Aside from just emptying your tank and cleaning it regularly, there are some things you should be doing to prolong the life of your tank as well as make it easier on yourself when it is time to clean it. Save yourself a headache with this information on RV black tank upkeep!
At The Campground
When at a campground with full hook ups, many people just leave the valve open and allow the wastewater to drain as it’s used. Doing this can actually cause some problems! When the valve is left open you run into two issues: The water runs out and leaves the solids behind, and the air flow allowed from the open valve can dry everything out, causing it to stick! The way to avoid this is to keep the valve closed and let the tank fill even when you’re hooked up. This keeps the airflow out and allows the liquids to collect and help break down the solids. Then everything will flush out together when you dump it.
When you’re ready to dump the tanks, make sure you dump the black tank first, then the grey tank! This will get all the stuff out of the black tank and allow you to take advantage of the cleaner water that comes from the grey tank to help flush it out afterward and remove anything that still remains in it.
Connecting a filter to your intake hose can help a ton! This removes a lot of the garbage and sediments that are already in the fresh water that can settle in your tanks and leave residue behind themselves.
Before You Leave
If you’ve ever used a water softener, you know that it definitely changes the way soap rinses off. If you have a softener at home you may notice that your tub collects a lot less soap scum as well. This is because the water softener helps to make sure everything rinses off and creates almost a nonstick coating. This will also work for your black tank and help keep waste from sticking to the walls. Dump a little softener in there after you empty the tank each time and it will help keep things off the walls and make cleaning it a ton easier.
When Cleaning The Tank
This may seem kinda gross, but adding a clear elbow to your hose will help ensure that your tank is completely cleaned and flushed. If you cannot see what is coming out, then you don’t know for sure when the water is running clear. While not the most glamorous way to spend a few dollars, it will help to ensure you’re not leaving things behind to harden and then become even more difficult to remove later.
When you’re cleaning the tank, you want to empty it and then fill it with clean water. Let this water sit for a little bit and then empty it again. Continue this until the water runs clear from the first pull of the valve. Even if the water runs clear by the end of dumping the tank, there may still be some things left in there stuck to the sides. This is why you want to fill it back up, let it sit again, and then dump again. You will most likely have to do this a few times before the water runs clean from start to finish.
Once the tank is clean it wouldn’t hurt to sanitize it and kill any bacteria that may be left behind. To do this you will want to fill the tank with hot water and add some bleach. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes so the bleach has time to kill anything that’s in there, and then flush it with clean water again.
Ensure you add your tank treatment before using the tank again. These treatments not only help to deodorize the tank but they help to break down the waste as well. They contain enzymes that will actually eat the solids and break them down into more of a liquid state, thus allowing the tank to be flushed out more easily.
Flush The Right Things
Flushing the wrong things can lead to a mess as well as clogs you don’t want to deal with! The first thing you want to be sure you have is special toilet paper made for RVs and septic tanks. Regular toilet paper will take longer to disintegrate and dissolve and can clog up the toilet as well as the connections when dumping the black tank. RV and septic-safe toilet paper is meant to break down better and much faster so that it’s not sitting in there clogging things up.
Never flush sanitary products. This is a general rule you want to use anywhere, but especially in your RV. These items DO NOT break down at all and WILL clog up your system fast! It can be a pain, but ensure you’re disposing of them in a trash receptacle and not flushing them down the toilet. Or consider using these Environmentally Friendly Sanitary Products.
Don’t flush any kinds of food. Believe it or not, some people use the toilet as a garbage disposal and this is a huge no-no for the RV. Not only will it cause clogging, but food will collect and start to rot, causing some serious odor issues.
Other things that you want to avoid flushing are diapers, cigarette butts, cat litter, paper towel, facial tissue, dental floss, and anything plastic. If it’s not going to break down quickly in water, then don’t flush it. If you’re not sure, just don’t do it!
Following these black tank upkeep tips will help keep your tank clean, clog free, and hopefully low maintenance. The black tank is a necessary evil to deal with in an RV, but why spend more time cleaning it than you have to? Get out and spend more of your camping trip enjoying all that our beautiful country has to offer!