How To Get Clean Drinking Water in Your RV


Stef & James Adinaro

Favorite Trip

RVing across 4 countries in Europe! Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein. Visiting Innsbruck, Austria; Vitznau, Switzerland; and various places in Bavaria.

Home Base

Southern Utah

Favorite RV

Winnebago EKKO

About Contributor

Stef and James hail from, where they work to promote healthy RVing… for both you and your RV! Stef is an RVing health/fitness pro, and James is a former aerospace engineer known for doing over-the-top RV mods to their Winnebago EKKO “Number One”. You can find Stef’s fitRVing tips and James’ RV tech tips either in RV Magazine or over at

We’ve been RVing for about a decade and, believe it or not, we’ve always drank the water from our RV’s water system. As a new RVer, I wasn’t aware of all the ins and outs of RVing, and drinking water from the tap seemed completely “normal”. Fortunately, nobody ever got sick. These days, I pay more attention. Our RV drinking water is better for it, and we now drink it with complete confidence.

Many RVers choose to bring bottled water for drinking and only use the water from their fixtures for showering and washing dishes. There’s no right answer, and this is a completely valid way to go about it. Because Stef and I are into fitness and cycling, we consume a lot of water. We’d have to bring several 5-gallon water drums to make that work. And we’re not that crazy about the cost, storage requirements, or plastic waste that comes with bottled water. For us, drinking the water from our RV makes good sense.

I’ve been known to go “over the top” on many things. But I don’t think there’s any harm in overdoing “clean drinking water.” The more we know about our health, the better. So, I’ll share what we do to drink our RV’s water with confidence and safety.

Basic Equipment to Enjoy Clean RV Drinking Water

If you’re new to RVing, there are a few basic items you’re going to need at the campsite. The first are drinking water hoses. RV fresh water hoses are specifically designed for transporting potable water from a safe drinking water source to your RV’s plumbing system. You might be tempted to save a few bucks by using extra hoses you may have around, but don’t. Just…don’t. Here’s why.

Potable Water Hose(s)

RV hose fitting
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

You never know when some well-meaning friend or neighbor may decide to help you with your hookups, or with rinsing out your sewer hose. By keeping your hose colors on the same page as everyone else, you avoid any unintentional mistakes in this area. Besides the potential mistakes, the freshwater hoses are also guaranteed not to leach any unwanted chemicals into your water. So please, stick with white or blue.

There are a lot of features to water hoses: never kinking, super flexible, expanding, etc. As long as you’re getting a white or blue drinking-safe hose, feel free to choose those features as you see fit. The one feature I won’t do without anymore is well-made, machined, stainless steel fittings on the hose end. I like these because it’s much less common to have them leak (leaks drive me crazy).

EvoFlex Drinking Water Safe Blue Hose
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

Pro Tip: Even brass that’s labeled “lead-free” can contain up to 0.25% lead (Who knew?). The stainless steel fittings stand up to the abuse a lot better. Since you’ll probably be dropping them and banging them about, that’s a good thing.

Our main water hose is a Camco EvoFlex hose. We travel with a 25-foot hose, which has never been too short at a campsite. When I’m filling up at home (where I have to park some distance away from a hose bib), I have a 50-foot hose. Both are used only for RV fresh water, and they’re stored separately from our other household hoses. We also travel with a short 4-foot hose that I use when hooking up our water filter (more on filters later).

Hose Storage

When your hoses aren’t in use, you’ll want to store them so that dirt, bugs, and other contaminants don’t find their way inside them. I use a few sets of hose caps from Valterra for this. What I like about these is that they have small holes in the ends to keep the water inside the hose from getting stagnant and “funky”.

Depending on your RV’s plumbing system – and whether or not it has a gravity fill – you may also need things like a water pressure regulator (here again, I use stainless steel), a spout with a shutoff, a funnel, and various other connectors and fittings.

You’ll also want a bag to keep all these fittings, adapters, and regulators within. I’ve been using this hose storage bag for these items. I’m very particular about what gets to go into the bag. I’ll store extra hose washers, but not wheel chocks. My general rule of thumb? It doesn’t need to be “operating room” clean, but you do want to keep your hoses and fittings clean enough that you wouldn’t hesitate to drink from them.

Finally, if you’re going to be drinking the water from your RV, then you’re going to need filters.

Water Filters

In my opinion, the water in your RV should be three things:

  1. Clean. There’s no junk, dirt, rust, or sediment in it.
  2. Safe. It shouldn’t make you sick when you drink it, chemically or biologically.
  3. Satisfying. It should taste good so that you’ll actually drink it.

