Article 6 of 9 in Series: Dumping RV Holding Tanks
Disclaimer: Before you begin, make sure to check all local laws and regulations to make sure you can legally dispose of waste at home. If you can't dump your tanks at home, please refer to our guide on Where to Dump Your RV Holding Tanks.
- Dumping at home can mean that you skip fees, lines and extra stop on your way home, but before you choose this option make sure your HOA or county allows dumping in your home cleanout.
- There are 3 major methods for emptying your RV’s tanks at home: The bucket method, maccerating, and dumping directly into a cleanout port as you would at a dumping station.
- Use caution when emptying waste directly into your home’s septic tank or cleanout because too much exposure to the air can harm the bacteria in the septic tank. There are also harmful gasses that can be fatal if inhaled.
- Stick to bacteria and enzyme treatments in your holding tanks so you don’t disrupt the bacteria in your septic tank or the city treatment plant.
RVers commonly ask the question: can you dump your RV waste at home? Is it possible to do this? Yes, and there are several ways to do it, but before you dive into this option be sure your community allows this. Many RVers have good reasons not to want to empty their tanks at dump stations, and this article will walk you through some of the benefits of and different methods for dumping your RV holding tanks at home. Keep in mind that certain techniques for dumping at home may take some additional time and effort.
Note: The only time we recommend you dump your holding tanks at home is when you have a professionally installed cleanout attached to a septic tank or city sewer system. If you are not prepared at this time to dump your holding tanks at home, refer to our guide on Where to Dump Your RV Holding Tanks for information on nearby dumping locations.
The steps in this article assume that you have access to a home cleanout valve for a septic tank or city sewer system.
Why Dump My RV Holding Tanks at Home?
People have many different reasons they’d prefer to dump at home, but let’s take a deeper look at each of those reasons and why you may also want to consider dumping at home (if you are able).
Avoiding Dumping Fees
Dump stations used to be mostly free, but after quite a bit of abuse by irresponsible RVers, many dump stations now charge a fee to dump, typically between $10-$25 per dump. Many chain locations (like gas stations and truck stops or even RVing clubs) offer an annual dump station membership that could range from $200-$1,500. The membership option might be best for full-time RVers who move around a lot, but for many weekend warriors, dumping at home to avoid either a one-time or annual fee is an attractive option.
Skip the Lines
Depending on the location of the dump station, there might be a pretty lengthy line to actually dump your waste, and sadly, not every RVer is considerate with everyone else’s time. Some people take way more time than is really necessary to finish with their dumping routine, which can mean a much longer drive home than you anticipated. By dumping at home, you skip the lines and the waiting, dump whenever you’re ready, and take as much time as you want without worrying about irritating the wrong person.
Forget the Extra Stop
If you were not on full hook-ups or at a campground that had an included dumping station, stopping at any point to dump on your way home is just a pain when you are wanting to get home, get unpacked, and prepare for the work week. Stopping to dump may seem like no big deal when you think it’s only a 15-minutes process at most, but imagine 4-5 RVs in line in front of you who will take at least 15 minutes or possibly more to dump. You could probably go eat at a sit-down restaurant before it was your turn. Waiting times at dumping stations are fickle and you never know what you will get, so you can avoid that unknown altogether by driving straight home and dumping in your home sewer cleanout.
3 Ways to Dump Your Tanks at Home
There are three common ways to dump your holding tanks at home:
- The bucket method (this works best for smaller amounts of waste)
- The macerating method (works well for any amount of waste)
- Dumping directly into your home’s septic tank or cleanout without macerating
IMPORTANT: It’s critical that you not simply empty your gray or black water tanks into your toilet. Toilets aren’t built for the volume of waste that can come from RV holding tanks. You will almost certainly experience nasty clogs if you try to dump your holding tanks into your toilet.
The Bucket Method
This method works best when you have only a small amount of waste in your RV holding tanks. We strongly recommend that you use this technique only if you have a few gallons of waste in your tanks. Since many RVers won’t want to make a trip to the dump station to dispose of just a few gallons of waste, we suspect that this is the home dumping option that most weekend warriors and overnight RVers may use most often.
