How to Care for RV Black Tank – Ultimate Guide to Toilet TLC


Maybe You’ve been camping for a long time. But now your camping in an RV. Now you have some new things to appreciate and learn about. You need to learn how to care for an RV black tank.

While this may seem little overwhelming. There are really some basic principles. That once you learn them. It’s pretty much the same each time. I’m going to explain how to care for an RV black tank in this ultimate guide.

So if your wondering how to care for an RV black tank – Ultimate Guide to Toilet TLC. How to care for an RV black tank: Only Use RV Toilet Paper. Keep Tanks closed. Clean tank with wand, & ice. Release blackwater first then clean tank. Use a 5 gallon bucket to get a good flush. Rinse with greywater. Close tanks add water & mix in odor reducer chemical to the tank.

If this seems like a lot. Really after a couple of times of dumping the tanks you will become acclimated. With this Ultimate guide my goal is to make it easier for you. To get up to speed as quick as possible & make your bathroom duties hassle free.

How often Should I Dump My Black Water Tank?

In every RV and camping trailers there are panels. That light up and tell you different things. The levels of the tanks are one of them. You can press a button on the panel next to the designated tank. It will tell you when it is full or what level it is at. That goes for the black tank and the grey tank.

This comes in handy. Because if your gray water becomes over filled. You will notice the water coming up into your bathtub/Shower. Thank goodness the blackwater is totally sealed.

Just remember this for when you take a shower, you may want to open up your grey tank. Just to be sure the water doesn’t come up while your showering.

Usually depending on how big the black tank is and how many people are using the bathroom. This will determine how often you can go before dumping the blackwater tank.

In case your totally new to camping. The terminology blackwater tank and greywater tank refers to the waste tank, and the dishwater tank. Blackwater tank is the waste tank, and should always be treated with utmost care when dumping. There needs to be Zero spillage.

You can usually go about a week before the black tank has to be dumped.

How to Keep Your Camper or RV from Having Bathroom Issues

There are some things to know about the RV toilet. First off is there is special toilet paper that works best for camping in a Camper or RV. This paper is a special material that is biodegradable.

You never want to use regular toilet paper. This is a good way to clog the tank and the pipe/hose going to the septic. Regular toilet paper is to thick and does not disintegrate fast enough. That’s why camping toilet paper has been engineered. To prevent clogged tanks and pipes.

And is safe for septic and RV’s. Scotts Brand toilet paper. Not all of them, but they offer “Rapid Dissolving” toilet paper.

The Camper needs a rapid dissolving toilet paper. The chemicals help breakdown the tissue and the waste. So that it can work it’s way out of the tank when you are dumping.

There are other brands. The best I have found is at Walmart. In there camping department. Campa Soft dissolving paper, Made especially for RV and marine toilets.

Keeping the Blackwater Tank Closed

Keeping the blackwater tank closed will prevent possible clogging issues. A lot of people for what ever reason. Keep the tank open. This is a no, no. Yes the liquid will drain out and you will not have to dump as often.

But what people may not realize that with the tank left open. The solids including the toilet paper are staying on the bottom of the tank. And piling up. This will become hard and will create a clogged tank.


This Article is related to having fun camping… The Ultimate Guide to Electric Bike Camping.

Should I Leave Water in My RV Black Water Tank?

The proper way to maintain a healthy blackwater tank is to keep water and chemicals in the tank. When you add the chemical to the tank you also add additional water. This is depending on how big the tank is.

The chemical and water mixed together is a perfect solution for maintaining the Blackwater tank. You don’t want things drying out.

Cleaning the Blackwater Tank

First what you want to do is empty the black water tank. To do this you are going to go the the tank pulls. Usually they are on the opposite side of the camper. The back side from where you normal would sit under the awning.

The pulls are usually under the camper. Or on some 5th wheels they are found in a compartment towards the front for the camper. Also on the opposite side.

Make sure the sewer hose is connected from the camper to the sewer for the septic. Always double check you want zero spillage.

