush the system with fresh water until you no longer smell bleach.

If you aren’t too crazy about using bleach, you can use a system cleaner and deodorizer to disinfect and sanitize your tank. This also works great for de-winterizing your rig every spring.

Grey Water Tank Maintenance

The grey water tank is probably easier than the fresh water tank. By that I mean it is mostly nothing but soapy water to begin with. There are the occasions when some food particles from dirty dishes make there way down the drain. If your drains begin to smell a little funky, pour 1/4 cup of bleach down and let it sit for a while. This will clean and deodorize the P-Trap and when you shower or use the sink, it will work it’s way down into the tank.

Again, if you aren’t crazy about the bleach you can add a lemon scented treatment to your drains to stop the odors.

Black Water Tank Maintenance

Now for the worst one, the black tank. Dumping your tanks, especially the black tank, is always one of my least favorite RV chores. Proper maintenance is key to having a successful dumping experience without issues. Nobody wants to deal with a clog when you’re at the dump station and there is a line of RVers waiting for you to finish. Keeping your black tank clean will also help keep your sensors reading the correct level.

RV Tank Level Indicator

One of the first things you want to make sure of is not creating a “pyramid” of solids in your tank. Make sure you are using plenty of water with every flush. This helps everything go down your sewer hose instead of clogging. If your RV doesn’t have a black tank flush built in, you will need to drag a hose inside and use a cleaning wand.

RV Holding Tank Maintenance
Black tank flush port

Methods For Cleaning Black Tank

I have found a few different methods for deep cleaning your black tank. These methods include everything form ice, to Calgon, to the Geo Method. I have never used the ice method but those who have swear by it. Basically, you put a 5 pound bag of ice in the toilet, (after dumping), along with some mild detergent. As you drive to your next destination the ice and detergent slosh around, thus cleaning the walls of your tank. When all the ice is melted, dump your tank. I would suggest doing this just before you pull out for your next camping trip. When you arrive at the park or campground, stop at the dump station on your way to your site.

The Geo Method was created in early 1980. This method uses a combination of Calgon, laundry soap, plenty of water, and maybe a little bit of bleach. This method is said to coat the interior walls of your tank to make it difficult for solids to stick. In theory, the Calgon is designed to make things slick for easy dumping.

Then there is the tried and true black tank treatment. We use the pour in Aqua Kem Treatment in all of our drains as well as the toilet. So far, everything is still working properly. I think I’ll give the ice method a try before our next trip.

Conclusion On RV Holding Tank Maintenance

So there you have it. Maintaining your RV holding tanks is an essential part of RVing. Keeping your rig in great shape will keep you and your family enjoying the outdoors. The frequency of your RV holding tank maintenance is relative to how often you use it.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a tip or suggestion that’s not mentioned above? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

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