This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Perhaps the least talked about, and least enjoyable aspect of off-grid living is dealing with the family excrement; how often do you need to dump your rv waste?

Dumping of the RV's black and grey water tanks has to be done to limit the risk of odors and traveling around with an extra weight on board. Draw up a rotation list of who gets to do it and share the load. If everybody in the RV gets to do it at least once during a trip, it helps all be mindful of each other.

The black and grey water tanks should be emptied every three to five days or when they reach their two-thirds full mark. When emptied at least once per week it avoids the buildup of gasses and clogging the level sensors. With the appropriate gear, the task can be done with limited discomfort.

The status of the black water tank is of particular concern when you are moving often and not connected to the disposal utilities at RV campgrounds. If you are boondocking and do not have access to a legal disposal site during your stay, consider rather using a composting toilet. Pit latrines and composting toilets have been around for centuries and, if properly used, do not smell at all.

If no one in the family is capable of fronting up to the unpleasant task of emptying the family waste once per week, then camping is perhaps not for you. Modern man has become oversensitive about their bodily functions. You have an ideal opportunity to teach your family members how to handle this aspect with dignity and prevent health issues from ruining the family holiday.



Where Does Our Poop Go When Camping Or Cruising?

Nature has evolved mechanisms for processing waste. Micro-bacteria and oxygen are nature's way of turning human and animal waste into useful nutrients in the food cycle. Cities and towns all have sewerage treatment facilities to help treat the human waste from our toilets.

When camping, we do not have the luxury of simply flushing away the problem for the utility company to take care of. We need to dig a hole in the ground and bury our waste at worst. The micro bacteria in the soil will break down the organic waste and return the nutrients to the soil.

RVs, campers, intercity busses, yachts, and cruising vessels all have holding tanks where the human waste is collected for future disposal and processing. Vessels may only flush out their bilge tanks when they are far out to sea in the open ocean.

In RVs and campervans, we have to travel around with the waste in our black and grey water tanks until we can properly dispose of it at authorized pump outstations. The size of the holding tanks can vary between 4 gallons and 150 gallons, but a good rule of thumb is to empty the tank at least once per week.

The waste will be treated at local wastewater treatment facilities. The solid waste is broken down in biomechanical treatment and left to evaporate and clarify. Coastal cities pump some treated effluent back into the ocean.

The ecoli levels of nearby seawater and rivers are tested to prevent the contamination of drinking water or foodstuff. The effluent becomes part of the food chain in the ocean and is absorbed by marine fauna and flora. Ecoli is a bacteria found in human waste.

Develop A Process For Dumping Your RV Tanks

Your RV black and grey water tanks should be dumped at least every five to seven days at an appropriate pump outstation. The tanks should not be allowed to fill up above the two-thirds holding capacity.

It would help if you acquired the personal protective equipment essential to do the task safely and with as little discomfort as possible. You should have the following:

  • Protective rubber gloves
  • Face mask and safety goggles
  • Draining hose with appropriate connectors
  • Freshwater hose or bucket
  • Disinfectant liquid
  1. Find an approved sewerage pump-out station and confirm that you have the correct fittings to hook up to it.
  2. Park your RV close enough for the drain hose to reach.
  3. Get the drain hose ready and have a bucket with fresh water or a hose connected to freshwater ready.
  4. Put on your face mask, safety goggles, and rubber gloves.
  5. First, connect the drain hose to the wastewater port and the RV outlet.
  6. Open the RV outlet slowly and check for any leaks.
  7. Drain the black water tank first until empty.
  8. Drain the grey water tank second. Use the greywater to rinse out the hose well.
  9. When the grey water tank is empty, close the drain valves on both tanks and flush the drain hose with fresh water.
  10. Disconnect the hose and stow it in a holder. Stow it back in the RV hold.
  11. Wash the rubber gloves with fresh water and some disinfectant. Please remove them and store them.
  12. Please wash your hands with antibacterial soap and fresh water and dry them with a towel.
  13. Remove and store your safety goggles and face mask.

