Traveling in an RV allows you the freedom of the open road and the comforts of home. However, one not-so-glamorous aspect of RV life is having to empty the wastewater tanks. Properly dumping RV waste is crucial for avoiding major problems like clogged tanks or nasty odors. If you want to maintain your RV’s systems and keep your investment in top condition, you need to know the right ways to dump the black and gray tanks.
In this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about RV waste and the best practices for dumping it. Whether you’re dumping at a campground or at home, this advice will help keep your tanks flowing freely and your RV smelling fresh. Let’s dive into the messy but important topic of how to correctly empty your RV’s sewage.
How Often Should You Dump RV Waste Tanks?
The first question many new RVers have is how frequently they need to drain their wastewater tanks. This mainly depends on the size of your RV’s tanks and how many people are using the facilities.
RV waste tanks come in many sizes, but they typically range from 30 to 50 gallons for small trailers and all the way up to 100+ gallons for large Class A motorhomes. Your tank capacity can be found in your owner’s manual or printed directly on your tanks.
Here are some general guidelines on dumping frequency:
- Small tanks (30-50 gallons) – You should empty these after each trip or at least every 3-4 days of use. Small tanks fill quickly and need to be dumped frequently.
- Large tanks (80-100+ gallons) – Big tanks allow you to go 1-2 weeks between dumps if you aren’t using a lot of water. I’d recommend dumping at least every 7-10 days as a precaution.
- General rule – No matter the tank size, try to dump every 1-2 weeks even if not full. This flushes sediment and prevents buildup.
Pay attention to your tank levels and dump more often if you notice odors. Letting waste accumulate leads to even bigger problems down the road.
Understanding the Different RV Waste Tanks
RVs have separate tanks for treating different types of wastewater onboard. Understanding the function of each tank helps ensure you empty them properly.
Black Water Tank
The black water tank contains all the waste from your RV’s toilet. This is essentially a portable sewage tank that collects all the solids and liquids from the toilet bowl.
Always empty the black water tank first since it contains the bulk of contaminants. The black tank has a larger dump valve that won’t clog as easily. You also want the black water flushed out first before gray water.
Gray Water Tank
The gray tank holds wastewater from the sinks, shower, washing machine, etc. This water contains some contaminants like soap, grease and food particles.
The gray tank should be emptied second after the black tank. The gray water helps rinse out the sewer hose when you’re finished dumping.
Use a special sewer hose to connect your RV’s dump valves to a sewer inlet or dump station. These thick hoses are designed specifically for RV waste.
Attach the sewer hose securely before pulling the black and gray valves. Old or cracked hoses can leak waste causing a big mess.
Dump at a Campground vs. at Home
When it’s time to empty the tanks, you have to decide whether to visit a dump station or take care of it at home if you have the capability. There are pros and cons to both options.
Dump stations are the most common way to dispose of RV waste. Most campgrounds, truck stops and rest areas have a dedicated dump site for RVers. The downside is these often charge a fee between $10-25 each time you empty your tanks. This adds up over time.
Dumping RV waste at home is more convenient if you have the proper setup. You don’t have to disconnect electricity and water to drive to a station and pay a fee each time. The limitation is having accessibility to your home’s sewer and septic system.
Think about your driveway access, length of sewer hose needed, and slope to the septic drainage field. Don’t dump too close to your well either. Evaluate if home dumping will work smoothly before committing to it.
Methods for Dumping RV Waste at Home
Dumping RV waste into your home sewer line takes some preparation. There are several equipment options that can work:
Portable Waste Tote
A simple way to transport waste from the RV to your home sewer connection is using a portable waste transport tote. These rollable tanks have a valve to empty your RV’s sewer hose into. Once full, you wheel the tank to your septic access point and drain.
Portable totes have capacities between 35-50 gallons. They work well for RVs with smaller tanks. You may need to make multiple trips if you have a large RV.
Macerator pumps are systems that grind up sewage waste and pump it through a small hose. The macerator allows you to pump RV waste uphill if needed and direct it hundreds of feet away.
The setup consists of the grinder pump, connection hose kit, and a 1″ diameter discharge hose. You’ll also need a way to access your home’s sewer pipe. Macerators work for any RV size but are more costly.
Direct Sewer Connection
If your RV parking location allows it, you can dump waste directly into a cleanout on your home’s main sewer line. This requires being able to pull your RV close enough to connect the sewer hose.
You’ll need a sewer hose 15-20 feet long. Make sure to close the cleanout cap securely when finished dumping waste.
Permanent RV Dump Station
For ultimate convenience, install a dedicated RV dump station on your property. This gives you a permanent sewer hookup ready for your RV anytime.
A reputable septic contractor can install a dump station with the needed permits. This option costs $1500-$4000 but adds value and convenience if you RV frequently.
Tips for Safely Dumping Waste at Home
Dumping RV waste into your residential septic system takes caution. Here are some key tips to follow:
- Thoroughly flush tanks with fresh water before dumping. This dilutes waste and prepares tanks.
- Use a separate RV sewer hose, not your fresh water hose. Mark hoses to prevent confusion.
- Watch for the location of your septic drainage field. Don’t drive or dump waste over it.
- Wear protective clothing and gloves in case of spills. Keep some disinfectant spray handy.
- Monitor your septic system after dumping. Extra waste may require more frequent professional pumping.
Follow these precautions each time you dump at home. Practice makes perfect for learning this process smoothly.
What If You Don’t Have a Home Dump Site?
If you don’t have an accessible sewer connection at home, you’ll need to visit dump stations around town. While less convenient, you can still manage this efficiently.
- Use RV dump station apps to locate nearby sites. Read reviews and check hours of operation.
- Time your tank dumping when running other errands like grocery shopping.
- Enquire with local RV dealerships. Some offer a free dump service for customers.
- There are mobile pump out services that will come directly to your RV for a fee.
- Try to find free dump stations at highway rest stops or boondocking sites.
Don’t fret if home dumping isn’t feasible. With some planning, you can still handle RV waste disposal with minimal hassle.
The Takeaway on RV Waste Management
Dealing with wastewater isn’t glitzy, but it’s an essential part of the RV lifestyle. Learning how to properly dump RV waste tanks prevents untold problems and keeps your rig fresh. Follow the tank dumping best practices outlined here each trip.
The key takeaways are:
- Dump black tank first, then gray tank. Use sewer hoses designed for RV waste.
- Empty tanks every 1-2 weeks depending on capacity and usage. Avoid buildup.
- Home dumping is convenient if you have sewer access. Take safety precautions.
- Use dump stations, RV dealerships or mobile pumps if no home sewer available.
While managing your RV wastewater takes effort, it gets easier with experience. Handling it properly allows you to continue enjoying the freedom of RV travel for years to come.