Nobody wants to discuss their black tank or black tank issues but the tank is critical to operating an effective indoor plumbing system. Having a toilet onboard is a major convenience and it prevents the need to park near outhouses and public restrooms. Use your own and enjoy the privacy built into your traveling home. A few simple steps and procedures will ensure the black tank is odor free and operating seamlessly.
The first step to managing a black tank is deodorizing. Treatments are similar to those found in portable outhouses. The often blue chemical is added to the tank as a means of snuffing out odors and it works very well. The black tank is typically vented through the roof and gases are released but a failure to add treatment to the tank means it will send a stink through the camper during the flush cycle. A small amount of tank odor treatment is prudent while the RV is in use. The treatment is not a cleaning or scrubbing solution but only a means of managing odor. After the deodorizing is added, go ahead and use the camper while filling the blackwater tank to a half or three-quarters amount. At this point, you want to focus on decomposition and preparations for draining and cleaning the system.
Toilet Paper and Decomposition
Decomposition is an important aspect of the blackwater system, especially when dropping toilet paper into the tank. Excessive amounts of paper can clog the lines and prevent the system from draining. A clogged line will prevent draining and create a headache at the dump site.
Two specific types of treatment additives are used to help decompose everything in the tank for an easy release at the sump station. The first is liquid, non-chemical enzyme based treatments that help with the break down naturally and the second is a drop-in pouch or tablet that has a similar effect. The choice is a simple matter of preference. The liquid is great but pouches are less likely to tip over and spill in transit.
Add one of these treatments when the tank is half full or so and use them a good couple of days before emptying at least. Ideally, you will use the treatments multiple times in a long camp to really break everything down to a liquid state. This will make the dumping process a breeze.
Lastly, use an RV specific toilet paper to help with the decomposition process. The RV specific paper is designed to breakdown quicker in the tank while preventing clogs and hangups in the lines. Avoid placing anything else in the tank to ensure it only holds septic specific waste.
Empty and Clean
Everything is broken down and decomposed to a liquid state that is ready for dumping. The next step is simple and only requires a sewer hose and a dump station to attach the hose. When using a dump station, emptying the grey water and black water at the same time is effective for cleaning the blackwater sewer line. Adding freshwater to the specific freshwater tank is not uncommon at this point either and many dump stations or RV parks offer a range of other services like propane fill-up.
To empty the tank, pull up close to a dump station and attach one end of the sewer hose to the black and greywater tank outlet. They typically come together at a single point for easy dumping. Attach the opposite end of the hose to the sewer. Some hoses use a clear plastic section on the sewer end to ensure the sewage is dumping and not clogging. Listening for the flow of liquid will also help this process complete however.
Access the the release valve on the blackwater tank and turn the valve to open and flush out the tank. Leave this valve open after the tank releases and subsequently open the greywater tank to clear out the hose while emptying the tank that holds sink and shower water. This will clean the hose from sewage and after both tanks are released, you can close the valves to continue traveling or take things a step further by flushing the blackwater tank with clean water. If freshwater is available, doing a thorough flush while the sewer line is attached is a good idea. Otherwise, close off the valves, add a fresh layer of treatment and continue using the tank in a normal fashion.