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What Can We Do To Keep Our RVs Black Water Holding Tank From Clogging Up?

by Wanda
(Orlando, FL USA)

How to Keep Your RV's Black Water Tank From Clogging Up

How to Keep Your RV's Black Water Tank From Clogging Up

How to Keep Your RV's Black Water Tank From Clogging Up
What Can We Do To Keep Our RVs Black Water Holding Tank From Clogging Up?

We have a 2004 Fleetwood Prowler 5th wheel. We are constantly having problems with the black tank clogging up. The gauge shows that the tank is not full however, it is coming up in the bowl. I have noticed the pipe going to the tank has a 90 degree bend.

Is there any way to fix this? Would the water jets installed in the tank help? I have a wand jet that I attach to a water hose and feed it down thru the bowl. That usually gets it done. I make sure the valve stays closed until I am ready to dump it.


This is very bad especially when we have quite a few people camping with us. I am short of asking everyone not to flush toilet paper but that would create yet another problem.

Please advise. Thank You!!

ANSWER Greetings Wanda thanks for submitting your question on our Ask An RV Question Page.

The RV Lifestyle is wonderful however having to deal with problems with the black water holding tank can sometimes bring an ominous black cloud over the whole RVing experience. Unfortunately, you are pretty much stuck with the design of your black water holding system, unless you can find a plumber or RV Technician that is willing to try to reroute the plumbing. This could end up costing you some hard-earned cash.

Let's see if we can find some more economical solutions to your problem. First I am going to refer you to some products that I personally use to keep our black water holding tank in good operating condition and then give you some more tips at the end of this answer.

Let's start off with toilet paper (never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would start a paragraph with that sentence). If you are using regular house toilet paper in the RV toilet, you need to stop using it. You need to use toilet paper that is designed for RV use such as 1 Case Of Scott Rapid-Dissolving Bathroom Tissue. Yes, we buy it by the case as it is cheaper that way. This stuff dissolves real quickly in the holding tank, so it will not clog up.

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To break down the waste in the tank and to also keep the tank odor free we use Eco Smart Holding Tank Deodorant And Cleaner. This product does a good job of breaking up all of crud inside the tank and does a great job at getting rid of the odors. We like it because it is very Eco-Friendly and can also be used in the grey water tank.

Now as far as your gauges not showing the proper level in your holding tanks, this could be due to the probes in the holding tank being dirty which causes them not to work. Not all holding tanks have probes, but if yours does you can try some RV Probe Cleaner and see if that gets the probes working again. Some RVers just give up on the tank gauges ever working and have become pretty good at knowing when to dump the tanks.

The last product I would recommend is to install an aftermarket holding tank flushing system. Depending on how your holding tank is configured one of these 3 products should work for you. The Camco RV Dual Flush Pro Holding Tank Rinser with Gate Valve, Camco RV Dual Flush RV Holding Tank Rinser or the Tornado Rotary Tank Rinser. Our motorhome has a built in tank cleaner and it really helps get all the crud out of the tanks.

Here are some other tips on keeping your RVs black water holding tank trouble free.

1. Flush often while sitting on the toilet. Water is a black water holding tanks friend.

2. Always flush twice after using the RV Toilet, the more water the better.

3. After dumping the tanks, add about 1 gallon of water to the black water holding tank through the toilet before actually using the toilet.

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4. Another way some RVers clean the probes in their RV's Black Water Tank is by filling up the black water tank halfway with water and dumping a couple of bags of ice down the toilet and then drive the RV around for awhile. The ice cubes move around in the tank acting as agitators to break up debris.

5. Some RVers have had great luck by using liquid Dawn Dishwasher soap in the RV holding tanks as it also breaks up the debris in the tank.

I hope that you have gotten some useful information. If any of our visitors have suggestions for you they can add them to this page by clicking on the add a comment link located near the bottom of the page.

Happy RVing

RVing Al

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Comments for What Can We Do To Keep Our RVs Black Water Holding Tank From Clogging Up?

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Keeping the old tank running free
by: Major

Put about a half box of RIDX for septic tanks when tank is empty. To see if paper will dissolve put a piece toilet tissue in a glass jar about half full of water and put lid on tight shake like crazy ( the jar) paper breaks up it is ok to use in holding tanks.

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RV Toilet Clogs
by: Anonymous

We also had problems with RV clogs because our toilet drain is at a 90 degree angle. Didn't realize it until it was too late. We'll use the suggestions but the biggest learning was never to hook up direct when you are at a full hook up site.

If toilet paper doesn't make it to the tank, it and all the lovelys involved dry on the pipe and nothing will dissolve it to get it to black tank to use Happy Camper, Dawn or anything else. Think of how you make paper mach and how hard the surface is.

It was awful! I never wanted to use the RV again.

Luckily my husband who is handy - figured out to use a drill attached to an extension brush normally used to clean out lint traps. He was able to remove the clog (lots of bleach after that) and we will never "dry camp" again without using lots of water before we "add" to the tank".

Hope this never happens to you! Or that you can learn from our mistakes!

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Thank you!
by: Paula

I am so exceptionally happy to know that I'm not alone.

Everything was dandy in the summer and fall, then freezing temps and I'm doing disgusting things every few days.

Thanks for the tips! Time to go shopping!

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hose wash wand
by: redgundogs

The one thing I have not seen here is the power wash wand that attaches to the end of a garden hose. It is an inexpensive alternative to having a tank cleaning head installed. I have strict black tank management protocols. I use marine (or the WalMart cheap 1-ply) tissue and a black tank solution (I will try the Happy Camper).

