Whether you have a brand-new RV or one that has been sitting idle during the winter months, it’s important to sanitize the water system before using it. Sanitizing your RV’s water system will ensure that you are drinking and using clean, safe water when calling your RV home. The most common method of sanitizing your RV’s fresh water system involves filling the fresh water tank with bleach, running the solution through each faucet, letting it stand for a few hours, and then flushing the system once or twice to remove the bleach taste and smell. Let’s cover this process in more depth.
When to Sanitize Your RV Water System
• If you smell a stale odor when using the water from the fresh water system, then it’s time to sanitize the water system. This usually happens because the water has sat in the system for too long.
• If you haven’t used your RV (and the fresh water system) for over a month, then it’s time to sanitize the water system.
• If there has been a boil water advisory in your area since filling your tank, then you need to sanitize the entire water system.
• If you detect algae or slime in your fresh water tank, then you need to sanitize the water system.
• Filters work to remove contaminates like sand and rust and to improve the taste and odor of your water, but they do not kill bacteria or other microorganisms. Do not rely on your water filter to provide clean, safe drinking water. This can only be achieved by sanitizing the water system.
• Even if you don’t drink the water from your RV’s faucets, you still have to sanitize it. When you use it for brushing your teeth, cleaning dishes, and other household things, you come into contact with the water from your RV’s water system, so it’s important for your health that it is free and clear of contaminants and pollutants.
• Sanitize your fresh water tank every 6 months for optimal cleanliness. If you make this a part of your regular RV maintenance routine, then you won’t forget to do it and it’ll become second nature. Allow yourself 6-12 hours from start to finish.
• 1 external water filter
• 1 internal water filter
• Regular household bleach (1 oz. of bleach for every 8 gallons of water capacity in the fresh water tank)
• 1 funnel with a flexible clear hose and stopper
• 1 water filter wrench (for the internal filter)
• 1 dab of petroleum jelly (for the O-ring on the water filter body)
• 1 Anode (if you need it) and the tools to remove it
Step 1: Drain the fresh water tank to about ½ its capacity.
Step 2: Sanitize the funnel and hose with bleach before using them. Let them stand for 15 minutes, then discard the bleach that is in the funnel. Pour bleach into the fresh water fill using the funnel and the clear, flexible hose.
Step 3: Refill the fresh water tank until water starts coming out of the overflow hose or until you know it is full.
Step 4: Turn off the fresh water supply to the RV. Turn on your water pump so you will draw water from the fresh water tank.
Step 5: Open every faucet in the RV (including the hot water faucet). When you can smell bleach from the faucets, turn them off. You might want to turn the power to your hot water heater tank off before you open the hot water faucets.
Step 6: Turn on the fresh water supply to the RV and add a few more gallons of fresh water to your fresh water tank. For best results, wait a minimum of 3-4 hours to sanitize RV water system.
Step 7: After the proper waiting interval, drain the fresh water tank completely and refill with fresh water until it’s full.
Step 8: Turn off the fresh water supply to the RV and turn on your water pump. Start flushing the water lines by opening all the faucets. Leave them open until the smell of bleach has dissipated. If the smell of bleach is still too strong after a few minutes, then drain the fresh water tank again and repeat steps 7 and 8.
Step 9: Turn off the water supply to the RV and remove the external filter. Replace it with a new one. Make sure your water pump is off and replace the internal water filter with a fresh cartridge. Dab a little petroleum jelly on the O-ring of the water filter body so that it’ll be easy to remove the next time you need to replace it.
Flushing the Hot Water Heater
Turn off the power to the hot water heater. Turn off the water to the RV and make sure the water pump is off as well. Open the relief valve on top of the water heater to release any pressure that’s in there. Open the hot water heater tank drain valve and leave it open until all the water has drained out. Inspect and/or replace the anode. Then close the relief valve and the drain valve. Turn water to the RV back on and refill the hot water heater. Check for leaks around the anode or the drain valve.
After you have refilled the hot water tank, make sure that all air is expelled from the hot water heater before you power it back up again or you will burn out the heating element. Open all the hot water faucets and let them run until you have a steady stream of water (with no air bubbles). When all the air has been expelled from the hot water tank, turn the power back on again to the hot water heater.