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Old 08-07-2007, 03:25 PM   #1
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Black and Gray Water Holding Tank Maintenance

Black and Gray Water Holding Tank Maintenance
By Charles Bruni

Everyone who owns an RV should be concerned with maintaining its wastewater tanks. Problems with wastewater tanks that can be avoided should be avoided. Wastewater tank repair is expensive. Due to health concerns, many service facilities will not work on wastewater tanks and lines until the tanks have been completely emptied and sanitized. This may be quite difficult when the tank(s) is in need of repair. So, common sense dictates that the tanks should be kept relatively clean at all times. Additionally, improper use of the wastewater tanks can lead to a build up of solid wastes, which in itself may cause the system to fail.

Iíve discovered very simple, effective, and inexpensive methods of maintaining my wastewater tanks in a relatively clean condition at all times. I developed these methods myself through my understanding of chemistry, physics, and biology with a smidgen of common sense thrown in for good measure. I also read my RV ownerís manual. Although we are not full time RVers we use our fifth wheel camper at least one weekend a month. We never use public bathing and toilet facilities. In other words, our wastewater tanks are fairly heavily used. Since Iíve met a number of RVers who donít seem to know how to maintain their wastewater tanks I thought many RVers would find my tips useful. If you have not been maintaining your tanks I believe you will be pleasantly surprised the first time you employ these tips. I do these things and they work.

1. DUMP A FULL TANK
When you are camping and your RV is connected to a sewer/septic intake, leave the drain valves closed until the tank is full and ready to dump. Dumping a full tank provides a sufficient quantity of water to flush solids from the tank. Leaving the drain valves open allows the water to drain off without flushing out solid waste. That solid waste will collect in the tank(s) and cause problems over time.

2. DUMP TANKS IN ORDER FROM DIRTIEST TO CLEANEST
In other words, dump the black (commode) water tank first, then dump the galley tank, then dump the shower and bathroom sink tank. This way you will be flushing out the dirtiest water with progressively cleaner water.

3. USE WATER SOFTENER
This stuff is amazing and it works. Buy a couple of boxes of powdered water softener at the grocery store. Youíll find it located with or near the laundry detergent products. I prefer Calgon Water Softener because it dissolves quickly in water. Cheaper water softeners work just as well but dissolve more slowly. Dissolve two (2) cups of the water softener in a gallon of hot water. Then, pour the solution down the drain into the empty tank. Use two cups of softener for each wastewater tank in your RV. The tankís drain valve should be closed otherwise the softened water will just drain out. Then use the tank(s) normally until it is full and drain it normally. Add a cup of laundry detergent to the black (commode) water tank at the same time. This will help clean the tank.The gray water tanks should already contain soap through normal use.

The water softener makes the solid waste let go from the sides of the tanks. If youíve ever taken a shower in softened water you know that after rinsing the soap from your body your skin will feel slick. Thatís because all the soap rinses away with soft water. Softened water also prevents soap scum from sticking in the tub. Get the connection? With softened water gunk washes away instead of sticking. The same thing applies to your RVís wastewater tanks.

I use one of those clear plastic elbow connectors to attach my sewer drain line to the wastewater outlet on my RV. It allows me to see how well things are progressing during a wastewater dump. Before I began using water softener regularly the black water tankís water was brown, the galley tankís water was brownish, and the bathroom tankís water was white. The first time I added water softener to the tanks the water coming from the black water tank was actually black (not brown) and the kitchen tankís water was also black (not brownish). The bathroom tankís water remained white. That told me that the water softener had actually done what I had intended for it to do and made solid waste, which had been stuck to the interior of the tanks, let go and drain away. I added water softener to all the wastewater tanks for the next few dumps to be certain all the solid waste possible had been cleaned away. The wastewater only appeared black on the initial treatment. I now add water softener to each tank once after every few dumps to maintain the system.

