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Treating Your RV Holding Tanks While Dry Camping

March 06, 2019

Learn how you can most effectively treat your RV holding tanks while dry camping. Eliminate odors and digest waste for the best results. Do consistent tank flushes and follow the Unique Method. Unique Camping + Marine

Key Points: 

  1. Following The Unique Method when dry camping will virtually eliminate all of your toilet problems.
 We recommend that you follow it!
  2. Proper black tank care while dry camping:
    • Precharge your tank with water.
    • Regularly treat your tank with a high-quality RV holding tank treatment.
    • Use plenty of water in your holding tank.
    • Thoroughly rinse your black tank when dumping.
    • Store your black tank with water and RV Digest-It when possible.
    • If you don’t have sufficient water, treat with Tank Odor Eliminator.
  3. Proper gray tank care while dry camping:
    • Don't allow solid food or grease to rinse down the drains and into your gray tank(s).
    • Treat your tank with a high-quality RV holding tank treatment.
    • Use plenty of water.
    • Deep clean your tank after every dry camping trip.

While dry camping (also called boondocking) can be an inexpensive and exhilarating way to travel in your RV, the last thing you want is a clogged holding tank or odors that seep up into your RV! If you wish to prevent these issues, you need to keep in mind that the success of your adventure ultimately depends on how well you implement the proper care habits. If improperly cared for, your RV holding tanks can quickly clog or start to stink, especially when you’re dry camping. 

In hopes of helping you avoid these potential issues, we’ll outline how to properly care for your RV holding tanks while boondocking, preventing your RV wastewater systems from putting a major damper on your trip.

Following the steps given below will help you to enjoy your boondocking RV and your adventure more and worry about your holding tanks less!

Follow The Unique Method

How to properly care for RV holding tanks is a hot topic to say the least. With a great deal of misinformation out there regarding proper tank care, dry camping RVers can find themselves grasping for treads. It doesn’t help that 100 different RVers will give you 100 different opinions about how to care for your tanks!

So is there a real, workable, reliable solution? The short answer is, yes! We’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile years of expert knowledge and experience about RVing into a simple, easy-to-follow, comprehensive, and effective way to care for your tanks: The Unique Method. By following The Unique Method, you will prevent 99% of issues with clogs and odors, helping to make your trip more relaxing and less disgusting. 

We often tell people that effectively treating your RV holding tanks is a 50/50 scenario. 50% the right PRODUCTS and 50% the right PROCESS. With The Unique Method you can virtually eliminate odors, clogs, and sensor issues in your black and gray tanks! So, in the short and long run, using an RV maintenance method that is proven, comprehensive, and easy-to-follow is your best bet.

The Unique Method is the most complete process for holding tank management, so we recommend you use it as your standard process. That said, below you will find some tips and tricks (many of which come from The Unique Method) to help with the most common black and gray tank problems boondockers routinely encounter.

Avoiding Common Problems In Your Black Tank

The biggest issues most dry campers struggle with are odors and clogs. Here are some tips and tricks for eliminating these persistent problems:

Use a high-quality, bacteria-based holding tank treatment

Treat your black tank with a high-quality, bacteria-based holding tank treatment to help break down waste and control odors.

Not surprisingly, we're a little biased toward our own product! As such, we recommend that you use Unique RV Digest-It to treat your holding tanks before, during, and after your boondocking adventure. The high-quality, waste-digesting bacteria in RV Digest-It will work around the clock to break down waste in your holding tank, preventing clogs and odors during your trip.

Precharge your black tank with 2-4 gallons of water before hitting the road.

One of the most effective ways to ensure your bacteria-based tank treatment works quickly and effectively is to precharge your tank with water before you take off on your trip. 

By precharging your black tank with 2-4 gallons of water before leaving on your trip, you will help jumpstart your bacteria-based tank treatment so it can do its job preventing odors and waste build-up. Beyond this, by precharging your tank you won’t have to waste any precious fresh water to fill your tank once you’re on the road!

Use plenty of water in your black tank.

Here at Unique Camping + Marine, we talk a lot about using ample amounts of water, especially when it comes to your black tank, and this point is even more important in reference to dry camping. The reason for this is that many people skimp on water usage while dry camping. Their rationale is that they don't want to waste water since they aren't connected to any RV hook ups. 

But to avoid clogs, suppress odors, and get the most out of RV Digest-It, using plenty of water is crucial. Every time you use your toilet, we recommend holding down your flush pedal for at least 10 full seconds. Ample amounts of water allows RV Digest-It to reach all of the waste in your tank and also keeps the water level above the waste inside your holding tank, which helps control odors by creating a water barrier. To keep any odors from seeping into your RV, we recommend you make sure to refill your RV toilet bowl halfway with water after every use.

Rinse your black tank very thoroughly when dumping.

When possible, we recommend you dump your black tank every 3-5 days (especially in hot temperatures). We also recommend that you rinse your tank very thoroughly with a built-in tank rinser, external flusher, or wand—as The Unique Method recommends. Whenever possible, you should rinse your tank for 20-30 minutes. No matter how well RV Digest-It breaks down the waste inside your tank, some trace amounts will always accumulate in the low spots of your tank, which means it must be rinsed out manually. 

When possible, store your RV with the black tank full of water and treated with RV Digest-It

As we’ve discussed so far in this article, one of the most important aspects of proper holding tank care is taking the proper preventative measures. This includes properly storing your black tank between camping trips so it’s ready for action the next time you go dry camping! 

