The Unique Method

Clean RV Holding Tank sensors or misreading sensors
Learn how to use the most effective treatment process for your holding tanks form Unique Camping + Marine

The Unique Method is a proven, easy-to-follow approach to treating your RV wastewater holding tanks that will help you prevent problems before they happen.

If you want to enjoy your RV without odors, clogs, or misreading sensors, you must do more than just dump a tank treatment down your toilet and walk away. The core of The Unique Method is a 50/50 technique: 50 percent following the right PROCESS and 50 percent using the best treatment PRODUCT.

We have carefully developed this method over many years by talking to RVers who have tried home remedies, popular products, and word-of-mouth techniques and found them to be lacking. So many RVers have been given bad advice and suffered the consequences. Even experienced RVers encounter tank and odor problems, so newbies don’t have to feel alone in this struggle. Problem-free camping is very possible when you follow the right treatment method. A good treatment method should address four important factors:

  • Odor elimination
  • Efficient solid waste breakdown
  • Sensor cleaning
  • Be approved for use in all states

The Unique Method combined with the best treatment products checks all these boxes.

In the sections below, we’re going to walk you through the specific steps of The Unique Method for both black and gray tanks so you can understand completely how to properly follow this 50/50 process. In later sections, we will deeply discuss the care habits described in the method and our opinions on using various types of products. It’s not difficult to achieve holding tank bliss, but it may require changing a few of the current habits and ideas you have about how to care for your tanks or what products to use. Let’s jump in!

Using The Unique Method

The Unique Method offers a well-calculated mix of healthy care habits that will improve the condition of your holding tanks no matter what kind of treatment product you decide to use, the type of camping you’re doing, or what kind of weather arises. In this section, we’ll examine the actual steps for maintaining trouble-free wastewater tanks. We have provided a brief amount of detail in the steps below, but will be discussing some of these details in more depth later. Since we recommend using a high-quality treatment product with the Unique Method and our products were designed with The Unique Method in mind, we will be using Unique Camping + Marine products as examples while walking through the steps. The best way to get the most success out of using the method is to combine it with the products for which it was created. Follow the guidelines below as closely as possible, and you will easily avoid clogs, odors, and misreading sensors.

Black Tanks
  1. Always keep your black tank valve closed, unless you’re dumping a full tank.

  2. Always treat your black holding tank with a high-quality bacteria and enzyme treatment (such as Unique RV Digest-It) or a zinc and enzyme treatment (coming soon) after each dump.

  3. Always keep several inches of water in your toilet bowl (unless driving), which creates a water barrier, preventing foul smells from seeping into your RV living space.

  4. Always fill your toilet bowl with water before you use the toilet; this will help solid waste flow easily down the line and deter any trapped odors from rising during the flush.

  5. Use ample amounts of water each time you flush your toilet. Hold down the flush mechanism for ten full seconds each time you flush your toilet which will continually add water to your black tank.

  6. Try to keep your tank temperatures below 85 degrees. When temps go up, so do odors. If you begin to get a smell, simply use more water with each flush. You may also need to add another treatment dose and dump more often (if possible).

  7. Dump your tanks every 3-5 days for optimum odor control. If you extend the time between dumps (like when dry camping/boondocking), treat your tanks every 4 days with your bacteria and enzyme treatment or zinc and enzyme treatment and keep plenty of water in your holding tank. 

  8. Flush your holding tank for 20-30 minutes with a built-in tank-rinser, external tank-flusher, or rinsing wand every 3-5 dumps (for hook-up campers) or after returning from each trip (dry campers/boondockers). Waste (regardless of the tank treatment) will collect and accumulate in the low spots and crevices of your holding tank; rinsing helps knock down those clingy stowaways.

  9. Avoid cleaning your toilets with chemicals or bleach. Use RV toilet cleaners that will increase beneficial bacteria, like Unique RV Toilet Cleaner

  10. Perform a deep clean on your black tank twice per year (season beginning and end for weekend campers) and every 5-10 dumps (for full-time RVers). Unique Tank Cleaner is specially designed for deep cleaning your black tank. This will remove waste from the sidewalls and tank floor, remove debris that may have collected on the sensors, and lubricate your valves and seals. Refer to the Deep Cleaning RV Holding Tanks guide for more details. 