The easiest way to accomplish these things is with RV water filters. If you’re serious about drinking the water in your RV, you need some sort of filter. We actually travel with a variety of filters. Some are permanently installed, some are super portable, and some are simply awe-inspiring. I’ll run through the different types.

Inline Hose Filters

These are small, disposable filters that connect to your freshwater hose for filling your tank or hooking up to city water. We call these “entry-level” RV water filters.

Camco RV Water Filter
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

The first example is the Camco TastePURE RV Inline Water Filter. There are three things to know about this filter:

  1. It’s made with granular activated carbon. Carbon removes unpleasant odors and tastes, as well as excess chlorine and lead. The granular aspect of the carbon is significant. It means water will find its way through little pathways in the granules.
  2. It’s made with KDF. Kinetic degradation fluxion (KDF) prevents bacteria growth while the filter is in storage.
  3. It has a 20-micron filtration rating, meaning it filters any particles larger than 20 microns out of your water.
Clear2O Inline Filter for RV
Clear2O Filter
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

The second is the Clear2O inline water filter. It’s more expensive than the Camco TastePURE. These are made with activated carbon in block form. This is different from the granular carbon in the blue ones. Imagine a solid block of carbon that the water has to seep through. I find a couple advantages to this.

  1. There’s less chance of any water “bypassing” the carbon.
  2. Carbon block filters eventually clog up and slow the flow as they accumulate filtered contaminants. That’s annoying when taking a shower, but I find it advantageous because the reduced flow reminds me to change the filter.
  3. The filters have a one-micron filter rating.

The one negative with these filters is that they are NOT KDF filters. So you’re missing that extra protection against bacterial growth while the filters are in storage. We travel with one of the green Clear2O filters in our water arsenal. Since it isn’t made with KDF, I just make sure to thoroughly drain the filter (in both directions) before putting it away and covering the ends with the included dust caps.

Other RV Portable Water Treatment Filters

ClearSource Ultra
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

A quick search will turn up many portable RV water filter options. The Clearsource Ultra is what we’re traveling with now. We use it outside the RV to filter water on the way in. We’ve taken to calling it “The Beast” for obvious reasons. This is what we use when we’re serious about filtering the water. It contains three filter elements, each with a specific function:

  1. A sediment filter. Filters out the bulk of the larger gunk, helping the other two filters last longer.
  2. A carbon block filter. Makes the water taste good and removes chlorine and other contaminants.
  3. A Virusguard filter. Removes viruses and bacteria.

Ours isn’t the only canister filter available. There are scores of others. The good thing about *most* of them, including our Clearsource, is that they accept 10-inch cartridges. These 10-inch cartridges are sort of an industry standard, so if you’re looking for a water filter, I recommend one that uses 10-inch cartridges.

The freedom to swap cartridges allows you to choose any compatible filter brand or replacement. So you could choose a filter with only two cartridges and select a carbon block filter and the Virusguard filter, for example. I haven’t gone so far as to change my water filter setup depending on where I’m traveling, but it’s nice knowing I can. Just remember the three things you’re trying to achieve with your water: clean, tasty, and safe, and you should be fine.

Permanently Installed Filters

Permanent Install Filter
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

It’s also possible to install a water filter in your RV so that it’s just there all the time. This has the advantage that you’ll never have to remember to hook it up. Many of the permanently installed filters look and function the same as the portable ones.

There are two basic ways to install these filters:

  1. As a “whole RV” filter to clean all incoming water
  2. Only on certain fixtures to avoid filtering the water that goes to your toilet, for example.

Above is the permanently installed filter we’re traveling with. It’s from Guzzle H2O, and it feeds one dedicated drinking water faucet. We went with this single-faucet approach because we also filter our drinking water before it gets into our RV.

Like the Clearsource, our dedicated drinking water filter has two 10-inch cartridges that contain a sediment filter and a 0.5-micron carbon block filter. Just with those two, the water would be clean and tasty. The Guzzle H2O also contains a third element, a UV LED light to biologically sanitize the water running through it. This satisfies the “doesn’t make you sick” criteria.

It’s not necessary to have a dedicated filter and faucet for drinking water, but we’ve certainly appreciated it, and I would highly recommend it. We never have any worries about the water from our drinking tap. The water coming is always consistent and pleasant.

Other Clean Water Technologies

Reverse Osmosis Water
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

Besides filters, there are other technologies to satisfy the three water criteria of clean, tasty, and safe. In our home, we have a reverse osmosis (RO) system.

