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Protecting Your RV Holding Tanks During Times Of Quarantine

March 26, 2020

Protecting your RV holding tanks in times of quarantine. Unique Camping + Marine Guides and Resources

Uncertain times caused by the COVID-19 outbreak are forcing people to shelter-in-place. In order to remain safe and healthy, many people are staying in their RVs, meaning there is increased strain being put on RV waste-water systems. These systems are crucial to the health and well-being of RVers, so keeping them in good shape is very important - especially now. 

Finding toilet paper, especially RV toilet paper, may be difficult, or impossible. There have been numerous reports of people flushing alternative “toilet paper” products like paper napkins, paper towels, wipes, and even newspaper down the toilet! Flushing products of these types can lead to substantial clogs and backups. Dealing with a clogged tank in the middle of a crisis is the last thing anyone wants, so it is now more important than ever to take holding tank maintenance seriously.

Here are the steps to take to protect your vital RV waste-water systems:


Avoid allowing chemical cleaners, antibacterial soap, and antibiotics in your holding tanks. These kill beneficial bacteria and may result in clogs and odors. Here is a full list of chemicals to avoid.

In extreme cases, if you are forced to use creative toilet paper alternatives, like those mentioned above, DO NOT FLUSH THEM DOWN THE TOILET. Dispose of them in a lined wastebasket and empty at least daily. 

If you are using normal toilet paper or RV toilet paper: 

  • Keep your black tank valve closed!
  • Increase your water usage: Hold down your flush peddle for a full 10-20 seconds with each flush. More water means more waste breakdown in the tank.
  • Always use a Bacteria + Enzyme treatment to ensure waste is digested. Bacteria + Enzyme treatments are the only type of treatment that can effectively digest waste AND remove odors. We can help you find an effective Bacteria + Enzyme treatment if you need one.
  • Now is not the time to focus ONLY on eliminating odors, which is what most treatments do.
  • Clogs are the last thing you want to deal with right now. You need to be proactive to prevent clogs
  • Increase how often you dump your tanks - we recommend dumping every 3-5 days. 
  • Flush or rinse your tanks regularly and very thoroughly – we recommend rinsing after every 3-5 dumps. 
  • If you have a tank rinser, we recommend running it for 15-20 minutes. 
  • If you don’t have a rinser, fill your black tank completely full, then dump. Repeat this process 2-3 times. 


If you are dry camping (boondocking) or have limited access to water, try to use as much water as you can to help digest waste and control odors. If water is very limited, or dumping is difficult, consider temporarily disposing of your paper waste in a wastebasket. We understand that this is not ideal, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Please understand: Water is THE MOST CRUCIAL part of holding tank maintenance. If you don’t use enough water in your tank you will get odors and possibly clogs. Another important misconception that needs to be addressed: urine is not water and is not a suitable replacement for water.

Guide Continued Below

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For all gray tanks: Ensure no food or grease goes down the drain and clean your dishes with heavy amounts of Blue Dawn dish soap. Blue Dawn has fantastic grease-digesting enzymes that will help eliminate gray tank odors and help keep sensor probes reading properly. 

If you’re camping on full hookups, leave your gray tank valve open, with a p-trap kink in the line to prevent sewer gas from backing up into your RV (Black tank should always be kept closed!). 

If you’re dry camping (boondocking), keep your gray tank valve closed. Use ample amounts of Blue Dawn and thoroughly rinse the tank whenever possible to help keep sensor probes working properly. Find more information on gray tank maintenance here.

Download a copy of this guide here:


These are the most critical things to do during this period of sustained, heavy use. Most of what is mentioned in this guide is covered by The Unique Method, our proven holding tank treatment process that we have meticulously developed over the years through in-depth conversations with campers of all types. Following The Unique Method at all times (not just in times of crisis) is the most successful way to ensure your holding tanks remain problem-free.

The Unique Method varies slightly according to your camping style. Review the links below for full information on our recommendations.

Stay safe! We’ll get through this together.

Unique Camping + Marine

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