  11. Never store your RV with waste in the tanks. Storing your RV with waste in the tank is the best way to create a compacted tank; any liquid will eventually evaporate after a few weeks and all that will be left is a nice, even layer of dried out waste that will block your discharge line, making it impossible to dump later.

  12. When possible, store your RV with a black tank full of water, treated with a high-quality bacteria or enzyme treatment. Be sure to dump your tank of all the human waste and rinse well before refilling it with water and adding a bacterial treatment like Unique RV Digest-It. This will help deep clean your black water holding tank while the RV is being stored, but drain the tank if you suspect temperatures may drop enough to freeze.

Gray Tanks
  1. Use your gray tank valve correctly depending on how you’re camping.
    • For hook-up campers, leave your gray tank valve open with a P Trap (shown here) in the wastewater hose to create a water barrier, closing off foul odors from the sewer hook-up. If you are effectively wiping your dishes before washing, you should never have any solid food waste getting inside your gray tank; therefore, leaving your gray tank valve open when on hookups should pose no clog issues. We recommend closing your gray tank the night before you dump your black tank and using the collected gray water to rinse your wastewater hose after you dump.
    • For dry campers and boondockers, keep your gray tank valve closed and perform a deep clean on the tank the night before you return home from camping. Keeping this valve closed is important because most national forests and dispersed campsites prohibit open dumping (allowing ANY wastewater to freely drain onto the ground). While in use, treat your gray tanks with a high-quality bacteria and enzyme treatment or zinc and enzyme treatment. We recommend RV Digest-It as it has been specifically created with The Unique Method in mind. 
    • Note: For a more detailed description of how to use RV holding tank valves correctly, refer to The Definitive Guide to Using Your RV Wastewater Valves.
  2. Minimize the amount of grease and debris that goes down your sinks and showers. Wiping your dishes before washing is great, but some amount of residual grease still flows down the drain; soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products will also add a bit of grease. Grease is the reason odors can develop inside your gray tank(s) and is the primary cause of misreading sensors. When leaving your gray tank(s) valve closed, greasy water sits idle and clings to the walls and sensors as the water level rises. Food debris not wiped away from dishes before washing can lead to clogs in the tank(s) as well.

  3. Regularly perform a deep clean on your gray/galley tank(s), using a strong grease-eating cleaner; refer to the Deep Cleaning RV Holding Tanks guide for more details.
    • For dry campers/boondockers, it’s best to do a deep clean of your gray tank(s) on the last night of each trip before you head back home (and you don’t have to dump first!).
    • For hook-up campers, we recommend preventatively cleaning your gray tank(s) once every 5-10 dumps. If you start seeing sensors acting strange, it’s probably time to do a deep clean. Cleaning gray tanks is easy and inexpensive, so do it often. 
  4. Use a high-quality grease-eating dish soap to wash your dishes. We specifically recommend Dawn Ultra over the cheaper options because it is a great grease-eater and will not leave soap residue in the tank that will only add to potential problems.

  5. Use a high-quality bacteria and enzyme tank treatment (when valve is closed) While we recommend using Dawn Ultra dish soap to clean your dishes and deep clean your gray tank, there are things like food debris that Dawn Ultra cannot address; a tank treatment like Unique RV Digest-It will begin breaking down any food debris that is present. Only use bacterial tank treatments in your gray tank when dry camping/boondocking where you must keep your valve closed; no tank treatment is necessary when you keep your gray valve open on hook-ups.

  6. Avoid cleaning your sinks, tub, or showers with chemical or antibacterial cleaners. Using these types of cleaners will kill the beneficial bacteria inside your tanks and counteract the benefits you gain from using bacteria and enzyme treatments. They can also damage the porcelain or plastic toilet bowl.

  7. Always empty your gray/galley tanks before storing your RV. Gray tanks with dirty water left in them long term will soak the tank sidewalls with grease and create sensor and odor issues when you start using it the following season.

