How To Treat Your Black Water Tank Right


Wade Thiel

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Wade divides his time among various outdoor activities in both urban and rural environments. An adventurer by nature, he is always up for a challenging hike, fun hunt, or day out on the water with friends and family. When he isn’t enjoying the outdoors, he’s writing, reading, or tinkering with motorcycles and cars.

I know this isn’t the sexiest topic, and it’s going up on Valentine’s Day, but it’s one of those things that’s pretty darn important. A black tank that isn’t well taken care of is a horrible thing. It can cause unfortunate smells, leaks, and more. In order to ensure that your black take is functioning as it should be, it’s important to do all of the right things.

What Your Black Tank Does

caring for your sewer hose

Most RVs come with two wastewater tanks. There’s a gray water tank for your used sink and shower water and then there’s another tank known as the black tank for everything that goes down the toilet.

The black tank holds all the waste and wastewater so that you don’t constantly have to be hooked up to a sewer connection. It lets you essentially store your waste until you’re ready to empty the tank into the proper sewer dumping system.

How You Can Keep It Functioning Well

Photo Tripping America - Handle the Dirty Work - Camping World

As you can imagine, the last thing you want is for your black tank to not operate as it is designed to. The best way to ensure it does what it’s supposed to do is to keep your black tank in good condition. Here’s how:

Be Careful of What You Flush

The best steps you can take to ensure the plumbing to and from your black tank doesn’t get clogged is to watch what you put down your toilet. Use RV toilet paper or toilet paper you know to be safe for RV use.

Also, never flush feminine hygiene products or the various types of self-cleansing wipes down the toilet. These types of things do not degrade in the black tank and can cause a blockage that can be difficult or at the very least not fun to clear. The only things that should be going down your RV’s toilet are human waste, water, and toilet paper.

Use Proper Chemical Treatments

Using a designated black tank treatment will help keep odors under control and it will also help ensure solid waste is broken up properly so that it will exit the tank when you drail the tank.

There are a variety of black tank chemicals out there to try. I’d suggest trying a couple before settling on any particular one. This way you can find the one that works the best for you and your rig.

Clean Your Black Tank

The next thing you can do to ensure your black tank functions as it should is to clean it from time to time. Some RVs have black tank flushing systems installed on them already. Others you’ll have to do the flushing yourself. The most basic procedure for cleaning your black tank goes like this.

  1. Drain your tank.
  2. Remove any buildup in the system thoroughly. 
  3. Add some water to the tank. 
  4. Add a good black water treatment. 

Obviously, the key step here is step two. This can be done by purchasing a tank sprayer that you insert into the toilet to spray out the inside of the tank, use the RV’s already installed tank flushing or spraying system (not all RVs have this like the Happier Camper, for example), or install a flush valve or a macerator to your RV. These all do the same job. They spray the inside of the tank in the hopes of removing any buildup. From there, it’s a matter of using the right black tank treatments.

Lastly, a note on dumping. Don’t dump your black tank unless it is at least mostly full or all the way full. When I say partway, I mean like two-thirds of the way full. The reason for this is because if you drain the system when it’s not full or at least close to it, you may not wash away all of the solid waste inside the tank. This can lead to odor issues or future blockages.

Do you need supplies for the care of your black tank? Check out Camping World’s selection online!

How to treat your black tank right

  • Comment (8)
  • Monica. Lichty says:

    We cant seem to rid of that smell..weve tried n tried…what now.. Can you put a small amt of bleach in…???

  • David Hill says:

    We are planning numerous trips with our travel trailer, some 3-4 weeks apart. After draining the black water tank each time, are you supposed to put anything into it between trips or wait until ready to go on the next trip? Thanks!

  • Paul says:

    One thing that we try to do to keep our tank fresh before we winterize is flush and empty the tank just before the last leg of returning to home or storage. Then fill the tank about halfway. Add a good amount of laundry soap or dishwashing liquid. Let the motion of the last leg of the return trip to slosh the soapy water around to clean the tank . Empty the tank at an approved dump site. When you get home, put some tank deodorizer in the tank but little or no water. You’ll be ready for your next trip whether next month or next spring.

  • Dan Pilarski says:

    I have read your article and for the most part thought it was very informative. The ONLY part I have an issue with is the NOT dumping until it is either two thirds full or more. If you are staying in one spot for a week or longer; it would seem like you are always having to monitor the black tank and then dump it when it reaches that level.
    I prefer to let it flow until a couple of days prior to leaving the camp site. Then let it fill up, adding chemicals to help break down the waste and flush it out. Also, since mine does not have a flushing system installed, I will close it off after dumping it and fill it up with water, several times if needed, with a hose just for this purpose. When monitoring what is coming out, is just clear water, then I know I am done.
    Another trick I read about, a few years back, was stopping at a gas station at least 10 miles or more before getting to your destination and buying a large bag of ice to dump down the toilet. Making sure to break it up before putting it down the toilet along with a couple bottles of liquid chemicals. The reason for this is simple and quite ingenious. The ice chips move around inside the tank acting like little scrapers, while you are moving, helping to clean your black tank. Then by the time you reach your destination and get everything hooked up; the ice chips have melted and freed what little waste still remaining in the tank.
    This process has helped me keep my black tank clean and functional for several years now. Hope it helps others as well…. Happy RVing

  • Norman Wolffis says:

    About to become a newbie to the RV scene. However, from the photos for dumping I would rather have the clear plastic at the RV not the dump site.

  • Sue says:

    Wow! Thanks for that idea!

  • Heidi S says:

    Great idea, thanks!

  • Ed says:

    I find that it’s good to have clear plastic at both the tank hook up and dump drain part of the hose. Clear plastic at the tank is so you can tell when the waste has finished emptying from your RV tank. Clear plastic at the dump drain lets you know when the waste has completely finished flowing through the hose. Being clear at the dump drain also will help when you disconnect the hose from the RV to make sure you get all the waste out the hose before packing up and storing it. It’s no fun to get waste water on you, the ground, or in your storage area because you thought the hose was completely empty and it was not. That why I like the clear pieces on both ends.

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