Your RV’s black tank can be a stinky subject. Maintenance of this tank is one of the most misunderstood areas of your RV. The black tank is simply used to store your toilet waste. This tank takes a bit more effort to maintain than your grey or fresh water tanks. If maintenance is done properly this tanks will provide you with years of trouble free performance.
Solids in the black tank are what make maintenance of this tank the most difficult of all the tanks. The solids, which can accumulate in the black tank, tend to plug the drain valve and accumulate along the tank sidewalls quite easily. You should always use proper black tank chemicals to help aid in the decomposing of these solids. If left untreated the tank will build up with sludge. This build up restricts the proper drainage when flushing the tank. Once this sludge builds up on the inside of your tank the odor is extremely difficult to control and may not go away without replacing the tank.
There are several different types of black tank chemicals on the market. Some of them deodorize, some help decompose, while others do both. These additives come in liquid, dry powder and drop-in pouch type. They come in large containers or pre-measured amounts. Do not use common household chemicals. The use of these non-RV products can have adverse effects when used in combination with RV solutions. The Black Tank is definitely not an area of the RV we would like to see explode.
Many people recommend enzyme-based chemicals, which use live bacteria to breakdown and digest the odor causing waste. Other people like the more traditional formaldehyde type chemicals. There has been a lot of controversy on this subject. Formaldehyde has taken a lot of heat in recent years, but from what I have found there is quite a bit of hype with very little substance. Some people state that formaldehyde hinders with the performance of biological sewage treatment systems. I have researched this topic extensively and found that if used properly, formaldehyde will NOT adversely affect these systems. Between the two types, formaldehyde has proven to do a better job in controlling odors and does at least as good a job of breaking down solids.
A couple of times a year you will want to flush your tank. This can be done with a hose attached to a tank cleaning spray wand. You place the wand through the toilet into the tank while holding open the flush valve. The wand allows you to rinse down the tank and sidewalls when draining the tank. If you are lucky enough to have a flushing system built into the tank, then the entire procedure is much easier.
Black Tank additives should be included with a few gallons of water following the draining of your black tank. You want to make sure there is an inch or so of water covering the bottom of the tank prior to reusing it. This liquid layer will help prevent solids from building up on the bottom of the tank and aid in the breakdown process.
Tank chemicals need to be replenished every few days or so according to the label to stay effective. Outdoor temperature can also shorten the life span of these additives. This routine should be repeated throughout the entire camping season until you flush your tank and prepare your RV for winter storage.
With just a little extra work on your part, your black tank can do its job without raising a big stink about it.
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