The Unique Method Product Pack. Unique Camping + Marine

The Unique Method Pack

Prevention is always the best policy, and by employing the 50/50 approach using The Unique Method (proper tank care habits) and the best products (ideally bacteria and enzyme or zinc and enzyme products), you stay out ahead of intruding odors, annoying clogs, and misreading sensors. While The Unique Method can be effective with other brand name products, we recommend using Unique Camping + Marine products since the method was designed with these products in mind. In fact, we put together a pack that includes all the products we recommend as well as a guide you can take with you!

Understanding The Unique Method (50/50 Approach)

One of the most important takeaways from The Unique Method is that no treatment product is a magic bullet. Without following the proper process, you will never achieve holding tank bliss. That's why we say it's a 50/50 approach: 50 percent the right PROCESS and 50 percent the right PRODUCT. Both of these halves are key to achieving the highest possible success. While you may see some level of improvement by only using one or the other, completely following the 50/50 process is the way to stop problems before they start. Let’s dive into more detail about how these two halves of the approach work together to keep your RV problem-free.

Using the right process. The Unique Method Unique Camping + Marine

Using the Right Process (First Half of Proper Tank Maintenance)

There is a lot of information out there about the right tank care habits, but much of the advice you may have been given is either completely wrong or does not produce the alleged level of success. All the steps discussed in the above section boil down to four basic concepts to remember when caring for your wastewater holding tanks:

  • Use your valves properly
  • Use lots of water
  • Dump, rinse, and deep clean regularly
  • Control what goes into your tanks

These are the most basic habits to adopt if you want The Unique Method to work well for you, and it is the first half of the 50/50 approach to seeing the best possible results. “So why can’t I just pour a treatment solution down my toilet and call it good?” Like we’ve said before, it may give you some small measure of improvement, but without the right habits, treatment products can only go so far. In fact, the type of care habits you employ can make or break the effectiveness of the treatments you use. Let’s go into some detail about the habits you can adopt to extract the most benefit out of your chosen treatment products.

✅ Proper Use of Valves

There’s a myth still in the RVing community that if you’re on sewage hook-ups, you can keep your black tank valve open at all times and the waste will flow out as it’s added to the tank. Urine and water will flow out like this, but without liquid inside the holding tank, solid waste has no way to soften and break down; instead it piles up, dries out, and builds up right underneath your toilet line, forming a pyramid plug. Whether you’re on hook-ups or not, it is essential that the black tank valve remain closed unless you are actively dumping a full tank.

“So do I have to keep my gray tank valve closed while on hook-ups too?” It’s actually better for gray and galley tank valves to remain open on hook-ups because there should never be any solid food debris flowing into your gray/galley tanks, so clogging should not be an issue. You should strive to wipe as much grease and food debris from your dishes as possible before washing whether your valve is open or closed. The valve should always remain closed when dry camping (boondocking) because it is illegal on most public lands to openly dump wastewater of any kind (even gray wastewater).

Since water accumulates higher and higher on the tank walls when camping with the gray valve closed, there are a couple things that are important to add to the gray tank to avoid odors and misreading sensors. Use Dawn Ultra dish soap to wash dishes and even wash hands because it will help break down grease that makes it into the gray tank. Food debris that may enter the gray tank will not be affected by Dawn Ultra, so we also recommend adding Unique RV Digest-It to the gray tank so it can start breaking down any rogue food particles. We have several guides that will help you control odors and prevent tank problems when dry camping/boondocking and frequent dumping isn’t possible as well as a guide on the proper use of tank valves.

Guide: Eliminating RV Toilet Odors
Guide: Preventing Clogs in Your RV Holding Tank
Guide: The Definitive Guide to Using Your RV Waste Water Valves

✅ Use Plenty of Water

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:

  1. Covers the solid waste with water, blocking smells 
  2. Allows the odor-free, waste-digesting bacteria and accompanying enzymes to thrive and spread
  3. 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 kind you want in your tank(s). 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 eat what it can’t reach.

