Having access to a bathroom onboard your RV is what separates the motorhome from a tent, and it’s one thing that many campers don’t want to be without.
The least glamorous part of having a toilet in your RV, though, is when you have to empty the waste tank, but it doesn’t have to be as disgusting as it seems.
How do you dump RV waste? The best approach to dumping waste from your RV depends on the toilet and tank setup.
Usually, this involves a hose that attaches the waste tank to the dumping point so that it can drain the waste out, and then flushing the tank out with water to clean it.
Learning how to dump RV waste in the safest and easiest way possible is a skill that all RV owners should possess.
This guide will show you how to do it right, what’s needed to keep the tank clean and in working order, and the important role that it plays within your RV.
What Types of Tanks Does an RV Have?
There are lots of different types of RVs, campers, and motorhomes on the market, each with a unique setup that best suits its owners.
The most common approach is to have three tanks on board, with one for freshwater, another for gray water, and the last for black water or waste.
The freshwater tank supplies you with clean water for things like flushing the toilet or doing the dishes.
The grey water tank holds the water that has flowed down the drain in the shower or kitchen sink.
The waste or black water holding tank is where all of the toilet waste is stored after it’s been flushed away.
As arguably the most important tank, the black water tank has a lot of requirements for what it can hold, how it should be emptied, and what cleaning and maintenance are required for it.
Correct care is needed to ensure it’s running smoothly, as issues with this tank can be unsanitary and unsafe for everyone on board the RV.
Where Can You Empty an RV Waste Tank?
One of the first questions new RV owners ask is where they can empty their waste tanks and just how dirty the job is.
Thankfully, there are lots of public waste disposal units and dumping stations across the US, with many of them located on-site or close by to most campgrounds.
RV waste tanks are designed so that the RV owner has as little contact with the waste inside as possible, so it doesn’t require you to manually empty the tank.
Rather, the tanks feature a valve that a hose connects to so you don’t have to look at or see the waste at all unless there appears to be an issue.
Due to the toxic nature of the contents, you should never attempt to empty an RV waste tank in an area that’s not designated to accept it.
Unlike portable toilets, you can’t simply pour the contents of these large tanks into a public toilet, and it requires a secure connection between the valve of the tank and a dumping point.
Steps for Emptying a Black Tank
When the sensor on your black tank shows that it’s three-quarters full or you’ve been using it regularly for a few days, it’s time to find a waste station and prepare to empty it.
These are the simple steps you can follow every time to make sure it’s done quickly and easily.
Wear a pair of thick rubber gloves before emptying the tank in case you come into contact with any of the waste.
Use a sewage drain hose and connect one end to the valve on the black water tank, with the other end connecting to the valve at the dumping station.
Once both ends are secured, pull the valve on the RV waste tank and give it time to drain.
Pour some freshwater into the black water tank to flush it out, and then drain it again until empty.
The same approach can be taken when emptying the grey water tank, and in some locations, you can even empty it straight onto the ground.
Some RVs are designed so you can flush the black water tank with the gray water which is more efficient, but it’s not always a possibility.
Cleaning and Treating the Tank
In addition to emptying the waste tank, you need to keep up with a regular cleaning schedule.
This doesn’t have to occur every time you dump it but should be done at the end of each trip in your RV or whenever it seems necessary due to odors and performance issues.
The first step in cleaning an RV waste tank is to use a cleaning wand and hose to scrub the inside of the tank as best you can so that no waste is building up or sticking to its sides.
After scrubbing, flush the tank out with clean water and empty it completely.
A regular application of tank treatment is also required, and these come with many benefits including assisting in breaking down waste, neutralizing odors, and keeping your waste tank as healthy as possible.
Depending on the treatment you’re using in the waste tank, they’ll have different methods to apply the product, including liquids or drop-in packets for your convenience.
Tips for Tank Care
The waste tank of an RV might not be the most thrilling part of your traveling home but it is one of the most important. Follow these tips to ensure that your RV waste tank is always working right and with minimal fuss.
Have disposable gloves: A packet of disposable gloves onboard your RV can be a godsend and they’re especially helpful when emptying the tank. Never attempt to keep and reuse gloves that you’ve worn to empty waste as it can lead to a host of health and safety problems.
Use RV toilet paper: The waste tank’s most common enemy is toilet paper, so make sure you’re using toilet paper that’s designed for RV waste tanks. These dissolve and disintegrate with minimal effort and are less likely to cause clogs.
Be ready: Have a range of sewer hose adapters and pipes ready in your RV, as you never know what a dumping station will require. It’s better to have them ready than have to drive off and find another waste point with a tank that’s full to the brim.
Fill it with water: Ensure the black water tank has enough water in it before you start using it, as they will prevent clogging and help eliminate odors. The size of the tank will determine how many gallons are required to cover it. You should also think about adding some extra water to the tank every time you flush as an extra line of defense.
Dumping Made Easy
Although a job that nobody looks forward to, emptying the black water tank of your RV doesn’t have to be a hard one.
With a better understanding of how the toilet and tank work, and the right approach to emptying and cleaning it, you’ll find this job feels like less of a chore than it used to.
Having a bathroom onboard your RV adds a whole new level of convenience to camping but they’re always commonplace in these vehicles.
If you’ve been thinking about equipping your camper with a toilet or upgrading the old one, read on for some FAQs and our expert answers that can clear things up.
Can You Put Any Toilet in an RV?
A regular household toilet is not a suitable fit for an RV as they have a few different design features that wouldn’t make them work.
Household toilets are heavy, connected to a different plumbing system, and are not made to be taken on bumpy roads, so you need to install an RV-specific toilet instead.
Can You Upgrade a Toilet in an RV?
It is possible to upgrade the existing toilet in your RV to a newer one, and it can be made easier by replacing it with a similar model.
Installing a new RV toilet isn’t that challenging as there are no plumbing connections but you will need to ensure the seal and holding tank have been properly lined up.
Will a Regular Toilet Seat Fit an RV Toilet?
You may be able to replace the seat on your RV toilet with a regular toilet seat if comfort is an issue but their sizes will need to match.
Most residential toilet seats are 15 inches in length which may be too big for an RV toilet, but you can find compact sizes that would be better suited.
George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.