By Gail Marsh
“Away go troubles, down the drain!” This old Roto-Rooter advertising jingle has been looping through my brain lately, as we’ve recently experienced some trouble with our RV’s gray tank. Specifically, one drain empties slowly (shower) and another drain occasionally emits an unpleasant odor (kitchen sink). Maybe you’ve experienced similar challenges? But what’s the best way to keep RV pipes clean?
When troubleshooting an RV plumbing problem, it’s good to keep in mind that the RV’s plumbing isn’t the same as that in a sticks-and-bricks home. The pipes in an RV are a bit smaller than in standard homes and the drain system isn’t made to withstand high pressure. There isn’t a garbage disposal in our rig, and regular household drain cleaners shouldn’t be used on RV plumbing. (No Roto-Rooter, either!)
My husband and I decided to tackle the kitchen “sink stink” first. We put 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then we added 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the drain. When the fizzing stopped, we poured boiling water down the drain (about six cups, or whatever volume your tea kettle holds). No more smelly drain!
How to keep the shower drain clean
Then, it was on to the shower drain. It didn’t take much thought to figure out that hair was the problem. A needle-nose pair of pliers and a wire coat hanger were part of the solution. We bent the hanger hook so it would fit down the drain and “hook” the hair and other gunk so that we could lift it up and out of the drain. The needle-nose pliers also helped grab some of the gunk. We removed as much as we could and then followed up with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water like before. Ta-da! The water quickly drained out of the shower! Success!
With our problems solved, we wanted to find a way to keep the problems from reoccurring and keep our RV pipes clean. After a bit of research, we found out that food bits that go down the kitchen drain can become stuck inside the pipes. After a time bacteria can form on these particles and unpleasant smells will follow.
Be careful what goes down the kitchen drain
To keep this from happening, we began to be more careful about thoroughly scraping our dishes before putting them in the sink. (Some RVers use paper towels to wipe down their dishes before washing them.) We also purchased a simple sink strainer and – Wow! Now we can see how much stuff had been going down our drain – and it’s a lot. Now after washing dishes, I quickly remove the sink stopper and replace it with the strainer. After the water is completely drained I clean the strainer by tapping its contents into the trash can.
A similar idea helps in the shower. We bought a drain strainer that is made from soft plastic and effectively catches any hair before it can go down the shower drain. We’re hoping these two simple strainers will prevent further mishaps. And it’s good to know that white vinegar and baking soda can come to the rescue whenever we need them.
Editor’s Note: Gadget reviewer Tony Barthel just reviewed the popular TubShroom and Kitchen SinkShroom. Perhaps this is what anyone with similar problems to Gail and her husband need! Check it out.