How To Unclog an RV Camper ToiletAnthony Day
Owning an RV is great fun, but there are some downsides, including having to fix your toilet if it clogs. Thankfully, there are products that can help you.
RV toilets don't work like regular toilets, so you can't unclog them in the same way. Instead of using a plunger or having to hire a plumber, you can unclog your toilet with products for RV toilets.
If your RV toilet is clogged, you can unclog it using chemical cleaning products or using other household products that work against clogs. Dish soap, laundry soap, vaseline, and even ice are effective. Different cleaning products have different advantages.
You can also use a water jet to unclog your RV toilet. There is RV toilet paper that breaks down better and doesn't lead to clogs, and simply using more water can prevent your tank from getting clogged.
I have tried several RV tank treatment products over the years, and there are some that work better than others. There are products that unclog your tank, others that deodorize it, and others that clean the walls of the tank.
Why Do RV Toilets Get Clogged?
You are supposed to use chemicals to break down waste and toilet paper inside your tank. If you aren't using enough of the chemicals, or the chemicals are failing to work, your black water tank or toilet may get clogged.
Temperature can also lead to clogging. Either very hot or very cold temperatures make wastes more solid and can clog your toilet. Since your black water tank is not insulated, it is easy for extremes of temperature to affect it.
A plunger won't work - A RV toilet works too differently from a regular one for a plunger to do anything. However, some products that wouldn't work to unclog a regular toilet work wonders for RV toilets. Some tricks that you probably have never heard of before are very effective.
Water is Necessary to Drain a Tank Properly
If there is enough water in your black tank, the mix will be watery enough to drain easily. If there isn't enough water, it will get clogged. Unless there is something physically wrong with your tank, a lack of water is the main cause of clogs.
How Does an RV Black Water Tank Work?
Even the smallest RVs usually have washrooms. These washrooms usually use simple tanks instead of more advanced composting toilets. Before your tank fills up, you need to find somewhere to dump the waste.
A black tank only holds waste; it doesn't treat or process the waste in any way. A tank usually only needs to be big enough to store waste when you are between campsites. While you are at a campsite, you can empty your tank whenever you want.
Ideally, a black tank should not smell. If you are treating your tank with chemicals, it will usually smell after treatment, even if the chemicals deodorize your tank. This will be brief if the chemicals work properly.
Is a Gray Tank Different From a Black Tank?
A gray water tank stores less dirty water than a black tank does. For example, water from washing dishes ends up in your gray water tank.
Some smaller RVs have only one tank, but most RVs have separate gray and black water tanks. Most people prefer to have two separate tanks, even though you have to empty them separately. You can run out of room too easily with only a single tank.
Which Products Are Effective?
Thankfully, there are many products that work well to clean black water tanks. Unless something is broken, you won't have to call anyone to unclog it. Common and inexpensive products can fix your tank easily.
Other than tank cleaners, you should get a wand or snake that allows you to pressure wash your tank. You can attach this snake to a garden hose and use it to clean out the inside after you dump your tank. The cleaner you keep your tank, the less likely it is to smell bad or clog.
You could also get a sewer tank rinser if you want to clean your tank as well as possible. A sewer tank rinser lets you pump water into your RV sewage system and clean it out very well with little effort.
Clean Your Black Tank With Chemicals
The first thing to do if your toilet is having problems is 1) use more water and 2) buy a chemical solution that removes clogs. These two things put together are usually enough to fix your problem completely.
There are plenty of black tank cleaners out there on the market, some of them better and cheaper than others. Some tank cleaners eliminate odors as well as clear out a clogged tank.
What Makes a Good Tank Cleaning Chemical?
A chemical needs to be safe for you and your tank, safe for the environment, effective, and not overly expensive. Better chemicals get rid of smells as well as clogs and don't take up too much scarce space in your RV. Be careful with any potent chemicals you buy because they can hurt humans, pets, and the environment.
Liquids, Powders, and Capsules
You can get chemicals as liquids, powders, or capsules, with the capsules taking up the least space but being the most expensive.
Liquid treatments are probably the most common. They are easy to use - all you have to do is read the instructions, which will simply tell you to pour the liquid into your bowl and add water. After giving the liquid treatment a bit of time, you should be able to empty your black water tank.
One disadvantage of a liquid treatment is how much water you have to put into your tank. The solution plus the water might add up to a gallon of liquid or more. There might not be enough room left in your black water tank to add it.
Do Powders Have Any Advantages?
Powders let you treat your tank without adding a lot more liquid to it. This is probably enough to make powders better. If your tank is almost full but won't drain, you will be glad you have powder. With powders, it is also easier to add as little or as much as you want and to add more if your treatment isn't initially effective.
Powdered treatments tend to be poisonous, just as liquid treatments do. Be careful with chemicals. Don't spill anything, and clean everything up carefully if you do.
Capsules and Pods
Since capsules take up the least space in your RV, they may be better than either liquids or powders. All three treatments work, with capsules saving you space and being less likely to spill than liquids/powders. However, they are the most expensive of the three choices, so they are not great if you need to treat your tank often.
You can also get tablets that contain powder and can be dropped into your tank. These take up even less room than capsules do. If you rip a tablet open to using only half of it, make sure you wear gloves.
What Are the Best Tank Cleaning Chemicals?