Occasionally, I pour a gallon of liquid bleach into each tank to sanitize and disinfect them. I no longer use the blue toilet chemical because it isnít necessary. I have no odors coming from my black water tank. Generic brand liquid bleach is cheap and very effective.

4. USE A WATER FILTER ON YOUR FRESH WATER INTAKE LINE

Most fresh water contains sediment. Sediment will accumulate in your wastewater tanks and your fresh water lines. It also tends to discolor your sinks, tub/shower, and commode. I use the disposable type and have found that they eventually fill up and begin restricting the fresh water flow resulting in low pressure. Thatís how I know itís time to get a new filter. It works, itís cheap, it avoids problems, do it.

SOME OTHER THOUGHTS

ē I believe occasionally traveling with partially filled wastewater tanks that contain softened water promotes cleaning by agitating the water. The same goes for chlorine bleach.
ē I believe this process works faster and more efficiently during warm weather. However, I know it works well even during cool/cold weather.
ē I believe the process works best the longer the water softener remains in the tanks. So, I donít add water softener during periods of heavy wastewater generation. I wait until I know we wonít be generating wastewater quickly so that the softened water remains in the tanks for several days before dumping.
ē I add a small amount of chlorine bleach to the fresh water tank twice a year to disinfect and sanitize the fresh water tank and fresh water lines. A weak chlorine bleach solution will not hurt you. However, it certainly makes the water taste bad. When we have chlorine in the fresh water system we use bottled water for drinking and cooking until the chlorine is gone.
ē My tanks are plastic and my pipes are PVC.
ē Donít be afraid to use your tanks. Just use common sense about their care and maintenance.
ē These tips are inexpensive to do. Some of them donít cost anything. You have nothing to lose in trying them and I encourage you to do so. I actually feel a certain amount of pride in the condition and cleanliness of both my waste and fresh water systems. Naturally, these tips make dumping a much more pleasant and sanitary procedure.
ē If you have odors in any of your water systems these procedures should eliminate them. Odors indicate a sanitary problem and degrade the enjoyment you derive from your RV.
ē When my RV is parked and not in use I place stoppers in my sink and tub drains. This allows the wastewater tanks to vent through the vent pipes to the outside instead of through the drains into the RV.
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Old 08-07-2007, 03:26 PM   #2
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I love this article by C. Bruni, and thought I'd share.

I have used several of his methods with much success.
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Old 08-07-2007, 04:53 PM   #3
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we use the powereded calgon often in the gray and black tanks
i also added a tornado flusher to the gray tank and use it in combination with the hydro flusher clear hse hook up. pretty scary the first time.

thanks for the article
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Old 08-07-2007, 05:00 PM   #4
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Great article Jolly, I think I will employ most, if not all of this. I do use calcium hypochlorite (diluted) already...The danger with it is storage. Don't let it contact ANY petroleum product, it will spontaneously combust, but you will find it's about 1/1000th the cost of common bleach.
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Old 08-07-2007, 10:13 PM   #5
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WOW! In what form are you using Calcium Hypochlorite????
(putting on my Safety Cap)

That's some really dangerous stuff! There are so many dangers to be aware of...my fingers won't last long enough to type them....

IF you are using/storing this chemical...PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read the MSDS on your particular chemical. I don't know everything...but I do know this: you gotta be on your toes when using chemicals of this nature. Not sure what form you have, but it's really not spontaneously combustible...more like exothermic. But most forms shouldn't be stored with any combustibles.

BE CAREFUL, BE INFORMED. (just being helpful here...heck, you could be a chemist for all I know)

Jolly <~~~Hazardous Materials Technician, and helpful citizen...
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Old 08-08-2007, 06:47 AM   #6
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Crystals Jolly. When I was captianing ships, we used it to chlorinate our 46K gallons of water.
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Old 02-23-2008, 09:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NDJollyMon View Post
WOW! In what form are you using Calcium Hypochlorite????
(putting on my Safety Cap)

That's some really dangerous stuff! There are so many dangers to be aware of...my fingers won't last long enough to type them....

