Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Dump station etiquette – How long is too long when others are waiting?

Someone recently asked: “How long is too long when others are waiting behind you at the dump station?”

This caused me to ponder an appropriate answer. How long is too long to occupy a dump station when others are patiently waiting?

“If you’re doing everything properly, you can get the job done in less than 15 minutes without even making a mess.” Says RV blogger Jessica Lipscomb.

I prefer to disperse camp (aka boondock) versus camp in developed campgrounds or RV parks that feature full hookups with sewer. Therefore, I am dependent on public dump stations along my route to dump my holding tanks. If potable freshwater is available, too, I will also refill my freshwater tank while I am there. I am never sure where the next opportunity to do so might present itself.

How long is too long? I like to “git r done!”

I have become very proficient at dumping my tanks, filling my freshwater tank, and getting back on the road on my way to the next boondocking camp. After all, why spend extra time to flush and rinse my black tank when we are just going to start refilling it at the next camp? In fact, I feel the same way if I am going to use the RV again in the next week or two. Why spend a bunch of time rinsing and flushing the black tank when I will be using it again soon? Just add some water and chemical to the black tank after dumping, let it slosh around on the way home and call it good!

How long is too long? 5-10 minutes?

For me, the dumping process is pulling into the dump station (hopefully without waiting behind another RVer), and stopping so that my termination outlet is close enough for me to reach the dump with my sewer hose. Then I dump the black tank and rinse the sewer hose using the discharge from the gray tank.* I make sure the sewer hose is drained and, unless I spilled something, disconnect my sewer hose and stow it back in the bumper of my travel trailer. Done, easy peasy, in under 5 minutes.

* I utilize the following procedure to make sure I have cleared black water from the termination assembly back to the black dump valve: Once a substantial amount of gray water has entered the sewer hose I will lift the center of the sewer hose higher than the dump valves a couple of times. This will force gray water back against the now-closed black tank valve and flood the interior of the sewer hose, rinsing away any remaining black water. When I lower the sewer hose back down, the impounded gray water will then rush through the sewer hose rinsing away any solids that might be remaining from dumping the black tank.

How long is too long? Filling up freshwater too! 10-15 minutes?

Assuming there is potable water available (typically at a faucet as you begin to leave the dump area), I will pull far enough forward to allow another RVer to pull into the dump area behind me. If needed, I will use an extra length of freshwater hose to make sure I have left enough room for the next dump user, especially if they have been waiting behind me. To make sure I am able to fill my freshwater tank quickly and exit before the RVer behind me is done dumping, I have added a pressure fill system to my RV as the original (poorly designed) gravity fill took upwards of 20-30 minutes to fill my freshwater tank. I hated being the guy that held up others at the dump station as I waited for my freshwater tank to fill. Now if the pressure is good, I can fill my freshwater tank in under 5 minutes.

As you can see, for me, the process of dumping and refilling my freshwater tank is 10 minutes or so. If I am heading home and don’t need to take on freshwater, it is about a 5-minute process.

Now I understand that: 1) Some RVs have more than one gray tank or more than one termination outlet. 2) You may have a disability that adds time to the process. 3) You may have to store your sewer hose in an interior compartment or a less convenient place which requires you to bag or fully drain your sewer hose, so your time to dump and fill may take longer than it take me.

How long is too long at the dump station
Photo: Cruise America Instagram

So, how long is too long? 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, more?

To see if I could find an answer, I did an online search and found a fairly lengthy thread on the RV Tips Facebook group.

Danielle Westerhausen posted the question:

“How long is an acceptable time at the dump station when there’s a line? I feel so rushed and nervous when there’s a line of folks but I’m very particular about the process. How long are you willing to give the folks in front of you without getting too impatient??”

Following is a sampling of the answers:

Amy Bellm: “We take about 10 minutes, set routine & organized under carriage ….Final one of season is about 15 min for good wash out.”

Sandie Sanderson: “Thank God there wasn’t anyone behind us, our valve stuck and it took us 30 minutes to drain it, I felt horrible and no one was even waiting.”

Donna Pearce: “You take the time you need… I will take the time I need… others will do the same… if others do not want to wait… they can get up earlier and leave earlier…”

Pay for an extra day and avoid the rush

Sandy Farkas McGinnis: “Or pay an extra day and leave later in the day after the mad rush. Then you won’t feel pushed because no line behind you.”

Combs Carol replied to Sandy Farkas McGinnis comments above: “We did that this weekend and still a small line. The guy in front of us took 1 hour; no joke and not an aggregation.”

