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Preventing Clogs In Your RV Holding Tank

January 23, 2020

Avoiding and preventing clogs and backups inside my camper RV motorhome trailer fifth wheel black water toilet holding tank

There are a number of ways that clogs can form in your RV black tank, but most common of all is that people forget to or aren't in the habit of following a few simple steps to keep their RV clog free. The following simple tips will save you hours of valuable time and potentially hundreds of dollars in services fees and man hours.

How To Prevent Clogs in Your RV Black Water Tank

We get calls all the time from customers asking about this one simple issue. What it really comes down to is habits. Making sure that you are following the correct steps to ensure you don't get clogs. The biggest mistake by far that people make is leaving their black tank valve open. This alone is the culprit for 50% of peoples clog and odor issues. The other 50% comes from not using enough water, and or using an RV tank chemical that is counter productive.

What is a pyramid plug and how do they happen in my RV camper trailer motorhome black water toilet tank

When you leave your black tank valve open, any liquid inside your holding tank that was helping to break down the waste and cover the odors drains out and all that you're left with is the solid waste. This is how most Pyramid Plugs are formed. For those of you who don't know what a pyramid plug is, it's a pile of poop that has piled up inside your tank and can be one of the most difficult issues to fix without the right tools. Many people don't realize that their black water holding tank is most likely flat across the bottom. This means that if there isn't a large amount of water for your poop and toilet tissue to fall into, it's just landing on the bottom of the tank, eventually building up into a pyramid. Graphic, we know. But also a HUGE problem for far too many RVers who have been improperly instructed to leave their black tank valve open.

You may be one of these campers who habitually leave your black tank valve open and you've never experienced any problems. First, you're lucky! Second, our experience helping hundreds of frustrated RVers deal with clogs tells us that you're sitting on a ticking time bomb and it's probably only a matter of when you finally experience a clog, pyramid plug, or back-up. We highly suggest you change this habit while you're still ahead!

Basic Techniques For Avoiding Clogs In Your RV Black Water Holding Tank (make sure you read the FULL RULES at the bottom of this blog post)

  1. Close your black tank valve until you need to dump!
  2. Use a bacteria-based waste digester - Like RV Digest-It Holding Tank Treatment (more on this later)
  3. Use plenty of water when you are using your RV toilet - This helps to control odors and keep waste from re-solidifying or caking the inside of your tank.
  4. Never use any bleach-based or chemical toilet bowl cleaners - This will kill the beneficial waste-digesting bacteria inside your tank and can lead to clogs as well as damage your toilet seals and valves.
  5. Keep your tank temperatures regulated - RV Digest-It is the best bacteria-based holding tank treatment for preventing clogs, hands down, however, all bacteria toilet treatment products have an effective temperature range from roughly 45° F to 85° F. On either end of that spectrum, all brands of bacteria-based holding tank treatments will struggle. We recommend insulating or heating your tank in cold weather and increasing water usage + higher dosage of bacteria treatments in hot weather.

These are the basic steps, let's get into this a little more.

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Bacteria Based RV Holding Tank Treatments

Why are bacteria-based RV toilet chemicals your best choice for preventing clogs? Because, they completely breakdown and liquefy the solid waste. In essence, there is nothing to be left behind to clog your tank in the first place. Curious what that waste breakdown process looks like and why Unique products outperform all other bacteria treatments on the market, click here. Many common RV tank treatments on the market today are strictly meant for treating odors and not waste, in fact many treatments even have ingredients (like formaldehyde) that actually preserve solid waste and will encapsulate the poop in your holding tank. Remember high school science class? That fetal pig you dissected was soaked in formaldehyde to preserve it! Now that you know that the goal is to digest the solids inside your tank to prevent clogs and odors, this clearly defeats the purpose of having a tank cleaner in the first place. Want to learn more about the different types of tank treatments and toilet chemicals? Click here.

