Wednesday, June 4, 2014

RV plumbing problem

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
When my husband talked me into buying an RV and traveling he said the bathroom facilities would be just as comfortable and convenient as our home. It all looked good, but now we often have to put up with a plugged up toilet. I didn’t sign up for this. He keeps telling me he has it figured out. Everything moves along fine for awhile, but then our holding tank seems to get bound up again. Is there an Ex-Lax for RV’s? I am enjoying the lifestyle but this little glitch is turning me off. My husband says I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. Am I being unreasonable? I just want to get rid of the mountainous mole hill in the black water tank. Is that asking too much?
--Stink hole in Yellowstone

Dear Stink: Raising a little stink will often bring an issue to a head. If this is the only problem you have with the RV lifestyle, you have had a smooth move. The transition often causes problems that couples cannot find any common ground. In your case I have lots of ideas that should solve your problem. There is a science to getting along with your RV plumbing. Several things to be aware of include using toilet paper that breaks down easily. A simple test is to put a few sheets in a jar and shake it. It should fall apart quickly. Another problem is using too little water, trying to extend the black water capacity. Use plenty of water when flushing and always put a couple bowls full in the tank after dumping. Pouring hot water directly down the bowl opening will help unclog present blockage, but care in how you use the system will assure fewer problems in the future. Some black water tanks are plumbed for rinsing, many companies offer chemicals and tank enzymes, but using the proper method of caring for the waste system will solve the majority of your problems and give you some relief, no pun intended. --Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

11 comments:

Merikay said...

I often pour my warm sudzy dish water into the toilet. Provides extra water in there and balances the black and gray. Correct ttp is also important. I put most of it in a small waste basket instead of down the potty.

Anonymous said...

The key for me is to use lots of water when flushing, then to rinse the tank a couple times after dumping. Also NEVER leave the black tank handle open when hooked to a sewer. This lets the solids become even more so.

George said...

Often, new RVers think that the black water system should work like a stick house and they leave the valves open when parked. This is a big no-no as water is your friend in this case, and leaving the valve open will let the water escape leaving the "solids" in the tank. Perhaps the OP could be counseled to make sure the valve is closed and dump the black when it has reached 60-75% of capacity?

Generally speaking, the gray tank valve can be left open if desired, but that side of the system will often benefit from the "whoosh" of a good dump as well...

Sue and Brian said...

As we travel and walk around many RV parks we see people leaving their holding tank valves open. If you do this you are sure to get a clog. Holding tanks must use lots of water to flush out all the solids. We always dump and flush - we then put fresh water in the black tank and hit the road letting the water slosh the solids around - then dump upon arrival at our next stop. Keeping the tank clean is the only way to go with a black tank.

Anonymous said...

We have had very few problems with our black tank as the rig came equipped with a flusher. I leave it on for 5 minutes after emptying the black tank and my light shows empty. Not so for the grey. No matter how many times we empty it, the light will only go to 2/3. We have read in RVTravel.com of using dishwasher soap in the grey. We tried it and after the second time, our grey light showed empty.

Anonymous said...

15 minutes of Google searches would have answered your questions.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's true about Google searches. But this is more fun and more "personal," if you will, and also may help someone else who reads this. ;)

Charlotte Lloyd said...

Some toilets do not drop straight down into the tank. We had a 5th wheel that angled down. When someone stayed with us they did not know to use lots of water to flush. Result - dried in the pipe. I have heard of other designs where the toilet empties on a shelf in the black tank, then it needs enough water to wash into the black tank. I hear if it dries there it can be a nightmare to clean. Our 5th wheel was a rare occasion where I forgot to make sure the toilet empties straight into the black water tank. Otherwise I want to see the stuff in there! Could be yours angles down which mean it takes lots of water to wash stuff into the tank.

robert gardner said...

AS Sue and Brian said, ". We always dump and flush - we then put fresh water in the black tank and hit the road letting the water slosh the solids around - then dump upon arrival at our next stop." I would clarify and say to add approx. 1/2 tank of water to slosh around while driving to your next stopping spot. If you will also dump a bag of ice into the black tank just before you leave that will help loosen up the solids. As soon as you hook up at your next stop drain the black tank and flush a couple of times with 10 - 15 gallons of water. A couple times doing this should knock all those solids loose and give you a clean system.

Bobzilla said...

We've been RV'ing for over 4 years now, but neither one of us has ever gone #2 in the RV toilet. There's always a campground toilet nearby, and that's where we "go."

Anonymous said...

I will bet they are leaving the black water tank valve open at campsites.. I boondock 99.975% of the time and use septic safe (not RV) TP. I have never had a clog and my black tank gauges work..