Don Steaples: “I try to take out what I’m going to need while I’m waiting, drain as fast as I can, rinse my hoses and pull up out of the way to put everything back up”

Cindi Freeman: “Not more than 10 min. max, imo. You can pull forward to finish the process away from the tank.”

Joy Miklevich: “As long as it takes”

Art Arevee: “Reminds me of people that park at a gas pump and go inside to shop (not pay for the gas). Really annoying when all the pumps are being used. Those people live in a bubble and only care for themselves. The other side is those that are considerate. They may or may not be efficient. If one is trying that’s all you can ask of them. For a relaxed day, be flexible, things happen.”

Russell Jones: “30 min”

Scott Stanley: “A BAG OF ICE DOES WONDERS, UNTIL you have more time”

Finally, regarding flushing and rinsing the black tank, Herk7769 says on Forest River Forums: “Obviously if there is a line for the dump station, you might want to wait for a full hookup campground for a serious flushing.”

Here is the answer:

How long is too long? Based on my experience and the comments above: 10-15 minutes seems to be acceptable, 30 minutes is pushing it, and one hour is way too long.

For me, if there is a substantial lineup for the dump station, I will continue down the road to the next one. Here is how I locate them.

What are your thoughts on how long is too long when others are waiting? Please share your comments below or continue the discussion on my forum.

For those of you that may have been grossed out by my comment of, “Why spend a bunch of time rinsing and flushing the black tank when I will be using it again soon?” I do rinse and flush my black tank at least once or twice a year. When my RV is parked at home with the black tank empty and with the black tank valve closed, I use a holding tank rinser and some good old dish soap. The rinser will cause the soap to aggressively suds as I work it up, down and sideways in the black tank. Once the water reaches the lower neck of the toilet, I shut the rinser off and let the tank soak for a couple of days. The soaking loosens any caked-on solids, cleans the monitor tank probes, along with testing the integrity of the toilet floor flange seal. I then take the trailer to a dump station and dump the soapy contents of the black tank.

Dave will be speaking at the FMCA Convention in Tucson, AZ, March 25th and 26th. He would love to meet RVtravel.com readers that will be attending. Feel free to introduce yourself after one of his seminars.



Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.


  1. The worst dump station abuse I have witnessed was several years ago, when a departing camper decided to wash his rig at the dump station!
    When we pulled up to the dump station there were 3 rigs ahead of us, all waiting on the one actually dumping. But after a little while when we had not moved, I noticed the one at the dump station had finished putting away his dump hoses – but had now connected a regular hose, gotten out a bucket for soapy water, and then proceeded to wash his rig right at the dump station – when there was an obvious line of RVs all waiting on him to move on! I think all of us waiting were so incredulous at this behavior that none of us said anything to him – though we certainly should have.
    I think our total time there waiting to dump was well over an hour that day.

  2. When we have to use a dump station, we are usually the only ones there. Reason: Because we always leave our site before 7am. We always prepare our rig for departure the day before we leave, so the only thing we have to do the morning of is pull the slides in, hook up and leave. So around 6:30am, there is really no one around us waiting.

  3. It’s usually about 10 but always less than 15 minutes for both tanks, including dumping a bucket of water down the toilet. I think that’s reasonable.

  4. The author seems like a considerate person. Myself, in and out as quick as possible. I have a macerator. At home where I fill the tanks, add Rid x and let set for a couple days. Then I pump dump and clean everything.
    I one time had a couple ahead of me and they were taking forever. It seems they were carrying 5 gallon buckets into the bathroom to flush the black tank. I finally walked over to them and explained that there was a big line waiting and they’d never get it finger licking clean. Totally oblivious to anyone else. In minutes they were gone

    • Good for you. I’m just astonished at some people’s behavior at the dump station.. as if we have all the time in the world to sit there and wait for them to complete their 20 minute visit which should be more like 5. I told the folks in front of me that they could fill their fresh water 100′ ahead at another spigot, but they insisted on staying right at the dump station, blocking me from dumping. Good thing I carry a couple long sewer hoses so I could dump and get out of there.

  5. In our old rig – which was designed very well to have everything drain downhill to a central termination outlet – I could dump both tanks in less than 5 minutes – and they would be empty!

