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RV Hacks To Keep Your Black And Gray Tanks Flowing Smoothly


RVing is a premier way to travel the country, but it’s not without its own set of challenges. Among the technical needs, one issue that some RVers face is keeping their black and gray tanks flowing smoothly. Fortunately, a few simple hacks can help make this process worry free.

In this blog post we will detail some of our favorite tips for keeping your RV tanks in tip top shape. The process is isn’t as daunting as it seems. So whether you’re just hitting the open road for the first time or you’re a veteran RVer, be sure to read on for some helpful tips.

Guest Post by TheAdventureDetour


The Taboo Fear Of The RV Black Tank

When you start talking about RV black tanks, you quickly find that every RVer has a story. In fact, some RVers dislike or even fear dealing with RV tanks. Others have made a few RV black tank mistakes and figured things out the hard way as they went down the road.

We have talked to some weekenders and part-time RVers that don’t use their toilets at all to be able to avoid the black tank. The truth is that we were also a little nervous the first time we had to use and dump our RV black tank. But as full-time RVers, there was no choice for us. We needed to just dive in and figure out how to keep things moving smoothly. What we found was that by learning the right way to use and maintain our RV tanks, they were no big deal at all!

4 Biggest RV Black Tank Mistakes

Let’s dive into the most common tank mistakes that RVers make so you can avoid having any issues. By skipping these mistakes, you are already on your way to being an RV tank pro on your next trip!

1) Leaving The Black Tank Open

Leaving the black tank open not only causes frequent tank clogs, but it can also lead to increased odor outside on the sewer side of your RV. If you have camping neighbors nearby on your sewer side, they will be extremely thankful if you keep your black tank closed. If you have ever been eating outside when a camping neighbor has dumped tanks, then you know exactly what I mean!

What is a poo pyramid, and how can this problem lead to a clogged RV black tank? You never want to leave your RV black tank open while camping. When the black tank is left open, only the liquids run out leaving solid waste behind. Your tank’s solids tend to stay in the tank right underneath the toilet and build up if there is no liquid. 

After a time, the solids keep building up until they form a pile, also known as the poo pyramid, which often results in a clogged tank. It’s important to keep the black tank closed until it is time to dump. Keeping the tank closed allows the liquids to stay with the solids as they break down, allowing them to all flow out together when you dump tanks.

Note that the RV gray tank can usually be left open. Leaving the gray tank open when taking showers and doing laundry can help to prevent overflowing the tank. We almost always leave the gray tank open while we are camping. Sometimes campgrounds have extensive sewer odor or issues with the campground sewer system backing up. In those rare cases, we will keep the RV gray tank closed until we need to dump the tanks.


2) Not Using Enough Water

A very common mistake that we also made when we first started RV traveling, is not using enough water in our RV black tank. The best thing you can do to keep RV tanks flowing smoothly is using lots of water for each toilet flush. You never want your RV blank tank to be dry or to end up with too many solids compared to liquid in the tank.

For families traveling with kids, it can be an adjustment for kids to learn how long to hold the foot pedal down on each flush. We hit the road when our girl just turned six, and we quickly realized that her RV toilet pedal flushes were so quick that not nearly enough water was being used. We taught her to hold the foot pedal down for at least 3 seconds by singing a little song before lifting her foot.

3) Using The Wrong Toilet Paper

Some RVers think that it’s necessary only to use RV toilet paper in the RV toilet. If you fall into this RV toilet paper camp, you may be happy to learn that using RV toilet paper is optional. We started using RV toilet paper on our first trip out, but quickly found it wasn’t necessary. This was welcome news since RV toilet paper is often thin and a bit scratchy!

However, it is helpful to use septic-safe toilet paper to ensure that the paper breaks down well in your RV black tank. The great part about septic-safe toilet paper is that it is cheaper and much softer than RV toilet paper. Plenty of water per flush is still key for a happy black tank, no matter what toilet paper you use.

Our family’s favorite septic-safe toilet paper is Scott Comfort Plus. It is single-ply toilet paper but is thicker and softer than RV toilet paper. We have also used Kirkland septic-safe toilet paper from Costco. If you doubt whether a septic-safe paper dissolves well, don’t be afraid to put a few pieces in a glass of water and swirl it around a bit. The paper should dissolve fairly quickly in the glass.


