RV Tank Talk

Back of Micro Lite camper under Love's gas station overhang.

This post is going to be about our travel trailer’s sewage system. I will be describing our philosophy, our handling of the grey and black tanks – not literally, but figuratively, of course. So, if you don’t have any interest in these matters, I’m just letting you know, you may not get anything out of this post, except for the crappy jokes. Ha ha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.

To start, let me tell I am certifiably NOT an expert. Everything I know or don’t know was taught to me by RV sales people, friendly RV camp neighbors, YouTube, and/or the School of Experience from which I’ve received many alerts and notifications. I’ll share what I know, what I’ve learned, even the mistakes we made. I see questions quite often in Facebook groups about the grey and black tanks, so maybe my post will help somebody sometime.

First, while I know many operate differently, we do not put solids in our black tank. We have lots of good reasons. Please don’t try to change my mind on this, and I won’t try to change yours. Just accept our choice, and know, even as it is, you may still find helpful information in this post. If not, you get your money back.

Yellow rose.

Let’s deal with the grey tank first. For newbies, the grey tank receives waste water from the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink and the shower. Most of the time, when we camp, we have full hook ups, and we always leave the grey tank open. That way, we can shower until the water runs cold, and we don’t have to worry if our indicators are accurate , and we don’t have to worry about emptying the grey tank.

This has worked just fine. I do try to put any large kitchen scraps in the trash can, rather than letting them go down the drain. In my mind, this prevents a possible “scrap pile pyramid” in the grey tank. We’ve had no issues so far, and knock on wood, I hope I didn’t just jinx myself. Bottom line, with regards to the grey tank, it’s pretty black and white.

Now the black tank. Things are not so clear here. At least, it wasn’t for us in the beginning. For the first couple years (yes, a couple years), we left the black tank open all the time, since we were not supplying raw material for the “proverbial poop pyramid.” For newbies, that’s when poop, for lack of a less disgusting word, accumulates in the tank, forms a pyramid over time, and in time solidifies like petrified rock. Then you got big problems.

Red flower with yellow tips.

Since we don’t put solids down there, we thought we were golden. However, after a year and a half with our travel trailer, we had “Tissue Issues” when in Michigan. We thought it was because we didn’t have full hook ups and didn’t use enough water. However, when our camping season began this year, we noticed a ton of toilet tissue coming out of our black tank system on our first trip out. This gave a whole new meaning to the term “shake down trip.”

It seems, while we weren’t creating the dreaded “poop pyramid”, we were creating a sort of “rising golden triangle of toilet tissue.” So we have learned, we weren’t so smart.

So now, even with full hook ups, we do keep the black tank closed. And every three days or so, we empty it. And then, we do something else we didn’t do for two plus years.

A black tank flush.

Yes, that’s right, it was the beginning of our third year of having a travel trailer before we thought to do the black tank flush. Hey, don’t judge! There was a lot to learn! Now, like the hokey pokey at wedding receptions, we gather around the tanks every time.

So, here’s our whole process now with the black tank. About every three days or so, we open the black tank valve, and let the water run out until it stops. With the blank tank valve open (and remember the grey tank valve is already open, too), we start the black tank flush. We “quick connect” the hose to the black tank flush opening, and let it run for at least ten minutes.

Once the water runs clear, we “quick disconnect” the hose from the black tank flush opening, and close the black tank valve.

Now, we probably wouldn’t have to do the black tank flush every time we open the black tank valve. We probably could get by with doing the black tank flush at the end of each trip. However, after the water runs for a while, we do see additional pieces of toilet tissue coming through. Since we use “quick connect” hose adapters, it’s an easy job to do. Plus, once we’re done, everything feels nice and clean, and we’re good for several more days.

View of back of Micro Lite travel trailer and Ford Expedition.
And that’s how we roll.

25 comments

  1. Great post! We also flush our black tanks (we have 2 bathrooms) everytime we dump, just to be safe and like you said, it doesn’t take long to do. We recently discovered quick connects and we LOVE them! Thanks again for the informative post! Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow all of that stuff is new information for me. So you’re saying you go to the campground provided bathroom for depositing your solids? We made an RV site reservation at the place in Gold Canyon, AZ, where we have rented a park model in 2021 and 2020. I guess means we have to buy an RV!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good morning! Congratulations that you’ll be buying an RV! We love having our travel trailer! I’m excited for you. Yes, we use the campground’s bathroom for our morning’s constitution. In our 2 1/2 years, this has not been an issue. It’s good to be a planner for RV site reservations. We are already planning and booking 2022. Plans can sometimes change, and we can always scale back if need be (for a small fee), but it’s really hard to add when the time is close – especially if weekends are involved. I’m looking forward to reading your posts about your RV and your travels. If I can answer any questions or give my opinion, I am happy to do so. Enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Before we started doing the black tank flush, we did step on the toilet’s pedal, and let it run for a couple minutes. That did rinse out the sewer hose, but apparently, it didn’t get our all toilet tissue though (since we had left the black tank open.) I am glad you read my posts, and I hope they bring back good memories for you. Enjoy your day!

