A recreational vehicle septic system consists of tanks that are built on top of or beside an RV. The septic system is used for plumbing and to remove waste. A septic system can be a very efficient method of managing a family's waste, provided the system is cared for, cleaned and maintained properly.
Septic Tank Components
The septic system accumulates waste from the vehicle from toilets, bathrooms, sinks and other running water. An RV’s septic system generally consists of two tanks. One collects used water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower. This is referred to as the gray tank. The second tank, called the black tank, is used to collect toilet water and waste. A hose pipe drains the waste from inside to these tanks. Unlike waste disposal systems that lead to public sewer lines, septic system tanks can become full or overfull and need to be emptied and cleaned out.
When to Clean
The cleaning of an RV septic tank system doesn't have a fixed time schedule, and should be done periodically based on how much has accumulated in it. The tanks have to be dumped at a dumping station. The simplest method of cleaning the black tank is to empty it when it is at least two-thirds full by taking it to a dumping station. You also want to make sure that the hose pipe is strong and powerful and at least 10 to 20 feet in length because the greater the force of water in it, the cleaner the pipe will be. It is a good idea to empty the dirtiest of the tanks first. Once the black tank is dumped, it has to be flushed thoroughly. Another method of keeping the RV septic tank system clean is to keep the gray tank slightly open when the vehicle is parked for an extended period of time to allow healthy circulation of air. The same should never be done with the black tank.
Flushing the Tank
To flush the tank, you will need to thoroughly clean the insides. Attach a rinse wand to a utility hose. The utility hoses are usually found at dumping sites near RV parks and campgrounds. Run water through the utility hose and use the rinse wand to clean the inside walls of the tank. Continue running water at a high pressure through the utility hose until the water runs completely clear and you feel the tank has been sufficiently flushed out so no wastes remain. Usually, this takes up to 10 minutes of continuous high water pressure running through the tank. Using a water softener to drain the empty tank can also go a long way in thoroughly cleaning the solid wastes from the sides of the tanks.
A few deodorizing agents are available on the market, which also can be used for cleaning the septic tanks. These should be used for treating holding tanks, or for tanks in between cleaning periods. Many of these products can be used to supplement cleaning procedures and to keep the tanks in good condition and prevent the spread of bacteria.
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