If possible, we recommend that you fill your black tank with water and treat it with RV Digest-It before storing your RV between camping trips. For more information about how to store your unit when freezing is not an issue, please read our article about properly storing your RV! This type of storage obviously does NOT apply if your holding tanks are at risk of freezing while in storage. You should NOT store your black tank full of water in this case. We recommend, if you are storing your RV for the winter, that you properly winterize your unit

Use Unique Tank Odor Eliminator if you don’t have sufficient water.

In some rare cases, you might find that you don’t have enough water to keep odors under control while boondocking. While it’s unlikely that you will have insufficient water if you follow The Unique Method, properly precharge your tank, and apply all the other recommendations above, it’s still a possibility. 

If you don’t have enough water while dry camping, we recommend that you use an odor-specific product like Unique Tank Odor Eliminator, which uses a mineral blend to completely remove odors. Unique Tank Odor Eliminator is designed to work hand-in-hand with RV Digest-it to control odors in even the most extreme heat!

To learn more about RV odor control, especially in hot weather, we encourage you to also check out our comprehensive article, How to Fix RV Odors!

Summary of Proper Black Tank Care:
  1. Follow The Unique Method! Most of the points below come directly from The Unique Method.
  2. Use a high-quality waste digesting holding tank treatment, like RV Digest-It, in your black tank before, during, and after your boondocking trip.
  3. Pre-charge your black tank with 2-4 gallons of water before you hit the road.
  4. Use plenty of water in your black tank—flush your toilet for 10 seconds after each use and keep your toilet bowl filled halfway with water to create a water barrier. 
  5. Rinse your black tank very thoroughly after every dump.
  6. If possible, store your black tank full of water and treated with RV Digest-It.
  7. Use Tank Odor Eliminator as an odor-controller if you don’t have access to enough water.

Avoiding Common Problems In Your Gray Tank

Although your black tank is definitely more prone to issues and so requires more diligent care, it’s still important that you properly care for your gray tank. Because you aren't allowed to let your gray tank drain onto public lands, you will need to keep your gray tank valve closed, which means that grease and soap residue may build up on your sensor probes. This gray tank coating can also cause nasty odors if left unchecked. But there are still a few solutions that deal primarily with prevention. 

Here’s a summary of some of the key points related to gray tank care while dry camping:

Don’t let solid waste inside your gray tank.

Your gray tank is not designed to hold or process solid waste, so we strongly recommend that you do not allow solid food waste down your RV’s kitchen sink! As much as an RV can feel like a home away from home, the water systems are very different. If you wash solid food down your RV’s drains, it’s only a matter of time before you experience disgusting odors and waste buildup!

When dry camping, you should scrape off excess food into the trash and wipe your plates clean with a rag. Also, using a strainer in your sinks is a great way to keep any food waste from making its way into your gray tank. By keeping solid waste out of your gray tank, you’ll minimize the likelihood of odors and help keep your sensor probes in working order!

To learn more about what items should and shouldn't be allowed in your RV's gray tank, touch or click here

Frequently use a high-quality, bacteria-based holding tank treatment—like RV Digest-It.

No matter how much you try to prevent solid waste from entering your gray tank, you will almost always get trace amounts of food grease and soap scum in your tank. This residual grease can build up inside your tank over time, causing your sensors to misread and odors to develop if you don’t treat with a high-quality bacteria treatment. A high-quality, bacteria-based holding tank treatment like RV Digest-It will help break down this grease and scum before it causes your gray-tank sensors to misread and help ensure that you don’t experience any odors. 

After every boondocking trip, deep clean your gray tank.

Because it’s so easy for food grease and other residues to build up on the walls of your gray tank, it’s critical that you perform a deep clean of your gray tank at the end of every boondocking trip! This will help prevent your sensors from misreading and stop odors from developing.

Deep cleaning your gray tank is relatively simple and easy to perform if you follow the steps in our guide for Deep Cleaning RV Holding Tanks. We recommend you start this deep clean on the last night of your boondocking trip, so you can wake up to freshly cleaned gray tanks the day you are scheduled to head home.

Summary of Proper Gray Tank Care:
  1. Follow The Unique Method! Most of the individual points given below come directly from The Unique Method. 
  2. Keep solid food waste out of your gray tank—scrape excess food off into the trash, wipe your plates clean, and use an in-drain sink strainer.
  3. Use a high-quality, bacteria-based waste digester like RV Digest-It to break down residual food grease and soap scum covering your sensor probes and control any gray tank odors. 
  4. Deep clean your gray tank after every boondocking trip.

Note: It is usually illegal to dump your RV gray water tank on public lands. Be sure to check all local laws. Waste water disposal can sometimes be tricky when you dry camp, use this guide on where to dump if you are having trouble finding a place on the road.


We hope that this article has helped to answer all your questions about holding tank treatment while dry camping! While it can be easy to neglect your holding tanks when you’re out there in the wild on a boondocking adventure, you will ultimately thank yourself for implementing the proper care procedures, which will allow you to have more fun on your adventure and worry less about your holding tanks!

Again, The Unique Method should be your primary reference for all types of RV camping, including dry camping. The tips and tricks included in this article for black and gray tank care are tailored specifically for dry camping, but many of the points come directly from The Unique Method, which we created as a foundation for all types of RV care.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to our customer support team.

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