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Every RV owner usually learns to be conversant with maintenance, and one of the most unpleasant maintenance tasks you will have to tackle has to do with the black tank. It is crucial to clean and rinse the black tank regularly to keep it in its best condition. You might think that dumping the tank is enough, but this is not the case. Trust us; you don’t want to find this out the hard way, especially if it becomes clogged. In this article, I will tell you how to clean the black tank on RV. 

Prepare to clean the black tank on RV

If you just bought a new RV and have never cleaned your black tank before, this will be of great help to you. Even if you are a long-term RV owner, a review will not hurt, but before you start work, you need to prepare some things

Clear your schedule

It is probably obvious, but you need to make out at least a few hours to complete this task so expect to stay at the dumping station for a while. Your tank needs to be dumped before, during and after cleaning. 

Protect yourself 

I hope you always wear gloves when dumping your tank, but if not, you should start immediately as you don’t want your skin to be exposed to any bacteria or chemicals. 

Obtain a clear sewer hose attachment

It is a useful tool because it allows you to see everything flowing from the black tank. No matter how disgusting this sounds, it will give you an advantage. Once the water flowing out of it is clear, you can be sure that the black tank is clean. 

Get rid of clogs

You ought to get rid of the clogs first because cleaning and flushing the water tank will not necessarily remove clogs. Before performing regular cleaning, remove blockages in the tank or waste pipe. It’s also best to obtain products made especially for dissolving clogs as treatments designed for normal tank maintenance will not be completely effective.

What you should avoid

Certain things should be avoided when cleaning the black tank. Certain cleaning methods you may have heard of (or even tried) can also be dangerous. When cleaning and flushing the water tank, you don’t want two things to happen. The first and most obvious point is that you don’t want the tank to be damaged in the process. Second, you don’t want the black tank’s contents to flow to where it shouldn’t. These potential disasters can be avoided by following these tips:

Research new DIY techniques

Don’t rush into trying out DIY techniques without researching them first. For example, you may have heard of the ice trick where you fill the black tank with ice and drive around to clean it. The reality is that this may not apply to everyone. Also, always use an RV black tank pressure washer rather than high-pressure equipment that involves air or water use. Don’t use devices that are not specifically designed for the RV black tank. Sandblasting the water tank with a power washer may clean it, but unfortunately, you may also end up cracking the tank hence getting waste everywhere.

Remember, your RV sewage system is different from a residential system. Do not use drain cleaners or other solutions that are not meant for RV black tanks? Some of these powerful corrosive substances can damage your pipes or water tanks. 

Step by step process on How to Clean Black Tank on RV

1. Dump your black tank 

Before starting to clean and rinse, the black tank should be as empty as possible. If you just dumped the water tank, you can skip to the next step. If you have not already done so, you must solve this task first.

If you are a novice or have had an RV for a long time, let us briefly introduce the basics because it is good to refresh your memory on the correct dumping methods now and then.

Don’t empty your black tank immediately; your tank sensor tells you that it is almost full. When the black tank is more empty than full, emptying it will make it dry out as the trash in it will eventually stick to the wall or bottom of your water tank which you obviously don’t want. You can pour the water from the toilet into the water tank to fill it up. Once it gets to a minimum of half of its capacity, it can then be discarded.

Also, it is always best to discard the black tank first. This way, when you discard the gray water tank, the RV black tank flush system will flush the sewer pipe. However, you still need to rinse again for additional cleaning. Nevertheless, dumping the gray water tank afterwards will also remove most of the waste. 

2. Clean out the waste pipe

If you want to clean and rinse the black tank, don’t ignore the waste pipe as this can make it to have pyramid plugs over time. These pyramid plugs are solid deposits of waste which can cause blockages in pipes. You definitely want to get rid of these before dealing with the black water tank. This pipe is the entrance by which cleaning and maintenance products reach the water tank so it needs to be as neat as it can be. You will also save yourself the energy of having to do this work in the future. Why clean the pipe later thereby getting waste in the newly cleaned tank? 

Go to the RV toilet and put on gloves. You may also want to protect your eyes because you will be near the toilet. You can use a normal toilet snake (auger) or a motorized RV black water tank cleaning wand. If you choose to use the latter, make sure it is RV friendly.

Put the snake or wand into the toilet and start moving it around. Depending on how your pipe is, this may need some effort. Continue to rotate and clean until you feel the pipe is clean. Be careful not to pull the toilet wand completely out of the toilet when it is on in order to avoid a backsplash. 

3. Clean out your tank using good cleaning products

Like regular tank maintenance products, black tank cleaning agents are divided into two categories; Natural and chemical products. You can buy either of these but make sure to only buy products suitable for your RV. You can as well opt for RV holding tank treatment homemade solutions.

For best results, some of these cleaning products will have to stay in your tank overnight. Others require you to take a ride in the RV in order to agitate the solution. Please check the product description before buying as you want to purchase one that suits your needs.

Natural Cleaners

Natural black tank cleaners usually use biological organisms. These enzymes or bacteria work by breaking down the waste in the black tank. There are even natural cleaners which make use of probiotics. These beneficial bacteria are not only popular health supplements.

