So your RV has everything you could possibly need to stay clean, happy, and healthy while on the open road! Lucky you! You have a sprawling kitchen that you could cook a five-course dinner in. And your large, luxurious bathroom is bigger than most people’s living rooms. Ok, you know I’m exaggerating because RVs don’t have enough room for sprawling kitchens or large bathrooms. But it’s fair to say that your kitchen has a sink and your bathroom comes equipped with a shower, toilet, and sink. Everything you need to stay clean, happy, and healthy, just like I said. And that’s great, because using campground toilets and showers gets old fast. But having all these comforts of home does come with one drawback, and it’s a big (stinky!) one. Since your RV has plumbing for the sinks, shower, and toilet, that means you get to visit the RV sanitation stations to clean out the holding tanks. It’s a dirty job, no matter how you look at it, but here’s some advice on how to flush your tanks like a pro.
Tips for a Successful Trip to the Sanitation Station
- First and foremost, wear disposable rubber gloves! And when you’re done with your dirty work, take them off like you’re Doogie Howser M.D.: Grab the first one by the wrist and pull it to your fingertips so that it’s turning inside out. Then grab the other glove at the wrist and pull up so the second one rolls inside out into the first one. Voila! Squeaky-clean hands!
- Don’t open valves until it’s showtime!
- Take off the exterior cap and connect the sewer hose. Shove the hose about 4-6” into the hole so the opening is well below ground. To keep the hose from sneaking back out of the hole when you go to flush it, put something heavy on top of it. Now it’s showtime! Do a double-check to make sure all of the above has been done (hoses secured) and then release the black tank valve. Once the whooshing and trickling noises have stopped, close the valve. Move to the gray tank valve. Open it to release the gray tank contents. When all is quiet, close the valve. You’ve successfully flushed your tanks!
- Always empty the black tank first, then the gray tank. Put that soapy water from the gray tank to good use and let it flush the inside of the hose as it passes through.
- Empty the black tank only when it reaches at least 2/3 full, otherwise wait til it's fuller.
- To rinse the tanks after emptying them (optional), fill them 1/2 way with water and repeat the opening/closing of valves.
- Tighten the valves and disconnect the sewer hose. Tip the hose down into the hole in case any water has pooled and not drained. This will get rid of it.
- Add tank treatment and water to your toilet. *See the note below about responsible tank treatment usage.
- Use the clean water hose at the station to rinse the ground if necessary.
A Note About Holding Tank Chemicals
There’s a lot of buzz about holding tank treatments in the RV community. And most of it stinks (pun intended!). The majority of holding tank treatments are made with chemicals that are downright harmful and dangerous to people and the environment. Chemicals like formaldehyde are used to help preserve (think fetal pig dissection from 7th grade Science class) the contents of the tank so that the smell from it doesn’t send you packing (back home!). The problem occurs when you empty your tank into underground septic or sewer systems and the contents are not allowed to dissolve, so they sit in there for a long, long time. The chemicals are also poisoning the groundwater. A few states have issued warnings regarding the use of the toxic treatments and California is even considering banning the usage of them altogether. There are safer, healthier alternatives you can choose that still get your tank sparklingly clean. Here are just a couple that we like:
- Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment & Cleaner
- Mr. Green RV & Marine Holding Tank Treatment
Does your RV have to go? There’s an app for that! If your campground doesn’t have a sanitation station, you can easily find one nearby by using one of the following websites or apps:
Sanidumps.com (app available)
RV Parks & Campgrounds (app)
Dump Stations—Let’s Keep ‘Em Clean People!