Again, nothing works better than using tank cleaning chemicals and using more water. Some of the best and most trusted brands of black tank cleaners are:
Camco TST Ultra-Concentrated Treatment
This is my favorite treatment and the first product I will use if my RV toilet clogs. Camco TST is very, very effective stuff, possibly stronger than any other formula. A single capsule is enough to unclog a large tank.
Camco TST is also relatively non-toxic. It does not contain a chemical that turns into formaldehyde as many other tank cleaning products do. Camco TST will also usually stop odors for at least a week after you use a single capsule.
Green Gobbler Treatment
Nothing works better to make your tank smell fresh than Green Gobbler Treatment. It keeps your tank smelling better than any other product I have tried. It also works to remove clogs, although its power as a deodorant is what makes it stand out.
Green gobbler is easy to use - simply drop a single pod into your RV toilet. The formula is powerful and will "digest" waste and make it easy to drain your tank. It is definitely strong enough to prevent clogs if you use it regularly, but it might not be the best if your toilet is already clogged.
Walex Commando RV Black Tank Sensor Cleaner
Sometimes, waste and paper can build up on the walls of your tank. This can make the sensors in your black water tank stop working, leading to false readings. Walex Commando RV Cleaner can clean your tank's walls and get your sensors working again.
In my experience, Walex works as advertised. If your sensors are giving false readings, Walex will clean your tank and get your sensors working again.
Are There any Other Tricks that Work?
There are also some common household products that are effective on a clogged RV toilet. You don't always need to buy any products. As little as boiling water, dish soap, or ice cubes may be enough to fix your problem.
The Ice Trick
Pouring ice down your toilet is a common and effective way to unclog it. The ticket is to make sure you use enough ice. Use a whole bag or even two bags.
Ice is easy and cheap to get at campgrounds and stores in towns, and you might have enough of it in your camper already. Close all of the tank valves, pour a lot of ice in it, and go for a drive to make the liquid slosh around.
After driving for half an hour or so, try to drain your tank. A lot of the time, it will drain out perfectly fine after less than an hour of driving.
Why Does Ice Work?
The combination of ice and movement should break up the solids in your tank. The ice will move around and crush the solids when the RV is moving, getting rid of solid clumps that prevent drainage. Ice also adds water to your tank, which further helps to unclog your sewer system.
It is great to be able to unclog your RV toilet right away without having to buy any new products. One product that you quite likely already have on hand is dish soap. Pouring an entire bottle of dish soap into your black tank may be enough to unclog it.
This method may be better for preventing clogs than solving them. If you have problems with clogs, try using dish soap on occasion and see if the problem goes away. Some people also report that it works for an already clogged tank, but it doesn't work for everyone.
Does Laundry Detergent Work?
Yes, laundry detergent and some other common household products can work to unclog a tank. Dish soap and laundry soap both work as lubricants. When the walls of your tank are coated in soap, nothing gets stuck, and the tank drains easily.
One thing that works even better than dish soap or laundry soap is vaseline. Vaseline can work to unclog your tank and works even better as a preventative. If you occasionally add some dish soap, laundry soap, or vaseline to your tank, it might never clog again.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
As everyone knows, a mix of baking soda and vinegar fizzes and bubbles. It is a simple chemical reaction that anyone can make using two very common household products. Is there any real use for this mix?
One thing the fizzing and bubbles can do is unclog an RV tank, including if it is already clogged. The ticket, as with dish soap and other home remedies, is to use a lot rather than a little. If you use a whole box of baking soda and two liters of vinegar, the reaction might be strong enough to unclog your tank.
If toilet paper doesn't break down properly in your tank, this can lead to clogs. Boiling water will instantly break up toilet paper and make your tank work properly again. Other solid waste may break up when boiling water touches it.
Just as you need to use a lot of dish soap, you need to use a lot of boiling water. A whole gallon is best if there is room for it in your tank. Don't try to drain your tank right away; wait for up to an hour to give the boiling water time to work its magic.
Can't Boiling Water Damage Your Tank?
Usually, an RV tank is too durable for boiling water to damage it even a little. Obviously, boiling water won't damage a metal tank, and it usually won't damage a plastic tank, either. The plastic used is usually hard and heat resistant enough that boiling water won't melt the surface. Possibly it could damage a tank in some cases, but your tank would have to be unusually vulnerable to damage.
Since toilet paper is the cause of many clogs, you can buy RV toilet paper that breaks down much better. Sometimes, this is enough to solve your problems on its own.
If you could use less regular toilet paper without difficulty, that is another solution, but getting RV toilet paper is usually better. It is more expensive than regular toilet paper, but the expense is still small.
Make Sure You Use Enough Water
With a regular flush toilet, you don't have very much control over how much water you use. You can control the amount with an RV toilet, so you may end up using too little. Don't use as little as possible.
The water not only flushes everything down but keeps your tank working properly and prevents clogs from forming. It might not be known how much water you should use, especially since some RV toilets clog repeatedly and others never do.
Try experimenting with using more water than usual and see if it makes a difference. If your RV is somewhere where you can easily get more water and empty your tank, you don't have to be careful with how much water you use. You might even fill the bowl up to a certain point each time, although that can be tedious.
About THE AUTHOR
Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.Read More About Anthony Day