So, even though I did a ton of research and talked with other RV'ers and read blogs and all in preparation for this big change in my life, it's bound to happen that I'll learn some lessons the hard way.
Thankfully, the first newbie lesson I learned was not TOO bad, or costly, or horrible. But it could have been.
Let's talk THE BLACK TANK! For those of you not in the know, this is how they refer to the sewage tank in your rv. It's the tank where the toilet drains to and that you empty with a large flexible hose into a dump station or an rv/campground sewer trap drain.
For some reason, I assumed that while hooked up at a park to water, electric and sewer that I should just leave the grey and black tank valves open to drain anything that went into them. (Btw, the grey tank is the holding tank for the sinks and shower... non sewer things). This assumption would be a MISTAKE. While it is fine to leave the grey tank valve open to drain into the sewer trap constantly, the black tank is another story.
So here's the deal. The black tank receives, from your toilet, liquid and... um... solids. If you leave the tank open to drain, then the liquids will drain out and the solids likely will remain. The solids need time to break down and this takes both liquids AND usually some catalyst such as an enzyme or chemical. I'll mention below the one I've found that works GREAT for me. So if you don't allow this breakdown to happen, the solids will collect, and even pile up, and form a hard clay like consistency in the tank and eventually it will be clogged up and require some serious work to unclog or even tank replacement. RV'ers have coined this piling up "pyramiding". Descriptive huh?
So what I've learned:
- Keep the black tank CLOSED. I usually leave it closed for the week. Then on Saturday I close the grey tank to let grey water fill up some, then on Sunday I flush out the black tank then the grey tank so the grey water flushes out the hose.
- After flushing out the black tank, fill the toilet boil twice with water and use a tank additive to break down the solids and keep the smell down. This starter liquid with the additive will keep things breaking down and working as they should.
- Periodically it's a good idea to use a tank cleaner. Do this after emptying the tank and before you plan a trip somewhere so the movement of the RV will agitate the tank. You fill the tank about 1/2 full with water and use a commercial tank cleaner or even Simple Green (about 4 cups should do it).
With these steps you should never have a problem!
Oh, I'm sure your curious how I learned this lesson... Shortly after I got my RV I did as I described above, leaving the black tank open, no additives, etc... It was a very short couple weeks before the black tank was clogged. I had to have my buds at JohnsonRV unclog it for me... Not TOO expensive, but a cost I don't care to repeat. Thanks Johnson!!
Here's my recommendation for tank additive:
I love that this is an organic compound and it works GREAT. Also, with this you don't need to buy special expensive rv toilet paper. I just buy a septic safe toilet paper at Costco (much cheaper!) and it breaks down great.
BTW Happy Campers also makes an Extreme Cleaner tank and sensor cleaner. (Black tank sensors notoriously usually don't work, including mine, even after using this product.)
There you go! The ugly truth about black tanks and how to avoid nasty issues. Happy RV'ing!