Even zinc and enzyme treatments need water! Zinc, which kills bacteria, still needs water to evenly distribute itself throughout the tank and neutralize all of the odor-causing waste. Additionally, water will help the enzymes move about the tank so they can effectively break down the solid waste. 

How Water Helps Block Odors

Water is also a natural odor barrier, and there are two places where you want a water 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.

Guide: Why Using Lots of Water in your RV Toilet and Holding Tanks is Crucial

✅ Rinse Tanks and Deep Clean Regularly

So you dump your tanks after every trip; that’s fantastic, but because the dumping process relies on gravity, there is waste residue left behind on the walls and floor of your tank. Without rinsing the tanks after each dump, residue could be left behind to fester and odors could become a real issue on your next trip. And it’s not just odors that could undermine camping contentment; lingering residue can also cake onto sensors, causing misreadings.

Rinsing your tanks regularly and thoroughly helps remove stubborn residual waste inside your tanks; even the most liquefied waste cannot completely drain out on its own if the tank is installed out-of-level, if the RV isn't parked perfectly level, or if you have a particularly odd-shaped tank. Instead, the waste will collect over time in low spots and crevices and lead to increased tank odors and sensor problems. For full-time RVers, we recommend a lengthy rinse (20-30 minutes) every 3-5 dumps, but you can also do a brief rinse after every dump. Boondockers or dry campers who do not use their RVs for several days or weeks until the next trip should always do a brief, post-dump rinse at the end of every trip.

Deep cleaning all your wastewater tanks regularly is also an important habit whether you boondock on the weekends or enjoy the full-time RVing experience. For dry campers and boondockers who often take shorter trips, deep cleaning should be done at the start and end of the camping season (refer to the Deep Cleaning RV Wastewater Holding Tanks guide for more details). It’s also a good idea to fill your black tank(s) with water and a high-quality bacteria and enzyme treatment while in storage, but draining it if temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. 

Guide: You Need To Perform an RV Holding Tank Flush

✅ Control What Goes Into Your Tanks

Black Tanks: The only things that should ever make it into your black tank(s) are water, urine, poop, toilet paper, and tank treatments. Feminine products, flushable wipes, paper towels, trash, plastics, and other items will not break down properly in your black tank and could cause clogs. Popular RVing advice suggests that you should only use RV toilet paper in your RV toilet. Normal toilet paper that you would use at home will probably break down about the same and won’t contribute to clogs and build-up if you’re using high-quality, solid-reducing treatments and practicing the right habits, but if it makes you feel better to use RV toilet paper, have at it!

Gray Tanks and Galley Tanks: Large and even small food debris should never go down the drains to your gray tank(s) because enough food particles could lead to clogs and will certainly lead to odors. You must also be careful about letting too much food grease down the drain because grease can easily cause sensor misreads and odors. Dry campers (boondockers) should be especially aware of how much food grease and debris goes into their gray/galley tank(s) because as the water level in the gray/galley holding tank(s) rises, the grease hanging out on the surface of the water will cling to the tank walls and sensors, increasing the likelihood of incorrect sensor readings. The best way to control this is to wipe your dishes before you wash them and place a strainer cup in your sink drain to catch small particles of food.

It’s important to note that even if you employ these habits, there will still be amounts of grease that will get into your gray/galley tank(s) from normal dishwashing, shampoo, lotions, human hair, and soap, but if you are using the right treatment product in your gray tanks (like Unique RV Digest-It or a high quality zinc and enzyme treatment) and regularly deep cleaning, it’s unlikely to negatively affect your camping experience. Because we recommend using RV Digest-It in your gray and galley tanks (which adds beneficial bacteria or waste-digesting enzymes), we also recommend that you use a dish soap that does not kill bacteria (like Dawn Ultra dish soap). Antibacterial soaps and chemical cleaners that get washed down the drains will negate the work of RV Digest-It and could lead to the misreading sensors and odors that you’re trying to prevent.

Just like avoiding very unhealthy foods to promote peak health in your body, you must avoid putting unhealthy things in your holding tanks for them to continue functioning well.

