It’s time for our annual dive into the Girl Camper mailbag with some of our readers’ burning questions answered by our RV expert, Mark Polk. No surprise—there are lots of questions about toilets and tanks!
Does RV toilet paper really work?
RV toilet paper is basically single ply paper. There is an easy way to see if the toilet paper you use in your RV is tank friendly. Fill a glass with water and drop one piece of toilet paper in the water. Make sure it is submerged. Within a minute or so the paper should start to break down and fall apart. If it does, it is safe to use in the RV. If it doesn’t, I wouldn’t use it because it can contribute to clogging in the holding tank.
Can you pour antifreeze in the toilet?
If you camp in cold weather and the possibility exists, the wastewater in the holding tanks could freeze, so it’s a good idea to add RV antifreeze to the tanks. The amount is dependent on how much there is in the holding tanks. The last thing you want is a nearly full holding freezing, expanding, and then rupturing. The best scenario might be to have the RV plumbing system winterized and use the campground amenities when you camp in cold weather.
How often do I have to empty the RV black tank?
It’s best to empty the RV black tank when it is nearly full. There is a monitor panel in the RV that shows how much is in the holding tanks. I also try to have both the black and gray water tanks full at the end of the camping trip. If the tanks aren’t at least two-thirds full, you can add water to the black tank through the toilet, and you can add water to the gray tank using the sinks or the shower. The more that is in the black tank, the better it will empty, and the more in the gray tank will help flush the sewer hose when you empty it.
Is there a gray tank lubricant?
Yes, there is. Anywhere RV holding tank treatments are sold, you should see gray water tank treatments with lubricants. It helps with gray water tank odors and the lubricant helps prevent the rubber seals inside the waste valve from drying out.
How do you use the waste valve handles?
The first step is to wait until the black and gray water tanks are nearly full if possible. The more there is in the tanks, the better it will drain. The best method for emptying the holding tanks is to empty the black water tank first. Pull the black tank valve handle all the way out and wait until it finishes draining. Close the black water valve handle and pull the gray water handle all the way out. Draining the gray tank last helps flush the RV sewer hose out. Wait until the gray water tank finishes draining and close the valve handle.
How do you keep a cable valve from rusting?
It requires some routine preventive maintenance. When you empty the tank and the cable valve handle is pulled out, take a small tube of penetrating oil, and put a few drops at the end of the valve stem where the cable starts. Then work the handle in and out to help get the oil further down the cable. You can do this procedure every time you empty the tank, or whenever the handle seems more difficult to pull out.
Do I need more than one sewer hose?
Yes, I recommend keeping more than one RV sewer hose in your RV. Eventually you will find yourself in a position where a longer length of sewer hose is required. This applies to RV drinking water hoses, too! We have stayed at campgrounds where the utility connections were not thought out very well, and at others that needed to be updated. I have used as much as 40 feet of sewer hoses on more than one occasion.
How do I know if the RV black tank is fully flushed?
I always try to flush the RV black tank when I empty it at the end of a trip. Our RV has a built-in black tank flush, so it is not difficult to do. For several years I would flush the tank for three or four minutes and call it clean. Then I purchased a see-through RV sewer connector and the first time I used it I realized it took five to 10 minutes of flushing before the water in the hose ran clear. So, the best way to flush the RV black tank is by using a see-through RV sewer connector where it can be monitored until the tank is flushed properly.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Girl Camper Magazine.
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