If the process's smell offends you, put a drop of tea tree oil on your face mask. If you keep your equipment clean and dry, the process becomes less distasteful until it is just another chore.

Ensure that you leave the pump-out station clean and usable for the next visitor to use. The camping community knows how to stand together and make life easier for each other. Don't leave a campsite or a pump-out station in a bad state for others to clean up.

What Are The Different Holding Tanks On An RV?

RVs are fitted with three types of holding tanks. Freshwater, black water and grey water holding tanks are designed to supply and dispose of water and water-borne waste during your RV stay.

The freshwater tank is normally the largest of the three tanks and can be filled up from an external connection point. The freshwater tank must always be kept clean and disinfected to ensure that the water remains fit for consumption. An electric pump will provide pressure to the freshwater supply lines.

The grey water tanks will collect all the soapy runoff from the shower and the sink. The water may contain some food remains and dish soap and is unlikely to develop a bad smell. Wipe your plates clean with paper towels after eating to limit the amount of food waste in the greywater.

The black tank will collect the flushed effluent from the toilet bowl and is the main culprit for developing smells or clogging up. In some RVs, the grey and black water are combined into a single tank and treated like black water.

RV toilets are notorious for clogging up or developing smells if used by an entire family. Use the proper toilet paper and do not use large bundles of toilet paper. Also, correctly dispose of items such as sanitary towels and condoms.

Do not flush everything down your RV toilet, as that is a recipe for a blockage. Ensure that you have sufficient fresh water and disinfectant chemicals to clean up potential spills. Vinegar is an excellent biodegradable liquid with which to sanitize toilets. The smell soon dissipates and leaves the surfaces clean and disinfected.

Best Practices For RV Black Water Tank Pump Outs

Your black water holding tank must be emptied at least once per week while on a camping adventure. Once you have returned to your home base, you should empty the black and grey water tanks at a dumping station and disinfect them before storing the vehicle.

Look for a camping or RV mobile application that will help you find camping sites and overnight parking spots that offer dumping stations and freshwater. At home, you will be able to connect your dumping pipe to your domestic disposal point.

A few good rules for reducing the risk of problems with your black water system are:

  1. Only use single-ply toilet paper in your camper or RV toilet. Two-ply-paper can cause blockages and does not disintegrate as fast as single-ply.
  2. Flush the toilet regularly with sufficient fresh water.
  3. Sanitize your black and grey water tanks after dumping and definitely before long storage. Big box stores offer a range of specialty chemicals to sanitize black water systems.
  4. Clean the black water tank often by flushing it via the toilet bowl with fresh water using a garden hose. The flushing will remove any buildup in the system and prevent blockages.
  5. Do not flush any sanitary pads or tampons down the toilet, as this will cause a blockage. Have disposal bags and a bin available for such items, and empty this bin often.

Do not have any unrealistic fantasies about RV camping. You live in a house on wheels, and you do not benefit from a permanent sewerage connection. You will have to deal with this aspect of RV life, and if it is done properly and often, it does not have to become a burden.

Practice the process at a real dumping station and ensure that you have all the protective gear and equipment to deal with potential spillages. Soon you and all your family members will be able to handle this aspect of RV living and will respect the protocols at dumping stations.

How Long Can You Leave The Waste In The RV Black Water Tank?

The black water tank on your RV or camper should not be left in the tank for longer than one week. Once the tank is two-thirds full, you should also look for an approved dumping station to empty and rinse out your black and grey water tanks.

Always empty the black and grey water tanks before departing on a long trip, as this will prevent you from carrying extra weight in the vehicle. Make sure that your freshwater tank is full before departure.

If the black water is left in the tank for longer than one week, the risk of fermentation gasses escaping increases. The fermenting waste can also cause buildup to form on the sides, inlet, and outlet of the tanks, which will lead to blockages over time.

Never leave waste in the black and grey water tanks during times when your camper or RV is left in storage. Always dump, flush and sanitize your holding tanks before storage. It is best to leave the tanks full of freshwater treated with special bacteria during storage.