Only allow the following in black tanks

  • Water
  • Urine and poop
  • Toilet paper
  • Tank treatments

Try to stop the following things from getting into your gray/galley tank(s)

  • Food particles
  • Food grease
  • Human hair
  • Lotion
  • Antibacterial soaps

We invite you to view the videos about The Unique Method for the different types of RVing:

Full Hook-Up Campers

Full Time Campers

Dry Campers

Using the right products. The Unique Method. Unique Camping + Marine

Using the Right Products (Second Half of Proper Tank Maintenance)

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 and safer than others. The main categories of tank treatment products are:

  • Bacteria and Enzyme
  • Zinc 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 or a high quality zinc and enzyme treatment so you can experience for yourself how the best treatment product 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 a comprehensive list of product types on the market (ones that we recommend and ones we aren’t so crazy about) and describe how each works in your wastewater tanks so that you have the knowledge you need to make the best decision.

Bacteria and Enzyme Treatments

One of the best ways to treat your holding tank is to introduce a bacteria and enzyme blend, like Unique RV Digest-It. Yes, this product will add bacteria to your tank, but as we discussed in earlier sections, the right kind of bacteria in your tanks is a good thing. The bacteria 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. 

You might remember the difference between anaerobic and aerobic bacteria:

  • Anaerobic: the smelly kind that lives in your gut and doesn’t need oxygen
  • Aerobic: the odorless kind that’s added through treatment solutions and needs oxygen and water

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 kind you want in your tanks) 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 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. Bacteria and enzyme treatments are also much safer to use than any of the other types of treatments, so rest easy using these products.

So which tanks need a treatment like this? We recommend treating your black tank(s) with a bacteria and enzyme treatment when in use, 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 still start experiencing odors, add more water and more of the treatment, and you should notice the odor dissipating fairly swiftly. In the next section, 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. While zinc and enzyme products very quickly eliminate odors, it’s not a great practice to change treatment types in the middle of a trip when experiencing odors; it’s better to double-down on the treatment you’re already using before applying radical treatment change. But zinc and enzyme treatments definitely have a valuable role in certain types of camping.

Zinc and Enzyme Treatments

Zinc and enzyme holding tank treatments are a newer type of tank treatment product and are best for eliminating odors quickly, especially in hot weather or when using less water than recommended. The odor-controlling component in these types of treatments is zinc, which will kill all forms of bacteria inside your holding tank, but when combined with the breakdown power of enzymes, waste will remain near liquified and odors will be controlled by the zinc. So which is it? You just finished touting the benefits of using bacteria and enzyme blends. Bacteria and enzyme treatments are safer than zinc and enzyme treatments, and if you’ve been using The Unique Method consistently, it will deliver all the results you want.  

As described in the next section, enzymes break down waste into smaller pieces, but bacteria have the ability to break down solids even further. Enzymes can’t get rid of odors like bacteria can, but that’s what the zinc is for; it rapidly takes care of the odors without infusing fragrances into the air, which is why these treatments work well for those trying to quickly eliminate odors.

Regularly using zinc and enzyme treatments is best suited for dry campers/boondockers who tend to use much less water in their tanks than recommended and therefore experience more problems with odors. This problem is compounded when dry camping in hot weather where extreme heat lessens effective waste breakdown. The Unique Method combined with a new Unique Camping + Marine zinc and enzyme treatment (soon to be released) can be used with any type of RVing, but will be especially effective for dry campers and hot weather campers.

Zinc treatments can be dangerous to touch or inhale, and some of the products containing zinc don’t take this into consideration, so be cautious; they are often poorly labelled, misleading the consumer to believe they are safe or organic when in fact, they’re not. Zinc-based treatments in the form of loose, exposed powder that could be inhaled or easily touch bare skin should be avoided. Unique Tank Odor Eliminator packaged as drop-in pods is a great example of a zinc treatment that is ultra-effective for eliminating odors and packaged in a safer and more responsible way. 

