This section doesn’t currently include any content. Add content to this section using the sidebar.

Image caption appears here

Add your deal, information or promotional text

Answers To Common Questions About RV Holding Tanks

  • 9 min read

Below is an excerpt from a training video that we offer store associates to help answer the commonly asked questions about RV holding tank problems. There is some good information here that may be valuable to you as well as our fellow RVers who are struggling with common RV tank issues.

Since many of you likely have questions regarding our line of products and holding tanks in general, we wanted to take a few minutes to go over a few of these questions in advance. Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll have a good arsenal of answers that can help you connect customers with the right products and also help you deepen your knowledge of tank treatments.

Before we start, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to help! Contact us here for help. Let’s jump in!

Typically, you’ll run into a few of the same questions over and over when customers come in with holding tank issues:

  1. How do I get rid of holding tank odors?
  2. How do I fix my sensors, because they read “full” all the time?
  3. What type of toilet paper should I be using?
  4. How do I fix a clog in my black and gray water holding tanks?

Obviously, there are other questions you’ll run into, but these are the most common, so we’ll answer them one by one.

How Do I Get Rid of Holding Tank Odors?


To answer this question, it helps to know why your customers have holding tank odors. Tank odors can result from improperly working equipment (like exhaust systems or seals), improper use (like pouring things into the tank that only increase odors or using the toilet improperly), or improper treatment (like not using good treatments). Let’s go over each these.

Exhaust Systems and Seals

RV holding tanks work fairly similarly to your own home. The waste goes down the drain and hopefully into the sewer, and all of the smelly and dangerous sewer gas exits from exhaust pipes on your roof. If there is improper exhaustion from the top of the RV, smells can back up down into the RV. This is usually because of faulty exhaust equipment. To remedy these issues, you may need to sell your customers exhaust fans or steer them towards a siphon system that uses wind to draw the gasses up and out of the RV, dispersing the gasses into the air and not into the RV.

RV toilets also have a seal that keeps the gasses from seeping into the RV through the toilet, and you’ll want to make sure your customers maintain the seals and keep them in good working condition.

Improper Use

Like we mentioned earlier, RV toilets are similar to toilets in your home in terms of their exhaust systems; however, they aren’t similar when it comes to the flow of water. Your home toilet has a trap of water that creates a barrier, which stops dangerous and foul sewer gasses from seeping into your home. An RV toilet won’t have a trap, but keeping a small amount of water in the toilet bowl is the easy solution. Simply add a few inches of water to suppress any foul gas that may sneak past the toilet seal and stink up the RV.

One of the common issues people run into is putting improper items down the toilet. Doing so can kill the beneficial bacteria that keep the system operating correctly. This is really important to understand!

Tank odors can exhaust from the roof or be suppressed by the tank seals, but let’s go a bit deeper and talk about the actual source of the smell: the poop itself!

Why are there odors in the tank in the first place? There are odors because, when you go to the bathroom, your body releases its waste along with naturally occurring bacteria from your stomach, and it ends up in the holding tank. These bacteria digest the waste. Our waste contains two types of bacteria:

  • Aerobic. This kind of bacteria need oxygen in order to survive.
  • Anaerobic. This kind of bacteria does not require oxygen in order to survive.

Both kinds of bacteria are present in our bodies and thus, in our tanks. Ideally, we want more aerobic bacteria and less anaerobic bacteria in our tanks. The reason for this is that both types of bacteria go to work digesting the solid waste inside your tanks to liquefy the contents so they can flow easily out of your tank and into the sewer lines; however, aerobic bacteria exhaust only carbon dioxide and water, which means no smells and no clogs!

Great, right? Well, unfortunately anaerobic bacteria have no oxygen to work with, so they can’t exhaust carbon dioxide and water like their aerobic counterparts. They instead feed on sulfate and produce smelly hydrogen sulfide. This is the primary cause of foul tank odors.

