The Ultimate Guide to RV Toilet Chemicals

How Tos & Tips

Having an RV toilet aboard your rig is the absolute height of convenience. Not needing to use campgrounds, truck stops, or just public toilets in general is a pretty great option, and when you find yourself in the middle of nowhere it becomes even more useful, especially when small children are involved. Let’s take a look at RV toilet chemicals and their benefits.

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RV Toilet Chemicals Come in Two Forms

RV toilet chemical additives are available in two basic forms: as a liquid, or in dissolving packets or tablets.

  • Liquid: Liquid toilet chemicals are added directly to the black water tank by flushing it down the chem toilet. There are different types of liquid chemicals, so consult the packaging for specific instructions. In general, you will only need a couple of ounces of liquid RV toilet chemicals for each application.
  • Dissolving: The dissolving RV toilet tablets or packets generally contain a powder which then dissolves into the existing water in the black water tank. The result is the same as with the liquid chemicals, but many people find the packets to be more convenient while also preventing the chance of spills.

Regardless of the form of toilet chemical you use, the best RV toilet chemicals will not stain your toilet, are biodegradable, and are environmentally friendly. It’s recommended to use a liquid or dissolvable treatment every time you empty your black tank.

Typical brands of RV toilet chemicals you can look for are Camco TST RV Toilet Treatment, Porta-Pak, and Aqua-Kem RV toilet chemicals.

How Should I Use RV Toilet Tablets and Chemicals? 

Now we need to chat about how to use RV toilet chemicals. For our purposes, let’s assume you are starting with a completely empty and clean RV black water tank.

  1. The first thing you want to do before you add any RV toilet chemicals to the black water tank is to add a few gallons of water to the tank so that there’s a good base of water in the tank.
  2. This is very important: Never use your RV toilet without a good base of water in the black water tank. Doing so could result in the clumping of waste in your tank, which can lead to false meter readings—or worse, clogs.
  3. Once you have a base of a couple of gallons of water in your black tank, simply press down on the flushing valve for your toilet and dump the liquid chemical down the toilet, or add the RV toilet tablets.
  4. Your RV toilet is now ready to use.

Why is RV Toilet Treatment Important? 

The toilet in your house uses a large volume of water to flush waste down a long pipe and into your home or municipal septic system. In doing so, it carries the waste far away from the toilet to be deposited elsewhere. Carrying away the waste also carries away the odors from your bathroom.

In contrast, an RV toilet uses a relatively small amount of water to flush waste down to a black-water tank. In most cases, that RV black water tank is probably only a few feet away from where the waste is deposited, so it is easy for unpleasant odors to make their way back up into the bathroom area.

Additionally, because that RV black water tank is affixed to a moving RV, the contents of it get jostled around, which also adds to the perfect storm that can potentially cause a giant stink.

Fortunately, RV toilet chemicals help eliminate stink. By doing this, the chemicals ensure your home-on-wheels smells like a home rather than an outhouse. 

RV toilet chemical tank

Other Kinds of RV Toilet Chemicals

There are two other types of RV toilet chemicals that may come in handy.

The first is RV toilet bowl cleaner. RV toilets are generally made of plastic. They also have a rubber ring that seals the bowl when the valve is closed. Because of these materials, it’s important when cleaning an RV toilet to only use chemicals that are specially formulated for RV toilets. That way you won’t stain the toilet, and you can be sure they are safe for plastics and rubber seals.

The other RV toilet chemical that you may find a use for has more to do with cleaning your black water tank.

If you’ve owned an RV for any amount of time, you know that the gauges that tell you how full or empty your tank is at any given time are pretty unreliable. The reason for this is that after several uses, pieces of waste, tissue, or even hairs get caught on the sensors and send false readings to the gauges.

To help combat this, there are special cleaners that are concentrated to break down materials that could be causing false readings on your tank sensors. These cleaners are called RV level gauge cleaners or RV probe cleaners, and they can be found at your local RV supply store or online.

Alternatives to Pre-Made RV Toilet Chemicals

Generally speaking, pre-made RV toilet chemicals are the way to go when you need to break down waste and get rid of smells. That said, there are other options out there if you prefer. Some methods involve things you might already have sitting around the RV, and in one case, you won’t have to use any chemicals or cleaners at all. 

Lots of Water

The first option? Water. That’s right, some RVers use plain old water to keep their black tank smelling decent. 

The trick to this one is to use A LOT of water, and you really have to do it every time you flush. This means you will fill the tank quickly and will have to dump more often. You’ll also want to ensure you rinse the tank well after each dump, resulting in even more water usage. 

While this might be fine if you only stay in full-hookup campgrounds, it may not be ideal for those who enjoy boondocking. It also isn’t always the most effective option, so RV chemicals might need to be a backup plan in case plain water doesn’t work for you.

Geo Method

Another way to go about things is with the geo method. While this method doesn’t require you to purchase any RV-specific chemicals, it does require some other products that you may or may not have on hand. 

Essentially, you add two cups of water softener such as Calgon to a gallon of hot water and dump that into your tank along with a cup of Dawn dish soap and ¼ cup of Borax. Many swear by this method, saying it gets rid of smells and leaves their tanks cleaner than ever. 

Other Options

If neither of these options work for you, you can also try baking soda and hydrogen peroxide or laundry soap. We do recommend avoiding bleach though, as it can dry out seals and render them ineffective. 

Best RV Toilet Chemicals for Winterizing Your Black Tank

Another thing you’ll need special RV chemicals for? Winterizing the RV water system. Winterizing the rig is important for ensuring the water lines and tanks don’t freeze and crack when the super cold weather rolls around. Obviously, cracked water lines and tanks can mean big problems once camping season arrives, so this is a task you won’t want to skip. 

For RV winterization, you will need some RV antifreeze. Simply pump the non-toxic pink stuff into your water lines and they’ll be good to go. Of course, you’ll need to winterize the holding tanks as well. To do this, dump the tanks first and then pour a few cups of RV antifreeze into both the gray tank and the black tank. This will keep any remnants of water that might be hanging out in the tanks from freezing and thus causing damage to the tank walls. 

RV Chemical Toilets

Almost every rig will leave the factory with an RV chemical toilet. When most people think of chemical toilets they think of port-a-potties, and a camper toilet is similar in that the waste is held under the toilet and chemicals are added to the holding tank. That said, an RV chemical toilet is different in a couple of important ways:

  1. An RV toilet uses water to wash everything into the holding tank.
  2. Once the waste is flushed away, it is sealed off from the toilet bowl, helping reduce both smell and gross factor. 

But what are those camper toilet chemicals in the tank actually for? RV toilet chemicals are bacteria or enzyme compositions that aid in breaking down waste and tissue. The breakdown of waste and tissue allows the black water tank to be emptied more easily and helps to prevent the clumping of materials in the tank, which can sometimes lead to blockage.

An added bonus in this process of breaking down waste and tissue is that RV toilet chemicals also help to eliminate odors in the tank, and ultimately in the RV as a whole. Keeping your RV bathroom clean and fresh is an important part of RV ownership, and don’t forget to dump those waste tanks!