When it comes to using bacteria-based holding tank treatments like RV Digest-It, there are a few tricks that you will need to know. Regulating your tank temperatures and staying away from caustic toilet cleaners being the two big ones. Bacteria are sensitive organisms that, though they can survive high heat and deep cold, it significantly affects their efficiency. To control this, heating or insulating your holding tank during winter months, and increasing your treatment amount and using extra water with each flush during summer months is crucial.

Note: Odors in your tank are caused by anaerobic bacteria that come from your stomach. These particular bacteria are different from aerobic bacteria, like you find in RV Digest-It, and unfortunately are the more resilient of the two. When you add chemicals to your tanks (either in the the form of toilet cleaners, deodorizers, or toilet treatments) you will most likely kill all of the GOOD aerobic bacteria first, since they tend to be less resilient) and leave only the BAD anaerobic bacterial behind to make the smells in your RV unbearable. Simply put - don't do it! Avoid chemicals of ALL types if you truly want and odor-free RV experience. You can read more on this here. Learn more about how toilet odors are formed and eliminated inside your RV's holding tanks, here.

Plenty of water, combined with RV Digest-It, is a match made in heaven. The water allows the bacteria in our product to reach all waste that is in your tank. This way, instead of just dealing with clogs and odors as they come (and they will), you can just cut out the middle man and prevent them from being an issue. On top of helping prevent clogs, using enough water will keep your nasty tank odors under water and under control.


Permanently Avoid Clogs and Odors By Following These Rules
  • Flush your tank. After you dump your tank, flush or rinse it well. The longer the better to clean out the nooks and crannies (we recommend 15 minutes of rinsing when possible).
  • Always keep your black tank valve closed except when dumping your tank.
  • Charge your tank before treating. Before treating your black water holding tank with a high-quality treatment, close your black tank valve and "charge" your holding tank by filling it with 3-5 gallons of water (usually, about 1 minute of holding your toilet flush-pedal down).
  • Use a high-quality RV toilet treatment. Treat your tank with a high-quality, bacterial-based treatment. We recommend RV Digest-It Holding Tank Treatment.
  • Add ample amounts of water each time your flush the toilet. We recommend you hold down your flush peddle for 10 full seconds each flush. This will ensure two important things:
    1. You maintain an ample water-solution inside your tank. If the waste inside your tank is allowed to dry up you will experience increased clogs and odors
    2. You ensure that no solid waste ends up above the water line. When fecal matter is exposed to air (isn't covered by water) it is extremely smelly. Further, the active bacteria and enzymes in RV Digest-It move by way of water and if the waste is outside of the water, these cleaners cannot reach the waste and therefore cannot break down the waste or eliminate the anaerobic bacteria that are creating the foul poop smells.
  • Add water to your toilet bowl before you use the toilet. Before your go #2 always add ample water to the bowl. It's important that you add the water BEFORE you go to the bathroom.
  • Keep water water in your toilet bowl. Always keep your toilet bowl half-full of water. This water barrier will prevent residual tank gasses and odors to escape the your RV's black tank. Not only do these gasses smell, but they are quite unhealthy to be breathing in.


Preventing clogs is much easier than trying to unclog a backed-up holding tank. Not only is it expensive to hire a service to clean out your compacted tank, but it's frustrating and difficult if you don't have access to restroom facilities - or if you simply don't like using public toilets. After all, isn't having your own bathroom one of the luxuries of owning a camper or trailer?!

If you're trying to find the best RV holding tank treatment and you're having a hard time understanding the difference between the varying types, read this for more information.

If you would like to know how exactly to use RV Digest-It, download our user guides to make sure you're doing everything you should to properly maintain clog and odor-free tanks.



Preventing clogs is actually quite easy and painless. With a few, simple adjustments to your holding tank habits you can ensure a clog free RV in no time.

If you do ever deal with a nasty clog, no worries, we have your back! Unique Holding Tank Cleaner is a perfect, effective, and safe solution that will save you hundreds in service fees and charges. Plus, it comes with a satisfaction guaranteed, so if it doesn't work its on us!

We hope this has helped answer your tank clog questions! Feel free to email us if we missed anything or if you need help. We're here to help!


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