Ownership of their own RV is a lifelong dream for many people. If you can imagine nothing better than life behind the wheel coupled with the freedom to go where you want on your own time, then RV ownership might be for you – and we’re happy to count you amongst thousands of RV owners and enthusiasts worldwide if you’ve just acquired yours!
With great horsepower and comfortable seating comes great responsibility: An RV requires routine maintenance just like anything else that might be attached to your home or vehicle.
One of the most important parts of your RV maintenance routine involves dumping RV waste at home. Save yourself the stress and buy the right RV sewer hose from the outset, as this is what tends to go wrong when emptying the tanks.
Sure, it’s not pleasant, but the maintenance and cleaning of your RV waste and water tanks are a regular and essential part of owning and driving one.
New and inexperienced RV owners might be intimidated or confused by how to empty and clean their RV tanks: It’s common for new RV owners to have no idea where their tanks are located, where to find the connecting valves or how often do to it.
We’ve got you covered.
First, see this RV cut-through diagram to help you find the location of your RV’s water tanks.
Here’s our complete guide on how to dump RV waste at home, including comprehensive safety tips, essential questions answered and a step-by-step guide on how to clean your RV waste tank the correct way without any effort or risk.
RV Waste: Safety First
Responsible RV ownership means that safety always ranks first, whether you’re on the road or preparing to clean your tanks.
The majority of RV accidents both on and off the road could have been prevented with a little bit of preparation and care – including potential waste spills that might happen during the cleaning process!
The World Health Organization outlines the sanitation dangers of waste water on their website.
Exposure to unfiltered waste has the potential to spread bacteria and disease.
This means that you should always take special care when intending to work with waste disposal. Treat any waste material like a biohazard, because that’s exactly what you’re dealing with.
Use the following tips to make sure you’re safe.
#1: Always Wear Gloves
Wear gloves when intending to work with (or dispose of) any waste material. Additionally, make sure that these gloves are high-quality, leak-free and intended for this use. Even though kitchen gloves seem suitable, they can increase the possibility of exposure to waste instead of reducing it: Simple, surgical gloves are easier and can be disposed of when you’re done.
#2: Check for Leaks
Avoid potential waste spillage by checking your tanks, pipes and attachments for leaks on a regular basis. In most cases, when one of the three tanks or attached hoses have sprung a leak somewhere, you’ll know it – but always check all the way around before connecting a valve or opening the flow.
#3: Sanitize Your Hands Before and After
The importance of sanitizing cannot be emphasized enough. Even when wearing gloves, sanitizing hands ensure that no potential traces of bacteria remain (or can spread) from your hands or anything you’ve touched since.
#4: Use Lime for Accidental Spills
Accidental spills happen, and only you can prevent them from becoming a danger. Lime can be sprinkled on grass anywhere sewage or waste has been accidentally spilled over – but for serious spills, it might be time to call in a professional.
#5: Proper Disposal Techniques
Waste isn’t the only thing to dispose of: Remember that any gloves used during this process might also be potential contaminants and should be disposed of with extreme care.
#6: Accidental Exposure? See a Health Professional
Accidental exposure to waste puts your health in danger – and it’s more than just a common trope of slapstick RV movies. If you’ve been exposed to waste during the cleaning and drainage process, clean up and see a doctor immediately. Symptoms could be serious, but might only show days or weeks after exposure.
Essential RV Waste Questions Answered
If you want your first RV waste disposal session to go well, don’t just jump into it.
Let’s say that you’ve never played football – in fact, that you’ve never even heard of football. Would you do better on the field without a proper introduction from the coach on what to do with the ball (and why other players on the field are after you when you’ve got it)?
New to dumping your RV waste at home?
Here are some of the most essential RV waste questions answered.
Is RV waste dumping and RV waste treatment the same thing?
Technically, no. Waste dumping refers to emptying the tanks – but treatment refers to the addition of chemicals to your RV’s black water tank to aid in breaking down solid waste and other bacteria. Both of these should be done regularly, and they are most often done together.
Is RV waste dumping legal?
In most states, dumping RV waste into a sewage line or at an RV waste disposal site is legal – although check with your individual region or site to be sure. Never dump waste into a storm drain, this is illegal in most states.
Can RV waste or black water be dumped directly on grass?
This is not recommended, safe or legal. Instead, the hose is meant to be fed directly into a drain meant for disposing sewage. Why? It leads directly into the sewage system – instead of anywhere it could pose a danger to anyone else.
Can gray water be dumped directly on grass?
Although gray water can be let out directly on grass (and it might be legal to do so in the majority of US states), it’s not recommended – and due to the soap content, it might cause serious damage to the grass. Again, only drain gray water into a drain that’s meant for it. It’s the environmentally responsible thing to do!
How many water or waste tanks does my RV have?
There are three water tanks in most RV’s, although there are rare exceptions to this rule.
What’s the difference between a gray and black tank?
Gray water refers to its soapy consistency – and this usually comes from sources such as the RV’s basin. The black water tank (and the term “black water”) refers to the tank reserved for sewage, usually feeding directly from the RV’s toilet.