IF you are using/storing this chemical...PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read the MSDS on your particular chemical. I don't know everything...but I do know this: you gotta be on your toes when using chemicals of this nature. Not sure what form you have, but it's really not spontaneously combustible...more like exothermic. But most forms shouldn't be stored with any combustibles.

BE CAREFUL, BE INFORMED. (just being helpful here...heck, you could be a chemist for all I know)


Jolly <~~~Hazardous Materials Technician, and helpful citizen...
Thank you for your helpful info on tank maintenance and emphasis on safety

I have a system installed on my black tank that i havent used yet. It has a hose connection. it will flush water in my black tank and it is installed to flush across the sensors to keep them cleaned. my question is, i guess i install a hose and rinse. i dont have any instructions on the device, i was wondering how long to flush, do you leave the outlet valve closed for a while and then open and do you keep the slide on commode open. maybe you or someone has experience with flushing using this device, i understand it is commonly installed on the black tanks for cleaning/maintenance, i havent used one yet .

thanks


Addn question: I have the tornado on the black tank, should be simple to use, i just need some operating instructions.

the addn question i have is; would a flush king be useful to flush out my two grey tanks. i have heard people discuss flush king, but i didnt know if it has any benefit for the grey tanks, given the distance and plumbing fittings between the location of the fllush king and the grey tanks, i have one near the front of tt and one below the bathroom in the rear of the tt and there are ys and pvc fittings and pipe throughout. thank you for your comments. just want to have an effiecient way to clean all the tanks, i do not have the tornado system on my grey tanks, it is only on my black tank.

thank you
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Old 02-27-2008, 11:03 PM   #8
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testing
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Old 02-27-2008, 11:13 PM   #9
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I'm not ignoring you, but I don't have any experience with these items.
I doubt the flush king would be needed on the grey tanks...but you never know I guess. I never worried about it.

Black tanks, definately...any flushing will help. I hear great things about the Tornado valves.
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Old 02-28-2008, 12:11 PM   #10
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I installed a Tornado in my black water tank. It seems to work really well. I'm thinking of installing a Tornado in my galley gray water tank. As much as we try to keep food particles from going down the drain, I see it in the clear elbow when flushing the tanks.

The Tornado would be a good way to add more water to ensure the galley tank is clean.

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Old 02-28-2008, 06:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxRock View Post
I installed a Tornado in my black water tank. It seems to work really well. I'm thinking of installing a Tornado in my galley gray water tank. As much as we try to keep food particles from going down the drain, I see it in the clear elbow when flushing the tanks.

The Tornado would be a good way to add more water to ensure the galley tank is clean.

MaxRock
If i didnt install the tornado on th gray tanks, but used the flush king back flush valve arrangement, does it help flush out the grey tanks. my two gray tanks have a bit of plumbing . one 33 gallon galley tank near front of tt and one 33 in rear for shower and sink. do you think the flush king would help this arrangement any, i like the idea of having the clear fitting and thought it may flush some water back up the pvc lines into the two grey tanks and maybe it would help some with the food mentioned . i thought maybe the chem treatment would help some also

also, does anyone have a brief operating procedure for the tornado, i havent got paperwork on the unit

do you also have the simple flush king operating procedure

i appreciate your input


have a great day
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Old 02-29-2008, 04:37 PM   #12
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The flush king will help putting water back into the gray water tanks. My tanks are set up similar to yours, there is a lot of plumbing between the dump valve and the gray water tanks. My thought is the tornado acts as a sprayer and may help dislodge any food particles that may be in stuck to the wall of the tank.

A brochure for the flush king is at this website http://www.flushking.com/brochure3.htm . The tornado mfg website is at http://www.camco.net/Menu.cfm?SupCat...ProductId=2049 , but there isn't much information.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.