There are two pulls both will be marked appropriately. Blackwater and Greywater. If the hose is attached to the septic, then pull the lever for the blackwater. Always use disposable gloves while handling black and gray holding tanks and sewer hoses.

There are a couple of ways to clean the tank out. This depends on how long it has been since you last cleaned the tank. And how you camp.

Flushing the Blackwater Tank with a 5 Gallon Bucket & Water

If you go camping a lot. And you pull a trailer you can use a 5 gallon bucket. fill it with water and pour it down the toilet. This forced water all at once will help clean out the tank. You can use a flashlight to see how clean the tank is getting. To know how much water you will need to flush out the tank.

Related Article: How Do You Get the Smell Out of a Camper.

Using a Wand to Clean the Blackwater Tank

There is a special wand to clean the tank. Now a days on some of the newer campers and a lot of 5th wheels. The wand is built in. There is a jet that sprays the blackwater tank to clean it out.

This is located in a universal station where all the water valves, levers for the tanks, outside shower, valve to winterize are kept.

All you do is attach a water hose to the jet that is part of the camper. And turn the water on. And the high pressure will help clean the tank.

But if you have an older model RV then you need to attach a wand to the water hose and drag it into the bathroom so you can clean out the toilet. Of course the wand has a way to shut the water on/off. You can see it here; The technical name is Swivel stick.(Link on Amazon).

Once you have pulled the hose through the camper. You can place the wand into the toilet. You want to open the trap to the tank. Which is going to be either regulated by a foot pedal. Or you may have a hand lever on the side of the toilet.

In either case open the trap and lower the wand down into the tank. Once the head of the nozzle is in far enough. Turn the water on and begin cleaning the tank.

This should only take a few minutes. It depends how dirty the tank is. Since it takes a little more effort getting the hose in the camper I usually only use the wand a couple of times a year. It is just easier to take fill the bucket in the shower. To clean out the Blackwater tank.

But when I am closing up the camper for the winter. I always use the wand to make sure the blackwater tank is as clean as it can be.

Another way to clean out the tank if you are travelling. You can pour ice into the tank after you have dumped the blackwater out. The ice will move around inside the tank as you are moving down the road. This helps lean out the tank.


Closing the Blackwater tank & Opening up the Graywater Tank

After cleaning the blackwater tank. Then you can go out to where the levers are for the tanks. And close the blackwater tank. And then open the grey tank. The force of the graywater will help clean out the sewer hose.

This only takes a couple of minutes. After you hear no more water going through the line. Close the graywater tank.

Like I said before it is a good practice and recommended to keep the tanks closed. This way nothing can come up the lines into the camper either. For example fly’s. This is a true story;

Once the black tank was left open. And fly’s were coming out of the toilet. And that’s how we figured out the black tank was open. That is just plain gross. So word to the wise Keep the tank closed.

Now your ready to add chemicals to the tank.

What is the Best RV Toilet Chemical?

Over the years I have tried different chemicals in the toilet. Some are liquid in a bottle. Some are in a package that simply dissolve. And then there are little square pods.

And I have tried them all. But none of them seem to work as good as the liquid bottle one called TST Max Strength orange scent. It breaks down the waste and tissue. It is septic safe and leaves the tank smelling great.

Other chemicals break down the tissue and waste, but they do not seem to be able to get rid of the stench. As well as the TST RV toilet treatment.(Link to Amazon).

I have found to the best way to apply the chemicals to the tank. That is to fill some water into the toilet bowl and add some of the chemical into the water. Mix it and let it go into the tank. The amount of chemical that you will add depends on the size of the holding tank.

You can also use this chemical to pour down the kitchen sink drains. The bathroom and shower drains. This will also keep any odor that could come from the graywater at bay.

How to Hook the Sewer Line from the Camper to the Septic

See with campers vs a house everything is manual. Especially when it comes to the sewer lines. You are the one that has to hook and unhook the lines. Really it is not as bad as it seems.

  • But the first thing you want to do is always wear disposable gloves. You want to make sure your being sanitary.