Our home RO system produces exceptional drinking water, but I decided against one in our RV because there are pump and wastewater issues to consider with it. There are also more traditional UV lights (which are more like a fluorescent tube light) for sanitizing that you could install in an RV. Some of those use significantly more power than our LED-based sanitizer.

The good news is that none of these technologies are “wrong”. As long as you remember the three criteria of clean, tasty, and safe, and get a water filter that can accomplish all three, you should be fine.

Cleaning Your Drinking Water System

Inline water Sanitizer
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

It’s impossible to get clean water out of dirty plumbing. So, begin by ensuring your water system is clean and free of contaminants. You should sanitize your RV’s freshwater system at the beginning of camping season at a minimum – even if you don’t plan to drink the water. It’s also a good idea to sanitize the water system on a new RV, when taking your RV out of storage, after de-winterizing, and any time you suspect system contamination.

The good news is that it’s possible to sanitize your RV’s water system without a big budget for equipment and chemicals. The most basic and time-tested method for sanitizing your RV’s water system requires household bleach, water, and time. There are several recipes and instructional videos for this online, but here’s the procedure I use:

My RV Freshwater Tank Sanitization Process

  1. Prepare a chlorine solution using a quarter cup of unscented household bleach and a gallon of water. You’ll need one gallon for every 15 gallons of water system capacity.
  2. Get this solution into your freshwater tank. If your RV has a gravity fill option, use a funnel and dump it in. If it doesn’t, I’ve been using this RV inline sanitizer lately. It’s a small tank with hose fittings on each end.
  3. Attach the tank to your water hoses, pour a (more concentrated) bleach solution into the small tank, and run the water to fill the freshwater tank. Once the chlorine solution is in, fill the tank with clean water.
  4. Run your pump to move chlorinated water through the system and out each fixture until the distinct odor of chlorine can be detected at each.
  5. Be sure to run the solution through ALL your fixtures. This includes the toilet, shower, exterior hoses, and anything else that uses water. Pay attention to the water heater. Some manufacturers don’t recommend putting a bleach solution through the heater, so you may need to bypass it. You’ll find specific instructions for that in your owner’s manual.
  6. Let the solution sit for about four hours.
  7. Drain the tank and water lines according to your owner’s manual’s recommended procedure. When the draining stops, refill the freshwater tank with fresh water.
  8. Run the water pump to rinse water through until you no longer detect a chlorine odor at any fixture. Make sure to run the water through each fixture. It may take more than one rinse cycle to remove the odor.

RV Sanitization Products

That’s the “classic” way to sanitize your water system. But there are several other products that try to do the same job.

This Camco TastePure Spring Fresh mimics the bleach solution. For us, this product’s taste was more difficult to remove than bleach. After a lot more rinsing, it tasted fine. If you don’t want to use bleach and don’t mind extra rinsing, this may work.

This Camco Drinking Water Freshener seems positioned to “revive” a water supply that had gone sour. Honestly, I think the best way to do this is to not let the water get bad in the first place, but things happen. However, since its main ingredient is sodium hypochlorite (which is…bleach), I’ve opted to use bleach instead.

I used the Thetford Fresh Water Tank Sanitizer to sanitize the system in our new RV. It’s a two-step process: a detergent solution to clean the system and a sanitizing agent to sanitize it. The sanitizer in this kit is NOT bleach. It’s benzalkonium chloride, which is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial. You use the stages of this product the same way you would use bleach: mix a solution, put it in your freshwater tank, fill the tank with water, and pump the solution through each of your fixtures.

With this system, I have complete confidence that my water system is sanitized. At that point, I’ve also rinsed the tank and water lines about five times because the lingering taste and odor are distinct, and not something I want hanging around (But again, SUPER clean water). Since this solution is not bleach, it may be safe for your water heater. You’ll want to check with the manufacturer to make sure before you use it, though.

Putting It into Practice

Even with the right RV water filtration equipment, you could still use it in the wrong way and have a drinking water issue. Remember, there are two rather different ways you can use your RV’s water system:

  1. Connecting to “city water”. This is water that’s provided at an RV park or campground through a typical hose spigot. Hooking up your RV in this way provides you with an endless supply of water, and you don’t have to run the pump to get it. The pressure, and to a large extent, the sanitation, are taken care of for you by whatever municipality provides the water.
  2. Using your freshwater tank and water pump. This is a “dry camping” mode where you have no outside water source. Tour water pump pressurizes the system, and water comes from the tank. This is how you’ll use RV drinking water when boondocking or between campgrounds.

