A Beginner’s Guide to the RV Septic System【FAQs Included】


I hope you agree with me when I say,

 When you’re living in an RV, emptying the RV septic tank system becomes the least favorite yet the most important part of your life. 

If you are traveling or living in an RV, you have to deal with your RV waste tanks yourself. With the right procedures to handle your RV septic systems not only you can empty your tanks easily but you can avoid a disgusting disaster in your RV and ride peacefully. 

Here we have a Beginner guide to the RV septic system and all the instructions to avoid mistakes while dealing with your septic tanks

RV Septic System


Typically septic system for RV comes in three different tanks for Fresh, gray, and Blackwater. But in old or in a small septic system for a travel trailer, two tanks, one for the freshwater and the other for the Gray and Blackwater combine.

Fresh Water Tank

The freshwater tank contains clean water that you use in your sink, shower, and other places in your RV. A water filter can also be fitted on the supply from this tank to get drinkable water.

Gray Water Tank

The gray water tank contains dirty used water from the kitchen sink and bathroom shower of your RV. It has a separate outdoor valve to empty this tank. Some fifth wheels and big RVs have two Grey water tanks. 

Black Water Tank

This is the worst part of RV camping for beginners that scares them. The black water tank holds the toilet water from in the RV. It also has a separate outdoor exit point. Dealing with this water tank carefully is the most important part to maintain the hygiene of your RV septic systems and indoor area.

How an RV Septic System Works?

In our RVs, we all love to have a clean and working washroom, but that means we eventually got to do something with all that waste. You must know how many underground septic tank systems are available in an RV park. 

When you find an underground septic tank then the process of dumping your Rv waste begins.

To avoid any unnecessary disgusting disaster, follow these steps and dump your RV waste carefully. 

1. Connect Rv to Septic Tank

Getting as close as possible to the dump station is always a good idea. In this way, you minimize the risks of leaking your hose pipe. 


At first put on your gloves. An RV sewer hose comes in two sides, one is the “Connection in” and the other is the “dump in”.Connect the “Connection in” side of the sewer hose to the dumping assembly of your RV and put the “dump in” down the hole in the underground RV septic tank.

Sewer support is recommended as it helps the water flow smoothly. Make sure to fix tightly both sides to avoid any leakage. Try to keep the hose straight and avoid the highs and lows in it.

Get Sewer Hoses for your RV. Check out our article on heated water hoses

2. Emptying the RV Tanks

Though it is the worst yet most important part of the process, you can do it easily and quickly with the proper care. Here is the step-by-step process for emptying your RV waste.

a). Emptying the Black Water Tank: After connecting your sewer hose tightly then always remember, empty the Black water tank first. You just open the valve and start draining the Black water tank.

While draining your Black water tank, try flushing your toilet 2 to 3 times to rinse out any solid particles from the tank and the sewer hose pipe.

Once you see that the Blackwater tank stops draining then close its valve.

b). Emptying the Gray Water Tank: Usually, your RV has a separate Grey water tank but in old RVs or some small campers there is only one tank that contains all the kitchen dirty water and toilet waste in it. 

After the Blackwater tank is fully drained, open the valve of the Greywater tank and let it roll from there. In this way, the Greywater will rinse out any residues left from Blackwater in the sewer hose.

It is recommended by many users that you should pick every particle and split materials from your dishes in the kitchen sink. They can clog in the pipes or the tanks and damage your RV septic system.

Want to get rid of your old RV? Check out our related guide on How to get rid of your old motorhome.

3. Disconnect the Sewer Hose

After emptying both tanks, disconnect the sewer hose from the RV dumping assembly but leave the other side down in the hole of the underground tank.


Don’t forget to fix tightly the drain outlet caps on your RV.

Rinse out the sewer hose with water spray that is often available near the dumping unit in the park.

4. Put some Water in Black Water Tank

In the end, don’t forget to add some gallons of water back into the black water tank and camp powder treatment into it. Extra water prevents coagulation in the tank and powder treatment reduce the smell   

5. Discard the Trash

Remove your gloves along with all other trash of the process. Sometimes you may use some wipes or tissue papers in the process, remove it all. 

Sanitize your hands just after the process because the thing you are dealing with can make you sick. 


Best RV Black Water Treatment 

The Blackwater tank holds toilet water that means it stinks very badly. If you don’t take care of it properly then its smell can spread in your RV and that is what scares the beginners most.

Some of the best Blackwater treatments are mentioned below

1.Camco TST Ultra-Concentrated RV Toilet Treatment Drop-Ins


  • Quick effects
  • Eliminates stinky odor
  • Smells good

Camco TST Ultra-Concentrated RV Toilet Treatment helps to eliminate smell and dilute the solid waste in the black water tank.



