Basically, there are two methods to sanitize an RV’s water tank. The simplest and most effective way is with bleach or a chlorine product, but it isn’t the best method because of the taste. There is equipment on the market to turn RV water into drinkable water without using bottled water. These units use reverse osmosis, ultra-violet light, and carbon filtration technology to purify drinking water for all RVs from small recreational vehicles like towables up to large motorhomes. However, they cost around $200 to $500 for installation and between $100 -$300 per year in operating costs. If you’re looking at these options be sure you can hook them up when traveling throughout North America as some areas don’t have the same water filtration requirements as the US.
How to Sanitize RV Water Tank with Bleach
- Secure leakproof three 32 oz. bottles of Clorox Clean-Up All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach
If you’re looking for a simple and inexpensive method to sanitize your RV’s freshwater tank, get yourself some bleach or a chlorine product, such as Aqua-Pure that has both liquid bleach and deodorizer included in one package. Mix up a solution of one part bleach (or one part liquid chlorine) to nine parts water in a clean bucket. Then pour this into the holding tanks until they are full. When you open the fill port later, you’ll smell the strong odor of bleach. The entire process can take minutes and could be completed while at an RV park before departure even if it isn’t full. The sanitizing is instantaneous.
The need to use a chlorine or bleach product in the tank depends on how much water you have used, and how much time has passed since it was refilled. Water changes are recommended at a minimum after each trip of 250 miles (400 kilometers). Such an amount of time exposed to airborne contaminants increases your risk of getting sick. Cleaning and rinsing the inside of the freshwater tank with household bleach will help prevent odors and discoloration from developing. It’s also important to remove sediment buildup on shower walls and fixtures which can harbor bacteria if left alone.
read about talkless water heaters
Explaining Why Chlorine Is Best Preservative RVers Can Use
- Protects against algae and bacteria for water that stays clean, clear and free of visible algae
- Kills all types of pool algae and kills bacteria
- Protected against sunlight to last longer
- Packaging may vary
It’s not that both aren’t good choices, but bleach is less expensive to use, and won’t leave any aftertaste. The problem with using this product in an RV or camper’s drinking water tank is that it tastes bad and leaves a smell unless the cleaning procedure is repeated every weekend. For longer trips, you can take time during your travels to sanitize the freshwater tanks with chlorine at various times. You may have to add more if you notice any odd taste, but most people don’t have problems getting used to it.
Sanitary tank fill hose
The basic idea behind either method of sanitizing the fresh water holding tank before a trip by adding liquid bleach or other sanitizers is that they kill bacteria that cause diseases like cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis. It also kills bacteria that cause odor as well as algae, mold, and mildew if it’s left in too long. The important thing is to make sure the tank is empty before you begin cleaning/sanitizing.
If you prefer not using chlorine or bleach products on your RV holding tanks, there are other methods of sanitization such as Solar Sanitation from Water Wizard In essence it uses polymer beads containing hydrogen peroxide to prevent the growth of algae, fungi, and bacteria for up to five years as long as the water is kept out of direct sunlight when stored! This method is said to be safe for pets because it does not contain any toxic chemicals but costs almost $150 for a simple 5-gallon tank and may not be as effective as the other two methods above. Always remember to make sure the freshwater tanks on your RV are empty before you start cleaning them out or using any chemical inside.
The Steps You Can Take to Make Sure Your Fresh Water Tank Is Sanitary Before Storage
Make sure the holding tank is emptied by draining it through the drain valve into an approved 110-120 volt household waste disposer. If this isn’t available, you can dump it into a larger black water holding tank which should be pumped out when traveling anyway at a dump station. Be sure that both tanks are clean from foreign material such as dirt, leaves, or food scraps that could get blown into them while driving along dusty roads.
Clean the tank with a solution of household chlorine bleach or another sanitizer, following the manufacturer’s instructions for how long to leave it in and then how much water to add after it has been drained. Dry the outside with paper towels before closing the drain valve tightly and sealing off any hoses.
Remove all shower curtains, racks, and utensils from inside since these can harbor disease-causing bacteria if left behind! The same goes for any chemicals that you have stored within this space such as detergents, toilet paper, pencils or motorcycle oil, etc. These need to be removed too before cleaning begins if possible. Any purchase will also need an anti-bacterial spray treatment added to them as well as an inspection before installation to make sure no mold or mildew has been growing there.
TIP: If you are doing this in your RV bathroom, be especially careful about leaving soap residue since it will stick to the water and prolong its chemical reaction with the chlorine/bleach solution. It’s best not to use chemical-based cleaning products when using a bleach solution for the sanitization of any holding tank!
After removing all toiletries, food scraps, and other refuse from inside the holding tank drain valve, clean thoroughly around the area with regular vinegar or household bleach if you have some available. This is an important step because bacteria can live in even the smallest cracks or crevices and grow if left behind.
Add water to about one-quarter full of freshwater, replace the cap on the drain valve, turn on the shower as well as all other faucets to create suction action and then add your sanitizing solution of chlorine bleach or any other product you desire to use according to manufacturer’s instructions for how long it should be left in. Only add enough so that it will cover a couple of inches of space at the bottom when standing upright. Don’t fill above this level!
TIP: If you are using bleach, don’t pour it directly into the holding tank since there is an air sensor built-in that won’t let anything flow out unless there is nothing in the way of it. Adding water first and then pouring bleach on top will allow you to use more if necessary without going back out to your RV each time.
