RV toilet maintenance is a topic that can intimidating, especially for first-timers, but it's important to understand how to properly sustain an RV bathroom (and black tank) in order to avoid any embarrassing, messy or costly situations.
Of the multiple RV toilet types, gravity-fed units are the most common, with a black tank positioned beneath the throne for a simple plumbing path. In this blog post, we'll offer tips for keeping these toilets operating smoothly — with limited scents and surprises.
WASTE, WATER AND TISSUE ONLY
There should be only three things filling the black tank: waste, water and tissue. Dispose of items such as wipes or feminine care products in the trash can, not down the toilet. These products do not dissolve and will cause your black tank to fill up much faster than it should. Keep a covered trash can (it helps with potentially unpleasant smells) near the toilet for disposing of all additional items.
USE PLENTY OF WATER
An easy defense for buildup, clogs or difficulty draining a black tank is to use plenty of water each time you flush. RV toilets are not as efficient as household toilets and can take up to twice the volume of water per flush, so don't be stingy. Doing so will help to rinse the tank and pipes clean, preventing the "pyramid effect." Using additional water will also help encourage flow during drainage.
WHEN IS THE BLACK TANK FULL?
Many newer RVs are equipped with black tank sensors, alerting owners when the tank is full. However, sometimes these sensors are faulty or the unit isn't equipped with the technology. A quick way to recognize full black tank is to depress and release the foot pedal of the toilet, checking for water bubbles or backsplash; if either are present, this usually means the wastewater levels are high and the tank is due for dumping.
Depending on the number of RV occupants and water usage, the rate at which tanks are dumped will vary. Full-time RVers often develop a general schedule after the first few weeks of routine use.
INVEST IN A BLACK TANK GATE VALVE
This is a device that sits on top of the black tank and allows RVers to dump wastewater without having to remove the cap from the inlet. It also serves as a layer of protection in the event of a tank leak or pooling waste, preventing wastewater from immediately spilling out onto whomever is connecting the hose. It's an especially helpful tool when you're parked on an incline.
APPLY TANK TREATMENT CHEMICALS
Tank treatment chemicals help to eliminate toilet odors and bacteria while quickly breaking down solid waste and are available as liquids, drop-in pods or powders. When using these products, always follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.
CONSIDER RV-SPECIFIC TOILET PAPER
RV toilet paper is designed to break down quickly and easily. It's also less likely to cause clogs. Standard toilet paper can take longer to dissolve and might not be as gentle on your tank seals and gaskets, though some people still swear by them. Consider a quick-dissolving brand specific to RV toilets and save yourself the hassle of dealing with a clog. To get an idea of a brand's durability, fill a mason jar with water, place the tissue inside, shake and wait a few minutes; if it doesn't begin to dissolve or break down, it may not be best for your gravity-fed toilet .
OPT FOR AN RV BIDET
If you're looking for a different path to cleanliness, bidets offer an alternative to toilet paper, keeping your body clean and black tank free of additional waste. There are a variety of bidet attachments on the market, or you could retrofit your RV toilet with a bidet kit.