How to Keep Your RV Water Tanks Clean

RV Owners


One of the biggest perks of having an RV is having running water whenever and wherever you need it while on the road. But you do need to know how to take care of your RV fresh water tank, as well as the other tanks in your rig.

We’ll look at the best way to keep your RV water tanks clean and how to care for your tanks. From how long to keep fresh water in an RV tank to how to sanitize an RV water tank and everything in between, we’ll give you helpful tips for caring for your tanks.

1. The Potable Hose is Only for Potable Water

Never use your potable water hose to drain your grey water tank. Even if you believe you can properly sanitize your hose afterward, it’s not ever a good idea. Only use your potable water hose for clean drinking water.

2. Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water Tank

If your RV fresh water tank is older, or if it’s been sitting in your stored RV for a while, it may begin to harbor bacteria. As a result, the tank can develop an unpleasant smell or make your drinking water taste bad. You can solve this problem with some old-fashioned bleach. While you never want to pour straight bleach into your fresh water tank, you do want to use a diluted bleach solution. Here’s a foolproof method to sanitize your RV water tank and eliminate any off taste or funky smells.

  • Mix one cup of bleach to four gallons of water for a 40-gallon tank, one and a half cups of bleach to six gallons of water for a 60-gallon tank, and two cups of bleach to eight gallons of water for a 100-gallon tank.
  • Add the bleach solution to your tank, then fill it up all the way with fresh water.
  • Run all of the sinks and faucets, one at a time, until you smell bleach through each one and the tank is empty.
  • Once it’s empty, fill up the tank with fresh water and let it sit overnight.
  • The next day, drain the tank through all of the faucets again, then repeat filling and draining with fresh water three more times. If you can still smell bleach, repeat the freshwater process until it’s gone.

3. Remove the Sink Stink

For getting rid of odd odors from the kitchen or bathroom sinks, try pouring half a can of orange soda down the drain, then rinse with some water from the tap. The fizz will help clean off some of the sludge, and the orange scent can help to cover up bad smells.

4. Don’t Let Food Fall Down the Drain

Use a mesh strainer basket in your kitchen sink to catch bits of food before they wash down the drain and into the grey water tank. This will go a long way toward keeping your tank fresh and odor free.

5. Prevent Odors with Baking Soda

Every time you empty your grey water tank, put a spoonful or two of baking soda in the kitchen sink and rinse it with some hot water. This can help keep odors from developing.

6. Chemicals for the Black Tanks

There are a number of products on the market that are designed to help control odors in both your gray and black water tanks. If odor starts to become a problem, using one of these may be the simplest way to keep your RV free of bad smells.

7. Keep that Black Tank Valve Closed!

When you’re hooked up to a sewer connection at a campsite, keep your black tank valve closed. It may be tempting to just leave the valve open, but this is a mistake. When you leave the valve open, all of the water waste will drain from your tank, but the solid waste will not. Eventually, you’ll have a black water tank full of solid waste that will smell quite foul and will need to be cleaned out. Now that’s a nasty job!

8. Give it a Good Cleaning

Every once in a while (at least once a season), it’s a good idea to clean your black water tank really well to remove any solid waste that might have built up along the inside.

  • Empty your tank at a dump station, then take an ordinary garden hose and push it down through the toilet. If your RV is like most, the black water tank is located directly under your toilet.
  • Turn the water for the hose on all the way and move it around so the spray hits as much of the inside of the black water tank as possible.
  • When the tank is full (or close to full), empty it again.
  • You can repeat this a second or third time if it’s been a while since you cleaned out your black water tank, or if you’ve been having issues with odors or backups.

9. Take it for a Drive

If you’ve done the above procedure and still have an odor or waste stuck to the inside of the tank, try filling it up with the garden hose again and taking your RV for a drive before draining your tank. This can create more agitation and hopefully loosen any residue.

If you’re a more visual person, you can watch YouTube videos that will also walk you through how to clean and sanitize your RV tanks.

If any of your water tanks start to pick up bad odors, try these tips to clean it up and keep your RV smelling good.

While tanks that are very old may eventually need to be replaced, a bad odor alone is not reason enough to buy a new one. Properly cleaning the fresh, gray, and black RV water tanks may not be a glamorous job, but it’s the only way to keep your RV smelling continually fresh.