Learn How To Eliminate Holding Tank Odors This Summer!

WTF - What To Flush

April 25, 2019

What can I flush down my RV Toilet - Flushable wipes, tampons, condoms, poop, pee, urine, rv toilet paper

If you've been RVing for any length of time, you know how easy it is to forget, but what you allow down your sink and toilet drains has a big impact on how well you can prevent holding tank troubles, including clogs and harsh odors. Building good holding tank habits will help you avoid these frustrating and expensive problems. And as you’ll see, it’s worth it! In this article, we will dive into what chemicals and products you should avoid allowing into your holding tanks, so that your RV trip isn't ruined by unexpected odors and clogs.

Key Points:
  • Only allow human waste (poop and urine) and toilet paper into your black tank. No trash, plastics, flushable wipes, tampons, etc.
  • Don’t allow food waste into your gray tank.
  • Beneficial bacteria (i.e., aerobic bacteria) are the best solution for preventing and controlling clogs and odors in your RV holding tanks.
  • Unclogging a plugged holding tank requires a strong enzyme + bacteria cleaner.
  • Caustic chemicals—like chlorine, bleach, alcohol, formaldehyde, and oxidizing agents—will kill off the beneficial bacteria inside your holding tanks.
  • When the beneficial bacteria from bacteria-based holding tank treatments die off, the chance you will experience clogs and odors increases significantly.

What Should I Allow In My RV Holding Tanks?

As you might have heard, your RV black tank is just one small part of a very complex, sensitive water system. The fact of the matter is that some RVs have more sensitive wastewater systems than others, but no matter how sensitive your system may be, most RVers would probably agree: you must be diligent to take good care of your RV!

You don’t want a clog or strong odor to throw a wrench in your vacation, weekend getaway, staycation, or full time living experience. And because wastewater systems are so sensitive, it will take some good maintenance habits to make sure that doesn’t happen! But don’t worry: Maintaining a holding tank that is completely free of odors and clogs is actually pretty simple. 

To start getting you up to speed, let's go over what items should and shouldn't be allowed inside your black and gray water holding tanks.

Your RV Black Water Tank

There are only a few things that should be allowed inside your RV black tank:

  1. Human Poop and Urine
  2. Toilet Paper
  3. Water 
  4. Non-hazardous RV Holding Tank Treatments

Anything other than that (i.e. trash, plastics, toys and hazardous chemicals) can and often will cause issues. So it’s that simple: Only allow the right things in your tank and use your tank correctly. To help you out we’ve created The Unique Method—a comprehensive, proven guide for treating RV black tanks and keeping your RV clog and odor free!

Your RV Gray Water Tank

Just like your RV black tank, there are only a few things that should be allowed inside your RV gray tank:

  1. Water 
  2. Soap
  3. Non-hazardous RV Holding Tank Treatments

You might have already put this together, but the fact is that grease, soap scum, and decomposing food are what cause gray tanks to have odors and misreading level sensors! That’s why it’s so important that you do everything you can to prevent food from getting into your gray tank. Food (which causes grease) can wreak havoc on your gray tank. Here’s why: As the water sits inside your tank (if, that is, you leave your gray tank valve closed when camping), it will deposit a thin layer of food residue and grease on the tank’s floor and sidewalls. This grease residue will coat your sensors and cause them to misread. And get this: It can even start to smell worse than your black tank!

For that very reason, water, soap, and safe holding tank treatments are the only things that you should allow to go down your sink or shower. As far as keeping food from getting into your gray tank, an in-drain sink strainer can easily do the trick.

To keep waste breakdown going strong and maintain a stink-free gray tank, we also recommend treating your holding tank regularly with a bacteria-based treatment like RV Digest-It.

Why Do Bacteria Matter?

Okay, you may be wondering why exactly we recommend a bacteria-based treatment. The fact is, bacteria are crucial to waste breakdown. To put it even more plainly, without bacteria and enzymes, waste breakdown is impossible. Non-bacteria and non-enzyme treatments do absolutely nothing to break down waste. The sobering truth is that these products normally use odor-masking caustic chemicals to "cover up" your stinky tanks. In other words, they’re not at all getting to the core of the problem (i.e., the poop and pee that need to be digested!). Our RV holding tank cleaners attack the odors and clogs head-on, digesting all the waste and leaving behind no odors, instead of just disguising them with strong perfumes. 

To read more about why RV Digest-It works so well, check out this article.

Chemicals To Avoid

While many RVers understand how important it is to choose the right RV toilet chemical when treating their holding tank, very few understand how crucial it is to be aware of the other products you allow down your drains. It’s easy to overlook, but some other products—like toilet cleaners, soaps, and detergents—can actually negate the positive effects of your well-selected tank treatment. In essence, then, you’re basically paying for a bacteria-based holding tank treatment that you’ve rendered completely useless! 

Here’s the reason: A lot of the other products people use everyday (often without knowing) may harm the good bacteria inside your holding tanks—the good bacteria that came from your high-quality, bacteria-based treatment. As a result, the breakdown of waste is slowed or in some cases stopped completely!

The chemicals or products that will kill the beneficial bacteria inside your holding tank are:

  • Alcohols
  • Antibacterial Soap
  • Bleach
  • Chlorine
  • Formaldehyde (any aldehyde)
  • Iodine
  • Strong acids, like sulfuric acid
  • Very strong alkaline chemicals, like lye or sodium hydroxide.

(Keep in mind: It is also possible that any antibiotics you may be taking are negatively effecting the beneficial bacteria inside your holding tanks as well.)

These items are the most common chemicals that can disrupt your holding tank and lead to waste buildup and odors. Don’t use them!

Instead, if you want your holding tank to perform at its maximum potential, you should:

  1. Don’t allow the above-mentioned items/chemicals inside your holding tank!
  2. Treat your tanks with a good bacteria-based treatment, like RV Digest-It
  3. Follow The Unique Method

In Summary

Because RV wastewater systems can be ultra-sensitive at times, a healthy balance is needed to keep your RV free from strong odors and clogs. Restricting the kinds of things you allow inside your black and gray tanks is just the beginning. It takes good daily habits to keep things running smoothly. But once you learn the basics, caring for your wastewater system will become a breeze!

Remember, bacteria are a crucial part of your wastewater system, and by avoiding products that kill bacteria, you will increase the chances of maintaining a clog-and-odor free RV. And if you supplement your tank with a high-quality, bacteria-based treatment, the maintenance of your tank will become that much easier!

We truly hope that this article has helped you understand what you should and shouldn't flush into your RV holding tanks. Of course, we’re with you every step of the way! If you ever need any help or have any questions, please feel free to contact us at support@uniquemm.com!

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