MaxRock
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Old 02-29-2008, 07:17 PM   #13
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thanks

i have a tornado on black tank, am adding one to the grey galley tank. i will also use the camco dual flush pro on the discharge for addn maint if needed

i have a question regarding my two grey tanks. i have two grey tanks, one for kitchen, one for bathroom sink/shower. if i keep black tank gate valve shut, and leave the other two gray gates open, shut the valve on the dual flush pro connected to my discharge to my outlet sewer drain, i would think i could gain the capacity benefit of both gray tanks as the water equalizes between both tanks . This way i would have 2 x 33 gallons / tank for showers instead of having only 33 gallons for showers. even it wont work this way , i can still dump when needed, i was just wondering if the tanks would work this way.

have a great evening
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Old 03-05-2008, 07:51 PM   #14
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I just picked up 2 Quickie Flush units to install when the trailer comes out of storage in a few weeks. Got tired of dragging the hose around in the trailer to use the flushing wand. I figured I would put one in both the black and grey tanks while I'm at it, can't hurt to give the grey tank an extra flush every now and then.

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Old 03-05-2008, 08:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxRock View Post
The flush king will help putting water back into the gray water tanks. My tanks are set up similar to yours, there is a lot of plumbing between the dump valve and the gray water tanks. My thought is the tornado acts as a sprayer and may help dislodge any food particles that may be in stuck to the wall of the tank.

A brochure for the flush king is at this website http://www.flushking.com/brochure3.htm . The tornado mfg website is at http://www.camco.net/Menu.cfm?SupCat...ProductId=2049 , but there isn't much information.

Let me know if you have any specific questions.

MaxRock
I have a couple of questions;


Toranado use /hookup question:
do you just connect the water hose and let it run for a while and keep the discharge gate valve partially closed until it fills a bit and then flush/drain. i havent been able to find any operating instructions with the device.

also does anyone leave the dual flush pro connected to their waste connection while camping or do you only add it when you are cleaning out before you pack up to leave CG

thanks

phil
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Old 03-10-2008, 11:17 AM   #16
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wildwood,

When I flush my black water tank, I connect the hose to the Tornado and let it run for a few minutes to let it clean the tank. After a few minutes I will open the gate valve and dump the black water tank while still running the Tornado. When the tank is almost drained, I'll close the valve and let the Tornado flush it some more, then open the gate valve. I will continue doing this until it is clean.

One note, you have to be careful not to let the Tornado run to long w/o opening the dump valve. You do not want the black water tank to overflow.

Good luck,
MaxRock
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Old 03-10-2008, 03:36 PM   #17
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We read somewhere that you can use DiChlor instead of bleach for sanitizing fresh water and other holding tanks. It is sold in Wal-mart and other hardware or pool supply stores - it's what you use in a jacuzzi. 1/2 teaspoon mixed with about a half gallon of water is added to the fresh water tank to do a shock/sanitizing. 1/4 teaspoon per full tank for regular use/drinking. Much cheaper than bleach and takes up a lot less room.

Since it works just like bleach, you can mix up a chlorine/water solution to clean other stuff, such as the outside of the trailer or for any purpose for which you would use bleach.

Drawback: you have to be careful with DiChlor - it is a concentrated chlorine powder, so put it far away from little kids.
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Old 03-10-2008, 08:46 PM   #18
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Thanks

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Old 09-07-2009, 07:28 PM   #19
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Thanks for the Calgon tip!

The Calgon seems to work great on our black water tank. We recently bought a 2006 Grand Surveyor and are new to this whole rv thing, so the advice is greatly appreciated. Now if I can just figure out why I have a small leak coming in from the bottom or our microwave, I'll be a happy camper! We have a rear kitchen, and I'm hoping it's coming in around the microwave vent where I've spotted a very small crack in the cauking.
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Old 09-16-2009, 10:15 PM   #20
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Great info here. Much appreciated!
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