4) Dumping The Black Tank Too Often

Even when you leave your RV black tanks closed until it is time to dump, it’s still possible to get clogs if you dump too often. Black tanks often need to have enough volume in the tanks to help force the waste out. Gravity is always your friend when dumping tanks, but it also helps to wait until the tank is about 2/3 full before you dump. It all comes back to always using enough water to keep the black tank running smoothly.

Sometimes RVers dump too often because they aren’t sure if the tank is getting too close to being full. Knowing exactly when to dump tanks can be a bit of a learning curve because it’s easy for tank sensors to be dirty and not accurately display the tank level. If you are looking for a product to use to help clear tank sensors, Unique Sensor Cleaner is a great tank sensor cleaning solution. 

After a few trips in your RV, you will also get a feel for how many days it takes your family to fill the black tank. As much as you want to have enough waste in your tank before dumping, you also want to avoid waiting too long and ending up with a big mess.

RV Tank Treatment Products

One way to help prevent tank clogs is to use an RV tank treatment product. Tank products that contain natural enzymes can help break down solids and keep things flowing smoothly. Our favorite toilet tank product is Unique’s RV Digest-It. This product comes in a liquid or a powder and not only helps break down tank solids, but it also helps with tank odor. We are all about using a 2-in-1 product to save money and space in our RV. 

Tips To Deal With RV Tank Odors

When most people smell foul odors inside of an RV, most automatically think the odor is coming from the black tank. What if I told you that RV gray tank odors can also smell just as bad? It’s true! 

When food bits travel down your RV kitchen sink, they often collect inside the gray tank and begin to decompose. Some of these food bits actually stay in the tank after dumping. This rotting over time can smell horrid and rival any black tank smell. 


The best way to avoid RV gray tank odor is to keep food bits out out your drain. Plus you don’t want to end up with any gray tank clogs. RVs don’t have garbage disposals like in a home kitchen so it’s important to put all food bits in the trash. Then by using a sink drain screen, you can also keep the smaller bits from going down the drain.

Many RVers treat the toilet and black tank for odors with tank treatment products but forget about the gray tank. A great way to stay on top of odors for both tanks, as well as help break down any tank solids that make it down the drain, is to use a tank enzyme product like Unique. 

After we dump tanks, we add some enzyme treatment into both tanks and add some water. It is important to never have dry tanks. Keeping a little bit of water in the tanks at all times and using a natural tank treatment, really help to keep things moving smoothly and odor free.

Oder Free RV Tanks

Another way to help keep RV odor down is to do regular tank flushes. If your RV doesn’t come with a tank flushing system, you can add an RV tank flushing wand on your own. Regular tank flushing helps to keep solids from building up as well as helping to prevent odors.

If you have tried everything and still can’t seem to solve the mystery of tank odors, look on your roof. RV tanks have roof vents that prevent tank gasses from entering your RV. Sometimes these roof vents get clogged with debris or even wasp nests and the tank gasses aren’t able to effectively escape. When you do your regular RV roof checks, it’s also helpful to inspect your tank vents for any obstructions.

These tips will help to keep your black and gray RV tanks flowing smoothly so that you can enjoy your next trip without any worries! Just remember to never leave the black tank open, use enough water, and only use septic safe toilet paper. If you want an extra layer of protection against clogs and odor, consider using RV tank treatment enzymes. With these simple tips, you can enjoy your next trip as an RV tank pro!

For a few more resources on RV water tanks, check out our additional blog posts:

Shopping for a new or used RV to hit the road in? La Mesa has an incredible selection to meet your needs. Stop in and check them out today!

Scott, his wife Van, and their 12-year-old daughter Sissy have traveled full-time in their RV for 7 years. They have worked and homeschooled on the road through 42 states so far. They blog about RVing tips, travel destinations, and the full-time RV lifestyle on their blog, They are also RV content creators @theadventuredetour on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. They love connecting with RVers so be sure to reach out to them and say hi!