Prevent RV Drain Clogs in Your Camper – How to Guide

Having a drain clog in your RV can surely ruin your vacation. Calling an RV tech can be expensive. And you surely don’t want your sink or shower drains backing up in your motorhome or camper. And that’s if you can even get an appointment immediately. But there are quick and simple ways to prevent RV drain clogs in your camper or motorhome.

Because RV’s seemingly have more delicate plumbing with curvy elbows and connections that can be prone to drain issues. One of the most talked about topics amongst RVers is how to clear a clogged drain.

So, here’s a handy how-to guide to help you get a handle on what causes clogged drains and how to prevent them in your RV.

Always On Liberty - Plumbing and Drain RV Maintenance

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How to Prevent RV Drain Clogs in Your Camper

RV Drain Cleaning & Maintenance Tips

Wipe off dishes before rinsing or washing

Dirty Dish - Always On Liberty

I know that sounds gross and unnecessary but its a huge mitigating factor. We use a single paper towel or one of our used paper dinner napkins to wipe off all of our crumby dishes.

Not only does it keep debris from clogging the drains but also, wiping dishes helps to keep your gray tank from smelling something fierce.

Especially in warm weather, your gray tank ‘cooks’ which causes your sewer soup to ferment. (think broccoli, cabbage, meat crumbs and other food remnants.)

Avoid dumping grease, butter or oils down your RV drain

Even in your sticks and bricks, you should never dump oil or hot grease or butter down your drain. Because, once it gets cold and hardens, you’ll definitely have a clog in your drain.

The same applies to your RV plumbing. Which is why you should always treat your drains, pipes and plumbing with high regard.

Even dinner plates with grease residue will eventually build up in your sink drain and p-trap.

So, to minimize or even eliminate drain clogs, wipe off all your greasy dishes as well as pots and pans before rinsing or washing.

And, it bears repeating to never ever dump grease, melted butter or oil of any type down your drain.

Do not dump coffee grounds down your drain

Used Coffee Grounds - Always On Liberty

My friend who is a plumber told me years ago to never dump coffee grounds down your drain.

They collect in the elbows of your RV’s plumbing and pack down with other food particles that hangs up. After awhile, your drains will start draining slower until a clog is apparent.

So instead, just dump your coffee grounds in the trash or outside because they’re biodegradable and compostable.

Now, if you’re a French Press user, you know how much of a pain it is to clean out the coffee grounds without rinsing them down the drain.

To help alleviate that, we use coffee brewing bags. They are amazing! No more worrying about loose coffee grounds getting down our drain. And, it makes cleaning our French coffee press so much easier to clean for next time.

✰ READ MORE   10 Best Coffee Makers for RVs & Boats

Use sink strainer in all drains in your RV

It’s a good idea to get sink drainers for every sink in your RV and even your shower. They definitely help prevent food particles and hair getting down into our drains. But also, sink strainers are great to catch loose rings falling off our fingers while washing our hands.

We love a 2-in-1 kitchen sink strainer because it collects and keeps debris from going down the rain. But also, it has a sink stopper too.

Brush your hair thoroughly before showering

Woman washing hair in shower - Prevent RV Drain Clogs - Always On Liberty

Your hair brush is a good tell-tale sign and reason to brush your hair thoroughly before hopping in the shower or washing your hair in the sink.

If you didn’t brush your hair, all that hair would go down the drain.

While washing and conditioning your hair, loose hair detaches, goes down the drain and congregates into a knotted ball.

Now, you’ve set yourself up for a nasty, gross looking clog blob. So, before hopping in the shower, brush your hair!

Another great way to prevent shower drain clogs from hair is to insert a hair trap. There’s several on the market but these three drain hair catchers may work well with your RV shower drain:

And if you wash your dog or cat in your RV, it’s a good idea to brush them too. A furminator is excellent for getting the top coat and their undercoat off before washing.

But, the simple solution to preventing pet hair from going down your RV’s drain is to either wash them outside or take them to a pet groomer.