Treating Systems

So, now that you know why tanks smell. How do your customers treat their systems to solve this? It’s actually pretty simple. All they need to do is add more aerobic bacteria to force out the anaerobic bacteria. That way, smells won’t persist.

The best way to do this is to treat your tank with a product that both adds high concentrations of aerobic bacteria and also feeds the naturally occurring aerobic bacteria from your stomach. Bacteria are living organisms that will reproduce as long as there is a food source (your waste), water, and oxygen. So, there is no reason to treat them only by adding more bacteria. Certainly, this is an important part of the solution, because your body produces a lot of anaerobic bacteria and we want to force them out. All the same, your body also creates a lot of aerobic bacteria, and we want to promote and grow those. That way, waste will get broken down, and odors won’t be present.

This is where Unique RV Digest-It Plus is your clear winner. Not only does this product have incredibly high concentrations of active bacteria, but it’s a very specific blend of the right kinds of bacteria to ensure the fastest and most effective odor elimination. It also contains vital nutrients that promote and grow the bacteria colonies in your tanks, so your billions of good bacteria turn into trillions of bacteria and solve your waste and odors problems.

Additionally, it costs less than $1 per dump in most applications!

Plus, Unique RV Digest-It Plus is completely safe for septic systems and sewer lines. In fact, your septic system works off of the same bacteria, so campgrounds where RVers are using only RV Digest-It Plus are literally boosting their septic systems every time customers dump their tanks!

On the contrary, when customers dump formaldehyde products into their septic systems, they get the opposite result. Instead of digesting the waste, formaldehyde products literally preserve the poop, toilet paper, and pee! How gross and worthless is that? Why would you preserve that waste when you can digest it and let it flow out into the sewer or septic correctly? To add to that, formaldehyde products are also known carcinogens and have huge amounts of fragrance to help conquer the smells created by their preserved bricks of poop. Think, a nasty Porta Potty! This is formaldehyde at work! Smells mixed with overpowering fragrances. It’s pretty awful.

So, simply put, steer your customers towards Unique RV Digest-It Plus if they’re looking for a real solution at an affordable cost. They will love you for being the one who finally guided them to a product that works instead of the same old junk they’ve been using forever and does nothing but fill their RV with strong fragrances! They can use RV Digest-It in their black tanks to digest human waste, and they can use it in their gray tanks to digest all of the greases and oils that accumulate from sinks.

Other Maintenance Tips

It’s also imperative that RV users keep their holding tank valves closed until they dump. If they don’t, all of the liquid will run out into the sewer line, leaving the solid waste to accumulate in the bottom of the tank. Eventually, this will clog the toilet. Remember that bacteria require waste (their food), oxygen, and water to survive? Well, if you allow all of the liquid to run out the tank, there is no water left. Thus, all the bacteria will die, which means that they won’t be digesting that solid waste and paper. Clogs are bound to happen!

The last thing we’ll touch on here is the importance of not killing the bacteria colonies in our tank. For some of you, all of this bacteria talk has probably made your stomach turn, but the simple reality is that we are discovering more and more how important bacteria are. It’s why we drink kombucha, take probiotics, and eat yogurt! In order for our tanks to work properly, they need flourishing bacteria. However, we often do everything we can to kill that bacteria! Here are some things that should not be put into holding tanks!

  1. Antibacterial hand soaps.
  2. Antibiotics in our bodies.
  3. Tea tree oil.
  4. Sink and toilet chemical cleaners.

All of these things kill the bacteria. You basically begging for backups and odors! Think about it: you now understand the importance of bacteria in your tank, yet we clean our toilets with bleach and harsh chemicals? That has to stop! You must be cleaning your toilets with anti-bacterial cleaners. For a full list of chemicals to avoid, view this article here.

Or… you can take the next step and recommend Scrub-It! This RV toilet cleaner actually cleans with bacteria. So, not only do you have sparkling toilets, but you're treating your holding tank with every flush! We highly recommend that you train your customers to understand the damage they are doing by adding chemicals to their tanks.

Guide Continued Below

sign up and save. We send out frequent discounts and promotions.