When using bleach, also mix in sanitizing tablets that come in powdered form that turns into chlorine dioxide after being dissolved in a holding tank for at least 4 hours. Keeping the vent open and preferably having an exhaust fan on inside the bathroom while this is happening will help prevent any problems from occurring with noxious fumes later when opening up again. If using chlorine rinse (dichlor), use only two ounces per 10 gallons of water!
If you are unable to empty the main holding tank before starting these steps, simply add enough demineralized water until it reaches half full before starting the process. Be sure that all of this freshwater is drained out at the end of it so that it doesn’t mix with your waste!
If you are not using a holding tank, then be sure to keep about an inch or two of activated charcoal in the bottom of the toilet to help prevent foul odors from building up. Some newer motorhomes have built-in filters which can also help eliminate this problem as well. However if there will be a prolonged period without use while traveling such as over winter months, correct installation and regular flushing will help reduce smells inside as long as enough water (i.e. unused human urine) has been left within the bowl itself to dilute anything else that might drip out when not in use.
If you are traveling for longer distances or going away for a while, it’s best to clean out your holding tank especially if using any chemicals since there will be more time between uses. By taking this extra precaution, you can prevent developing an odor problem that is harder to get rid of once it has had the chance to develop and stick inside the walls of your RV holding tank which can be very difficult to remove without proper cleaning solutions.
FAQ’S for how to sanitize rv water tank
Ques. How can I make sure that my holding tank contains no bacteria?
A. After removing all toiletries, food scraps, and other refuse from inside the holding tank drain valve, clean thoroughly around the area with regular vinegar or household bleach if you have some available. This is an important step because bacteria can live in even the smallest cracks or crevices and grow if left behind. Then add water to about one-quarter full of freshwater, replace the cap on the drain valve, turn on the shower as well as all other faucets to create suction action and then add your sanitizing solution of chlorine bleach or any other product you desire to use according to manufacturer’s instructions for how long it should be left in. Only add enough so that it will cover a couple of inches of space at the bottom when standing upright. Don’t fill above this level!
Ques. Is there anything else that I can do to sanitize my holding tank?
A. If using bleach, briefly run water in all faucets as well as in the toilet and flush once until chlorine smell is no longer detectable before turning off shower head and draining remaining water out with normal water without any bleach added. Otherwise, you risk diluting everything down if adding more used water into the tank later which defeats the entire purpose of cleaning/sanitizing the first place! When using bleach, also mix in sanitizing tablets that come in powdered form that turns into chlorine dioxide after being dissolved in a holding tank for at least 4 hours. Keeping the vent open and preferably having an exhaust fan on inside the bathroom while this is happening will help prevent any problems from occurring with noxious fumes later when opening up again. If using chlorine rinse (dichlor), use only two ounces per 10 gallons of water!
Ques. What happens if I forget to turn off my holding tank valve?
A . You may end up wasting a lot of freshwaters, therefore it’s always best to remember turning off the hard rubber drain valve on top of your holding tank until you are ready to fill up again and repeat steps above without adding more bleach or chemicals then. There’s nothing worse than being several hundred miles away from home when this might happen and having to drive another hour or two just to get back since most campgrounds won’t allow dumping the water out on their premises.
Ques. How often should I empty my holding tank?
A . It’s recommended that you do this at least once every 3 months or more if going away for long periods of time depending on the frequency of use while traveling. To make things easier for yourself, mark the calendar each time you dump your holding tank to keep track of how frequently it needs doing until the next refill is required. Always check before entering a new campground that they have approved locations where you can dispose of gray/black tanks only (no sewer). Showing them copies of previous receipts from other locations will sometimes help convince them otherwise if they are still undecided about accepting your business.
Ques. How can I sanitize my toilet bowl?
A . To sanitize your toilet bowl when you first buy a new RV or remodel the bathroom, mix up a solution of 1/2 cup bleach and 16 ounces (1 pint) per gallon of cold water to pour into a bowl with a lid closed overnight to let sit for at least 12 hours without adding more liquid if any remains after this time period have elapsed leaving it for 8 more hours on top of that. If using TSP instead, use only ¼ cup in the same amount of cold water mixture as noted above then leave it in there while continuing to add hot water from the shower until you have enough to fill all the way up to the top before flushing for the first time. If you have a cat, use 2 drops per gallon of tincture of iodine instead or 1 capful if using liquid on 32 ounces (1 quart) of water).
Ques . How difficult is it to sanitize my holding tank?
A . It’s highly recommended that all new owners get some practice in before actually going out on a long trip because there are so many different variables involved with this process and the consequences can prove disastrous when taking your chances with just luck that something might not go wrong later down the road. The habits you form now will become instinctive and much safer than trying to figure things out as they come along which could result in disaster from not knowing what to do when things go wrong.
There are a lot of things to consider when using bleach to sanitize your holding tank and the critical importance of rinsing it out well afterward. Being 4 ounces per gallon is only for heavily soiled areas where you have accumulated toilet paper or other debris being in there too long as these conditions might not allow enough time for proper neutralization if adding more water that’s been sitting around from the previous usage. If this does happen, hurriedly open the drain valve outside while you quickly dump any remaining liquid still in the toilet bowl into the sink then complete a flushing cycle before exiting the bathroom followed by another rinse with clear hot water. Since this method isn’t foolproof, it’s better just to do things right the first time without taking chances because at this stage of the game, you don’t want to take any chances whatsoever when using bleach and always follow the directions on its container.