Dealing with Utilities (Septic/Sewer)

Sanitation services are often the most challenging part of creating convenient utilities for long term RV usage and it is the most important for health and safety.

In the majority of situations, you will not have hookups to sewer or septic. This means that you must be mindful of water usage and will need to arrange for a pump trunk to empty your tanks 2-4 times a month. To loan an RV to someone, it is recommended to have a contract as a condition of placing an RV to make sure you cannot move the RV for insurance purposes.

3 Options for Waste Water Management

  • Pump and dump
  • Public sewer system
  • Private septic system

Important Maintenance Issues You Must Know About

  • How do I drain waste water, if I have a connection without a good slope to drain my RV?
  • Can I leave the wastewater gates open for my black and grey water tanks?
  • Can the type of toilet paper I use in my RV result in the need for expensive repairs? How can I avoid that?
  • How do I clean my RV tank?

3 Options for Wastewater Management

Essentials of Pump and Dump

Traditional home dwellers will have some initial challenges to adjust to the limited holding tank capacity. The black water is generally not a problem, but the grey water holding capacity problem is due to leaving the kitchen faucet on a lot or taking long showers.  You can rent an additional grey water waste tank to increase holding capacity between service visits, but it’s not cheap.

When neither public sewer or septic is available, you may be allowed to pump and dump if you have a monthly contract by your local health officials. You generally will not be allowed a “pay-as-you-go” service plan because health officials are concerned about you dumping waste on the ground.  They will want on-going assurance that the sewage is properly disposed of.

Before accepting delivery of an RV determine who is going to pump your tanks, how often and for how much.    If you cannot find a service provider, call your county health department.  They maintain a list of contractors approved to provide these services.

Essentials of Public Sewer

Connection of an RV to public sewer is the ideal solution, except if  you are in an area prone to flooding or at the base of a hill on public sewer, you might want to keep all tank valves closed, or install a backflow device to avoid the public sewer entering the RV.  (It’s very rare, but could happen.)

When connected to the home’s exterior clean-out, use a well-secured drain hose that will not allow odor and gas to escape.  RV tanks, hoses, and connections may not leak gray or black water onto the ground.  Be sure you are connected correctly or the RV will need to be removed from service.

Essentials of Private Septic System

A general “rule of thumb” is that septic systems are sized according to the number of bedrooms in a home.  If a bedroom isn’t being used, there is probably adequate capacity on the pre-existing system.

If there is no record of the septic system, a field clearance might be required. The field review must substantiate adequate function and capacity in the septic system for the intended use. Generally, the septic system must be uncovered for evaluation. If the septic system is inadequate or if the house is served by a cesspool, a new septic system may be required.

When connected to the home’s exterior clean-out, use a well-secured drain hose that will not allow odor and gas to escape.  RV tanks, hoses, and connections may not leak gray or black water onto the ground.  Be sure you are connected correctly or the RV will need to be removed from service.


Important Maintenance Issues You Must Know About

How do I drain waste water, if I have a connection without a good slope to drain my RV?

Having a perfect “rise-over-run” for drainage of an RV to septic or sewer is rare and presents a common challenge to overcome.

A device called “Sewer Solution” uses fresh water to push waste water of any type over hills and long distances. It can pump waste up to 100 feet over level ground and up to 3 feet above the level of the holding tank. This is specifically designed for RVs with holding tanks.

Can I leave the waste water gates open for my black and grey water tanks?

IMPORTANT: What most RV users and even building department employees DO NOT KNOW about RVs is that you cannot leave the black water drain valve open. If you do, pyramiding occurs and will eventually cause a terrible blockage in the RV system from dried fecal matter usually requiring professional help to repair.

It is recommended to open the lines periodically to drain black water into the sewer or septic system, if attached. (If using a pump and dump service, this is not an issue to be concerned about.)

Grey water drain valves can be left open, if you follow the advice in the video below.

Can the type of toilet paper I use in my RV result in the need for expensive repairs? How can I avoid that?

This topic is very important to understand for your comfort and to avoid unpleasant situations.

CAUTION: Just because it says septic safe DOES NOT mean that it is appropriate for RVs.

Please watch this video (you could skip the testing after 9m30)

Suggested products with Amazon links:

  • Valterra 45 Degree Clearview Sewer Adapter (CLICK HERE)
  • Scott Rapid-Dissolving RV Toilet Paper (CLICK HERE)

How do I clean my RV tank?

Do not EVER use bleach on your tanks to clean them unless you want to risk the seals being rotted by the chemical reaction that happens between bleach and soft plastics.

If you want to get the essential bits, there is an overview of RV tank cleaning up to 4 minutes and then view 10m20 seconds to see the cleaning process which takes 10+ minutes to complete.

Suggested products with Amazon links:

  • Happy Campers 64 treatments (CLICK HERE)
  • Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stick with Shutoff Valve (CLICK HERE)

Dealing with sewage systems is a very necessary and unpleasant part of owning an RV.  If you haven’t seen the movie RV, by Robin Williams, I recommend it.  We all could use a little light hearted humor right now!