      Like

  3. Interesting post. We also have some experience with the sewage tanks on our travel trailer and I can’t resist adding my two cents.

    First, believe it or not, there are critters that can live in the sewers. Other than the expected disgusting insects, rats and snakes can be down that pipe too. Leaving the valve open invites a visit so I never leave ours open.

    Second, toilet paper is worse than any other kind of solid deposited in the black tank. We’ve found that RV toilet paper is worth the extra expense.

    Third, we flush our tanks when possible. We have a hose specifically for that purpose. We use the water source at the dump station. Don’t use a potable water spigot, especially the one at the campsite. Not all are equipped with a back flow devise. Yuck!

    Finally, we clean our tank while we drive. When we know we can dump at our next stop, we will fill the black tank about 1/3 full, then add a large squirt of dawn dish soap and a 1/2 cup of Borax laundry detergent. The trip down the highway agitates the tank like a washing machine.

    Hope this is helpful. Safe travel and avoid those crappy days. 😜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great info! I always appreciate your two cents – it’s worth a million bucks!

      I hadn’t ever thought about critters. Too bad you mention this two plus years ago. 🙂 Yikes, and you can bet your sweet bippy that blank tank will stay shut from now on.

      Sometimes we buy RV toilet paper, but occasionally we use Angel Soft. You are probably right about this.

      Your third point. We use the water source at our campsite for the black tank flush. I am not sure how much of a risk we are taking as it probably doesn’t have a back flow device. I will research this more. We make sure both grey and black are fully open before we begin.

      I really like the idea of cleaning the tank while driving down the road. I love Dawn. One traveler recommended putting Fabuloso in the toilet, but I forget when he said to do that. So, I put it in every once in a while when the tank is going to be closed a bit. It does smell good.

      We’ll try hard to avoid those crappy days as best we can! Safe travels to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! Yes, all of us live and learn with our RV’s. We deal with these things a wee bit differently, and have always learned lots from friendly neighbours at RV parks and camp sites. Something we do when we have full hook-up is, like you, leave the grey tank open most of the time. We also leave the black tank closed. When it’s time to flush the black tank, we close the grey tank for a couple of days and then use the bypass to flush the black tank with the grey water. We also always use RV toilet paper and those pucks you drop down the toilet, and have never had an issue with paper build up … so far, anyways. (Also don’t want to jinx ourselves lol) Another tip we learned was before leaving on a trip, to put a bit of dawn dish soap down the sink drains and follow it with water so the grey tank sloshes and cleans as we drive down the road. This then adds some soapy water the first time we flush the black tank with the grey water. We also try to avoid solids in our black tank, but sometimes this can’t be avoided because we occasionally do dry camping en route to our destination. Again, no issues to date with any build-up. Fingers crossed that we stay lucky in that area.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the idea to put Dawn dish soap down the drains and allow it to slosh as we drive down the road. I hadn’t thought of doing this before – and to include the grey tank in this. Thanks for the info and your comment, and I hope you will stay lucky in this area, too. I think you will. 🙂 Enjoy your Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for an informative post. So far, we haven’t had any problems with either of our tanks. (We rarely have full hookups when we travel.) I probably just jinxed us, LOL. Kenn has gotten in the habit of doing a black tank flush every time we dump. I think we’ll give the tip about putting Dawn and water in the black water tank and letting it “agitate” while we travel the next time we hit the road.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I like that tip about Dawn, too. It’s nice we can all learn from each other. Thanks for reading and your comment. Safe travels!

      Like

  6. Quite a post. Glad you have a routine that works for you. We also have a routine and not to brag, but we have never had an issue with a clogged tank since we went full time. Nor have we ever had an issue with a sensor not reading correctly. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are lucky! We have not had an issue with a sensor, but I have heard about issues with them. So far, our sensors seem to be working find. We did have a tissue issue as you may remember, but hopefully that is all “behind” us now. 🙂 Enjoy your day!

      Like

    • I have read the “pun” is the lowest form of humor, but I am not so sure. I would put bathroom/potty humor on the bottom. 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed reading my post. Thank you for reading and your comment. Enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I like to read travel blogs like yours. I learn so much and am constantly adding to my list of places to visit! Safe travels, and enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

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