Tuesday, November 28, 2023


One RVer’s wacky way to get rid of RV toilet odors

By Chuck Woodbury
This takes the cake. Nobody on our staff has ever seen anyone go to this extreme to dispatch their RV’s toilet’s holding tank odors out of the RV and into the atmosphere. This is the all-time craziest method I have ever seen.

What this RVer has done is put a Shop Vac vacuum cleaner on his roof, then run a hose from his black holding tank vent into the vacuum cleaner, where, power switch flipped, smelly fumes are then sucked up and out of the RV into the heavens. I’ve been RVing a long time and I have never seen a wacky setup like this.

360 RV Siphon vent

All I can say is that there must have been some desperation going on for the RVer to go to this trouble. THE EASY WAY to deal with toilet tank odors, of course, is to buy an inexpensive 360 RV Siphon vent, like I did for my motorhome. Once installed (easy) it creates a vacuum that pushes sewer odors up from the black tank and out of the roof vent. The $1 debris cover caps that come standard on almost all RVs do the opposite – the only place the holding tank odors can escape is into the RV’s living area. And what you end up with is one incredibly stinky RV – pretty much a rolling outhouse. I experienced this for many years before learning the easy way to get permanently rid of the odors.

Some RVers wrap a garbage bag around their toilet to trap the odors. That’s fine, but it’s ugly and it’s not so easy to do your business, right?

Anyway, this setup is a hoot! I passed the photo along to the inventors of the 360 RV Siphon, who are friends, and they wrote back saying thanks for the best laugh of their day.

RVers are a clever bunch, no doubt about that, but you really do have to question some of the techniques they employ to deal with problems.

Thanks to Dave Helgeson for sending us the photo.


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Grant Edgar (@guest_90597)
3 years ago

I wouldn’t try it. The suction might collapse the tank and you would have more than a smell to contend with.

Glenn (@guest_90559)
3 years ago

Did anyone notice that the hose is under a solar panel. I think he was cleaning that out. Toilet vent on other side!!

Bluebird Bob (@guest_90739)
3 years ago
Reply to  Glenn

No..you can see the hose going down the vent by the solar.

Lyn (@guest_90421)
3 years ago

I wouldn’t want to be parked next to him in a campground! I really don’t understand the odor problem, frankly. I’ve never had an issue with either of the two RVs I’ve owned, but I also make darn sure I flush the black tank thoroughly every single time I empty it. And, I always use 2 of those Dyna Bac odor pouches for good measure. This might not work for others, but it’s worked well for me over the years.

David (@guest_90360)
3 years ago

I can tell you from personal experience that the easiest way to get rid of black tank smell is to install a residential toilet. After 5 years of fulltime living, my wife says this is the best improvement I’ve ever done. Just make sure to get a one piece unit so you don’t have a separate water tank to rock back and forth.

Bob Weinfurt (@guest_90437)
3 years ago
Reply to  David

A residential toilet uses wayyyy too much water and would work out only if you’re at a campground with water and sewer hook-ups.

David Shipp (@guest_90317)
3 years ago

I am always baffled by complaints of smells from the holding tanks. It has never been a problem for us. If there is water in the traps and in the toilet, how can smells get into the camper? It’s a closed system. The most common problem is the auto vent that is under the sink in so many campers. Replace that and the traps with the waterless p trap and in most cases, the problem is solved. Never replace one of those auto vents with a new auto vent. Only with the waterless p trap. Does your toilet have a small amount of water in it? That is another common problem. We have a bottle of water in the bathroom when dry camping just for that reason. You only need about a tablespoon of water. Other than that? How does smells get into your camper? Did you spill in the basement when you dumped?

Sandy Johnson (@guest_90316)
3 years ago

Thank you for your quality newsletter. I purchased a “new to me” RV last fall in anticipation of going full time in 2021, when I retire. I knew there’d be a learning curve; I didn’t want to be 1000 miles from home and run into a problem I could solve myself. I’ve realized the RV community is more of a social/problem solving group, which is nice but ineffective at addressing repetitive complaints of low quality units that are large investments for many people. Any other industry, from plumbing to you-name-it, has to respond to consumer complaints or face consequences. Bad reviews aren’t always sufficient because, outside of sales, they don’t communicate complaints to those with the authority to improve quality, respond to complaints about delays in warranty work/service issues, or poor customer service. We need to be more organized as a consumer group. Improved RV quality could translate into more enjoyable times in the RV, and increased sales. A win-win for us all. Thank you-

Lyn (@guest_90422)
3 years ago
Reply to  Sandy Johnson

And that’s exactly why I subscribe to this newsletter. Chuck is a warrior when it comes to calling out the RV industry. If enough of us speak out, with Chuck as our motivator and advocate, then I have to believe things will change. Too many just complain and take no action; if you don’t take action, who will?

Thomas (@guest_90306)
3 years ago

Methane, the gas found in sewage is highly explosive in right concentration. Sparks fron the brushes of the vacuum could cause an explosion. No thanks

Curt Daigle (@guest_90547)
3 years ago
Reply to  Thomas

True! That”s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the picture.

Wolfe (@guest_90289)
3 years ago

I DO recommend the 360 vent you mentioned here, but it could fail to work if the wind is too still too long. Another solution “halfway” to this one is a small solar vent that actively pulls anytime sun is on it. I’d imagine that could fail when the suns not up, but a friend absolutely swears by theirs.

RICHARD SMITH (@guest_90256)
3 years ago

Great idea! I have to replace my slide seal and this will make it much more pleasant experience.

Tom (@guest_90231)
3 years ago

A solar powered vent cap is out there. I installed one in my first motorhome. I now have the 360 solution.

Wolfe (@guest_90290)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Inquiring minds want to know, from someone who has used both now – how do the two compare?

STEPHEN P Malochleb (@guest_90220)
3 years ago

Are we sure he is venting and not trying a new way of emptying his tank? Maybe there was a birds nest or mouse nest he was trying to remove. Any which way, a good laugh.

Marty chambers (@guest_90206)
3 years ago

I think there’s some genius in this setup. The shop vac may be a bit of overkill but the concept is interesting.

Why not design a vent that works like the new design AND that has a fan to assist? Solar powered, the design of the vent would allow it.

That way the fan would run all the time. And on cloudy days the vent would work as the design is now.

Wolfe (@guest_90293)
3 years ago
Reply to  Marty chambers

I had a similar idea that someone could make a hybrid of these — the solar cap is out there, and (my friend says) only stops at night — cloudy is not a problem to run.

Wolfe (@guest_90296)
3 years ago
Reply to  Wolfe

Update: I have a $1 solar fan (meant for clipping to a hatbrim) that I’m happy to sacrifice for the cause (I’ll place the fan in the pipe below the 360 and put the panel on the outside of the pipe where it won’t disturb the 360’s venturi). The problem I see is knowing if it helps much — I almost never get odors NOW, so proving extra decimal places takes a long time subjectively.

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