By Gail Marsh
One of our readers, Gary H., recently wrote to us about RV toilet paper and said: “We have only been RVing for five years, so we are always open to new ideas. We tried your suggestion and used the Kirkland brand of toilet paper while on our latest excursion. Unfortunately for us, it seems to be a disaster. We have never had an issue draining our tanks in the past. However, when I tried to drain my tanks last night, very little came out of the black water tank. I have a septic company coming out this morning to pump my tank as it is almost overflowing. I can only surmise it was the toilet paper switch.”
You may be right, Gary. I’m really sorry you’re having a problem! Maybe the Costco Kirkland brand toilet paper did cause your problem. Since the pandemic last year, and the subsequent run on toilet paper (no pun intended) several people have complained. According to Reddit, not only have folks had problems with the brand causing clogs, but others have also fussed that the Kirkland brand is much thinner than before. (Hard to believe how they could make it any thinner and how the thinner paper could subsequently cause clogs, but there it is.)
I researched the Kirkland brand and found nothing to show that Costco changed its 2-ply paper thickness or bio-degradable capabilities. It could be that during the pandemic something changed with the rush to fill the overwhelming demand for toilet paper, but I couldn’t find it.
Your letter made me think. There are so many different variables when it comes to dealing with the black tank. The type of toilet paper is certainly critical. The designated “RV toilet paper” is so expensive to buy that we’ve experimented with several different brands over the years. You can run your own unofficial test like this: Use identical containers. Fill each container with the same amount of water. Then put four squares of “X” brand toilet paper into the first container, four squares of another toilet paper into the second container, and yet another toilet paper into the third container. Stir each container briefly. Watch to see which brand of toilet paper dissolves first or breaks down the best overall.
Here are some additional tips regarding RV toilet paper
- Look for RV, marine, or septic-approved toilet paper or test a non-specified paper for solubility like described above.
- Buy single-ply tissue. But remember it defeats the purpose if you use double the amount of toilet paper. If single ply doesn’t do the job, you may as well use double-ply paper.
- If you use chemicals in your black tank, be careful how you clean your toilet bowl. Chemicals that clean your bowl can also kill the good bacteria in your black tank. These bacteria are needed to break down the waste and keep your tank from emitting strong odors. The bowl-cleaning chemicals may also cause an unintended chemical reaction with the chemicals you’ve put into the black tank. You can use baking soda and water along with your toilet brush and still get the bowl clean and fresh.
- Be careful what you put in the toilet. I used to dump mop water down the toilet in our RV. This is not a good thing to do! Not only can the cleaning chemicals upset the balance of useful bacteria in the black tank, but any debris from the mop water can stick to the sides of the black tank and potentially cause a clog over time. Nothing should be put down the toilet except waste and toilet paper.
- Avoid folding the paper into layers when using. Often the paper will remain folded when flushed and will take longer to break down.
- How we use toilet paper makes a difference, too. Try to avoid using too much. Four squares should be enough, but if more is required, flush first before adding more paper.
- Use plenty of water. The toilet is not the place to skimp on water. Any brand of toilet paper needs adequate water in order to break down and pass easily through pipes.