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How to use Your Gray and Black RV Tanks

RV water systems are different than systems at a house or condo apartment. Even when you're fully hooked up with water and waste at an RV park things still need to be done a little differently in an RV.

What are Black and Gray Water Tanks and What are they Used for Anyways?

In homes, condos or apartments water that goes down the drain after showering or doing dishes and after flushing the toilet goes directly into the plumbing system so it automatically takes the water far away. In RVs there are tanks that hold the waste water which is part of what makes travelling in an RV possible. When the tanks fill up you can simply pull a lever and dump the water waste instead of being attached to a plumbing system the way you would in a house or condo apartment.

Black tanks hold the toilet water and human waste while the gray tanks hold the water that goes down the drain in the showers or sinks within the RV. Each tank has a lever the same colour as the tank that need to be pulled manually to empty the tanks once they reach a certain level.

There is as well a freshwater tank which holds the water that comes out of your taps when you turn the water on. We are connected to a water source so we do not have to worry about this one ourselves.

How to Dump Black and Grey Water from RV

Both the black and gray tanks are connected to a sewer hose that, depending on whether you have a sewage tank hook up at your RV park, you empty by pulling a lever once the tanks are full. If you do not have hookups at an RV park then you would have to find a RV dump station to take your RV to dump before pulling any levers on either of your tanks. Please do not pull these levers without a proper place to dump them! P.U.!!

We are fully hooked up at our RV park and our RV has two bathrooms, one at each end, and a kitchen in the middle of the RV. So, we have a black and a gray lever near the front of the unit that can be found underneath the bathroom. Our kitchen is situated near the middle of the RV so a gray lever for draining the kitchen sink can be found underneath the middle of the RV. There is as well a black and a gray lever for the second bathroom and is located underneath the rear of the RV.

Avoid the RV Poop Pyramid!

If you have direct drainage hook ups for your tanks at an RV park you can leave the gray water tank open at all times. The same is not so, however, with the black tank. Do NOT and I repeat do NOT leave the black tank open to drain after each use because it simply will not drain solids without liquids around it and will cause some major headaches. The "poop pyramid" is caused by leaving the tank lever open and is literally caused by accumulating poop at the bottom of the black tank. These solids will not pass through the sewage hose and cause a blockage if the tank is left open with no water inside the tank for the waste to accumulate in.

It is recommended that you fill your black water tank with a minimum of two gallons of water along with the right amount of chemicals to breakdown the solid waste before you even start using the toilet. This will be true after each time the black water tank has been emptied. Most RVs have a sensor that will indicate when it is time to pull the lever for the black water tank and release the waste either into the drainage pipe at the RV park or call a waste disposal service if there are no drainage facilities near you.

Special toilet Paper for RVs

Unlike pipes in homes and condos that can accommodate regular toilet paper and Kleenex an RV toilet requires that only special RV toilet paper that is fast dissolving be used. The last thing you need is a blocked and backed up toilet in your RV which can lead to some seriously foul odours and a costly service call.

I generally fill up the black tank with water immediately after draining it just to flush out any debris or waste that might not have been flushed the first time around. Other recommendations are to let your gray tank fill up so you can drain them immediately after draining the black water tank for the same purpose. Sometimes the tank sensors that monitor water levels can become inaccurate and can often be a result of debris such as toilet paper interfering with the sensor.

And last but not least, spend that extra fifty dollars or so on the black/gray water sewer hose supports and let gravity do its thing. The hose must be elevated in order to properly drain from the tanks on the RV to the sewer tanks at the RV park. We learned that hard way by not having these elevated supports during the winter season which resulted in a cracked sewage hose with frozen black tank waste frozen within it. Yukk!! Not only was this disgusting but it also ended up freezing parts of the pipes underneath the RV which ended up costing more money than the $50 spent on the sewer hose supports. Lesson Learned! And I will get into more details on that in another blog post coming soon. Stay tuned...

- J

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