As a new RV owner, there are certain things that you must learn before hitting the road…like how to dump your rv’s tanks!
Many things about living in an RV are not that different from living in a “sticks & bricks” home. However, there are a few aspects of life on the road that are vastly different. Just like it is important to know how to care for a “regular” house, it is very important to know about the “inner workings” of your RV as well!
We are members of quite a few RV groups on social media and one of the things that I see people asking constantly is how to maintain their tanks. We see questions like, “should we leave tank valves open?”, “do you use tank chemicals and what kind is best?”, and the biggest mystery of all seems to be…”how do we dump our tanks?”
We are going to cover all of these questions and more in this blog post! Dumping your pee and poop is not the most fun thing to talk about, but alas, it is a necessary part of RV living. And if you’re new to RVing, it really isn’t that bad! Follow this guide and you will find that it’s actually quite easy to maintain your tanks in good working order, and without any stink!
Most every RV has at least one black water tank, and one gray water tank. Just for clarification’s sake, your black tank is the poo & pee tank that is connected to your toilet, and your gray tank is the tank that holds everything else like shower & sink water. They are both also called RV holding tanks.
(Yes, I felt it necessary to clarify that because some people really do not know the difference in their gray and black water…and that’s ok…that’s that we’re here for!)
How you use your holding tanks depends on what your situation is at the moment. You may be on full hookups and be able to run water nonstop just like you would in a house. Or, you may be off in the middle of nowhere boondocking and need to rely on your tanks holding everything until you can dump them.
Here is how we operate depending on our hookup situation;
Full Hookups: We hook our sewer hose to the septic/sewer connection at the site, open our gray tank valves and operate our showers and sinks just like we would in a regular home. We always leave our black tank valves SHUT!
You do not want the dreaded “poo pyramid” forming in your black tank when it comes time to dump!
When on partial hookups or when we are dry camping/boondocking, we use our tanks until they need to be dumped, and then go dump them. Pretty simple. There are ways to save space in your tanks so they do not fill as fast, and we will talk about those in a separate post.
This question gets asked a lot! Heck, we asked the same thing when we first started RVing, so I’m going to let you in on the secrets of full time RVers. We have a strict routine when it comes to tanks…so here goes.
This may come as a shock to some…we do not use RV tank chemicals. When we first got our RV, we were given a bag of tank chemical packs from the dealer. We tried them for the first few weeks of full time living and I kept battling unpleasant smells. I know many people use tank chemicals and claim that they work, but I have had more luck with the following method;
We purchase the large gallon size blue dish soap from Sam’s Club. After each dump, I add several gallons of water and about a cup of blue dish soap.
The soap, coupled with plenty of water has worked well.
Note: We also use the ice method for cleaning when we have longer travel days. For the ice method: purchase a large bag or two of ice. Put about a cup of blue dish soap and all the ice down your toilet. As you drive, the ice and soap with slosh and scrape around inside the tank. The chunks of ice will scrape off any stuck on residue, and the soap de-greases at the same time. As the ice melts, it will cause the sludge to become liquid enough to dump at your next stop. Give it a good tank flush and you’ll be set!
We have 5 people in our family and a 39 gallon black tank. We can go about 7 days before we need to dump. About a day before I know we need to dump, I go outside and CLOSE our gray tank valves. Over the next day, our gray tank(s) get a good amount of water in them. This is because when you dump the tanks, you want lots of water to flush out the hose.When it is time to dump, make sure that your sewer hose is tightly connected to the sewer pipe. (Check out our list of MUST HAVE items for dump day!)
And that’s it! We are now ready for our next road trip.
It really isn’t that difficult and becomes an easy routine after you’ve learned how to dump your tanks properly. It takes us about 15 minutes once a week to maintain our tanks in good working order with NO STINK!
---Make sure to check out the video to watch our entire rv dump process from start to finish.---
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