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Examine the Products: Bacteria and Enzyme Treatments

  • 4 min read

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Truthfully, you can find a measure of success when using any treatment product with The Unique Method, but certain products do in fact work more effectively. For many years, the only real options on the market were corrosive, dangerous chemicals like bleach and various formaldehyde-based products, and the products for odor control were just glorified air fresheners used to mask the odors in your holding tank. One strong smell to cover a worse one! Thankfully, there are now many holding tank treatment options, some that are more effective than others. The main categories of tank treatment products are:

  • Bacteria and Enzyme
  • Enzyme-only
  • Chemical
  • Fragrance Only

While using high-quality treatment products will increase the success of The Unique Method, you could choose to not use any treatment products and The Unique Method would still deliver some level of success in preventing common tank problems. However, we always recommend using tank treatments and encourage you to try using Unique RV Digest-It Plus so you can experience for yourself how the best treatment product (one that was designed for use with The Unique Method) can make RVing a breeze.

Before you can make an educated decision on which type of tank treatment is right for you, you’ve got to know the pros and cons of each, so we have put together detailed descriptions of each type of product available and our recommendations on whether or not it is the most effective option in conjunction with The Unique Method’s habits. 

One of the best ways to treat your holding tank is to introduce a bacteria and enzyme blend, like Unique RV Digest-It Plus. Yes, this product will add bacteria to your tank, but the right kind of bacteria in your tanks is a good thing. The bacteria in RV Digest-It eat the waste and release enzymes to help them break it down into smaller, more digestible chunks. The power of bacteria is astounding when given the tools and the time to work: if you maintain the health of the bacterial colonies in your holding tanks, the waste will be broken down so much that draining the black water tank(s) would simply produce murky water, lacking any large or even small organic pieces of waste. 

Okay, you might ask, but isn’t the universal goal to stay clean and healthy by killing bacteria? Admittedly, it’s difficult to pull away from the habits drummed into us as children that bacteria is bad: “wash your hands,” “don’t touch that, it’s got germs.” But in the realm of wastewater tank treatments, bacteria is the hero. If you use bacteria and enzyme treatment products, holding tanks will last longer, function better, and will not continually demand time and money to fix problems. Coupled with the breakdown power of enzymes and plenty of water, bacteria is nearly unstoppable when it comes to eliminating waste. 

The difference between the stinky bacteria and the bacteria in RV Digest-It is simple:

  • Anaerobic bacteria is the smelly kind that lives in your gut and doesn’t need oxygen. It deserves the label “bad.”
  • Aerobic bacteria is the odorless kind that’s added through treatment solutions (like RV Digest-It) and needs oxygen and water. It has earned the label “good.”

At this moment you have anaerobic bacteria in your digestive system, but it is the smelly kind of bacteria, which is why it stinks when you poop. This type of bacteria is added to the holding tank every time you use it. Bacteria and enzyme treatments control foul odors caused by these gut-dwelling, anaerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria (the good kind) do not cause odors and instead only release carbon dioxide and water while digesting waste. Enzymes are an important partner with bacteria and are also present in your gut and bacteria treatments to help the bacteria break down waste into smaller pieces that are easier for it to digest. By replacing smelly anaerobic bacteria with aerobic bacteria, the waste still gets digested as efficiently as ever but without the smell.

So which tanks need a treatment like this? We recommend treating your black tank(s) with a bacteria and enzyme treatment whenever it’s in use (with the black valve closed unless dumping), but your gray tank may or may not need a treatment like this depending on how you use it.

  • If you are using your gray tank on hook-ups and are leaving your gray valve open, you do not need to use a bacterial treatment because it would instantly flow down to the sewer and won’t provide any benefit to your tank.
  • If you are using your gray tank while not on sewer hook-up and have the gray valve closed (such as dry camping and boondocking), you should be using a bacterial treatment in the gray tank which will start breaking down organic residue like food particles that have gotten past the drain strainer in your sink.

Aerobic bacteria have some limitations, however; they require generous amounts of water and do not do well in high heat environments. If you have been practicing good tank care habits while using a bacteria and enzyme blend but are still experiencing odors nonetheless, add more water and more of the treatment, and you should notice the odor dissipating fairly swiftly.

In the next article, we will discuss another treatment type that could be considered the cousin of bacteria and enzyme treatments because it can produce breakdown and odor control results as fast or quicker, just in a different way.

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