    In our newer rig – a high-end manufacturer’s Class A – the system on our model is the most poorly designed feat of engineering I have ever seen! It takes forever to drain. It’s one of those systems where both the gray and black tanks straddle the entire chassis from one side of the rig to the other and yet the tanks are no more than 8″ tall in any one spot. Both drain into a central 4″ line that runs perpendicular to the rig’s centerline. This is all perfectly level until a short drop to the termination valve. Since there is so much “floor” area to the tanks, solids will spread out, even with a full tank, and take forever to meander their way to the exit pipe…

    The gray is similar in that even when full, the outflow is barely more than a trickle! Frustrating to say the least…

  6. 1) Don’t take a shower while your tanks are emptying. (I’ve seen it done.)
    2) While you are sitting waiting get everything ready to go instead of sitting whining about how long it’s taking.

  7. One thing I have figured out is effectively flushing holding tanks is a bit of voodoo and seemingly no two RVs are quite the same. Yes, I agree with doing a half-hearted clean when there is a significant line. However in my experience this also often means the NEXT clean is going to take the usual effort PLUS the missed effort in terms of time and water to get the job done. You can only delay the thorough cleanings so long.

  8. To the people who store the sewer hose inside the bumper, if you notice pin holes in the hose it’s caused by rust inside the bumper. If you buy new you may be able to “paint the inside some how”. I always buy a 4” sewer drain pipe, cut off the excess 2’ and get appropriate end caps and mount it under the RV near the dump valve, it’s smooth, drain holes on the bottom ventilate the hose to dry it and it’s handy. I use plumbers perforated strapping to mount it, always dry and non smelly when I use it next.

  9. I ran into a problem when camping this spring. Someone opened the black water tank valve before i got a chance to dump the tank. When i got to the dump station, i took the cap off to hook up the hose,and i was flooded with (you know what). Is there any way around this?

  10. How long do you take in the bathroom? Do you rush the process because others are waiting? Plan ahead if you are in a rush or get a macerator. The long Sunday morning lines may help cull the crowds.

  11. It probably takes the two of us about 10-15 minutes to dump, now that we are practised, but it took a few dumps to develop an organization (17′ trailer, small=tight packing) and routine that worked well. We do use a rinser (Valterra Hydroflush) most of the time, it has eliminated the odor issues we had the first season with our travel trailer. If there’s a line, we skip rinsing. We mostly dry camp, and on longer trips, stop with FHUs overnight to do a relaxed dump. Our gray tank is only 30 gal., but is slow to drain, thanks to the way the pipes run, unless we are on a sloped pad (our local KOA is set up that way, and gives us the quickest and best dumping.)
    By myself, it takes longer (or so it seems). With small arthritic hands, we’ve had to come up with solutions so I can manage caps and connections. Not to mention a bad back and cranky joints, I’m not deliberately being slow, but one thing I’ve learned is that trying to hurry, in the end, takes more time.

  12. Dumping since 1976. Get your stuff ready, drag hose etc. to near dump while person ahead of you is dumping. Dump, rinse, put your stuff away and get DTR(down the road).

  13. The only time I’ve had a dump problem was in Quartzsite at South LaPosa. Lady in an old C had finished dumping, but then started to fill her water tank with the ‘unpotable’ water at the dump station. I, and a fella behind me told her to move on to the fresh water station, about a hundred feet ahead. Of course she got angry. I try to be patient, but I’m not going to sit there and watch that.

    • Lol, LaPosa is where we all sat for an extra 30 minutes while some scary looking guy took forever to get his hoses sparkling clean. Good for you for speaking up, some people feel entitled to take forever.

      At Acadia, some couple prepared and ate breakfast after their tanks had drained, would not move along til they were through. Enormous rig, tiny dump station area. People were blocking the access road while these fools took their time.

      At a COE, one couple finished pretty quickly, but then proceeded to do all their get-ready-to-go work while parked at the station (re-packing hatches, watering the dog, etc). I had to ask them to move forward into the 300′ of space available in front of the station.

      What is wrong with people?

  14. Flushing tanks should be 10 to 15 min tops. I take notes and make observation of the check-in and check-out times of empty sites with Sewer connections, move my trailer over between the check-in and check-out times, and use it for a 10 to 15 min dump.

  15. For those with smaller RV’s: Get a cassette toilet in your next rig. Carry an extra cassette with you. Quick dump and all you need is a regular toilet or even an outhouse! Less to break also. Gray water is a quick dump with no need to rinse tank often. RV’s with cassette toilets often use the regained space to enlarge the gray capacity. If you have large enough property at home, and your local government does not forbid it, you can dump your gray water right onto your flower beds, vegetable gardens, etc. Install a SOG (or similar) venting system (inexpensive) and there is no odor with the cassette either.