There are several different pieces that you need. So that you can hook up to the sewer. The good news is, all the pieces that attach from the camper to the sewer is relatively inexpensive. And can be purchased in a kit.

The kit comes with the sewer hose and multiple connections. Elbow connections and straight connections for multiple applications. That you may need at different campgrounds.

You will also want to get a support for the sewer hose. These supports are good to keep the hose off the ground, and free from kinks. The supports are also made to have the proper grade to drain properly.

The hose needs to be at a good angle. A downward slope. The end that is attached to the camper should be at a higher level than the end that connects to the sewer. This way gravity will work great. And you will get a good flow going into the septic.

What to do If there is no Sewer Hookups at the Campground

Introducing the 4 wheeler tote tank. If there is no where to hook up your camper at the campground. There is usually a dump station. What you are going to want to use in this scenario is a portable tote on 4 wheels.

If you don’t have a tote you will have to unhook the camper from the electricity. Bring the stands back up off the ground. Put things inside away so you don’t drop them onto the floor while you move over to the dump station. And all that just to dump. NO no! You don’t want to do all that. What you need is a simple solution.

And that simple solution is a tote. It’s on 4 wheels so you can pull it to the dump station. Either by hand or attach it to your vehicle to tow it over to the dump station.

The tote works in the same manner as hooking the hose to the septic. You need to be careful. Make sure there is a good connection at the tote when installing the hose.

The force when you open the blackwater or graywater tank is so strong. That if you don’t have a good connection the hose could pop off and you will have a big problem with waste on the ground.

If your not sure of the connection you could always release the graywater to test the totes hose connection. Although you don’t want to use all the graywater. AS you need to rinse the hose with the gray water.

The tote is self explanatory. There is an opening to attach the hose. There is also a small opening for better flow when opened. Then once you get the tote over to the dump station you have an opening on the side that has a lever to that opens to dump the tote. Always make sure that is closed prior to filling the tote.

When you get the tote to the dump station you connect the hose to the bottom side valve of the tote and to the dump fill. Make sure the connections are good at both ends of the hose. Pull the lever to release the waste into the sewer hose and out to the sewer.

Your going to want a tote that has max holding ability. Or you will find that your spending a lot of time going back and forth to the dump station. This tote holds 42 Gallons.(Link to Amazon).

After you dump the blackwater tank. Then close the blackwater lever. And open the greywater tank into the tote. This will clean the hose and the tote. Some what. As clean as it will ever get.

Related Questions

Can You Put Bleach in Your RV Blackwater Tank?

The answer is yes it is possible to put bleach in the tank. But should you put bleach in the tank is a better question. And the answer is NO. The reason being is bleach can ruin the seals.

The seals will become dried out. And then when this happens when you add water into the toilet. It will not stay in the bowl and will actually leak into the tank. So if any of the tank seals start leaking. This could be a really big problem outside of the camper. If the seals don’t hold your waste in.


How do I Get Rid of the Smell in My RV Holding Tank

First off you want to pull the black tank lever. Release all the waste. Make sure the sewer hose is connected and is secure. Always ware disposable gloves when working with the black tank.

After that use a 5 gallon bucket. Fill it with water and pour it into the tank. The tank is still open. Do this until the tank is clean. The pressure from pouring so much water out of the bucket at one time usually cleans the tank.

But for a deeper cleaning you could use the wand. The wand attaches to a water hose. And has more pressure for cleaning the tank. After the tank is clean. Then close the tank and open the gray water. This clears out the sewer hose.

Next I would recommend filling the toilet and adding chemicals to the tank. Then you can add a little more water to the tank. This depends on the size of your tank. I use about a gallon to 2 gallons water in 30 gallon tank.

Some of the problem could be with the chemical that is being used. I have used several different chemicals. But have found that the TST Chemical works the best. And the reason I say this is there is that it fights off the odor. See the recommended products below to get the best chemical for odor in black tanks.

Here are Some Products used in this Article

That will make Camping so Much Easier

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