How often should an RV’s tanks be cleaned / waste be dumped?
The answer to this question depends on (1) the size of your RV’s tanks and (2) how frequently these tanks are being used. Larger, family-sized models need cleaning more often, and it can be anything from once per week to once per month.
What are RV dumping stations and where can I find an RV dumping station in my state?
RV dumping stations are locations where waste can be dumped directly into a sewage systems. Many people take their RV to a dumping station for convenience – but it can also be done at home. A list of RV dumping stations in the US (by-state) is available at this link.
Which chemicals are suitable for RV tank treatments?
Use only chemicals that are marked safe-for-use when it comes to RV tank treatments. If you throw anything else other than the recommended chemicals in your tank, you risk damage to your RV – and in extreme cases, it can even create fumes or a flame-risk.
What if I’m having other issues?
See our step-by-step guide on how to dump RV waste at home for the best advice on how to do it right – or read through the last section in this article on general RV tank maintenance if you get stuck (and remember to watch the YouTube videos for how to handle any potential repairs or leaks!).
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Dump RV Waste at Home
Draining and cleaning your RV’s tanks is no harder than learning how to drive or maintain it.
The first method of dumping your RV waste tanks is recommended only if you’re working with very little waste water. Simply release your waste water tank into a bucket until it’s full. Dump it in your toilet. Repeat process until you’re finished.
The second method is using a portable macerator pump attached to your waste outlets (RV black and gray tank waste outlets) to grind everything in your tank then funneling it all through a garden hose and directly into your toilet. Macerator pumps cost around $200, and can be found at RV stores or online. We recommend Flojet, or Shurflo which is a little cheaper.
The final method is to funnel your RV waste tank directly into a septic tank if you have one by connecting the RV sewer pipe to the “cleanout” pipe or access port to the septic system. The cleanout pipe is on your property, generally made out of PVC. Otherwise, take off the lid of the access port (careful since the gases emitted are DANGEROUS) this leads directly to the septic tank.
Whichever method you’re using, as long as you follow the right steps (and remember to take the necessary safety and health-related precautions), there’s very little that can go wrong when you do it – and it can be done at home.
Step 1: Park in the Right Place
Start by making sure your RV is parked in the right place before you start.
You’d be surprised at how much time it can save you to take a moment for measuring. Ideally, you don’t want to be parked longer than the distance between the hose and the drain – and yet many newcomers forget to check.
Step 2: Let There Be Light
Often missed by first-timers, always make sure that you have enough light to see what you’re doing. Invest in a simple battery-powered headlamp and save yourself a lot of effort and potential fumbling around with a flashlight when you need both hands for the job ahead.
Step 3: Find the Valve (to Each Tank)
The first part of good news for new RV owners is that every tank has a connecting valve – and all that you have to do is find yours.
See the link earlier in this article for a comprehensive diagram that describes where the tanks and waste outlets for most RV models are located; see your individual RV model’s manual if you are unable to locate it using the above diagram.
Step 4: Attach the Hose
Once you’ve found the waste outlets while making sure that it’s properly secured to the fitting.
(For newcomers, improperly connecting the hose without noticing is another common cause for waste-disposal disaster that simple double-checking can stop.)
For proper disposal, the hose should be connected to both the gray and black water tanks at the same time.
Step 5: Secure the Other Side
The other side of the hose should ideally lead into a suitable drainage system – and never into a storm drain or directly into grass or soil.
It might be necessary to secure the length of the hose to make sure that it doesn’t snake around once the connection is opened: Bricks or rocks are a simple solution.
Step 6: Open Sesame
Sure that everything is secured and leak-free?
It’s time to open the valve.
If you’ve done everything correctly up until here, flow should lead outwards.
Blockages are possible, but unlikely: The use of proper chemicals breaks down solid waste and stops this from becoming a problem.
Step 7: Flushing the Tank
Flush the tank by allowing inward flow of water to the RV tank, usually with an accompanying chemical solution. After this has been left for several hours, drain this solution in the same way that you would have disposed of waste – and consider the tank flushed. It almost goes without saying that this requires a separate hose for basic sanitary reasons.
Step 8: Remember to Close Up
Not yet: Always remember to close up the valves properly to prevent any spillage, accidents or accidental leakage . If you notice that the connection feels “a little loose”, this means that it’s time for a replacement.
Maintaining Your RV and Tanks
The maintenance of your RV’s water tanks is one of the most important parts of RV maintenance as a whole: A leaking, dirty or neglected tank is a sure way to send the value of your RV straight down – and yes, it can even make it more dangerous to drive or park.
Dumping RV waste isn’t the only way in which you can maintain your tank.
- The addition of recommended RV tank cleaning chemicals ensures that your tanks remain clean, and it reduces the rate of bacteria growth.
- Always clean your tanks first if your RV has been standing still in storage for a while, or if you’ve just purchased it.
- Leaks can be repaired, but some instances might mean that tank replacement is the best option.
- Stuck? Valves need to be lubricated, too. Need a visual, see video below.
More than stuck?
This might take valve repair or replacement. See this video below.