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Most problems that arise in holding tanks (smells, clogs, and sensor issues) are caused by not having enough water inside your wastewater holding tanks (hence the reason to always keep your black tank valve closed). Having ample amounts of water in your black tank(s) does three things:
- Covers the solid waste with water, blocking smells
- Allows the odor-free, waste-digesting bacteria and accompanying enzymes to thrive and spread
- Keeps the solid waste softened and water-logged so it cannot create clogs or cover sensors
How water affects the tank treatment you are using
When using high-quality bacteria and enzyme treatments like Unique RV Digest-It, you want to do all you can to nurture the right kind of bacteria in your wastewater tanks. Most types of bacteria will eat the solid waste, a process you want occuring in your tank(s), but not all types of bacteria are the desirable kind. We all have anaerobic bacteria in our gut to digest and break down food, but it gives off stinky odors as it does this (which is why the bathroom stinks when you poop); that bacteria gets deposited into the black tank(s) every time you use it. To push out this unwanted type of bacteria, we recommend using Unique RV Digest-It tank treatment, which adds aerobic bacteria that only releases water and carbon dioxide during the breakdown process. While anaerobic bacteria (the smelly one) doesn’t need oxygen or moisture to work, aerobic bacteria (the odorless one) must have oxygen to live and must have water to reach the waste; it can’t break down what it can’t reach. Additionally, water will help the enzymes move about the tank so they can effectively break down the solid waste. So it really doesn’t matter what kind of treatment product you choose to use (even the ones we don’t recommend), it will always be most effective when there is plenty of water.
How water helps block odors
Water is also a natural odor barrier, and there are two places where you want an odor barrier: in your toilet bowl and in your black tank(s). Keep a small amount of water in your toilet bowl at all times (unless driving) to provide an additional barrier between the toilet line and the living space of your RV; it also allows solid waste to more easily flow down the pipe without getting stuck during the flush. The toilet is the primary way you get more water into your holding tank(s), so you should hold down your flush pedal for at least 10 seconds every time you use it to continually add water to the tank. Seriously, count to ten out loud if you have to, but make sure there is plenty of water going down the toilet on every flush.
How water helps maintain ideal tank temperatures
Ample amounts of water in holding tanks is doubly important when camping in hot weather. Heat and lack of water will boost odors and cause aerobic bacteria (the desirable kind) to become sluggish in consuming waste and eliminating odors. The ideal temperature range for aerobic bacteria is 45-85 degrees F, and tanks that become warmer than 85 degrees will weaken the bacteria’s effectiveness. It’s difficult to know when your tanks are too hot, so the best policy is to automatically use more water and dump more frequently when outside temperatures go above 90 degrees.
It’s clear to see that water is one of the most important components of tank care maintenance because it empowers tank treatments to function at their best, helps control odors, and regulates tank temperatures. It’s the most readily available option to use when trying to reduce the potential for problems or address current ones. We have written a more in depth guide on why water is such a good thing in your tanks and encourage you to check it out.
Guide: Why Using Lots of Water in your RV Toilet and Holding Tanks is Crucial
Plenty of water is great to have in your tanks while you’re adding waste to it, but it’s also important to use plenty of water to rinse out your tank after dumping, which we will discuss in more detail in the next article.