RV Black Tank Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

Do you know what is the most hated maintenance chore in an RV is? If you’ve answered flushing and cleaning the RV black tank, you’ve guessed right! RV black tank maintenance is a nasty job but someone’s got to do it. Is it going to be you? Do you even know how to even empty and flush your tanks? Let’s show you how along with some great RV black tank maintenance tips.

Always On Liberty - RV Maintenance - RV Black Tank and Gray Tank

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RV Black Tank Cleaning and Maintenance Tips

Properly caring for your RV black tank will mitigate costly repairs and headaches down the road. To help alleviate that, here’s a great guide full of black tank maintenance tips and how to properly flush it.

But first, let’s learn about your RV sewer system.

About your RV Holding Tanks

Recreational Vehicles have three different tanks. Your RV water tank obviously holds your motorhome’s or camper’s fresh potable water. The gray tank collects the dirty gray water from showers, washing hands, and dishwashing. Your RV black tank holds whatever goes down the toilet. But also, some RV bathroom sinks may empty into your RV black tank.

Now, each tank has an electronic sensor that indicates available capacity that is supposed to register on your control panel inside your RV.

Always On Liberty - RV Holding Tank Level Indicators

 

Most often though, debris from waste collects on these sensors giving false indications on your gray and black tank readings. To help alleviate that issue, you need to clean your tanks frequently to get rid of debris (sludge, paper, calcium, etc.) so your readings will be accurate. 

It’s extremely important to keep all of your RV tanks clean and properly maintained or you’ll suffer nasty consequences caused by piling (piled up crap and toilet paper) and clogs caused by piling.

There’s controversy of whether to keep the gray tank open vs. closed.  We keep ours closed per professional advice from our friends at Kleen Tank RV Tank Cleaning Service.

Always wait until tanks are two-thirds full before dumping.  When hooked up to sewer, it’s important to keep both gray and black tank valves closed until dump time as to not allow any waste to dry out or solidify in your RV’s sewer hose and connections.

How to Empty and Flush your Gray Tank and RV Black Tank

Always On Liberty - RV Black Tank - Rubber Gloves

1. Put on your big kid gloves

On RV black tank maintenance and dump days, put on your disposable gloves before getting started because face it, this job is nasty! 

2. Get out all your RV sewer accessories

After putting on your gloves. You’ll need to get out your RV sewer hose and accessories:

DO NOT use your blue or white drinking-water hose for flushing your tanks! 

Let all occupants know not to use the bathroom during this process.

3. Tank Valves

Like we mentioned earlier, it’s recommended that you keep your tank valves closed. If you don’t, then close both, the black tank and the gray tank valves the right before cleaning. 

4. Install Sewer Hose and Attachments

Remove sewer pipe cap on RV sewer discharge port. Attach your clear sewer hose adapter to one end of the sewer hose. Then attach that to the RV sewer discharge port.

5. Connect your hose

Attach RV bayonet elbow fitting to the other end of sewer hose and insert end into the sewer hole in ground. Make certain it’s secure. If it isn’t stable, place a heavy object on top to hold it into the hole.

6. Open black tank valve and let ‘er rip!

Open black tank valve first to discharge contents completely. 

7. Open gray tank valve to flush

Open gray tank valve to discharge gray tank contents. This will also flush out existing black tank residuals from sewer hose.

8. Hook up water

Hook up all-purpose water hose to water spigot and black tank flush port. Turn on water at spigot to flush black tank until water runs clear through clear sewer hose adapter.

9. Secure water

Shut water off at spigot. Close black tank valve.

10. Disconnect hoses and attachments

Wait until water is completely flushed and sewer hose is empty before disconnecting clear sewer hose adapter and bayonet attachments. Stow sewer hose and attachments. Re-attach cap on RV sewer outlet port.

11. Clean toilet and add chemicals

Go inside and add one gallon of clean water into toilet bowl. Flush into black tank. Add second gallon of water to toilet bowl with toilet cleaning solution and clean with toilet brush. Add in rv holding tank treatment and flush into black tank to prevent piling.