2. Walex TOI-91799 Porta-Pak Holding Tank Deodorizer Drop-Ins


  • Breaks down waste
  • Eliminates toilet smell
  • Non-staining

Walex Drop-Ins are biodegradable and powerful deodorizers. It is non-staining and helps to eliminate smell quickly.



3. Camco TST Lavender Citrus Scent RV Toilet MAX Treatment Drop-Ins


  • Biodegradable
  • Formaldehyde-free
  • Smells like lavender

It is formaldehyde-free with Lavender citrus scent water treatment. Its effect can last up to seven days. It is a must-have water treatment for your RV.


Tips for RV Blackwater Treatment

Following are some tips for RV Blackwater treatment:

1). Always keep 3 to 4 gallons of fresh water in the Blackwater tank. It will help reduce the smell and stops coagulation.

2). Put the Blackwater treatment powder in the toilet and flush it. this will help you with the toilet smell and some of these powders come in with some other compounds that convert the solid waste into liquids. Try to use these treatment products. If those are not available try using bleach, it also works well like other RV septic solutions in Blackwater treatment. 

3). Some RV users recommend putting ice into the Blackwater tank but it does not make any big difference. Make sure to have some amount of water in your Blackwater tank. It helps to dilute whatever in the tank and push everything out when emptying the tank.

4). Use a Jet Nozzel hose to clean any residue left on the floor of the Blackwater tank from your Toilet.

5). One day before traveling o your RV, fill the black water tank with fresh water and some treatment powder or bleach and let it soak there for at least one night then dump it in the morning. This will clean your Blackwater tank completely and rinse out all residues from the surface of the tank.


In this emptying your RV septic tanks in an RV park and safety precautions are explained thoroughly.

Where to Dump RV Septic Tanks?

RV parks

When you are living in an RV park, many underground septic tanks are available there. You always keep in mind to know how many septic systems for an RV park are available and park somewhere near an underground RV septic tank system. However, in most RV park septic system designs, you can find easily campground septic tanks to dump your RV waste. Rv park septic system cost is including in the amount that they charge you to live in their parks. Normally it ranges from 500$ to 900$.

Residential sewer systems

When you are traveling in your RV you may find it hard to find a place to dump your waste. However, RV dump into a residential sewer system will be a nice thing to do but it is illegal in some states you have to take permission to dump your motorhome holding tanks in a local sewer system.

Or if you are living in your home a homemade septic tank for RV will be good for you. You must learn how to build an RV septic system at home and run it. Connecting RV to home sewer is always a good idea but you may need to take permission from authorities as well.

Portable Septic Tank

On your longer journeys keep a portable RV septic tank with you and add an RV dump to the septic tank when no other option is available. You can dump this extra travel trailer septic tank when you find a dumping unit on your traveling. 


Gas Stations

Almost all the Gas stations have underground septic tank facilities. Whenever you go to a gas station in traveling, empty your RV  septic tank systems there.

FAQs - Related Questions

Q. How to live in an RV without hookups?

A. If you are living in your RV trailers without any hookups you can use the portable systems in your RV. you must have batteries and an electric generator or solar plates for the electricity. You can use portable small septic systems for RV instead of the RV septic hookups that you use in RV parks.

Q.How much does it cost to install an alternative septic system for RV?

A. The cost of alternative septic systems varies from 2000$ to 3000$ depending on the size of your RV. whether you need a small RV septic system or a larger system for your fifth wheel RV or large campers, the cost varies according to RV septic system design. In larger campers you will need relatively big septic tanks and pipes thus it costs more than small septic systems for RV.

Q. Can you dump RV waste into septic tanks?

A. No, you cannot dump RV waste into septic tanks. Always pick up all the solid food particles when you are washing dishes in the kitchen sink. Never put RV waste in septic tanks because they can clog in the tanks or pipes and can be a cause of the disgusting catastrophe which you surely don’t want to experience.

Q. What are safety precautions for the RV septic tank system?

A. Don’t let any solid materials like cigarettes baby diapers double-ply tissue papers and solid food particles pass through the septic tanks. It will damage the whole septic system. Use single-ply tissue papers in the toilet. Sometimes censors in your RV for septic tanks do not work well so you need to check regularly the Blackwater level from the toilet hole.


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Also, read our other article about 12 Best RV Patio Mats and Camping Rugs in 2021 and 5 Best Heated RV Water Hoses to Buy in 2021

Hey! I’m Mark Polk, an author, camper & public speaker on anything & everything RV related. I have educated millions of RV consumers on safely and properly usage through my movies (i.e. TRV Education 101: RV Care and Maintenance 2009) Writing about this industry is a huge passion of mine, so here’s a little piece of my mind.