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For first time RVers, the idea of dumping can seem like a daunting and perhaps even disgusting task. When you’re used to flushing everything down the toilet never to be seen again, like we were, it’s hard to imagine coming face to face with that waste a week later – and the internet is no help. When you search for RV dumping articles, you’ll like come across endless horror stories that will give you nightmares and make you wonder why you ever wanted to RV. Heck, a few of those stories scared us so much we only wanted to use a composting toilet in our rig. In fact, we were dead set on it and I even convinced Joe to build a composting toilet. If you want a good laugh, read our composting bucket toilet adventure.
Why were we so afraid to dump? Fear of the unknown. Having never RVed before, our only point of reference was from the videos we watched along with the articles and forum threads we read. The only friends we had at the time who were RVers had a composting toilet and based on their bad experiences with a regular camper toilet and dump stations, we were convince a composting toilet was the way to go. Sure, we would still need to go dump the gray tank, but we figured that wouldn’t be nearly as bad as having to dump a black tank.
I’ll never forget our first dump station experience at a gas station. After we dumped our tanks, Joe and I looked at each other and said “that’s wasn’t so bad!” Sure it smelled a bit and watching the waste go through the clear elbow of the hose for the first time was strange, but our uneventful dumping experience gave us a good laugh. We couldn’t believe we put ourselves through two weeks with a bucket toilet to find out that dumping wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought. It helps that we have the right equipment for the job. The right connectors, a good fit, and the sprayer system in our black tank makes dumping an easy task for us (mainly Joe).
I’d like to add that I have dumped once all by myself and found it to be easy and not a complicated mess like I imagined. For the record, Joe does 99.99% of the dump work, but I do lend a hand every now and then. After more trips to the dump station than we can count, we’ve found the following to be our preferred method for dumping the RV holding tanks. Keep in mind that a long line of RVs or lack of a water connection at the dump station can prevent us from going through all these steps.
How to Dump RV Tanks
Once we hit the 2/3 mark on our 40 gallon black tank we start to plan for our next dump. Our 60 gallon gray tank never reaches 2/3 before our black tank which is why we go by the black tank indicator. The reason we use the 2/3 mark is to avoid over filling the tank and to allow enough time to find our next dump station. When you’re boondocking in the national forest, a dump stations isn’t always easily accessible and it’s good to plan ahead.
Many dump stations we’ve pulled into are on uneven pavement. If it’s uneven to the point where we won’t be able to empty our tanks because of the angle, we will put the jacks down and level the coach enough to be able to dump.
Close Windows & Fans
No need to have the coach smell like the dump station. We like to close all the windows and turn off the fans while we’re at the dump station.
Gloves and Disinfecting Wipes
Keep a box of disposable gloves and disinfecting wipes in the wet bay for easy access. We always put on the gloves and get the wipes out before getting started.
Connect the Sewer Hose
We use the Valterra Dominator Hose along with a Camco RhinoFlex Clear Elbow attachment for it in order to see what’s coming out of the tanks. There are sewer hose support systems to help keep things flowing smoothly, but we haven’t found a need for it. Make sure all connections are secure before moving on. A family friend had an incorrect fitting that lead to a black tank spill in the wet bay that was not fun to clean up.
Dump the Black Tank
Open the gate valve (we installed the Valterra Twist-On Waste Valve), then open the black tank valve. If you don’t have a gate valve, we highly recommend it to prevent spills when you open the cap and to serve as a second gate in case your black or gray tank valve starts to leak.
Spray Down the Black Tank
Connect the non-potable water hose to the black tank sprayer system. Once the black tank is empty, turn on the sprayer and spray until the water runs clear.If you don’t have a sprayer in the black tank, bring a hose into the RV and spray it down the toilet after the black tank is emptied. Alternatively, you can fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and pour it down the toilet. Close the black tank valve and disconnect the water hose from sprayer system. Keep this connected to the spigot if you want to spray down the sewer hose at the end.
Dump the Gray Tank
Open the gray tank valve and the gray water will help clean out the black tank residue in the sewer hose. Once the gray tank is emptied, close the gray tank valve. Allow all the water to drain then close the gate valve.
Spray Sewer Hose
Use the non-potable water hose to spray down the sewer hose while it’s still connected to the sewer. We’re very careful not to splash ourselves while doing this.
Disconnect Sewer Hose
Drain remaining liquids into the sewer and disconnect the hose from the sewer. Use disinfecting wipes to clean the ends of the hose. We store our sewer hose in large container inside the wet bay.
Put Everything Away
It goes without saying that you’ll want to put everything away before you pull away from the dump station.
Treat the Tanks
There are many products out on the market to treat the black and gray tanks. We use Happy Camper Toilet Treatment for our tanks and it gets the job done.
Free RV Dump
We haven’t paid to dump since we left Los Angeles in September 2015 thanks to the Allstays Camp & RV app. Free dump facilities range from nice to “yikes – I better put on my work boots and heavy gloves”. Some of the nicest free dumps we’ve used have been at welcome centers. Not every dump station will have potable and non-potable water and some only have a sewer connection. If you need potable water, we suggest calling ahead to ask if they have any and whether they’ll allow you to fill your tank. We’ve found that most free dump stations have non-potable water, but potable water connections are rare.
RV Dump for a Fee
RV parks, truck stops, gas stations and RV service providers with a dump station charge a fee to use their facility. Fees can range from a few dollars to $30 at the gas station in Los Angeles where they had a lock on the sewer hole cover and the attendant handed over the keys after the fee was collected. If you can’t find a free RV dump, call around to see what nearby RV parks charge to use their facility. They usually have potable and non-potable water and you don’t have to worry about going somewhere else to fill the fresh water tank.
Full Hookup Sites
When we are camped at a full hookup site, we always connect the water and electric, but often times we leave the sewer disconnected until we need to dump. If we do connect the sewer, all the valves remain closed until we are ready to dump. Although you can leave the gray valve open, we leave ours closed to prevent critters and odors from getting in through the hose. The black valve should always remain closed until you’re ready to dump – otherwise you end up with a “poop pyramid” because all the liquid will drain out while the solids build up and make the coach smell like “eew” de toilette.
The Bag of Ice Trick
After the dump, some people will pour a bag of ice down their toilet so it can slosh around the black tank as they drive and scrape off anything stuck to the inside. We tried this once after a dump and found it to be more trouble than it was worth. The sprayer system in our black tank does a good job of cleaning it out.
Thinking about which portable toilet is best for your RV? See Best Portable Camping Toilets for Vans, Cars, and RVs.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your dumping experiences or tips below.