Sh** happens! Poop pyramids happen! Especially if you dry camp, like I do, and are a full-time RVer, like I am.
I’ve been on the road long enough to know better, but… My RV black tank just got graded an “F.” As in: I flunked flushing!
Wow! How did this happen?
Well, I bought my fancy one-year-old “used” 28-foot-motorhome eight months ago and within a few days, the black and gray tank sensors didn’t work. They never worked on my other two (used) RVs, either.
My “trusty” salesman told me to use the back-washing system and they would work. That is a nice option, but it was just another lie.
I figured I usually have to dump every two weeks if I am careful with the gray, just like what I have been doing for the past eight years.
But, more than a month ago, a smell started wafting up from my toilet after I flushed. Yet another thing wrong—I’ll fix it when I can get to it, I reasoned. I kept on back-washing when I dumped.
When I went to my RV manufacturer’s rally in October in Elkhart, Ind., I saw my solution: A Kleen Tank booth. I instantly plunked down the $250 to get my black and gray tanks flushed. (Rally price: $250. Normal price: $275.)
Tim Branstiter, a traveling Kleen Tank dealer, gave my black tank an F. And my gray tank got a C. (Not as bad, but mold. Double yuck.)
The culprit? I don’t use enough water when flushing!
Hey, wait a minute! I flush! And I figured by gathering most of my gray water in my sink basin and pouring it down the toilet I was doing what I needed. Wrong! In my defense, I do this because my freshwater tankcapacity is only 27 gallons, my gray water tank is only 23 gallons and my black tank is 35 gallons. It’s harder than I thought to dry camp with.
But my problem apparently just kept on “accumulating.”
NEWS ALERT! Most of us are not putting enough water in our black and gray tanks. I will explain later.
To compound my embarrassment, I was the first person at the rally to have my tanks cleaned, so a crowd of fellow RVers gathered ’round with their folding chairs and beers to watch. It’s what “passes” for entertainment in the RV crowd.
Tim, of Kleen Tank, told me I had a “mound.” I had heard about those. You can guess what the “mound” is made of. My “report card” said my initial flow was bad, I had an “obstruction” and the tank odor was “bad.”
Tim said he was “98 percent sure” my smell would evaporate. And it did. Tim said he was pretty sure my sensors would start working. The gray tank indicator works a bit better. The black not at all. He said to keep using his tank formula (more on that later) and they still might start completely working.
There are other professional RV tank cleaning companies out there. If you have ever been to Quartzsite, AZ, I am sure you have seen ads for the “RV Proctologist.” I also talked to an independent tank cleaner in Red Bay, AL, and he told me his process.
But Kleen Tank probably has the most dealers of any outfits out there (46, two in Canada) and has been perfecting its process for 11 years.
Like other professional RV tank cleaners, they used a process called hydro jetting—they use 1,500 PSI pressure through their design of nozzles. Kleen Tank uses only friction to get tanks clean—no chemicals.
Thomas Scott, of Tri-State RV Tank Cleaning in Red Bay, says, “My specialty is a higher volume of water. I use about 2,500 PSI. Other guys use 3 gallons a minute; I put in 8 gallons a minute.”
Wherever you get your tanks cleaned, professionals agree you need to do it at least once a year.
What to do each time you empty your black tank to prevent poo pyramids
- Every time you empty your tank, you should put 3 to 5 gallons of water down both toilet and sink. I have never put water down my sink after dumping so wow—this was news to me! (I faithfully put in two gallons each time I emptied the black and, apparently, that was not enough.)
- STOP using tank additives. Really. Kleen Tank says that is your second biggest mistake. “Those chemicals and enzymes you’re using create a sludge—or thick, pancake-like batter—that makes it impossible to get waste out and tanks clean,” its literature says. And that stuff gunks up your sensors, too. Wow, there’s a headline. How much have I invested in those packets over the past eight years? (FYI, Thomas Scott disagrees here. He thinks Happy Camper is a good product. Also, “The cleanest tanks I have seen use lots of water and Dawn dish detergent,” Thomas said.)
- So, what does Kleen Tank suggest you use instead? A mixture of water, Pine-Sol and Calgon bath pearls, beads or liquid. This is interesting that Kleen Tank doesn’t try to sell you its own formula. A pint of the stuff comes with your cleaning. I’ll tell you their recipe at the end of the story. Again, Thomas doesn’t agree with this formula, so…
- Keep that water flowing when you “go.” “Start with a half bowlful of water, relieve yourself as needed, flush it down, fill the toilet bowl at least halfway, flush that down,” the Kleen Tank literature says.
- Don’t empty your tanks before they are 75 percent full. You want the swirl or vortex to help clean your tanks.
- If you have an internal sprayer, use it when emptying the black tanks.
- Don’t equalize the gray back into the black tank because you could cross-contaminate. (My RV salesman had offered that as a solution to my smallish gray tank. Aaaaah!)
- When parked and hooked to a sewer, do not keep your black tank valve open. That’s when the sewer flies hit. (Luckily, I have never encountered these awful creatures. Have you?)
RV tank cleaning myths
- RV toilet paper. Tim says if you use enough water, you can use any kind of toilet paper you want. (Is it TMI if I tell you I have never put toilet paper down any of my black tanks?)
- Tank rinsers—they help but just aren’t up to the task.
- Ice in the tanks will break things up—nope.
- Dawn and other dish detergents in your black tank—nope. (As opposed to what Thomas Scott said.)
- Laundry detergent and pods—nope.
Which RVs have the most holding tank problems?
- Your RV is three or more years old
- You are the second or third owner
- If used, your RV may have sat on a dealer’s lot
- Previous owner was negligent or inexperienced (or maybe like me, uneducated in this regard?)
- RV was a rental unit
- Used full-time or in harsh conditions
- Communal bathroom use
Kleen Tank’s recipe
Using an empty and clean one-gallon plastic bottle or jug, add 8 ounces of Calgon bath pearls, beads or liquid to the bottle. (Do not use a bottle of Calgon water softener like I bought and had to throw away.) Measure 40 ounces of Pine-Sol or similar product into the bottle. Slowly fill with water, waiting for the suds to “die down” before adding more water.
Add solution to both tanks every time after emptying:
- Dispense 4 ounces each into black and gray tanks that are less than 45 gallons in capacity.
- Dispense 8 ounces into each tank that has more than 45 gallons in capacity.
Well, I guess I will be using more water, trying to find more water and dumping more as I travel down life’s highway. The great thing is—I am not too old to learn.
- Ask Dave: How do I eliminate “poop pyramids” in the black tank?
- I flooded my RV with poop! Will my warranty cover me?