Black Tank Trouble - How to Prevent and Fix It!

No one wants to talk about those black tanks, but how you take care of them make a huge difference!

When we started shopping for campers, I remember one seller telling me how many gallons of black and grey tank storage there was available.  I had no clue what he was talking about or why he would even tell me that.  I was too embarrassed to say, "What are black and grey tanks?"  A quick Internet search told me what I needed to know.  It's kind of like potty talk.  No one wants to go there.  But, if you own an RV, you need to know about those tanks and not be afraid to talk about them and ask for advice when needed!  So, how do you prevent and fix problems with your black tank?  Keep reading, and I promise not to be gross!

Black Tank Trouble - How to Prevent and Fix It!

We got into a pickle with our black tanks this past year, and I don't plan to ever have that problem again!

I've written more than once about black and grey tanks.  Previously shared how to drain greywater more easily from a pop-up camper with a sewer adapter.  I've also shared about how to maintain your black tanks using both the Geo Method and RV-specific products.  But, even with several years of camping, the best products, and intentions, sometimes you do end up with black tank trouble!

I prefer to use RV-specific products to take care of our RV tanks as well as cleaning the interior.  Thetford is our favorite brand.

What Causes Problems in Your Black Tank?

For us, it was a simple black tank valve being left open over a 4-night camping trip last fall.  When we started packing up, there was waste in there that had become hardened like stinky cement!  Good grief!  Note to self, never do that again.

Other things that can cause black tank problems are:

  • Not fully flushing your tanks when getting ready to go home.
  • Using traditional home toilet paper that won't break down readily.
  • Not using black tank treatment products to help break down products.
  • Not flushing enough water into the toilet and tank each time someone goes to the restroom.
  • ALSO, leaving the black tank valve open.  I just have to say that once again for good measure!
These are just to name a few.  However, you CAN fix this problem.  But, you will have to work at it and be patient.  

My friend Christy uses the Geo Method to keep her tanks running smoothly.

How Clean and Treat a Stinky Black Tank

There are several things that we did over time that finally corrected this problem that seemed to go on forever.  If you are in a black tank predicament, don't give up.  Be patient and take your time correcting the problem.  You will need to be methodical and don't just throw in the towel with a bunch of harsh chemicals like bleach.  Even if you are ready to strike a match to your RV and burn it to the ground for insurance money (I'm only kidding!), hold on.  You can get through this!
  1. Use hot water to try and loosen and break things down that are lodged in your tank.  I heated water from my electric kettle and poured one pot after another into our black tank through the toilet to start this job.
  2. Give everything an interior scrub with Tank Blaster.  This works best with a full black tank.  Pour it into your tank the night before you leave the campground to give everything a big scrub.
  3. Pour ice down your toilet on the way to the campground so that you can allow the water and ice to slush around inside to loosen things up.
We did all three of these things.  And, it finally worked and got everything cleaned out and running smoothly again!  I also wish I had tried number three sooner.  

Always use RV toilet paper in your RV.  It does make a difference!

Prevent the Black Tank Stink

After all of that hard work to undo that gross problem, prevent it from happening again.  Now, my husband and I check in with each other while setting up to make sure that valves are not open during our trip.  This can go a long way!

When you are packing up at the campground, use a clear sewer connection so that you can see what is coming out of your tanks.  I know that this is so gross, but it will ensure that you have really gotten everything clean.  If pieces of toilet paper and waste are coming out still, keep flushing!

After everything is flushed, add about 2 gallons of clean water to the toilet with a black tank treatment drop-in or liquid solution.  I fill my small bathroom garbage can with water for this purpose and dump it into the toilet with a drop in as we are leaving the campground.  This step ensures that there is liquid in the tank with a deodorizer treatment to keep the stink away between trips. 

Tank Blaster is an excellent tool for seasonal maintenance in your RV.

Every 4 to 6 months, use Tank Blaster to give your grey and black tanks a good interior scrub!  I find that this can make a  huge difference.  It keeps build-up from forming in all of your tanks and is a good seasonal maintenance habit to get into early on in your RV ownership.

Finally, be sure to flush with enough water so that everything is breaking down properly.  I typically say, count to 7 while flushing to give it enough water to keep everything breaking down.  If you have full hookups and have to drain your tanks before your trip is over, that is what they are there for!  

I know!  No one wants to talk about this!  I don't want to be talking about this.  But, I also don't want to smell it!  And, if your tanks have a problem, you are gonna smell it and be talking to everyone you know about how to get rid of it.  

Until next time...

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