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Tips for Maintaining RV Tanks

Keeping tanks working properly is a lot easier than fixing them. Here are a few tips that will help keep your black and gray water tanks in good working order:

  • Add water to tank. Always put a gallon or two of water into your black water tank after emptying. Then add tank chemical (usually 4 oz. of liquid chemical per 40 gallons of water that the tank will hold) by pouring it carefully into the toilet and flushing it down. There are several brands on the market. We use RV Toilet Treatment – TST made by Camco. Whatever chemical you decide to use, be sure to use one specifically made for RV tanks and use as directed. The TST will help break down solids and help keep your tank from smelling bad. Don’t skip it! If you are in a very hot climate, you may want to add more chemical after a few days.
  • Flush with enough water. Use enough water to flush thoroughly. Too little water will cause toilet tissue and solids to adhere to the lines rather than falling into the tank. This will eventually cause a buildup of solids and prevent the tank from emptying properly when you dump.
  • Use RV safe toilet tissue only. NEVER flush down tissues, paper towels, or anything other than RV safe toilet tissue (see below on how to identify RV septic safe toilet tissue.)
  • Only dump when tanks are nearly full. When parking at a campground, hook up your sewer line if you wish, but don’t open the valves to dump until your tank is at least two thirds full. This will ensure that the weight of the collected waste water pushes everything through the lines rather than building up a little at a time and causing a clog. Keeping the valves closed until you are ready to dump will also keep the smells of the sewer system from drifting up into your RV.
  • Dump black tanks, then gray tanks. When dumping your tanks, always dump the black water tank first, then the gray water. The soapy gray water will help to rinse out your hoses. Flush through some clean water to rinse residue out of tank and hoses, but be sure all rinse water goes into the campground sewer connection. Never rinse hoses and let water flow onto the ground around the tank.
  • Check tank levels. After dumping, you’ll probably want to check your tank gauges to be sure the tanks have emptied properly. Unfortunately, the waste water tank gauges are notorious for showing inaccurate readings because sensors are usually inside the tanks and can easily gather bits of toilet tissue or residue that will give a false reading. If you suspect that you are not getting an accurate reading, you can double check the condition of your black water tank by turning off the water pump, opening the flush valve in the toilet and looking into the tank with a flashlight.
  • Ice cube trick. This is a trick that some RVers use to loosen a stubborn build-up that’s deposited on the bottom of the black water tank. Add several gallons of water to the tank and dump in a bag of ice cubes. Take your rig for a drive of 5 or 10 miles. The ice cubes bouncing around in the tank will help loosen any buildup and you’ll be able to dump the residue easily.
  • Wear rubber gloves when dumping and avoid touching the outside of the gloves. Rinse off before storing.
  • Carry an extra garden hose for rinsing the outside of the sewer hose and the dump station area. Store this hose separately from the clean water hose and never let the two come in contact with each other. Often the water provided for rinsing at the dump station is not potable water. Never fill your fresh water tanks with any water that is not marked “potable” or “safe for drinking” water.

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