Enzyme-only Treatments

Enzyme-only RV treatments are a popular solution because they act fast in almost all temperatures and climates and are very effective at waste breakdown. Unlike bacteria, enzymes are not living organisms and their effectiveness will not be diluted by high heat or too little water. The enzymes themselves actually work to break waste into smaller pieces, which can help prevent clogs in the tank or plumbing lines and keep solid waste close to liquified. And since enzymes are non-living proteins, the zinc from deodorizers or any other chemicals that make it into the tanks will not halt their breakdown process. Many people opt for enzyme-only treatments because enzymes break down waste very quickly, but they don’t digest waste or eliminate odors, whereas aerobic bacteria has a more complete breakdown ability and eliminates odors but is a bit slower in the digestion process.

For full-time RVers or those dry camping/boondocking for extended periods of time, enzyme-only treatments may not be the best option since they don’t control odors and you may not dump for many days. Odors can still occur even with phenomenal waste breakdown by enzymes and when your tank fills higher even with near-liquified waste, odor problems are possible. When camping for extended periods of time, bacteria and enzyme products or zinc and enzyme products are the better option to control both odors and waste breakdown.

Chemical Treatments

Chemical-based products that contain ingredients like formaldehyde and bronopol (and many others) can be risky to work with, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required products containing these chemicals to clearly state their toxic nature on the container. You might not know that even sewage treatment plants don’t use harsh chemicals like bronopol to treat municipal wastewater; they use bacteria treatments to promote waste breakdown and digestion. Chemical treatments are so devastating to the breakdown process and community groundwater that states like Wisconsin and Oregan closed down dump sites at rest areas because so many harsh chemicals contained in the dumped waste had begun damaging a nearby waste treatment plant. In fact, California has completely banned the use of RV holding tank products that contain formaldehyde, bronopol, and many other harsh chemicals. Chemicals like formaldehyde and bronopol ruin all the benefits of bacteria and pose danger to humans and the environment.

Bronopol is an antibacterial chemical used in pesticides and as a preservative chemical in many common consumer products. Multiple studies by the EPA show that high levels of bronopol can cause severe skin and eye irritation and can cause respiratory issues if high levels are inhaled. It is toxic enough that they require products containing it to very clearly warn against contact with the skin and eyes and breathing in fumes. They even recommend that clothing drenched with the solution containing it be thrown away and never reused. That’s two strikes against bronopol: kills waste-digesting bacteria and can be toxic to humans and the environment. The amounts of bronopol used in RV tank treatments are not overly dangerous to use in your holding tanks, but if whole states are banning its use in RVs and dumping sites, it might be better to consider a different treatment option. Bronopol is also highly water-soluble, a feature which allows it to release formaldehyde as a by-product.

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used in numerous consumer products and medications and is also naturally produced in nature, foods, and our own bodies as a part of cell metabolism. Government studies have found that formaldehyde used in consumer products is well below danger thresholds and poses little risk to the average person, even those with respiratory conditions such as asthma. However, it is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical) so it’s still in your best interests to avoid any products that could contain or produce formaldehyde. Like bronopol, it is also devastating to the bacteria in your holding tanks and the environment.

So chemical treatments containing bronopol and formaldehyde will very effectively kill the bacteria in your holding tanks, causing all waste breakdown to cease and only mask odors with a stronger smell that may make your head swim anyway. If you use chemical treatments in conjunction with The Unique Method, you will still see some positive results because the mere practice of the habits described in the method will curb some problems, even without beneficial bacteria. Nevertheless, we don’t recommend using chemical treatments because they can be very dangerous to your health and the environment and are illegal in several states.