Always On Liberty - Black Tank Flush Procedure

Back Flush Method

The back flush method should be done at least once a month if you’re full-time RVing and quarterly to semi-annually if you’re part-time or a weekend camper.

After your initial dump and rinse, you’re going to close all valves and fill your black tank with water. Then you’re going to repeat steps 6-8 above. The idea is to use as much water as possible to clean your RV black tank. The end result should be the water that flushes from your tanks to be clear

Some RV’s have a factory installed back-flush system. If you don’t have a factory installed back-flush system, you can easily install aftermarket systems.

 

Black Tank Treatment

As we’ve mentioned earlier, after you’re finished flushing your RV sewer system, then it’s time to add in the black tank treatment. There’s three different black tank treatments you can use; the Geo Method, the Dawn Method or the commercial product method.

The RV Black Tank Geo Method:

This GEO Method also breaks down water surface tension. We just flush it down your toilet. This ensures we won’t create the infamous poop pyramid in the bottom of the tank. The environmentally safe GEO Method cleans scum and prevents hard water deposits on the sensors.

You’ll need: empty five gallon bucket, 1 cup Calgon water softener, 1 cup Borax powder and 4 gallons of hot water. Then, mix Calgon, Borax and hot water in bucket thoroughly. Dump entire bucket into the toilet and flush.

The RV Black Tank Dawn Method:

Another is the Dawn method which is just as simple and supposedly performs similar to the above Geo Method. In your toilet, just add two capfuls of Calgon water softener and about 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid blue Dawn dish detergent. Flush well.

RV Black Tank Commercial Product Method

If you prefer to use a easy drop-in black tank treatment, we recommend Happy Camper.

DO NOT PUT ANY CHEMICALS OR GEO METHOD IN YOUR WATER TANK!

Which toilet paper should you use?

It’s extremely important to use only septic-safe dissolvable toilet paper. Now, I’ll say this, you don’t need to buy expensive RV toilet paper you see at the camping stores or RV section in big box stores.

“AFTER YOU GO, LOT’S OF H2O!!”

Just remember, when using your RV black tank; WATER IS YOUR FRIEND!

Tank Maintenance Tips from a Pro

Here’s what Kleen Tank recommends for tank maintenance:

Before leaving for your RV trip:

Fill gray and black water holding tanks about 1/3 full of fresh water. The sloshing motion of your moving RV combined with the water in the tanks will help break down solids, gently clean the tanks and help with the overall health and maintenance of your RV’s waste holding tanks

During your trip or while using your RV

Keep both tanks closed (as we also mentioned above) ALWAYS. Also, your tanks’ sensor panel should read 2/3’s to full before dumping. If they don’t but need to dump because you’re headed out to boondock, top off both tanks with fresh water for an accelerated exit flow.

Also, anytime you leave the campground, dump the gray and black tanks and again. Fill each 1/3 full of fresh water for your trip home or next destination.  This will help keep your tanks lubricated and the sloshing will minimize damage and repairs.

After your RV trip:

Top off both tanks with fresh water and dump before storing. Be sure to winterize your water system (if applicable) and add a lubricating antifreeze to tanks before storing long-term. This is a critical maintenance necessity.

Always On Liberty - RV Tank Management Trip Planning

 

That’s a Wrap on RV Black Tank Maintenance

And lastly, before you sign off from reading how we clean and maintain our RV black tank, take a moment to watch our video interview with a RV tank specialist on how to take care of our RV holding tanks:

 

Always On Liberty - Black Tank Maintenance Tips

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2 Replies to “RV Black Tank Cleaning and Maintenance Tips”

  1. Hi Guys. Thanks for the informative post. One question, you mention your method for cleaning out your BW tank (1 Cup Calgon Water Softener and 1 Cup Borax Powder) and Kleen Tank's GEO method (Pine-Sol with a half cup of Calgon Bath). Do both recipes accomplish the same thing? Also, you don't mention when you add the Kleen Tank slush to your system. Is this added just before leaving camp? Thanks!

    1. Jonah, thank for reading and paying attention to that. You can use one of the other. We use ours after we empty our tanks and flush really well.

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