RV Advice

How to Get Rid of RV Holding Tank Odor

/blog/images/rv-sewer-tank-tips.jpg?preset=blogThumbnailCrop

Six Tips for Controlling RV Sewer Tank Odors

Planning an RV adventure is exciting thanks to the open road, the various stops along the way and seeing the country in style. However, one aspect of RVing might not be fun to talk about, but it’s crucial — the RV waste holding tanks. Although not a glamorous topic, you cannot ignore your RV sewer tank. If you do, you may regret it.

If you’re planning to be a successful RVer, there are two options available to you. One — don’t use the toilet on your RV. It’s been done by many who prefer to stop at places with bathroom facilities. The other option is to learn about your RV toilet and how your black water tank works. After all, one of the benefits of having an RV is that you have your own private traveling bathroom!

This means you’ll need to learn the reality of emptying and cleaning the holding tank. Plus, you’ll need to know how to eradicate unpleasant odors if they arise. With that in mind, here are six tips to get rid of RV black water odors.

1. Refill the Water to Keep Things Flowing Smoothly

Even if you empty your black water tank on a regular basis, you need to be sure to add plenty of water back in. All waste that goes into the toilet needs to be mixed with fluid, so the tank doesn’t dry out. If only the dry solid material remains, it will start to smell and could even damage the holding tank.

A good rule of thumb when refilling the water in your tank is to add enough so that the bottom is completely covered. This could be as much as seven to eight toilet bowls of water, depending on the size of your tank.

2. Add Water With Each Flush and Black Water Tank Chemicals

Another way to avoid a dried-out tank is to add water each time you flush the toilet. This will ensure there’s always enough liquid in the holding tank to assist in controlling unpleasant odors.

Every so often, you will also need to add specialized holding tank chemicals by dumping some into the toilet. This environmentally safe liquid helps break down toilet paper and waste, as well as assists in controlling odors. Depending on which chemical you choose, it should include instructions. Always refer to your RV’s owner manual before adding any chemicals.

3. Preventing and Cleaning Clogs

Preventing a clog in the first place should be a high priority. A common cause for black water tank clogs is toilet paper. RV tanks were not designed for regular toilet paper. Using this can lead to clogs, which are a sure-fire way your holding tank will start to smell. Instead, opt for biodegradable, RV-grade toilet paper.

If a clog does happen, it’s usually pretty obvious. When you attempt to empty the reservoir and nothing comes out, chances are, there’s a clog. At that point, you can hire a professional to clean out the clog for you, but it may be cheaper and more timely to handle it yourself — even if it’s not pretty.

4. Scour and Clean Your Tank

Although it’s an unpleasant job, an adequately cleaned holding tank is a huge aspect of keeping your waste system odor-free. You can hire someone or do it yourself, but the tank will have to be cleaned thoroughly, especially on its sides, where the stuck-on material may reside. Then, you can utilize a fresh-smelling cleaner. Thankfully, if you keep up with your black water tank maintenance, you should only have to clean it a few times a year.

5. Clean the Toilet and the Flapper

If you’ve emptied and cleaned your waste holding tank, but you’re still experiencing a cringe-worthy smell, then it may be that your toilet or your flapper is in need of a good scrub down. Clean both thoroughly, as there could be unpleasant residue stuck somewhere.

When your flapper is dirty, it may not close properly, allowing the smell in the waste tank to fill your RV. Take a rag and soak it in warm water to wipe around and under the flapper, making sure nothing has gotten caught. If the flapper still doesn’t close, you may need to call an RV maintenance specialist.

6. Repair Work Needed

If you’ve tried everything and the odor is still creeping in, there could be a more serious issue with your black water tank or your toilet. When these leaks or become damaged, you will need a professional to take on the repair work.

RV Sites at KOA

At KOA, many of our RV Sites come equipped with sewer hookups for easy waste disposal. No need to wait until the end of your trip to empty the holding tank. We also offer tons of amenities like hot showers, laundry facilities and more. Reserve your RV Site today at one of our many KOA campgrounds found throughout North America.


Learn to control RV holding tank odors.