Is Bleach Bad for RV Holding Tanks?

Whatever you add to your RV tanks to clean or remove odors is all up to you. However, it is important you be cautious on what you add since it can affect you positively or negatively. Bleaching agents is one of the common substance added to holding tanks.

Is bleach bad for RV holding tanks? No. As long as you use the bleach solution as recommended, then you have nothing to worry. The problem comes when you use bleach solution in the wrong way then you will have to face some consequences.

This guides aims to give more insights in the following areas:

1) Use Bleach in RV
·        Using bleach in RV holding tanks
·        How do I put bleach in my RV water tank?

2) Sanitization of RV Water Tanks
·        Steps to Sanitize your RV water tank
·        How often should I sanitize my RV water tank?
. How to sanitize RV water tank (VIDEO)

3) Reasons for Smelly Camper’s Holding Tanks
·        Why does my camper smell like sewer?
·        Can you leave your GREY water tank open?
·        How do I get rid of the smell in my RV holding tank?
·        Step by step guide to get rid of the smell

4) Discarding the Holding Tank Wastes
·        How do I know when my black water tank is full?
·        Places to legally dump your RV waste
5) Caring for RV Holding Tanks
·        Do I need special toilet paper for my RV?
·        What is the best RV holding tank treatment?

6) Reasons for Smelly Camper’s Toilet
·        Why does my RV toilet stink?
·        Triggers of stinking toilet
·        Make your toilet smell good

7) Reasons for Rotten Eggs Smell in RV’s Heater Water
·        Why does my RV water smell like rotten eggs
·        How do I get rid of the rotten egg smell out of RV water heater?

8) Drinking RV Water
·        Is RV water safe to drink?
·        Factors to consider in RV drinking water safety

1) Using Bleach in RV Holding Tanks

Bleach can be used in three ways when put in holding tanks:

  •  Sanitization of the freshwater tank onboard
  • Act as an algaecide of the water tank
  • Get rid of odors in the black or gray water tank (the RV waste holding tank)

Majority of people think that bleach destroys the blank tank. However, when used as directed and in moderation it is very safe for use. Unlike a conventional sewer where complete decomposition occurs, that doesn’t happen in the black tank perhaps because of limited time.

Thus, it’s advisable to use safe toilet paper and plenty of water to flush.

The decomposition of the waste is what result in the bad odor. The odor is likely to increase especially in areas of high temperature since decomposition becomes faster.

Once you empty the tank to the sewer line or as directed in the campsite, cleaning using a moderate bleach solution would help remove the odors.

One of the commonly used bleach is the Clorox brand. It is an anticorrosive agent. When used as directed its safe for use in nonporous surfaces such as plastics, stainless steel, porcelain, glazed ceramics, and glass among other materials.

The bleach can be used I cleaning tanks, floors, countertops, trash cans just to mention a few as a disinfectant. It kills the bacteria that cause bad odors.

How Do I Put Bleach in My RV Water Tank?

It is safe to use bleach in your RV holding tank as a sanitizer, to control of algae growth, and to removes odor.

So, how do I put bleach in my RV water tank?

  1. Ensure the water is not hot or under pressure.
  2. In the outside compartment, locate the water heater. Drain the water heater by opening the plug and pressure relief valve
  3. Find your water drains for hot and cold water often in the lowest point of the RV system. Open them and allow drainage.
  4. Locate fresh water holding tank drainage and drain the water
  5. Once water has been drained, stop running the pump
  6. Close all drains
  7. Now it’s time to add bleach to the water tank.
  8. How much bleach do you put in a RV water tank? For 15 gallons of water your fresh water tank holds, use your preferred quarter cup of household bleach.
  9. Mix the bleach and water to form a solution in clean container and pour the solution into your fresh water tank.
  10. Completely fill the fresh water tank
  11. Switch on the water pump.
  12. Open all cold and hot faucets
  13. Run water until you can smell bleach in the faucet
  14. Close all the faucets
  15. If you can, drive your RV to assist moving water around for entire cleansing of the tank
  16. Switch off the pump.
  17. Allow the system to rest for at least 12 hrs.
  18. Drain the entire system.
  19. Refill with clean fresh water
  20. Open all faucets and allow the water to drain until you no longer smell bleach
  21. You can repeat cleaning with clean water to be sure all bleach substance has been removed

2) Sanitization of RV Water Tanks

Steps to Sanitize Your RV Water Tank

To sanitize your waste RV water tank, put the bleach solution (bleach mixed with water) in the tank. One quarter cup to be used in one gallon of water. Do the math to fit your RV tank capacity.