- 5-gallon bucket (consider using a bucket lid with a wide-mouth spout to avoid spilling)
- Disposable rubber gloves (optional)
- Wide mouthed funnel (optional)
Get a 5-gallon bucket, and place it under the discharge line. Even if you have much less than five gallons of waste, a larger bucket is always the best technique to avoid spilling.
Open the valve slowly, and fill the bucket with waste. Opening the valve very slowly will keep the waste from splashing too much, but you still might want to plug your nose, wear a face covering, and/or wear gloves.
Close the valve when the tank is done emptying or when the bucket gets close to being full.
Unscrew the cap from the sewer cleanout.The sewer cleanout is a PVC pipe with a screw cap located above ground (normally between your house and the septic tank or your house and the city sewer).
Optional: Place a 5-gallon bucket lid with a spout on top of the bucket or place a wide-mouthed funnel in the sewer cleanout to avoid spilling and keeping things as tidy as possible during this messy process.
Carefully dump the waste into your cleanout port (septic or city sewer).
Note: If your septic tank does not have a cleanout, you can also use an access port (use the one closest to your home), but use caution if you decide to go with this option. There are extremely dangerous gasses inside your septic tank that can be fatal if inhaled. Refer to the section below about dumping into septic tank access ports.
Repeat these steps until your gray or black water tank is empty. Don’t forget to clean and disinfect the bucket!
Caution for Dumping in Septic Access Ports
The reason you need to pour the waste into the access port that is closest to your home is because this is where the inlet baffle is located, which is where waste from your home toilet passes through before it gets to the tank itself. A baffle is something that keeps sludge (solid waste) from clogging your outlet. There is also an outlet baffle which stops the solid waste from getting to the leach field (something you never want). So if you pour on the wrong side of the baffle (the one farthest from your home), you risk clogging your tank. You also need to minimize the amount of time the lid is off your access port. Keeping it open too long can kill the bacteria that help to break down waste in your septic tank. It can also harm you if you inhale the very strong and potentially deadly gasses that accumulate in the tank.
While some sources recommend dumping into your toilet, we highly discourage this! It can very easily cause nasty clogs in your plumbing system that will ultimately lead to expensive and stressful repairs. If you do not have a septic system or accessible city sewer cleanout at your home, we recommend that you go ahead and dump your tanks at a dump station. And if the bucket option is just too up-close-and-personal for you, there are some other options available that may not be as uncomfortable.
The Macerating Method
Macerating is just a big word for crushing, so with this method you are using a special pump (a macerator) that chops the waste up into a smoothie-like consistency. The macerator pump then connects directly to a garden hose, and the macerated waste can be channeled to your home’s septic tank or cleanout port. Using a macerator and garden hose means no smelly waste in your face like with the bucket method and you don’t have to get out all your specialized dumping hose and elbow fittings. Another benefit to macerating your waste before dumping it into your septic tank is that it will help the bacteria in the septic tank to break down the added waste much faster.
Again, a lot of sources recommend funneling the macerated waste into your toilet and flushing it. However, there’s obviously a huge margin for error here, and you could end up with a ginormous mess, so we recommend that you dump your macerated waste into your cleanout port to avoid the hassle.
- RV macerator pump (these can be obtained for between $100 and $200)
- A curved extension or straight extension adapter to connect the pump to your RV (if needed)
- A CDFJ adapter to connect your macerator pump to the garden hose that will carry the waste away (some pump kits will come with this piece)
- A garden hose or accordion macerator hose (best to dedicate one hose for this use)
Connect your macerator pump to your RV’s discharge pipe.Use the hose adapter/extension if needed; sometimes this will be necessary if the discharge pipe is in a tight or crowded spot that will prevent secure connection.
Using the CDFJ adapter, connect the macerator pump to the garden hose.
Place the other end of your garden hose into your home’s cleanout.Shortening the distance that the waste must travel through the garden hose will help speed the process and not strain your pump as much, so choose the shortest hose you can find that will still reach the cleanout.
