About a year ago I posted some information on the proper care and maintenance of your black tanks. Based on some of the posts and comments I have seen on social media, I think it’s a good time to update my original posts.
Everyone loves to camp but nobody likes to think about black tanks. After all, most times it’s just an unseen evil. You park your RV, camp and have fun for as long as you will be at your spot, then you either move on to another spot if you’re a full-timer or head home if you’re a weekend warrior.
As you camp and have fun you are undoubtedly using your bathroom. After all, everyone has to go sooner or later. Unless you never use your RV bathroom you will eventually have to empty the black tank. For those who are afraid of this and never use your RV bathroom, relax. It’s easy. After all didn’t you buy your RV to enjoy camping with all the comforts of home?
Using your RV bathroom should not make you anxious. With the proper care, you should have many years of trouble-free operation. If you choose to ignore your black tank you may have many unpleasant situations to deal with. Things like small sewer flies and bad smells to pyramids of poop and blockages may occur.
If you follow these simple steps, you will most likely go many years trouble free. The following procedures are assuming you are at a full hook-up site.
1– Always leave your black tank closed until you are ready to dump. Many people think that because you are at an RV park with full hookups it’s ok to leave the valve open. If you do this the liquids will constantly empty and the solids will build up at the bottom of the tank. Hence, Pyramids of Poop.
2– Always use some kind of chemical to neutralize the smells and break down the waste. We use TST RV Toilet Treatment by Camco and have never had an issue.
3– Never trust your gauges. The gauges usually don’t work well after the first day or two after you flush/clean your tank. Toilet paper and waste get stuck on the sensors and will give you false readings. After a while, you will get a feel for when your tanks are nearing full. I can usually tell by the sound it makes when I flush. Since we are full time and use it every day, I know about how many days I can go and judge accordingly.
4– Approximately one day before you know you will be emptying your black tank, if your gray tank valve is open, close it. As you take showers and wash your hands your gray tank will fill with nice soapy water. You will see why this is important in a minute.
Now that you have prepared with these 4 steps, it’s now time to empty your tanks. Follow these 5 steps and you will be fine.
1– Put on gloves. Sometimes you might experience a little leakage at the valve/hose or worse a complete failure. You will want gloves if this happens to you.
2– With the gray valve still closed (remember step 4 above?) pull the black tank valve and let it drain. I highly recommend that you use a clear elbow connector like this one sold by Amazon, so you can make sure you have cleaned your tank thoroughly.
Step 3 is broken into 3 parts depending on what type of system your RV has
3A– Black Tank Flush– Some RV’s (like mine) come with a black tank flush connection on the outside of the RV. It is here you will attach a hose (not your freshwater hose) and turn on the water. I sometimes will close the black tank valve and let it fill for a couple of minutes and then open it. I might repeat this a few times to let the tank fill and wash the sides. Do not become distracted and forget to open the valve after a few minutes or you will have an unpleasant surprise in your RV…lol.
The black tank flush system will send the water into the tank flushing out the waste. I will generally let it run for about 15 mins. If you have the clear elbow I mentioned above, you should see clear water coming out. Once the water is clear, turn the water off at the spigot, wait for the water to drain (you can see when that happens through the clear elbow), then close the black tank valve.
3B– The Wand– If your RV has no black tank flush system, you can use a wand-like this one from Amazon. As in the black tank flush system above, I highly recommend the clear elbow at the RV sewer outlet to properly monitor progress. You would start the same as above by pulling the handle on your black tank. You would have your wand connected to a hose (not your freshwater hose) and near your bathroom. Once the waste flow slowed down, you open your toilet valve (most types you would step on the petal as if you were flushing) and while holding it down place the wand down through the toilet and into the opening.
Move the wand around. The object of this type of procedure is to move the wand around so as to clean the sides of the tank. It would help to have a second person outside to watch the elbow and let you know when the water starts to come out clear.