In both scenarios, you bear some responsibility for your water’s safety and cleanliness. There are a few best practices to keep your drinking water safe. I’ll discuss them here, and share what we do.

Keep It Fresh

Pretty dry camping RV desert
Dry camping in the desert. Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

We always use our water system in dry camping mode. Even if we park next to a spigot, we rarely hook our RV directly up to city or campground water. Apart from testing something, I can’t remember the last time we hooked up that way. There are five big reasons.

  1. I’m lazy, and we don’t stay in one place for very long. Hooking up a water hose at the campground just doesn’t make sense to us since I’d be unhooking it so soon.
  2. It’s just about impossible to overfill our gray tank and create a dump crisis if the only water source I have is our own fresh tank.
  3. If there’s ever a leak somewhere, the amount of water that can drain and fill the rig is limited (we try to leave the pump off if we’re not using it, too).
  4. By only hooking up to fill our tank, I reduce the number of other systems I connect to and, therefore, the opportunities to pick up contaminants.
  5. It keeps the water in our holding tank turning over and fresh. Even if you prefer connecting to city water, you must pay attention to this if you ever use the water from your holding tank. It’s very difficult for a freshwater tank to become stagnant and go bad if the water is replaced every few days.

So that’s our first best practice. “Stuff” doesn’t like to grow in moving water – it prefers stagnant water. So keep the water in your holding tank refreshed by using the water or draining and refilling with known good water. This prevents nasty stuff from growing in your freshwater system.

Learn how to sanitize your freshwater system and how frequently it should be done.

Practice Safe Hookups

Practice Safe water Hookups
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

Be mindful of the water source you’re hooking up to, and take appropriate precautions depending on the situation. I’ve turned down RV water before because I wasn’t too sure of the source. Well water that you’re not familiar with is a good example of this. Some well water is fantastic. Some is suspect. If you don’t know, take a pass and get water later.

When connecting to, or filling from, any water source, match your level of protection to the situation. For example, if I fill up while parked in my in-law’s driveway, I’ll use our simple inline hose filter (the Clear2O). If I’m filling up at a dump station where the potable water is directly next to the dump, I’ll fill up by using “The Beast”, our Clearsource Ultra.

*By the way… who designs these dump stations with the potable water right there?!?! What are they thinking? I mean… the water from the city or town is probably safe, sure. But how much do I trust that the last person to dump there didn’t rinse out their sewer hose directly on that spigot?!

Other fillups fall somewhere between those two scenarios, and I use whatever information I have available to determine if and how to get the water into our RV. In a truly worst-case situation, we’ll buy jugs of bottled water and use those to fill our holding tank enough to get us by. It’s expensive and creates waste, and we don’t like to do it, but it’s better than contaminating our water supply.

The good news is that, by following our lead from the first best practice and only using water from your onboard storage tank, you won’t have to hook up every time you land.

Don’t Cry Over Spilt Water

I’m not here to tell you to waste water. But there are a couple scenarios where that’s the best and proper course of action.

The first of these is when hooking up or filling up from a water source. It’s always a good idea to hook up all your hoses, filters, and regulators first… right up to the point where you’ll hook that to your RV. But then, before you make that last connection, run some water through things for a few seconds – long enough for water to make it all the way through. Doing this will allow you to flush anything out of the hoses that may have gotten in there or started growing in there: bugs, dirt, mold, what have you.

It’s also OK to dump the water, as I mentioned before, to keep the water in your holding tank fresh. If you realize it’s been a while since you’ve tapped into your freshwater tank, it might be tempting (because it would be easier), to add some sanitizer to it and move forward. But this is a blog about drinking water, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking water in that case. It’s better and safer to just dump the water and start fresh.

Naturally, you’ll need to dump quite a bit of water when you’re cleaning, disinfecting, or sanitizing your freshwater system. Depending on the size of your system, be prepared to go through quite a bit of water to do that.

Keep it Clean

I almost think this last best practice should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Keep your freshwater hoses, fittings, filters, and anything you use during the hookup or fill-up process clean and protected from contamination. I’ve touched on this a little bit previously, but here’s a partial list of things to keep in mind as far as keeping your water setup clean:

  1. Remember the rule about keeping the freshwater hoses either white or blue in color.
  2. Keep your water accessories separate in a bag of some kind.
  3. Keep hose caps on the ends of your hoses when in storage.
  4. Don’t store your drinking water hoses with your sewer hose. (I really hope nobody does that.)
  5. Drain the water out of each of your hoses by coiling them up from one end to the other, allowing the water to flow out. Water in your hoses cannot get stagnant if it isn’t there.
  6. When you’re coiling up your hoses be mindful that you don’t let the free end drag through the mud.
  7. When putting away any of your water accessories or hoses, take a few seconds to wipe them down and dry them off as you do. This will allow you to inspect them for damage or signs of contamination.
  8. If your filter has replaceable filter elements, keep them changed out regularly.

