How to Empty the Water Tanks in an RV

RV water tank
(photo by Bureau of Land Management via FlickrCC)

When most people think of renting or buying an RV, they imagine long, scenic road trips through the mountains or a beautiful forest. The sun is shining, traffic is clear, and the perfect campsite is waiting for them when they arrive at the campground of their dreams. But in reality, road tripping in an RV requires some not-so-idyllic maintenance — namely, cleaning out the RV water tank that holds all of the wastewater from your shower, sinks, and toilet.

If you’re an RV newbie, you may be a little confused on the process, which is why we’ve pulled together a guide to help you out. Read on to learn more.

RV Tanks

First, a short primer. There are generally three kinds of RV holding tanks, all with different purposes:

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  • The RV fresh water tank holds your capacity of fresh water. This is the water that comes out of your showerhead and sinks.
  • The RV gray water tank is where the dirty water from your shower drain and sinks filters into. If you’ve got an older camper or RV, you might not have this tank.
  • The RV black water tank is the one that contains wastewater and sewage from your toilet. If you don’t have a gray tank, the dirty water from your shower and sinks will go into this RV waste tank.

RV Maintenance

For proper maintenance, most RV pros recommend emptying your tanks after they reach about two-thirds of their capacity. Depending on how many people you’re traveling with (and how much time you’re spending in your RV), this could be a chore you’ll need to go anywhere from every two days to every week.

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If you’re lucky enough to be at a campsite with full hookups, you can empty your tanks via the sewer line. If not, you’ll need to go to a designated dumping site. Either way, you’ll need an RV sewer hose and a pair of rubber gloves. Then, proceed with these instructions:

  1. First, connect one end of the hose to the valve on your RV. Secure the other end to the valve at the sewer line or dumping station.
  2. Pull the valve to empty the black tank, allowing it to drain completely.
  3. Flush the black tank with water so it gets nice and clean. Depending on your setup, you may be able to do this using the water from your gray water tank.
  4. Drain all of the water from the tank.
  5. Close the valve and remove the hose from your RV water tank.
  6. Rinse off the inside of the hose before disconnecting from the sewer connection or dumping station.
  7. Remove the sewer hose and properly store.

Another option is to use a portable RV dump tank, which you can empty using the same process. Some people simply prefer to dump their waste into a portable tank that can later be taken to a dumping station.

RV water tank
(photo by Tim via FlickrCC)

RV Cleaning Products

To keep your black tank in the cleanest possible condition, you can always add a professional cleaning product. Treatments such as TankTechsRx and Happy Campers are meant to eliminate odors and break down toilet tissue so your tanks continue to perform as intended.

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You can also try an RV wand, which helps flush the walls on the inside of your tank. It’s just one extra way to make sure your tanks are clean before putting your RV into storage!

RV Water System

Now that we’ve talked about the grimy black water tank, let’s move on to the fresh water tank. Be sure to fill up this tank with a hose that’s specially designed for potable water, since this will be the water you use to cook and drink. If you’re at a site with full hookups, adding clean water to your tank is as simple as hooking up to the water line. Oftentimes, major roadside gas stations also allow RVs to fill up their tanks with water for free.

Once your tank is full, don’t forget to switch on your RV water pump so you have enough water pressure. A battery-powered water pump is necessary to send the water through your pipes and into your shower and sinks.

That concludes our RV water tank guide! We hope this has been helpful. Now that you know the basics, we’re sure your trip will be a lot more enjoyable.

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