3C– If you don’t have a separate flush connection or wand, don’t panic You can still clean your tank. As in the 2 earlier steps, pull the black tank handle. When the flow stops, push the handle back in to close the valve. Go inside to your RV bathroom. You will need to hold down your flush pedal to fill the tank with clean water. Fill until the tank gets nearly full. Since you will be inside holding the pedal, you will see when it nears the top. when it nears the top let go of the pedal. Go back outside and pull the valve again. Repeat this procedure until the water coming out looks to be clear. After it is coming out clear close the black tank handle.
As you can see no matter how you flush your tanks, the clear piece that hooks to your waste valve is a handy thing to have.
Pull The Gray Water Handle
Now that your black tank is empty, flushed, and the valve is closed, it’s now time to pull the grey water tank handle. This is where that nice soapy water comes in handy. This soapy water will wash away any debris in your valve assembly and hose. If you are staying at the RV park longer you can keep the gray water valve open until you are ready to flush the black tank again. If you are heading home, close the gray tank valve and put the cap on the outlet assembly.
One thing to keep in mind is this. If you are staying at an RV park for an extended time, keeping the gray water tank valve open until you are ready to flush is extremely handy because you don’t have to go out and pull the handle every couple of days BUT one thing to consider is if the RV park septic system backs up for any reason, that sewage can technically start backfilling your tanks. This is extremely rare but could happen so I thought I would mention it.
What If Your RV Park Does Not Have Full Hook-Ups?
If you are at a park that does not have full hookups, you will need to use the dump station on your way out. The problem with dump stations is that many parks now use a short hose with no end or a thin nozzle on it. The problem with this is you can’t hook it up to your black tank flush connection (if equipped) or attach a wand to it.
In this case, you have 3 options.
1- Before you leave your site partially fill your freshwater tank. When you get to the dump station, empty the black tank and close the valve. Go inside the RV and turn on your water pump. Hold down your toilet flush pedal and fill your black tank with the water from the fresh water tank. Once filled or you run out of freshwater, go back outside and pull the black tank valve. Not the fastest or best way but it will work.
2- Pull the valve on your black tank. Fill a container with the water from the short hose. Go inside your RV and dump it in the toilet. You will need to make numerous trips using this method but it will work. When your tank is near full (and you are out of breath from all the trips back and forth you just made…lol) go back out and pull the black tank handle.
3. Pull your black tank handle and let it drain. Put a small amount of water in the tank either by using your freshwater or a bucket as described above and let that water swoosh around while you drive. This will at least keep you from building those pyramids. Try and go to a full hook up site on your next trip so you can flush the tank properly. Just like when you were on a site with full hook-ups, after your black tank is emptied and the valve is closed, pull the gray water tank and let that soapy water flush through your pipes and hose.
My RV Park Offers Pump Outs. What Is That?
A pump-out is a service that some RV parks will offer (usually for an additional fee) where a tank with a pump will come to your site and suck the waste out.
If you follow a few basic steps, this is a good safe way to get your tanks emptied. As with the scenarios above, you will want to have your gray water tank full or near full before you get pumped out. When the workamper hooks up to your sewer outlet, have him pull the black tank handle to open the valve before he starts the pump. If he starts the pump first, you will run the risk of damaging your sewer outlet valve.
Once the black tank lever has been pulled and the pump started, just let the pump and gravity do its job. Once your clear elbow shows little fluid coming out turn on your flush if you have one. If you do not have a flush hook-up, use either the wand or bucket method described above. Once the fluid is coming out clean, shut the black tank valve and open the gray tank valve simultaneously.
Once all the fluid is gone in the elbow, disconnect, close and cap your sewer outlet. The biggest thing to remember here is not to let that pump out hose stay connected to your outlet while the pump is running and your valves are closed.
That’s It/ It’s That Easy
Now that all your tanks are emptied and flushed, don’t forget to add the recommended amount of chemicals. Doing these simple steps should give you years of trouble/smell free operation.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them down below