Sign Up + Save

Join our newsletter and save $5 on your next order! Plus, get exclusive members-only discounts, access to our library of downloadable guides, and insider information on new products and promotions.

Learn More

How Do I Fix My Sensors? They Read “Full” All The Time!

Funny enough, this is our most common question from customers, and you’re likely to hear it too!

Gray and black water tanks have level gauges inside of them. These gauges help users know how full their tanks are. Unfortunately, these sensors sometimes get debris from waste and residue on them, and they will read full all the time.

Thankfully, we have a solution! Unique Restore-It will clean off and restore those sensors. Full time RVers—especially those permanently parked—will love that you don’t have to drive around in order to agitate the tanks with this product.

If your customers are keeping their valve closed and are treating their tanks with RV Digest-It after each dump, they will likely never deal with a misreading sensor, so the best solution is being proactive and treating their tanks with Unique RV Digest-It Plus so they don’t ever deal with this problem. However, if they do run into this issue, Unique Restore-It is the solution!

What Type of Toilet Paper Should I Be Using?

Often people are told that they must use expensive, uncomfortable RV toilet paper. Now, if your parts manager really likes RV toilet paper, you can simply disregard this section; however, the truth is that if you are regularly treating your tank with Unique RV Digest-It Plus, you can use any brand of toilet paper! We recommend telling this to customers! It will save your customers money, allowing them to enjoy their RV that much more!

Side Note: Toilet paper of any brand is fine, but customers should never put flushable wipes, paper towels, or feminine products into their tanks. These will most certainly lead to clogs.

How Do I Fix a Clog in My Black and Gray Water Holding Tanks?

Clogs primarily occur in gray tanks due to a buildup of grease and oils. These backups are rare. Usually, odors are the main issues in gray tanks.

In black tanks, there is more potential for clogs. The major problem is backups from a thing called a pyramid plug. Pyramid plugs occur when all of the liquid runs out of the tank (from leaving the valve open all the time!), and the waste and toilet paper form a pyramid over time, until they are actually touching the bottom of the toilet. At this point, you are completely plugged!

In order to avoid pyramid plugs, you simply need to be proactive! First, tell your customer to keep their valve closed when using their RV. Second, tell them to flush ample amounts of water every time they use their toilet. Finally, tell them to treat their tank with RV Digest-It. If your customer doesn’t do these things, it’s only a matter of time before they come to you in a panic!

What if their tank is already clogged? Thankfully for them, inexpensive solution to clogged tanks: Unique Clear-It. Clear-It will open clogged tanks easily and effectively, and again, there is no driving necessary! Save your customer hundreds of dollars and the hassle of bringing their RV in for service or having a tech come to them.

But (at the risk of sounding like a broken record!) if your customer had been properly treating their tank from the get-go with RV Digest-It, they wouldn’t have to be worrying about this! Simple routine maintenance with Unique RV Digest-It Plus will enhance their RVing experience, and it will save them loads of money and hassle down the road. This simple routine maintenance is something we talk to our customers about regularly and it all fits into the bigger picture. The bigger picture being something we call The Unique Method. A simple treatment technique that we have developed for RVers to get the most out of their RVs. Learn about The Unique Method.

Well, that’s it for this training! We know there is a lot to digest here, always feel free to reach out to us if you need further clarification or have a question on something that wasn’t covered here. Again, you may contact our customer support team. Thank you for taking the time to help your customers.

Happy camping!

Trailer Icon

RV bathroom with toilet paper stacked neatly on the toilet. Unique Camping + Marine Smiling Woman Icon Campfire Icon Compass Icon Roasted Marshmallow Icon
Field Guide

Prevent Common Problems In Your Tanks!

From misreading sensors, preventing clogs, or eliminating odors, we've got you covered no matter how you camp! All our best holding tank tips and trick information plus more can be found conveniently in one place when you download our FREE Unique Method Field Guide. Achieve holding tank bliss today!

Get The Free Download