The Last Drop

Separate faucet for drinking water
Photo by Stef and James Adinaro

Well, there you have it. Everything you need to know to get drinking water in your RV. If you’re new to this, you’ve got some decisions to make:

  • What kind of filters do I need?
  • Will I be hooking up to campground water, or using water from my holding tank?

I can’t make those decisions for you, but hopefully, now you’re armed with enough information that you can make them for yourself.

Just remember the goal is to keep your water supply clean, tasty, and safe. It is possible. And if we meet out on the road sometime, let’s have a toast…with water from our RVs.


  • Comment (8)
  • Henry Haynes says:

    That was a very interesting article. Potable water has been one of our concerns, so in the past we’ve stocked up on bottled drinking water for our trips. We got tired of that inconvenience. I just got finished with the installation of an under-sink RO system which should give us deionized (more-or-less equivalent to distilled) water. The output then goes through an ultraviolet sterilizer. The water tastes good, and it should be safe to drink. Time will tell if this system is a success. It may be over-kill, but it’s a cure for our drinking water paranoia. It’s reassuring to here others have the same concern.

  • Bruce Flower says:

    Hi Stef and James,
    GREAT article (well-written, too)! I semi-retired two years ago, bought a 23 ft. Keystone Bullet camper, and started pulling it from AZ to PA every summer and back in the fall. I have an in-line cartridge filter that I put on my white water hose when hooking to ‘city’ water, but don’t drink the water, so I’m always buying bottled water. I will now check out a two stage filter that I can put under my kitchen sink for making drinking water. Thanks for the excellent product suggestions and tips.

  • Rick says:

    I have been told to use the RV sanitizers only. Supposedly using bleach in any part of your water system can damage seals and o-rings within the system. Marketing or fact?

  • John Heilman says:

    Thank you for posting a comprehensive article on the basics of keeping your water system clean. Well done!
    However, I have read many articles on this subject and none of them have addressed a big concern of mine. What to do with the bleach solution you’re dumping! That bleach solution will kill not only the bugs in your water system, but also the bugs in the soil and in the grass in your yard. Those bugs are necessary for a healthy soil and lawn. And you certainly don’t want to dump bleach into your septic tank. I could be talked into dumping it into a storm drain, but that’s arguably not a eco friendly thing to do either. Most people don’t have access to a dump to a sewage system. Comments?

  • Billy Harris says:

    Yes, you went quite a bit over the top. I don’t disagree with most of your article but remember when, as kids, we drank right from the hose – a green one yet. I’m not saying that was a good thing but we did survive and we cannot live without some “bugs”.

  • Guy says:

    James: Thanks for yet another extremely thorough and helpful article. You are the best!

    One question: How (and where) do you drain the bleached water out of your system? Pump it all into the grey water tank and dump it? Open the fresh water drain and drive on the highway? Thanks!

  • Phil says:

    Great article! We drain the water out, then roll our hoses up and screw the ends together loosely to keep stuff out of the hoses! We do use the caps on our water softener and filters. Thanks for all the info, Phil

  • Tom Hoepfner says:

    Thank you for the reference to our RV Inline Sanitizer in Sundays issue of Camping World, yes, it works very good and is trouble free, just add bleach and turn on the water but let me tell you what we have learned. We have traveled for 11 years full time and our Monaco’s have 100 gallon fresh water tanks, but as all RV fresh water holding tanks, they have a “OVERFLOW” valve about 2 inches from the top of the tank so that one does not burst the tank when its full, so when you think your filling the tank, your not filling the top 2 inches, so what we do is have about 20 gallons or so in the fresh water tank, then we add only enough water to add our bleach, maybe another 4 gallons and drive around, the splish/splash of the water inside of the tank does it all, the 4 sides and the top/bottom, then after we have run our coach pumps to clean out our lines we drop our bleach water, this way we are not wasting a full tank of water but only about 1/3rd of the water but we are doing a 100 percent job, top ,bottom, and all 4 sides, no need for us to waste a full tank of water. Just thought we would share this with you because filling the tank and not driving around does not do the top part of the tank. Thank you for the great article.

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