Maintaining the Flow: Cleaning Your RV’s Black Water Tank

How To Clean Black Water Tank In RVs

If you’re like most RVers, camping is an ideal way to escape the stress of everyday life. Nearly 17 million Americans enjoy this recreational activity and join the line of camping trailers every weekend to their favorite spots.

While you can get away from the office, you can’t avoid the chores of outdoor living like dealing with how to clean black water tank in RVs. Fortunately, it’s not hard. And you can make the job even easier by keeping up with the maintenance of your septic system.

Let’s begin with some RVing basics.

What Is Black Water?

RV manufacturers typically include three tanks in an RV septic system. First, there’s your potable water for drinking, cooking, and anything else where you must have fresh H2O.

Gray water is the liquid that goes down any of the drains in your RV. Its safety is questionable, depending on the type of products you use. However, you can recycle it if you’ve used eco-friendly cleaners and soaps. As a precaution, only water non-food plants with it.

Then, there’s black water.

It is the output of your RV’s toilet. It is potentially hazardous which is why you get rid of it at a dump station instead of draining it anyplace else. It’s also a source of bacteria and odors that you don’t want along on a camping trip. For those reasons, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates wastewater disposal to ensure that aquatic environments stay safe.

But, there’s a right way to deal with it that minimizes these risks.

How to Clean the Black Water Tank

The essential thing to remember is that your RV’s toilet isn’t the same as the one at home. You use it differently, and you have to do some tasks manually, like cleaning and maintaining it. Put them down to the duties of going RVing.

Your first question is probably how do you know when it’s time?

Your black water tank has sensors within it to let you know when it’s getting full. They are most accurate the first time you use your new RV. Anything that covers them like waste or toilet paper can interfere with their accuracy and give you false readings. That’s why proper flushing and maintenance are imperative. It is one gauge that you want to work correctly.

Most RVers will tell you that you should wait until the tank is about two-thirds filled before draining it. The added water will help rinse it out and break down any debris that could mess with the sensors. The timing depends on how long you’re camping and the number in your group.

If you’re out on a weekend jaunt, draining it once on the way back home is probably sufficient. The contact time with the solids and liquids allows nature to take its course.

Flushing the Tank

While there’s no avoiding this unpleasant task, some common sense will make it quicker. First, make sure you know the lay of the land. You’ll find that the gray and black water tanks are clearly labeled. Second, wear gloves to prevent the spread of anything nasty.

Next, hook up the black water tank to the dump station as per the instructions of your RV’s manufacturer. Double check to see that everything is secure before you start. Then, open the valve and wait until it has drained completely. Close it securely. Repeat the same process with the gray water tank.

The reason for this order is to get rid of any remaining waste from the black water tank in the sewer hose and help clean it as much as possible using the second batch of liquid. It also minimizes your contact with the contaminated water since it gets a jump start on the next job.

Alternatively, you can use a portable RV waste holding tank to dispose of black water. It looks like a wagon that you can use if you’re too far from the dump station or don’t want to break camp to empty the tank. You’ll find them in a variety of sizes. Follow the same procedure for cleaning and sanitation it afterward.

Routine Maintenance

Follow up this process when you get home with an extra rinse by attaching a garden hose designated for this purpose to the black water flush valve if your rig has one. Spray all around the inside of the tank until the water runs clear.

You can also find attachments that do the same thing to make it even easier. Some have multi-directional sprays to loosen the solid build-up and clean the sensors within the tanks so that they can do their job.

Older RVs may lack this feature. However, you’re not out of luck. You can install one yourself. You can find one for less than $50. Look for a product with transparent walls at the discharge point to help you see when the water is clear again.

Flushing it out is only the first step. You should also sanitize the tank. You’ll find a variety of suitable products at your local outdoor or home improvement store. It’s also an excellent time to examine the valves and fittings to make sure that everything is working right and that there are no leaks.

While it may sound like a lot of work, it’s a simple way to keep things flowing and avoid the cost of expensive professional cleaning.

How to Keep Things Flowing

Regular maintenance is essential to keep your septic system working properly and keeping odors under control. It will also make the task of how to clean the black water tank in RVs easier the next time around.

It begins with using the RV toilet the right way. It differs from a household one in that you must fill the bowl with water before you use. Don’t skip this simple step. The liquid in the tank helps break down solid waste that could interfere with its operation.

You can add a holding tank chemical to keep things flowing smoothly. They work by starting the biodegrading process before you take your rig to the dump station. They can also save you some effort with cleaning.

You should also use only RV toilet paper and not the kind you use at home. It is single-ply instead of double-ply to cut down on waste. Remember, you must minimize the amount of debris in the tank to prevent any build-up. This kind will cost more, but it will dissolve quicker than the standard type. Many products are also biodegradable.

The same precaution applies to the trash and sanitary products. Anything going down the toilet has the potential to clog it and ruin the components.

Finally, only use marine-RV antifreeze in your septic system when you winterize your rig for the season. It is safer for the environment and usage in potable water tanks. Look for virgin or pure propylene glycol on the label.

Cleaning the black water tank of your RV is a crucial job where you shouldn’t take shortcuts. It will ensure that your system is running optimally and will prevent unpleasant odors from ruining your trip. Besides, regular maintenance will guarantee many more exciting adventures on the road.