Fragrance Only Treatments

RV deodorizers and tank fresheners often contain additional fragrances to hide the bad smells with stronger smells. One of the reasons they have to do this is because the treatment itself contains chemicals that will kill waste-eating bacteria. Once the bacteria is dead, there’s nothing breaking down the waste and as a result, nothing controlling the odors. Some might say, “So what? I control the odors in my home bathroom by spraying the air with a freshener like Glade or Febreze.” Yes, but like many of these tank deodorizers, Glade does nothing but cover the odors and overwhelm the space with another strong fragrance; it would not really improve the aromatic standards of RVing. In the same way, an RVing hack that many people hear about through word-of-mouth and on RV forums is that pouring Pine-Sol down the toilet and into the black tank(s) is an effective deodorizer, when actually it is a bacteria-killer and odor-masker; we do not recommend using Pine-Sol. There are some fragrance only treatments that won’t kill bacteria, but they still rely on added fragrances overpowering the toilet odors. So again, deodorizers and fresheners that do not contain bacteria or zinc probably use harsh chemicals to achieve odor elimination, and often it’s not so much odor elimination as odor replacement.

Formulated with trust. The Unique Method. Unique Camping + Marine

Product Transparency

There is a good reason why there are so many different opinions out there about which tank treatments are the best. Products in the RV waste treatment industry are not highly regulated and companies are generally very free to put all kinds of claims on their labels that may not match the actual ingredients. In fact, many of them including top name brands (like Happy Campers “Organic” Treatment) refuse to release the full ingredient list to allow their consumers insight into what they are buying. They hide the true nature of their products so much that it forced us to hire a mineralogist to do an independent analysis of their product, the results of which confirmed what we already knew about their product: it is not organic and not very safe at all. 

Another product that conveniently hides the presence of dangerous chemicals is Walex’s Porta-Pak. According to their SDS (safety data sheet), this product contains bronopol, but it is not listed on the packaging. So not only are they exposing customers to products containing dangerous chemicals, but the product labelling may be causing them to unwittingly use illegal RV treatments in states and municipalities where they are prohibited. The best way for consumers to be confident about their purchase is for the company to release a full ingredient list that matches the product label like we do. We are committed to formulating our products with transparency so that you can trust the superiority of our products when it comes to safety, effectiveness, and eco-friendliness.

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Recapping The Unique Method

By now, you've read loads of information on The Unique Method. We hope it’s been helpful! Though tank maintenance can seem daunting at times, when you really boil The Unique Method down, it’s pretty simple and straightforward:

  • Use your tank valves correctly (black is always closed; gray is open when on hook-ups and closed when dry camping/boondocking).
  • Treat your black holding tanks with a high-quality bacteria and enzyme or zinc and enzyme product and treat your gray tank with a bacterial treatment when the gray valve remains closed.
  • Keep water in your toilet bowl at all times (unless driving).
  • Fill your toilet bowl with water before you use it.
  • Use plenty of water every time you flush your toilet (hold the flush pedal down for 10 seconds).
  • Dump your black tanks every 3-5 days.
  • Flush your black tank for 20-30 minutes every 3-5 dumps.
  • Deep clean your black tank at least twice per year.
  • Prevent as much grease and food debris as possible from getting in your gray tank.
  • Deep clean your gray tank at the end of each dry camping/boondocking trip.
  • Avoid cleaning your toilet, sinks, dishes or showers with chemical or anti-bacterial cleaners.
  • Try not to let your holding tanks get too hot.
  • Store your RV with a full tank of water and a bottle of RV Digest-It in the black tank(s) when the risk of freezing isn’t a concern.

Don’t forget to test the treatment products you want to use against the requirements for The Unique Method to work most efficiently:

  • Eliminates odors
  • Breaks down waste
  • Cleans sensors
  • Is approved for use in all states

The Unique Method Product Pack. Unique Camping + Marine

The Unique Method Pack

Prevention is always the best policy, and by employing the 50/50 approach using The Unique Method (proper tank care habits) and the best products (ideally bacteria and enzyme or zinc and enzyme products), you stay out ahead of intruding odors, annoying clogs, and misreading sensors. While The Unique Method can be effective with other brand name products, we recommend using Unique Camping + Marine products since the method was designed with these products in mind. In fact, we put together a pack that includes all the products we recommend as well as a guide you can take with you!

Contact Us

There are always bumps in the road any time you start something new or change habits, so don't get discouraged. That's what we're here for! If you run into problems after following The Unique Method, don't hesitate to contact us. We're happy to help you get back on track!