Curious about how it works? It’s very simple. Just like the probiotics that clean the intestines, the organisms in these cleaners digest the waste contained in the black tank. A good natural black water tank cleaner should also be able to breakdown toilet paper, grease and oil stains. It should also have the ability of carrying out efficient RV black water tank sensor cleaning. Some of such outstanding products include:

  • Happy Campers Organic RV Holding Tank TreatmentCaravan RV Sensor and Tank CLEANER
  • Unique RV Holding Tank Cleaner – 32 oz
  • Thetford 96527 Blaster Holding Tank Cleaner Pouches, 1.6 oz, White

Chemical cleaners

The best RV black tank cleaner in form of chemicals have more varieties than you might think. You may be scared of buying products that contain certain chemicals (such as formaldehyde). However, there are some tank cleaners that do not contain formaldehyde and are still very much efficient.

4. Clean out your tank using the DIY route

If you don’t want to use specialty products for cleaning, you can clean the black tank using DIY methods. These methods have been tried and successfully used by many RV owners. Another method is the Geo method, where all you need is Calgon water softener and Dawn dish soap.

Pour a glass of Dawn detergent and a glass of Calgon into your black tank. Since Calgon is a water softener, it will not harm your black water tank. Also, don’t overdo it with dish soap as you don’t want a black tank full of bubbles. After that, fill the black tank with water (hot is better, but cold is fine.). Let the solution sit for a few hours and you are done. 

You can also use diluted bleach to clean the black tank. In order to do this, add no more than three-quarters of the bleach cup per 15 gallon capacity. Therefore, if your black water tank has a capacity of 30 gallons, you can only use at most one and a half cups of bleach.

Just as in the geo method, let it sit for a while. Never pour pure bleach into the black tank. If you decide to use this method, be sure to rinse the tank thoroughly afterwards to avoid leaving bleach residue as it will cause an interference with the black tank treatment products. The organism can die before it degrades the waste if bleach is still in the tank when probiotic treatment is used.

5. Flush out your tank

Once the cleaning solution of your choice has been in the tank long enough, it can then be dumped. Next, you need to flush the water tank. You want to make sure that there are no residues or waste left.

This is when a transparent sewer adapter will be of great help as you will be able to see when the water from the black tank becomes clear, indicating that the tank is now neat. Your RV model may include a built-in flush. This is actually the rinse system, which is part of your RV. All you have to do is connect the garden hose to the black tank flush inlet. Ask your RV manufacturer how to use this system correctly. If your RV does not have a built-in flusher, you can get a removable flusher. These devices will flush out your blank tank without the risk of backflow or damage.

The rinser is connected to the hose and the water tank and most are equipped with a vacuum seal, so no water flows into your water pipe. You can use a motorised wand to flush the water tank and clean the waste pipe. Make sure the wand you use fits your tank. You may need to get a straight or flexible one, depending on your RV. 

6. Finishing off

Your black tank is finally clean and you may want to take a shower now but don’t worry: just complete the last few tasks and you will be free.

Lubricate the valve 

You need to lubricate the discharge valve to keep it in top shape. You can easily lubricate the valve in a simple way, and you only need a drill. 

Add maintenance products 

When you are through, do not leave the tank high and dry. Fill at least one third of it with water as a dry black tank quickly becomes smelly.

Now you need to start using maintenance products from time to time. Choose a biological or chemical solution of your choice. It advisable to look for a product that addresses all aspects of your black tank. It should be able to decompose waste and act as an RV black tank sensor cleaner as well. 

Neutralizing odors is also of great importance. If you use thick toilet paper, look for one that can break it down.

How often should I clean and rinse the RV black water tank? 

You already know that almost everything in your RV should be deep cleaned regularly. Your situation dictates how often should you rinse and clean the black tank. If you don’t take out your RV often, please clean and rinse after each trip. You don’t want your RV to sit around with a dirty black tank. Likewise, you should clean and rinse the black tank before putting the RV in storage. You want the black tank to be completely free of contamination before the RV is idle for several months.

If you often take out the RV, you must use your ears (or nose) to decide when it should be cleaned. Frequent use of the tank treatment product is not a substitute for thorough cleaning as well.


If you have not thoroughly cleaned the black tank of the RV, all the air fresheners in the world will not cover up the unpleasant smell. That’s because the black tank is equivalent to a household septic tank, and lack of cleanliness will cause the smell of its contents to float back into your RV. To make matters worse, neglected black tanks can cause plumbing problems and multiply dangerous bacteria that can be harmful to anyone who uses an RV.

Fortunately, with the simple steps highlighted above, deep cleaning of the black water tank is not necessarily a tedious and troublesome task. In addition, there is no need to worry about cleaning and flushing the black tank. It may not be particularly interesting, but it is necessary. Deep cleaning from time to time can greatly help prevent problems. Your black tank is part of the RV, and you want to always maintain its full functionality through proper cleaning as well. Hope you had understood how to clean black tank on RV. 


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