✰ READ MORE ✰  Campground Bath House Shower Survival Tips

Use hair conditioner sparingly

Most hair conditioners contain wax ingredients that harden when they get cold or dry. Then those conditioners stick to the drain pipes and cause buildup around openings collecting everything else that comes into contact; including hair.

So, use your hair conditioners sparingly in your RV. If you use hair conditioner on a regular basis, it’s best to use the campground bathhouse shower to help alleviate drain clog problems.

Avoid using bars of soap in your RV

RV Drain Maintenance - Soap Bars - Always On Liberty

Using bars of soap in your RV is another no-no.

Soap scum happens when bar soap is being used in untreated or hard water. You’ve probably noticed at campgrounds and RV parks, their water is typically hard.

Scientifically speaking, soap scum combines calcium and magnesium particles (ions) in the water with the bar soap. That is what produces soap scum. This formation is caused by minerals in tap water combining with soap and dirt to create a layer of scaliness over the surfaces in our bathrooms.

To alleviate soap scum all together, I recommend using liquid shower gel and liquid hand soap as they don’t typically produce soap scum.

✰ READ MORE   How to Clean Shower Doors in Your RV or Boat

Do not use oils, salt or sugar scrubs

Who doesn’t love using salt or sugar scrubs to exfoliate in the shower or use to scrub hands in the sink?

However, you should never use oily scrubs in your RV because of the sensitive plumbing and drains.

For the same reason, once the oils get cold in you drain or P-trap, it hardens. Thus, building up until you have a nasty drain clog.

So, stick with simple liquid hand soaps and save the salt scrubs for the campground shower or treat yourself to a hotel room for a night of pampering.

Do not use drain cleaners or harsh chemicals to clear a drain clog

RV Drain Cleaner - Always On Liberty

Harsh chemicals can etch and corrode the inside of your drains, pipes and plumbing. Thus, the rough surfaces will collect anything to stick to the drain before going into your gray tank.

Not only will caustic cleaners damage your RV’s plumbing, some may counteract the eco balance of your gray tank chemicals.

Adding to that, they’re just not good for the environment. So avoiding using harsh chemicals in your RV will alleviate plumbing and sewer problems down the road.

Some good eco-friendly drain cleaners we recommend for RVs and campers:

      • Instant Power 1907 Slow Drain Build Up Remover – Utilizes bacterial/enzyme formulation to dissolve organic matter. Creates a bio-mass to continue cleaning and keep drains free flowing
      • Green Gobbler Enzyme Drain Cleaner – Enzyme Drain Cleaner reduces the frequency of costly septic tank pump outs when used regularly. Increases the efficacy of grease traps by allowing bacteria to work more effectively.
      • Drainbo Drain Treatment and Cleaner – The only drain treatment and cleaner certified by the natural products association. It is your safe, all natural alternative to everyday toxic drain products.

Check out our video on How To Clean and Maintain RV Holding Tanks and Water System:


Use lots and lots of water to flush your RV drains

Clean Water Going Down Drain - Always On Liberty

There’s a saying, “the looser the slosh, the better the wash”. That applies to anything involving anything going down the drain in an RV.

If you can, dilute as much as you can using hot water. The hot water will melt oils and soften stuck on food particles in your drain forcing them down into your gray tank.

Now, realizing water and our gray tank is limited when boondocking, if you do the previous, you should never have any drain clogs to worry about.

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Final thoughts on how to prevent RV drain clogs in your camper or motorhome

An RV’s plumbing is a little more delicate than that in a house which presents potential of slow drains and clogs. 

Just be mindful of what goes down the drain, including your hard-earned money that you’ll need to pay someone to unclog your drains!

More Great RV Maintenance Articles:

RV Hot Water System Cleaning and Maintenance

How-To Properly Clean Your RV Fresh Water Tank

Clear Source RV Water Filter System – Product Review

RV Maintenance: Air Conditioning Vets and Filters

Anderson Kantleak RV Water Service Panel Upgrade and Installation Guide

How to Stop Condensation in Your RV


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How to Prevent RV Drain Clogs - Always On Liberty

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