Sanitize Your RV’s Freshwater System In 5 Simple Steps 17891

Your RV’s tanks need to be in proper working order for you to be able to enjoy camping to its fullest, especially the freshwater system. The freshwater system on your RV not only needs to work right, but it needs to be clean, too. Without a clean freshwater system, you’re asking for a trip filled with illness. Like any other part of your RV, your freshwater system needs to be cleaned.

Each year, usually in the spring, when you get your RV out of storage, you should sanitize the freshwater system. It might sound like a hassle, but the last thing you want to do is have unhealthy water in your freshwater tank due to lack of sanitation.

The Steps to Sanitize Your Freshwater System

filling the water tank of a campervan in campground area

Sanitizing the tank will ensure that you stay happy and healthy. It’s honestly not that hard to do. While you can always pay a professional to do it, there’s really no need. It doesn’t require any special tools. All you need is a measuring cup, a funnel, and some household bleach.

From there all you need to do is follow a few simple steps. Here’s they are:

Step 1: Turn Off Your Water Heater and Drain Your Freshwater System

You don’t want to drain the freshwater system with the water heater on. This will damage the water heater. You need to turn it off and let it cool before you drain the water. It’s not a bad idea to have the water pump on to ensure you can get all of the water out of the system before you start sanitizing.

Step 2: Calculate the Amount of Bleach You’ll Need and Add It to the Freshwater Tank

You’ll need 1/4 cup of bleach for every 16 gallons of water in your freshwater tank. This also equates to one ounce per eight gallons. Make the calculations based on those ratios. That means. If you have a 20-gallon freshwater tank on your RV, you’d need 2.5 ounces of bleach to sanitize your system.

Don’t add the bleach straight to your freshwater tank. You should dilute it first. Take that amount of bleach you’ve calculated for your specific RV and add it to at least a gallon of water. Then pour this water-bleach mixture into the freshwater tank with the help of a funnel.

Step 3: Fill the Freshwater Tank with Potable Water and Pump It Through The System

The next step is to fill the freshwater tank with clean, potable water. Make sure to fill it all the way. This will ensure that the tank and the rest of the system get fully sanitized.

detailed view of a water tap in the kitchen inside a caravan, switzerland

You also need to make sure the water with the bleach solution gets all the way through the system. Turn on all the faucets to ensure the bleach water makes its way to every part of your freshwater system. Once the water is circulating through, you can turn them off again.

Step 4: Let The Water Sit For 12 Hours

The solution will take time to really sanitize your system well. You can’t just run some bleach-water through your freshwater system in a few minutes and call it good. I suggest letting the solution sit in your freshwater system overnight. It’s a great way to make sure it gets the job done.

Step 5: Drain the Tank and Then Flush the System

After at least 12 hours of letting the RV sit with the bleach solution in the freshwater system, you need to drain all the water out again. Then refill it with fresh water and start circulating that water through the system with your water pump. Open all the faucets and flush the system until you can no longer smell the bleach.

It may take a few times for you to get all of the bleach smell out. Don’t worry about doing this step multiple times. I’d suggest continuing to flush the system even after the bleach smell is gone. This will ensure you eliminate all of the sanitizing chemicals from the system.

Once that’s all done, I’d suggest replacing any water filters on your rig. After you’ve replaced those filters and switched your water heater back on, you should be ready for another full year of camping!


What’s been your experience sanitizing your RV’s freshwater system? Leave a comment below!

Sanitize your RV's freshwater system in 5 simple steps

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.
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22 Comments

  1. FIRST Check to see the clamp on the filler tube on the inside of the camper is tight, I didn’t and filled the kitchen side of camper and underbelly with water. I’ve been told the clamp being loose on new models like mine are not uncommon

    1. What is the clamp on the filler tube? I’m not sure I understand this? Can you help me? We just got a new RV and wanna make sure to check that.

  2. My RV has a check valve or some type of valve that prevents pouring into the fresh water fill fitting. How do I get the bleach into the system?

    1. You pour the bleach into the water hose befor you hook up to camper. Then turn water on to fill and presto the bleach goes right in with the water.

      1. I’m going try a garden fertilizer injector from AMZ. I calculated that a 50G tank requires .78G of bleach (at 1/4c per G). The injector works at a 16:1 ratio, so the bleach should all be taken up with about 12.5 G of water, then let it continue to run as water-only to full. The injector is already performing dilution, so you should be able to drop the dip tube into straight bleach.
        One commenter said the injector didn’t draw well at his high hose pressure, and recommended only opening the spigot partially to find the best flow. I will probably just use one of my RV pressure regulators on the upstream side of the injector to address this.

    2. Use a drill mounted pump you can get them from a hardware store.
      Thats how i do mine pump the bleach and water solution from a gallon jug.

    3. Some manufacturers (I have a Keystone Montana) recomend you remove the overfill vent cover and pour the bleach in there. They also recommend removing that cover when filling the freshwater tank to prevent air from getting trapped.

    4. It doesn’t have a fill port besides the city water connection? If not then you can get a piece of 2”pvc pipe from a supply store and the proper adapters for the hose, fill the pvc pipe like a mini tank with the chlorine solution.

  3. Attach the white water hose (mine is 25ft) to the Rv fresh water intake valve. Pour the diluted bleach into the other end (unattached) of the white hose (make sure the unattached end is higher than the end attached to the RV. Then attach the hose to the fresh water faucet and turn it on. This allows the bleach solution in the hose to flow into the tank.

    1. Hi Frank, I believe it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, I’d check your owner’s manual or contact a Camping World service center.

    2. Don’t turn on the water pump until the water tank is full with the correct ration of bleach. You don’t want to run a concentrated solution through the water lines.

  4. The first step on this is to turn the water heater off; but on another video, they said to turn off certain valves for the water heater. Can this simply be done by the inside indicator panel ensuring the water heater is off? Is that sufficient enough for having the water heater off when sanitizing the fresh water tank?

  5. I started the process , got the bleach solution in & circulated through the entire system, but was interrupted before emptying the bleach solution from the holding tanks. Does it hurt anything to leave the solution in the tanks and not flush the system for a few days?

  6. I have a sulfur and rotten egg smell in my fresh water system. Will this process with bleach take care of that and should I pump this bleach mixture through my water heater also?

  7. When draining the water, do I drain the grey water tank once I run the water through or if I still smell bleach, do I drain the fresh water tank

  8. The bleach water will not go into the fresh water tank through a funnel. How do I get the bleach water into the freshwater tank?

  9. I just bought a ’97 Itasca. It has issues, and one of them is that when I run the water faucets, foam or suds come streaming out. What up? Di the previous owner try to clean the system with soap? Does not look potable. Referring to the article above, can I just keep flushing the system util the suds go away?

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