The Care and Feeding of RV Holding Tanks

Question: Dear Luise: I feel a bit overwhelmed concerning the care and feeding of RV holding tanks. I lost my husband over a year ago and since then I have been reluctant to sell our motorhome. I have read all of your articles about RVing and I think that I can do what you did and travel alone. Your references to the Escapee Club and the Good Sam Club make me feel that I can join a community and not feel as vulnerable. I hate to admit this, but my husband was in charge of the rig and I was in charge of the housekeeping and meals. We just slipped into our old roles when we hit the road and felt comfortable with that. Now, I’m having to learn a lot and number one on my list is the mystery of the two holding tanks and how to manage them. I would deeply appreciate it if you would address this issue. Thanks, Belinda

Answer: Dear Belinda: Good for you for thinking seriously about carrying on alone with what you and your husband enjoyed together. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is do-able. And you will meet a lot of other singles on the road.

You have approached the unknown as I did, by focusing on one mystery at a time. That’s how I conquered leveling my rig. I pretended that once I had that down pat, I’d be on the road. Then I went after backing it up with the same enthusiasm, etc.

Here’s what I learned about holding tanks. First, there are usually two, a black water tank for your toilet and a gray water tank for everything else. They are controlled by vales that open and shut the lines. Learn to keep them closed because they are flat on the bottom and solids just lie there. Stuff from your kitchen sink will collect on the bottom of your gray water tank and, if the valve is open, the liquids will run off and the solids will grow bacteria and become foul. You don’t even want to know what will happen if you do that with your black water tank. The only exception to this rule is when you shower, leave the valve open for that or stuff may come up into your tub.

Once the valves are closed, the contents build up a volume that creates pressure and when you open the valves, one at a time…whoosh, they empty. Then, you close the valve and fill the tank about half full of water, and open it up again to rinse it out. Then, you close the valve one more time and put more water in, plus an additive that breaks down the solids to some extent and controls odor.

I learned the hard way never to put toilet paper in the toilet. It seems like a tacky practice, but once you have had a plugged valve, you will do anything to keep from having to face that disaster again. Seal used toilet paper in a small baggie and put it in the trash. Also, don’t always think you must have a full holding tank before emptying it. In hot weather, do it more often. There…don’t you feel better already? The care and feeding of RV holding tanks is pretty simple, really. Blessings, Luise

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