I start with 5 gallons or so in my tank (40+ gallon capacity). I made the mistake early on, in the early 80's, that leaving the black tank trap open is a bad idea. It took a day to clean. This swishes around when I am going from one stop to the next, with the chemicals it keeps my tank clean.

The cleaning process takes about 30 minutes.
1- open the gate valve and dump black tank. If it is not full when you want to dump it, fill it up first with water by standing on the flush mechanism or with a hose (make sure you can turn it off from the hose end).

2- Attach a black tank cleaning wand to the end of a hose, and with the gate valve closed, turn the water all the way on. move the wand around to clean the sides of your tank, as well as the bottom and top. It will take a while to figure out how to do this best. Crawl under your camper to see what the tank layout is to make that quicker.

3- when the tank is nearly full, turn the water off and open the gate valve. Use a clear elbow from tank to hose when you are hooking up your sewer lines, and watch to see if there is a lot of crud coming out. Do this three or four times and the water should flow nearly clear. With the seal on the toilet open, use a flashlight to see the bottom of the tank. It should look clean. Look underneath and see if the tank looks clean on the sides if visible.

4- With a clean tank, make sure the grey water tank(s) is full (run the tub) and empty it/them to clean the sewer hose. Close gate valves, and you are ready to add a few gallons of water to the black tank along with chemicals.

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Cheap RV toilet paper
by: Anonymous

We switched to only using the cheapest brand of toilet paper originally designed to go in marine toilets and also recommended for RVs. It's very cheap in the USA under $2 for 4 rolls from places like Walmart and can be bought in bulk. On the Canadian side of the border it goes up to a ridiculous $5 for 4 rolls so a summer supply is on our list of stuff we bring north.

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Black Tank Cleaning
by: Wayne & Emily Jo

We agree with the people who use "Happy Camper"" in their tanks. We've been using it for 4 or 5 years now & have never had a problem since switching to it from all the other types of chemicals out there to do this job. We also us any paper we want in the bathroom.

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Black Water Holding Tank Tips
by: Charles May

We hve been full time RV'ing for five years and after many trials and tribulations during the first six months, we have the solution that at least works for us. We use a product called "Happy Camper" that is a granule and can be obtained online if you google it.

It will eliminate all odors and will allow you to use whatever toilet tissue suites you (Charmin or any other two ply affordable brand such as Kirkland from Costco).

Just follow the directions and it will breakdown the tissue and you don't have to worry about buying expensive one ply Camping World so-called RV toilet tissue. If you always fill the black tank full with additional water before flushing and follow it with another full tank of added water (to the black tank)....and then followed with a full tank of gray water, it will keep your black tank relatively free of solid waste and also keep your sewer hose relatively clean.

You should never have a clog using this method if other items aren't flushed down the toilet. The "Happy Camper" product can be used occasionally in the gray water tank too to avoid smells. Another "must" tip is to never keep the black water valve open unless and until dumping the black water. We also do the same with the gray water tank valve but it isn't as important.....after our first six months of a few challenges with dump tanks, we've never had another problem in 4 1/2 years.

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Holding Tank Solution
by: Tina

I'm a full timer in the Texas hill country and just had my holding tanks cleaned with a high pressure flush by rvholdingtankservices.com. Because the process cleans out all the buildup, it restored the accuracy of my sensors, which I didn't think would ever work again. They are a franchise of allprowaterflow.com, so if you live in another part of the country, check to see if there are any franchises in your area. I know there is one in Arizona. See the website(s) for more info - it is a GREAT service and has brought me a lot of peace of mind!

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Black Water Tank Solution
by: Charles May

We are full time RV'ers and have had great success with black water tank by:
1. Always fill the black water tank before dumping
2. Close the black water valve and fill again with water.
3. Dump the black water tank again.
4. Put a few gallons of water in the black water tank with a measure of "Happy Camper" brand tank additive (available online).
5. Follow the black water tank dump with a full dump of the gray water tank (this cleans the sewer hose).
6. Always keep the black water valve closed except when dumping.
7. Never open both black water and gray water valves at the same time.
8. Using the "Happy Camper" brand additive allows you to use any kind of toilet paper you like (even two-ply Charmin or Northern) withoug worryinng about problems.
We have been using this method for two years and have never had a problem.

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No more clogs
by: Anonymous

Always run water in the bowl before flushing a #2. Try to not put any toilet paper in the holding tank, or at least keep it to a minimum. We normally use a Wal-Mart bag hung over a handle on an upper cabinet to put paper in, and take it to the dumpster after doing a #2. We find it a whole lot easier than dealing with a clogged toilet.

When I dump my black water I always pour a couple of 5 gallon buckets of water down the toilet as fast as I can to flush out the tank good.


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Clogging Issues
by: Full-Timer

Consider the cause of clogs: not using enough flushing water, not using rapid-dissolve tissue, cold temperatures, not flushing the tank thoroughly when dumping, excess waste & paper build-up, poor piping design. Solutions: Fill your bowl halfway with water before making "deposits" and flush at least twice during use. Have tank heating strips installed if you RV regularly during cold (freezing) weather. Install a flush-out fitting to your black tank and use it to thoroughly rinse your tank when dumping. Add a low-suds detergent and a couple gallons of water to your tanks (black & gray) when on the move so they "self-clean". I have found that Pine Power (available at Dollar Stores) works very well. Obtain a back-flush fitting to "break loose" clogs...if necessary. Put NOTHING down your toilet except toilet tissue, approved RV deoderants, RV quick-dissolve tissue and the previously mentioned detergent.

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