Have the tank completely filled with the solution. Allow it to rest for a minimum of 8 hours. You can as well drive your RV to allow the fluid to clean all sections of the tank and also help break down any wastes that remained in the tank. Dispose the solution in a sewer or approved dumping place.

Cleaning both the fresh water tank and the waste tank before embarking on a long journey kills all bacteria and ensures your tanks are fresh. Besides, your water consumption would be safe and fresh.

How To Sanitize RV Water Tank (Video)

Watch this video for visual illustration of how to sanitize RV water tank.

Bleach sanitize RV water tank

How Often Should I Sanitize My RV Water Tank?

RV water tank needs to be sanitized or cleaned as regular as possible. Clean water tank enhances your health since you won’t have issues of stomach aches or skin diseases due to water contamination.

You should clean your RV at least once every 6 months. However, the higher the frequency of cleaning the safer your water in the tank.

Overstayed water in the RV tank is a good ground for bacterial and algae growth with are toxic in nature and calls for regular cleaning.

Cleaning with just plain water won’t do you any good. You ought to use a good bleach substance mixed with water. The ratio of the bleach solution depends with the size of your RV tank.

However, use a quarter cup of bleach solution to every 15 gallons of water. So, the size of your fresh water tank would inform the exact quantity of the bleach solution you need.

3) Reasons for Smelly Camper’s Holding Tanks

Why Does My Camper Smell Like Sewer?

Your camper smells because of the bad odors that drifts from the waste tank (gray or black tank). The waste tank contains waste matter that decomposes. In turn the decomposition triggers the formation of bad odors and the waste tank then smells.

So, why does my GREY water tank smell?

It smell because the waste matter is decomposing and has not yet been emptied. You need to empty your waste tank before embarking on a trip or even in the middle of your journey and channel the waste to the recommended dumpsite of sewer line.

Can You Leave Your GREY Water Tank Open?

No. It is recommended not to leave the waste tank open to prevent the bad odors from entering the RV. As long as you are not cleaning, filling the tank with clean water, or dumping the waste, just have it closed.

However, sometimes the tank has to be opened in order to hook up with a sewer line. When connected to a sewer line, the RV tank has a flap that prevents odors from main sewer to enter your RV.

Besides, if the RV is to stay in a specific spot for long, it’s possible to link the waste tank directly to the sewer. With this technique, the waste directly enters the sewer system. You got nothing to worry about checking whether or not your waste tank is full so you can empty it.

How Do I Get Rid of the Smell in My RV Holding Tank?

Odors in RV waste holding tank is common. The smell is so unpleasant and you have to do something for you to freshen up your whole RV. There are some activities you can engage in to keep your waste tank fresh.

Generally Empty the waste tank. Once you have removed the waste, you need to clean and treat your waste tank. Treatment removes any hidden clogs that was not removed when cleaned with just waste since it dissolves the waste.

Step by step guide to get rid of the smell

Step 1

Ensure your waste tank is refilled with water even after you empty the tank. The water ensure all waste entering the tank remains in solution and is easily broken down. Dry waste smells and can even destroy your tank.

Step 2

If possible, once you flush your toilet after use add water to the waste tank as a way of reducing odors. You can also pour waste tank chemical through the toilet then you flush. The liquid breaks down the waste and controls odors.

Step 3

Use safe RV toilet paper to prevent clogs. Regular toilet paper is not effective for use in the RV toilets. It causes clogging.  Clogs formation would trigger bad odors.

Step 4

Once you empty your waste holding tank, do scour and clean your tank with plenty of water. If you are not comfortable to do that, hire someone to do it for you thoroughly.

Step 5

The toilet flap should also be scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly when you clean your tank. Also, clean the toilet well

Step 6

In case your system is well cleaned but odors come about once you start using the toilet, there could be possible leakages. Inspect for leakages and get it repaired.

4) Discarding the Holding Tank Wastes

How Do I Know When My Black Water Tank Is Full?

You can check the shower pan. If it holds water, then the tank is full. You can also check down the toilet when water is shut down. However, make it a habit not to allow your waste tank to be full before you think of emptying.

Empty your waste tank as soon as the trip comes to an end. I mean, begin a new trip without carrying waste from previous trip. It will save you a lot. Do you know why? Think of these 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1

You realize your tank needs emptying in the course of your trip yet you are not near any of the recommended dumpsites. You can’t just dump the waste in the middle of the road, that is destroying the environment and you can be arrested.

Scenario 2

You have an awful smelly RV. You are now uncomfortable and embarrassed simply because you did not dump the waste. Worst case would be if you can’t dump it any sooner until you arrive the nearest dumpsite.

Worth noting

Just be emptying the tank once your trip is over. If the trip is long, locate a suitable dumpsite and dump the waste. Just that simple activity will prevent your tank from getting full enhance your trip.