  16. At state park in line to dump when everything came to a stop. It seems the guy hooked up to dump and then took the family into the building so they could all get there showers. It was a good half hour before they came back out and then went and did the rinsing. By then the line was around and out into the road. Self centered people that think the world revolves around them

  17. If we’re not at a FHU site, we’ll unplug and dump the night before leaving the park. The next morning, we unplug, raise levelers and pass all the people in line at the dump station!

  18. This reminds me of a time when I needed gas. Man in front of me started the gas pump then got in his car and started talking on his phone. Pump shut off and he just set there for another 15 min. When I went up and told him his pump had stopped he got upset because i was interrupting his phone call. You can use your imagination about what I thought and said.

  19. As I learned in the Boy Scouts, “how long is five minutes?” It depends which side of the bathroom door you are on.

  20. I pulled into a State Park in Arizona and started dumping my tanks because the dump at the previous place had a long line. Luckily, it was afternoon and no line at the dump. I was taking my time, when a Park Ranger pulled up and told me I was taking too much time. I pointed out that there was no line and another station open. He said 5 minutes was the time limit to dump. We haven’t been back.

  21. Past Summer staying at a state park here in Colorado the dump line crowd was ten rigs deep. Reason the line not moving, two families just talking at the dump station not even taking care of business. Park Ranger drove up told them load it and move it. We tend to stay at sites with dump stations at site.

  22. I’ve never put a timer on the process in my 20 years, 10 full time. When we are on the road I use a macerator to empty my black tank. It takes longer than using a stinky slink, but I do not have to break the hose out of storage, it is stowed in the wet bay floor with a cap on the end. I don’t have to be real neat about clearing it, I have full grey tank to run after the black tank and use the back flow from the grey to flush the black tank (both valves open after draining the black tank) therefore no waiting for fresh water to flush the black tank. I use the last of the grey to flush the hose, put the end cap on it and stow it. I would guess worst case is 15 minutes. I do not worry about getting either tank clean since they will be put back in use within hours, just clean enough to get sensors clean. We have the old fashioned sensors and they work just fine after almost 10 years!

  23. Once I was next in line and the couple ahead just about saniti zed the tank.twice they carried in 4- 5 gal buckets to flush the black tank. Finally a group of us waiting told them to get moving as you’re never going to eat or drink the stuff that was in there. No need to be new clean. They finally drove forward to potable water dragging the sewer hose. Probably got pin holes in it then.

  24. If a person needs more than 30 minutes to dump, he either needs help or they are incredibly rude. You can always offer a hand. Not everyone is experienced with their rv.

  25. 10 to 15 minutes or less. When we are in line, we look at it like “what’s the hurry? They are done when they are done”. We’re retired and have zero reason to be in a hurry.

  26. I suppose it takes me about 10-15 min to dump tanks. The actual time at the spot depends on how much trouble im having getting the caps off and back on! Arthritis makes it seem almost impossible sometimes. And that is definitely one chore you can’t say “good enough!”

  27. I usually don’t have a problem with people taking whatever time they need, but this week I spent an unusually long time in line behind an individual who spent a good 15 minutes rinsing hoses, parts, etc. while a line of people waited.

    Danielle and others: there is a time to ‘fuss’ with your tanks (flushing, etc) and it is when you are at a full-hookup site. When you are at a public dump station with people waiting in line, dump your tanks and move on.

    For the newbies: you are never going to get your sewer hoses crystal clean, stop wasting precious water trying to do that. Whatever extra rinsing you do is also spraying a fine mist of e.-coli water all over the dump station, and I’ve been caught in one of these mist clouds–yuck. Just rinse it with the gray water, drain it, stow it in a location isolated from other things (use a plastic bin or separate compartment, whatever).

  28. This is exactly what I was about to say about how people are and that you’re wasting your time if you think the person in front of you taking an hour is concerned about your wait……. “You take the time you need… I will take the time I need… others will do the same… if others do not want to wait… they can get up earlier and leave earlier…”

  29. I installed a composting toilet in our 5th wheel. Never have used the black for anything other than gray water waste!
    Perfect setup for us!

  30. Why would it take longer than 10 minutes? If someone is behind me longer than 10 minutes for my end of season washout (that might take 20 minutes), I’ll pull back around and get in line behind them.

  31. Seriously, we now complain about time it takes to cleanup after ourselves. I thought the idea was to relax and enjoy the event. Now we are imposing time limits on taking care of one’s business. BREATHE folks.


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