Traveling with your RV’s holding tanks
What should you be doing with your RV’s holding tanks when you’re traveling? This article goes over best practices to keep your frustration level down, your tanks healthy, and problems minimized.
You know how to take care of your RV’s holding tanks at the RV park, but what do you do when you’re on the road? Keeping your holding tanks healthy and free from problems while you’re traveling requires just a bit of thought and planning. Here’s what you need to know.
Empty and flush, flush, flush.
You probably know this already, but the first step when traveling from one RV park to another (or, even, back home) is to empty your RV’s holding tanks. Be sure to get them as full as you can (90% to 100%) with waste and water (add more water to raise the level to full) and then empty them into the RV park’s waste sewer system, either at your site or a dump station (review the correct dump station etiquette).
After that, be sure to flush out both tanks — black and gray. Your onboard rinse system may help for the black tank, but almost no RV has this for the gray tank. A better solution for flushing and rinsing is the Valterra Flush King Back Flush Valve, something we use every time we do professional cleanings for our customers.
Now that the tanks are empty and flushed out….
It’s time to fill those tanks back up again, at least a little bit.
Assuming you are able to dump your holding tanks at your next destination (like another RV park or resort) or along the way (maybe close to your home if that’s where you’re going and you have no dump facilities there), it’s a good idea to travel with some fresh, clean water in your holding tanks (both black and gray).
Depending on your holding tank capacity, dump three (for smaller tanks) to five (for larger tanks) gallons into each tank, either through your black tank spray system (this may take up to 15 to 20 minutes) or (the faster way!) by dumping a bucket of water down your toilet and shower and/or galley drain.
Why do we add back in water?
That three to five gallons of water in your tank helps to loosen up waste as you travel with your RV. There’s really not enough agitating motion to break up mounds, clogs, or clumps, but you may get one final rinse while you’re off onto your next adventure.
We also recommend that you put four ounces or one-half cup of our special Tank Cleaning Solution into both tanks. You already know not to use enzymes, harsh chemicals, or biological agents — those just make matters worse. The solution we recommend can be made cheaply, helps to keep your sensors reading properly, and minimizes odors. Get the recipe for the solution by clicking here.
What to do when you get to your destination.
If you’re off to another RV park or resort, the first thing you do after getting set up is empty those tanks one more time. Sure, you’re just dumping out (relatively) clean water, but it’s a good practice to get into and anything loosened while traveling won’t be sitting around in your tanks for a few days.
When the tanks are empty, be sure to “prime the system” by once again dumping three to five gallons of fresh, clean water into each tank. This gives the tanks a fighting chance and helps to increase the water:waste ratio.
Jim Tome, Owner
Hi, I'm Jim Tome and, along with my wife, Debbie, the owners of Kleen Tank LLC, the national leader in RV holding tank cleaning service. We've been RVers like you since 2004 and have traveled all over the U.S. in our Airstream travel trailer. We started the business about twelve years ago and have cleaned tens of thousands holding tanks in thousands of RVs. From tiny weekend travel trailers to monstrous fifth wheels to luxurious motorhomes, I've seen just about every situation there is with RV holding tanks and waste systems. I hope you enjoy our articles; I try to post at least one per week and we've got a great library of them to cover just about every problem. Enjoy!
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