Where Can I Dump GREY Water?

The waste water tank acts like you RV septic tank. It is often in gray and sometimes its black in color. The tank contains waste from toilet, bathroom, kitchen, and any other waste that can enter.

So how do I get rid of GREY water tank in my RV?  

You need to dump the waste to prevent your RV from smelling like sewer. The waste are not yet treated and you can’t just dump it anywhere as you are likely to be arrested for destroying the environment.

Places to legally dump your RV waste

Here is a list of safe places you can comfortably and legally dump your waste in their recommended dumpsite. Be sure to inquire before use

  1. RV campground and parks
  2. Septic tank
  3. Marinas
  4. National and provincial parks
  5. Recycling centers
  6. Wastewater treatment plants
  7. Sporting goods stores
  8. RV dealerships
  9. Gas stations

5) Caring for RV Holding Tanks

Do I Need Special Toilet Paper for My RV?

Yes. It is recommended to use special RV toilet papers and not the conventional household toilet paper. It is because the conventional toilet paper cannot be broken down in the RV waste tank. It can easily clog both in the toilet and in the waste tank. Clogs trigger bad smells.

Besides, conventional home use toilet papers gets dump in a direct sewer where treatment is later carried out or dissolve in the earth for those using latrines. However, the RV waste tank is just a temporary storage and is not an ideal sewer.

Thus, using a special RV toilet paper of the brand of your choice, would enhance your comfort in the RV. However, in worst case scenario you forget to stock your toilet paper, just use the conventional toilet paper.

But, be sure to use a treatment that can break down the conventional tissue and remove clogs. Not all treatment can do that. Learn more about safe RV toilet paper alternatives just in case you run out of RV tissue paper.

What is the Best RV Holding Tank Treatment?

Your waste tank needs treatment to ease break down of waste, prevent clogging.  And remove odors. Besides, smelling holding tanks can be embarrassing is is quite uncomfortable.

Why does my holding tank smell?

The tank smells because of bacterial activities in the tank. By cleaning and treating your tanks, you can get rid of the bad smell. There are several products in the market that you can use to treat your tank.

Treatments for RV holding tanks

Some of the common and effective treatments that can be used include:

a. Liquid treatments

  1. Thetford Aqua-Kem RV Holding Tank Treatment


  • Use in all weather
  • Removes bad odors
  • Removes clogs
  • Dissolves waste


  • Use as recommended

2. Camco TST RV Grey Water Odor Control with Lemon Scent


  • Leaves a refreshing lemon smell
  • Dissolves waste
  • Removes grease and clogs


  • Use as recommended

3. Happy Campers Organic RV Holding Tank Treatment


  • Removes bad odors
  • Breakdown waste
  • Removes grease, sludge and crud


  • Use as recommended

4. TankTechsRx RV Holding Tank Cleaner and Treatment


  • Removes odors
  • Breakdown waste
  • Removes clogs


  • Not scented. It just removes bad odors and nature takes its course

5. Valterra V23128 Pure Power Blue Odor Eliminator and Waste Digester


  • Fresh scent
  • Removes odors
  • Easy to use
  • Use in all weather


  • Use as recommended

6. Happy Campers EXTREME CLEANER


  • Prevents bad odors
  • Breaks down waste
  • Works well in both cold and hot weather’


  • Use as recommended for best results

7. Unique Natural Products RV Holding Tank Treatment


  • Removes bad odors
  • Prevents clogging
  • Digest waste including all types of tissue paper


  • Use as recommended

b. Tablet treatments

  1. Walex TOI-61776 Elemonate Deodorizer & Cleaner


  • Removes bad odors
  • Dissolves waste
  • Removes clogs


  • If you use in sinks, clean well after it dissolve to prevent blotch from forming

2. Walex BIO-PAK 11530 Natural Holding Tank Waste Digester and Deodorize


  • Removes bad odors
  • Convenient to uses since it comes in small packs inside a bigger pack
  • Break down waste
  • Removes possible clogs in valves, seals, and pipes


  • Use as recommended for best results

3. Walex PPRVLAV Porta-Pak Holding Tank Deodorizer (Lavender Breeze)


  • Removes bad odors up to 7 days from use
  • Break down waste
  • Dissolves quickly and cleans faster


  • For best results use as recommended

c. Formaldehyde-free treatments

  1. Camco 41183 TST Ultra-concentrated RV Toilet Treatment with Orange Citrus Scent


  • Controls odors
  • Breaks waste including tissue
  • Easy to use
  • Utra concentrated and single drop is still effective upto 40 gallon capacity
  • Acts as a lubricant


  • Use as recommended for best results

2. Walex TOI-91799 Deodorizer


  • Controls odor
  • Good fragrance
  • Lubricates seals and valves
  • Breakdown waste
  • Dissolves quickly and cleans faster
  • Controls odor up to 7 days
  • Biodegradable and safe for environment


  • If by mistake you by the one that has formaldehyde, it kills natural bacteria needed for decomposition. It should be formaldehyde free.

