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!
- Remove the holding tank outlet cap and connect your sewer hose to the outlet of your holding tank. Stretch the hose to the hole in the ground at the sanitation station and position it about 4-6” into the hole. To keep the hose from snaking back out, put something heavy on top of it, like the hole cover, a brick, etc. 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. The soapy water from the gray tank will help flush the hose and clean out anything left behind from the black tank.
- Don’t dump your black tank until it is at least 2/3 full. Also, always make sure the black-water tank valve is closed when at your campsite. If it’s left open, liquid will evaporate and leave dry, solid waste behind that will cling to the inside of the tank.
- To rinse the tanks after emptying them, fill them 2/3 full with water and repeat the opening/closing of valves.
- Before disconnecting your sewer hose, make sure your valves are tightly closed.
- Once you disconnect the hose, lift it upright so anything that puddled in the hose will flow down into the hole. Rinse it with a non-potable water hose if possible. Clean up any residue that is left behind. Cover the hole before you leave.
- Add about 5 gallons of water to your black tank plus any tank treatment that you use. *See the note below about responsible tank treatment usage.
- Travel with a garden hose to rinse the sanitation area when you’re done. Some sanitation stations have hoses for this purpose, but just in case they don’t, it’s good to have one on hand.
- If you used your garden hose, store it away from your drinking water hose or anything else that it could contaminate.
- Speaking of fresh water hoses, never use them for flushing your sewer hoses or cleaning the sanitation station.
- If people are waiting behind you, don’t take time to flush your tanks with water. It’s not nice to make people wait!
- Leave the station cleaner than you found it!
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!