How to Care for Your RV Plumbing and Drains

Having a clogged drain in your motorhome or towable can surely ruin your RV vacation. Calling an RV tech can be expensive to take care of what’s backing up into your sink or shower. And that’s if you can even get an appointment immediately. But there are ways to mitigate getting clogged drains in your RV.

One of the most talked about topics amongst RVers is how to clear a clogged drain. RV’s seemingly have more delicate plumbing with curvy elbows and connections. So, here’s a handy how-to guide to help you get a handle on what causes clogged drains and how to prevent them.

Always On Liberty - Plumbing and Drain RV Maintenance

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How to Care for Your RV Plumbing and Drains

Wipe Dishes

I know that sounds gross and unnecessary but its a huge mitigating factor. We use one paper towel to wipe off all of our crumby dishes. Not only does it keep debris from clogging the drains but also, keeps your gray tank from smelling something fierce; especially in warm weather when your gray tank ‘cooks’. (think broccoli, cabbage, meat crumbs and other food remnants.)

RV Maintenance - RV Drains - Dirty Dishes

Avoid grease, butter or oils

That’s right! Treat your plumbing and pipes with high regard. We dump nothing  but water down the drain. Like I posted above, we wipe our oily dishes, fry pans and pots out with dirty napkins or paper towels.

No dumping coffee grounds

A big fat absolutely not!! A friend of mine is a plumber and he’s told me years ago, no no no no NO! Just do not do it. Grounds pack down and get heavy. They cause lots of problems. We simply dump them in the trash or outside. They’re biodegradable.

RV Maintenance - RV Drains - Coffee Grounds

While we’re boondocking and water is a premium. So, when we want to make coffee using our French Press, we use these cool coffee filter brewing bags. No more loose grounds to clean out of our coffee press and our drains.

Use sink strainers

We got these in every drain inside our RV. They for those just-in-case moments that we forget to wipe a dish. In the shower, we have one that collects my hair (not Dan’s LOL)

We love kitchen sink strainer one because it has a sink stopper too. It collects debris and is easy to dump and clean.

RV Maintenance - RV Drains Hair Washing

Brush your hair thoroughly before showering

Look at your hair brush, ladies. If you didn’t brush your hair at all, that would go down your 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 blob of a clog. So, before hopping in the shower, brush your manes….and guys too!

This goes for washing your dogs too! Brush your pups (and cats too!) thoroughly before putting bathing them in the shower or sink. Or, wash them outside instead.

Use hair conditioner sparingly

Most hair conditioners contain wax compounds that harden when they get cold or dry. They stick to the drains and pipes and cause buildup around openings collecting everything else that comes into contact; including hair. So, use your hair conditioners sparingly or use the campground or RV park’s bathhouse shower.

RV Maintenance - RV Drains - Nope on Soap

Avoid bar soap

Soap scum is formed into a solid substance when bar soap is being used in 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 frequently caused by minerals in tap water that combine with soap and dirt to create a layer of scaliness over the surfaces in our bathrooms.

But, using liquid bath gels and hand soaps won’t produce soap scum.

Ditch the oily salt or sugar scrubs

This is one of the things I miss by living in an RV but with the delicate plumbing, it’s a big no-no! Now, I have to either forgo using them completely or use them only when I go to hotels. Instead, we opt for chemical-free hand soaps.

RV Maintenance - RV Drains - Drain Cleaner

No harsh chemicals or drain cleaners

Harsh chemicals can etch and corrode the inside of your drain pipes and plumbing causing rough surfaces to collect God knows whatever is going down the drain. Not only that but caustic cleaners are just not good for the environment. So avoiding harsh chemicals are an order in RVs.

RV TIP: Do not use household drain cleaners to unclog your RV drains.

Use lots of water

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. So, dilute as much as you can with hot water.

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.

RV Maintenance - RV Drains - Water

We hope all of these tips help mitigate potential drain clogs in your RV. Just be mindful and prevent what goes down the drain, including your money!

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

Always On Liberty - RV Maintenance - Clean and Maintain RV Drains


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