3. Camco 41173 TST Ultra-Concentrated RV Toilet Treatment with Orange Scent


  • Regulates odors
  • Break down waste
  • Ultra-concentrated


  • Color attract pets and can be harmful. Store well after use

4. Energen Grey Water Tank Treatment


  • Good deodorizer
  • Removes build up grease from the tank
  • Prevent foul odors


  • Can be packed in small bottles. Buy enough as per instruction for better performance

6) Reasons for Smelly Camper’s Toilet

Why Does My RV Toilet Stink?

You are likely to experience a bad stench from your RV toilet once in a while. It happens so don’t be surprised. Besides, it is something you can get rid of and enjoy your business even in the toilet.

Factors that can trigger smells in your toilet

  1. Damaged sewer tank (Waste tank/ gray or black tank)
  2. Leakages in the toilet
  3. Uncleaned toilet
  4. Clogging in the toilet
  5. Improperly locked flaps (Connects the toilet to the waste tank)
  6. Full waste tank

Knowing the cause of the stench will help you a lot. Trouble shoot by first ensuring your toilet is well cleaned. If the stench continues check the flaps and dump the waste. Recheck for leakages.

Most waste tanks are durable and is unlikely that it is damaged. However, you never know. Check to be sure.

Try these activities to have a good smelling toilet

  1. Remove any clogs
  2. Scour, sanitize, and treat your tank using a good smelling treatment
  3. Clean the toilet and the flapper.

7) Reasons for Rotten Eggs Smell in RV’s Heater Water

Why Does My RV Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

Once in a while you are likely to experience a bad smell from the water when you open the faucets for cold water and hot water being heat by RV water heaters.

It’s not a new issue and you are not alone. The water smells because of bacterial activity in the waters. The smell is an automatic signal that your water is not safe for consumption.

Possible causes of the smell include overstayed water in the tank when you were not using your RV. Also, your tanks may not have been cleaned for long. In addition, you could have added fresh water in an overstayed water in the tank.

Now, How do I get the rotten egg smell out of my RV water heater?

The smell can be removed using hydrogen peroxide (16 ounce bottle) or use the normal household vinegar. Remember hydrogen peroxide is toxic when consumed.

To get rid of bad odor follow these step:

  1. Turn the water heater off
  2. Ensure water in the heater is not hot or risk burning yourself.
  3. Turn off the water pump.
  4. Open all water faucets to drain the water
  5. If the heater system has a bypass valve, close it to prevent water from going to the heater
  6. Remove drain plug for suburb water heater and drain the water completely
  7. Close all drains and faucets when draining is complete
  8. Refill the tank with fresh water
  9. Add hydrogen peroxide or vinegar to remove the rotten egg smell (Use a polythene tube with a J-shaped funnel: optional)
  10. Drive to allow bumping and jostling so that water moves every corner of the tank. Leave the water to stay for some time say at least 3 hours.
  11. Open all faucets and plugs to drain.
  12. Close faucets and plugs
  13. Refill with clean fresh water. Drive the RV. Drain the water. You can refill again and drain.
  14. Your tank is ready for use. Refill with clean water. No smell.

8) Drinking RV Water

Is RV water safe to drink?

That is not guaranteed. The safety of your water depends with a number of factors which need to be considered before declaring your RV water safe for drinking. Be sure the water is safe before drinking it or risk getting sick.

Factors to consider in RV drinking water safety


How clean are your holding tanks? Do you clean the fresh water tank regularly? Clean regularly. Sanitize at least once in 6 months

Idle Water

When your RV is not in use, how long does it stay with water? Often drain the water when not using the RV. If water stays long without being used bacteria grows and destroy the waters. It is recommended to drain after every trip.

Water Source

Where do you source your water? Get water from a trusted supplier. Water should be treated and safe for use.


Is the holding tank safely sealed? Opened tanks unwanted items and organism to enter the tank. Ensure it is always sealed. Replace seals if need be.


In the instance your water source is not trust worthy, be sure to carry your own bottle water for drinking. Let the RV water be used for cleaning and flushing the toilet.

So, it is up to you to judge how safe your water is and adjust accordingly. Other than water safety, there are other key RV safety measures you ought to embrace to enhance your overall safety while using your RV.

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