Hook up a fresh water hose to the water inlet on the macerator pump. We recommend using a garden hose that is dedicated only to supplying freshwater to black water tanks and other dumping uses.
Plug in your macerator pump, and open your RV’s discharge valve.
Turn on your macerator pump and the fresh water hose.
Note: Most macerator pump instructions will say to not leave the pump continuously running for more than 15 minutes at a time; the macerator will drain most standard tanks in about five minutes.
Rinse your black tank while the macerator is still running. The only rinsing tool you will not be able to use in this process is a backflusher, since the macerator is taking up the connection point where the backflusher would go. Consider instead a bulit-in rinser (if your RV has one) or a toilet rinsing wand.
When the water coming out of your RV is clear, turn off and disconnect everything.
Clean and store your dumping materials appropriately.
Of course, this method is a little more time consuming, and it will cost you a bit of money to obtain everything you need, but if you’re willing to put in some work, this method is highly effective for dumping at home.
Standard Dumping without Macerating
The last option for dumping your tanks at home is to dump your gray or black water tanks without macerating. As with the other options, you will be dumping into your home’s cleanout or access port (on septic systems or city sewers). This is perhaps the simplest method so far, as it only requires that you connect your RV’s black or gray water tanks to your cleanout port using your sewer hose and flush the waste out just as you would at a dump station.
Note: For step-by-step instructions on how to dump your tanks using the typical dumping tools, refer to our guide on How to Dump Your Black and Gray Water Tanks.
If you decide to use this option and you are on a septic system, you should empty waste into your home’s cleanout port slowly. If waste is added too quickly, the tank can become overloaded and push undissolved waste into your lateral line system. Also, if you are accessing your septic tank through the access lid, be careful to not disturb the scum layer too much. Dumping directly into your septic tank has the potential to be a very damaging process, so take great caution when doing it this way.
Using the Right Products Before Dumping
Regardless of which home-dumping method you use, you should always be very mindful of the treatment types you are using in your RV holding tanks because treatments containing chemicals and other substances like zinc that kill bacteria will disrupt the healthy bacteria colony in your septic tank. Putting waste into your septic system that also contains bacteria-killing substances will create a headache you don’t need, so be sure to use bacteria and enzyme tank treatments (like Unique RV Digest-It) and soaps and cleaning products that will not kill bacteria. We recommend using Unique RV Toilet Cleaner + Holding Tank Enhancer that will effectively clean the toilet bowl and also boost the bacteria in the tank rather than harm it. In addition, we recommend using Dawn Ultra dish soap for washing both dishes and hands because it is a fantastic grease-eater to keep your gray tank sensors working and won’t harm bacteria in the gray tank or in your septic system once you dump.
Even if you are dumping your tanks into the city sewer cleanout at your house, using bacteria and enzyme treatments over chemical treatments will benefit the waste treatment plant once the wastewater gets there. City treatment facilities use bacteria to break down the human waste, so any time you can opt for a treatment or cleaning product that won’t harm bacteria, it makes the process at the treatment facility that much more effective.
Dumping at home can be the easiest and cheapest way to dump your tanks, so consider doing it, especially if you have an accessible cleanout; it’s basically a free, no-line dumping station! Here’s a brief review of what we covered in this guide:
- Benefits of dumping at home:
- Ditch the dumping fees
- Skip dumping lines
- Avoid making a stop on the way home
- 3 primary ways to dump your tanks at home:
- The bucket method (this works best for smaller amounts of waste)
- The macerating method (works well for any amount of waste)
- Dumping directly into your home’s septic tank or cleanout as you would at a dump station
- Use bacteria-friendly tank treatments while camping to avoid disturbing the bacterial colonies in your septic tank or city treatment plant when you dump.
You probably feel like a dumping expert now, right? Well, there’s still a bit more information you might find valuable to become a dumping master. So read on in the next article, young grasshopper, and discover the different rinsing tools you could use to keep your RV black tank free of the annoying problems that can plague RVs.
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