How Much Bleach to Sanitize an RV Water Tank?

Are you obsessive about keeping your RV water tank sanitized? Using bleach to sanitize your system is the best way, but there are other options such as a baking soda solution.

You need to have peace of mind that your RV water system is safe to use. Many of us only use our RV during the summer months which increases risks, so to avoid any mineral deposits, weird tastes or unwanted bacteria picking up some nasty bug carry out the following steps.

Why You Should Sanitize Your Tank And How Often Should You Sanitize

A rv camper water supply showing an image of a kitchen faucet.

If you buy a new or used RV, you shouldn’t use the water system until you properly sanitize it. It may sound like a big job, but with a little experience, it is easy to carry out and doesn’t consume much time. Putting together a proper schedule will help you eliminate most of the risks and keep everything clean and sanitary.

There are various reasons why it is essential to sanitize your tank. These include:

1. Remove Bacteria Build-Up From Storing RV

Many of us decide to leave our RVs in storage. Whether it has been weeks or months, there is a great possibility that bacteria has built up in your water system. The only sure way to overcome this and use your water with confidence is to sanitize your system with bleach.

2. Prevent Water Contamination

Many RVs have a drinking water system and it is vital that you regularly have this sanitized. Contaminated water can have some awful side effects that can include diarrhea, cramping, nausea, dehydration, or gastrointestinal problems. So, keeping the water tank sanitized is essential.

3. It’s a Health Risk if Not Properly Maintained

The issue with the tank is it is constantly being drained and then refilled. Over time bacteria, mildew and mold can build up in the empty part of the tank and when it is refilled it mixes with the water. It is a health risk and a perfect breeding ground. It shows how vital it is to keep on top of proper maintenance.

4. Eliminate Odors

Another compelling reason to regularly sanitize your RV water system is to prevent the use of stale water and unpleasant smells. If you leave your RV without using it for extended periods the water stored in your system can easily go stale and develop an unpleasant taste and smell. The best way to avoid this is to schedule regular maintenance.

5. Routine Care for Full-Time RVing

If you use your RV full-time we recommend that you schedule sanitizing your tank with bleach every six months. Regular use will help your system stay clean. If you use your RV only part-time, you can consider sanitizing your system every 3 months.

How Do You Sanitize Your RV Tank?

Sanitizing your RV water tank may take a little time, but it is a relatively simple process. You need to prepare some supplies and follow a step-by-step process. In this section, we will discuss everything you need and the process to feel content that your RV water system is properly cleaned and free from any bacteria.

Typically you will need bleach. It is the most effective way to sanitize your RV system. There are other options such as vinegar and baking soda, but bleach is the best way.

We recommend Concentrated Clorox Disinfecting Bleach found here on Amazon. Typically a 43-ounce bottle will run at around $10+. According to the CDC, bleach is a safe and reliable way to make water safe.

You will also need a container to hold and measure the bleach before you pour it into your water system and a garden hose to refill the water. The cost of these is minimal and they can be reused.

Most of the process is quick, but you will need to leave the bleach in your system for around twelve hours to get the full effect of sanitizing.

Why? Because you need to leave the bleach in your system long enough to kill all of the bacteria. Some people go for less time, but to be certain, we recommend a full twelve hours.

This is the process to follow:

Step 1

Firstly, you need to drain all of the water out of your system. This should include all tanks including the heater tank. You can achieve this by looking for all of the water lines and valves and opening them – there is normally a plug that you can just undo and let the water drain. If you are in doubt about finding these it is always best to look at the owner’s manual.

Step 2

The water might take a little time to completely drain, so take this opportunity to create the solution for sanitizing your system. As we have mentioned, bleach is the most effective method. You should check the total size of your water tank size and we always allow 1 cup of bleach for every 40 gallons.

Step 3

You should then add water up to 4 gallons; this is your mix to use. Next check that the water is drained and close any drains, water lines, or plugs. The last step of this stage is to utilize a drill pump and hosepipe to add your solution to your water system.

Step 4

Now you need to refill all of your water tanks. When they are completely full you should turn on all of the hot and cold taps until you start to smell the bleach from each of them. When you do, switch all of the taps off.

Step 5

It is vital that you remember to refill your tanks to full so that the solution can reach every part. Now it is time to take a break and allow your water system to sit for twelve hours. It is essential that you allow it to properly sanitize – some folks don’t drink the water from their RV so they cut the time. This is inadvisable, as you are still likely to use the RV’s water system to give water to your pets, brush your teeth, shower, etc.

Step 6

When the twelve hours are complete, you can unplug the water tank, open all of the plugs, drains, and valves and completely drain your water system again. Once it is drained you need to flush the bleach by refilling your tanks and draining again. Monitor your taps until the smell of bleach is totally gone – this might need to be performed several times to get the desired effect.

Your water system will now be sanitized and ready for use for the coming months!

People Also Ask

Using bleach can be tricky and scary in particular for newbie RVers. Therefore, to clear out any general questions and queries regarding bleach and RV tanks, we have answered some frequently asked questions.

Here are some questions that RV’ers often ask about the use of bleach and RVing.

Is Bleach Bad for RV Holding Tanks?

It is understandable that some folks might be concerned about bleach doing some damage to their RV holding tanks. The fact is that using this method to sanitize is accepted and considered safe. As long as you follow the instructions described above, all will be good. It is particularly important to get a mix of bleach and water correct before you add it to your water system.

You also have the option of flushing out your tanks several times with water to lose any trace of bleach and potential damage to your system. Typical measurements will be 360ml (roughly 1 and 1/2 cups) added to 24 liters (6 gallons) of water to be used in a 227 liter (60 gallons) RV water system.

Some people have had success with using baking soda or vinegar to flush and sterilize their water system. They are not considered as effective or reliable as chlorine. They can however be considered as an option if you still fear that your RV holding tanks might sustain damage due to bleach.

How Much Bleach is Needed to Sanitize RV Fresh Water Tank?

There is something of a difference of opinion about how much bleach is needed to sanitize your RV’s freshwater tank. The most recent figures attributed to RVIA.org (pre-COVID-19 pandemic) from 2019 suggest that over 25 million Americans intended to travel by RV during spring and summer. That is bound to attract a wide variety of opinions.

We consider the mixes of bleach and water that we use to be well tested and reliable. We recommend 1 and ¼ cup of bleach mixed into 5 gallons of water as the perfect ratio to add to an RV tank sized at 50 gallons. Similarly, a bigger tank of 100 gallons should have a mix of 2 cups of bleach added to 8 gallons of water.

Sanitizing your RV’s water system is always important as the cost is negligible and the process is straightforward. Is it worth taking a potential risk with your health? Stale water can attract all kinds of nastiness. Water can develop an odor over time and bacteria, slime or mold can form in your tanks.

As mentioned earlier you should put together a schedule of every six or three months depending on how often you use your RV. If you follow the instructions that we suggested, using bleach as a way to sanitize is a reliable and safe way to solve these issues.

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