RV Holding Tank: A Few Tips for Easy Maintenance

Your RV is your pride and joy. It’s also one of your biggest investments. You’ll do anything to keep it looking fresh and running properly. Unfortunately, that means doing some dirty work.

Yep, we're talking about your holding tank. 

Even Mike Rowe would be a little hesitant to clean a black water tank. But unless you want to deal with rancid sewage smells driving down I-85, you need to flush and clean your holding tank a least a few times during your trip. 

To make things a little less, well, crappy, we’ve got a few tips for you for fast and easy tank maintenance. But first, let's talk about a couple things. 

Get to know your tanks. 

If you’re a new RV or boat owner, you should know there are two tanks in your tank — a gray water tank and a black water tank. A gray water tank collects water from showers and sinks. In it, you’ll find soap, dirt, food, and dirty bath water. You won't have to hold your nose when you're working with your gray water tank. However, your black water tank, which collects toilet water and paper, offers more of a challenge. 

You’ve heard this a million times, but maintenance is key.

If you want to keep your black water tank working properly, you need to clean it regularly — and we mean, like, really clean it. Dumping the water every few hundred miles is one thing; using a specialized chemical tank cleaner for deep maintenance is another thing. For complete tank maintenance, you need to do both. 

Alright, here are a few tips. 

1. Make sure there's water in the tank.

Before you do anything, make sure there’s a few gallons of water in the holding tank. You don’t want any 1s or 2s going into straight into an empty tank. Solids will stick to the surface of the tank and cause foul odors, making cleanup even worse. Always make sure there’s water in the tank during your trip.

2. Use pre-packaged chemicals to avoid the mess.

Now it’s time to get the tank clean. No, we don’t mean just dumping the tank and hosing down the inside. We mean complete tank treatment — using safe chemicals to break down waste and deodorize your tank before you even get to the dumping station.

Holding tank treatment comes in many different forms: liquids, powders — even packets of powders. We recommend the latter. Why? Just think about it. When you're out on the road, you're running over potholes, making sharp turns, and riding down gravel roads and hilly highways. Do you really want to try using a messy liquid cleaner or a unrestrained powder? Pack cleaners are the way to go.

We recommend Porta Pak Express holding tank deodorizers. These pre-packaged portion control packs (say that three times fast) are perfect for holding tank cleaning. No messy liquids, no bad smells, no problems.

3. Empty your tanks in the right order.

You made it through the weekend without smelling your holding tank. Now, you’re on your way back home, and you need to empty the tank one last time.

First, find an approved location to dump the waste in your holding tank. Hook one end of the hose to your black water tank and the other end to the dumping station. Make sure the hose is connected properly before you start moving the waste water. Pro tip: always empty your black water tank before your grey water tank. You can use the cleaner grey water to flush away any black water waste left in the hose.

If you have a flush valve, make sure to use it before you disconnect and get back on the road. Flushing your tank can help rinse away any buildup.

4. Fill your tank back up and add in another treatment.

You’ve emptied both tanks — congratulations! The hard part is over. Now, to get ready for the next trip, refill your tank. Flush your toilet a couple times to add a few gallons back to your black water tank. For preventive maintenance — and to stop those odors from showing up — drop in a Porta Pak.

Having access to a toilet when you’re out on the road is a luxury. To maintain that luxury, you have to take care of your holding tank. You could wait until you find a restroom, but that’s not feasible if you’re traveling miles and miles to an unfamiliar place. Take the time to take care of your holding tank. Your travel companions will thank you for it.