RV Black Tank Treatments: All You Need To Know
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
By Kelly Beasley
Last Updated: May 6, 2023
As an RV owner, you probably know it's good to use an RV black tank treatment to keep your waste tanks working smoothly.
Many options exist out there. Sifting through what will benefit your tank the best can be intimidating.
There are a few things to know and look for to pick the best solution specifically for your needs.
First, do you NEED an RV tank cleaner product? Not necessarily.
But if you want to keep the solid waste from potentially clogging your pipes and keep foul RV toilet odor at bay, use one of the products we recommend consistently.
You might be able to use the same option for all of your needs. (A one-size-fits-all solution, if you will.)
Below you'll find our RV holding tank treatment reviews. We'll also teach you things such as:
What Is A Holding Tank Treatment?
A holding tank treatment can help with odor elimination, breaking down solids, and keeping your holding tank sensors working.
Because you cannot access the inside of an RV waste holding tank to scrub it down, your recreational vehicle will benefit from using an RV septic tank treatment.
The best RV holding tank treatments come in different forms, most often liquid or powder.
Types include enzyme, chemical, and probiotic treatments. Thankfully, most these days are formaldehyde-free.
We recommend ONLY buying formaldehyde-free products due to the toxic effects of formaldehyde on humans.
How Do You Use An RV Holding Tank Treatment?
It is relatively simple to use an RV holding tank treatment. Simply put the manufacturer's recommended dosage down the toilet and add less than a gallon of water to the tank.
As long as you flush with sufficient fresh water (not too little and not too much) and don't flush anything down but human waste and TP (what is RV toilet paper?), you shouldn't have any issues.
RV Toilet Treatment Types
Here is a quick rundown of the different types of camper toilet treatment products:
A powder RV sewer treatment is a popular way to treat a waste tank. Not only is it an excellent stench eliminator, but powders can digest waste (that sounds appetizing, doesn't it?).
To use powders, open the container and put a scoop of the RV black water tank treatment into the toilet per the instructions.
We consider powders to be one of the best RV toilet treatment products.
A liquid is another form that an RV toilet deodorizer and digester comes in.
This type also requires measuring. Liquid treatments can spill or otherwise be messy.
We consider liquid tank treatments among the best RV waste digester products.
Some waste tank treatments come in the form of a pod, very similar to dishwasher detergent pods.
These drop-ins are super easy to use. They are clean and aren't messy as long as you don't accidentally puncture the pod before use!
Drop it down your RV toilet, or use the drop-ins for your gray tank by piercing it first, then pouring it down the sink (though a powder or liquid form is easier to use on gray tanks).
Typically you will find an RV holding tank deodorizer in pod form (deodorizers mask the smell but don't break down waste).
These pods are also called RV septic tank tablets or RV toilet tablets, but no matter what you call them, you need to make sure that these RV chemicals aren't harmful to people or the environment.
Toxic camper toilet chemicals can be found in pod form, so we are saying to be aware of what you are buying.
What Is The Best RV Black Tank Treatment?
Choosing the best RV black tank treatment depends on what you want it to do. Are you looking to control septic smells? Do you want to keep your tank sensors working?
That said, tank treatments perform tasks from dissolving solid waste to eliminating odors, and some do both.
We have had great experiences with the following two camper holding tank treatment products:
Best Powder Tank Treatment
Happy Campers Organic RV Tank Treatment
Both Marshall and Kelly have used Happy Camper tank treatment. Its primary purpose is odor elimination.
It excels at its job. In addition to killing unwanted smells, it also contains minerals and uses micronutrients as a waste digester to break down biodegradable materials.
Not Available In California
They use no harmful chemicals.
I used this in Florida when the heat caused unpleasant smells inside my RV. Its odor eliminator qualities worked quickly.
Marshall used it in his travel trailer on and off while he RV'd full-time.
If you need to clear your tank sensors, remove buildup, or have another stubborn holding tank issue, they have a unique product called "Happy Campers Extreme Cleaner For Holding Tanks."
It is not intended to be a tank treatment or eliminate smells, which their regular product does.
Learn More About Happy Campers
Read our complete Happy Camper tank treatment review to learn if this is the best holding tank treatment for you to use in your recreational vehicle.
Best Liquid Tank Treatment
For the best holding tank treatment in liquid form, we love TankTechsRx.
It is the only product on the market that claims to remove struvites.
Anything powerful enough to remove struvites, an extremely tough buildup of minerals found in holding tanks, is also powerful enough to dissolve toilet paper and other solid waste.
The creator of this RV holding tank cleaner has done years of research as he used to clean out RV waste tanks for a living.
He saw what was left behind in many septic tanks and figured out why sludge happens and how to avoid it.
TankTechsRx, when used starting with a clean tank, will prevent struvites from building up.
Learn More About TankTechRx
Read our complete TankTechRx review to learn if this is the best black tank treatment for your camper.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How Does A Holding Tank Treatment Work?
RV holding tank treatments work by using chemicals, probiotics, or others to neutralize bacteria-produced odors or 'eating' aka ingesting solids.
Eating solids helps prevent clogs from happening in your black or grey tanks. A clog is something you do not want to have.
You cannot simply plunge a camper toilet. It works quite differently than a traditional home toilet.
There are steps to take on how to unclog an RV black tank, but take it from us. It is better not to get in this situation in the first place.
When Should I Treat My Black Water Tank?
You can add a black water tank cleaner product on every trip you take or when you start smelling your tank.
The former should help keep your tank sensors clear (depending on what holding tank treatment you use).
Find a black tank treatment that eliminates smells if you have a stinky problem.
Some products break down solids, some are used for odor elimination, and some camper septic tank cleaners help keep sensors clean.
Read up on which treatment type you get so you know what results you should have when using that particular RV holding tank treatment.
Are Black Tank Chemicals Necessary?
Asking if RV black tank chemicals are necessary is an excellent yet controversial question. There are three reasons to use them:
- Control holding tank odor issues
- Break down solids
- Keep tank level sensors clear of debris
You may not have an issue with any of these waste tank issues, in which case you may not need to treat your tanks.
For example, I do NOT flush any tissue paper down the toilet (hence, no clog issues), and I don't rely on my sensors to tell me when the waste tank is full.
I have not used any tank treatment in YEARS (except for a short stint in Florida where smells became a problem), and my tanks are fine.
Most people also have no odor issues unless in EXTREME heat, and this is rare for me, so I do not need an RV holding tank treatment in my trailer.
However, if you have any of the three issues mentioned above or want to prevent having any of them, you should probably use holding tank chemicals to fix your problem.
Are Gray Tank Treatments Necessary?
The answer to whether or not gray RV holding tank chemicals are necessary is similar to whether or not a black tank treatment is needed.
- Do you have odors? (You shouldn't, for the most part. Unless you have a vent that is not working correctly, you're camping in extreme heat, or you put a lot of food waste down your kitchen sink drain.)
- Are you worried about your tank level sensors not working correctly?
- And do you put enough solid waste down that tank to be concerned about a clog?
If the answer is yes to any of these issues, one of the best RV tank treatment options should help prevent or correct the problem.
Otherwise, you do not NEED to treat your gray tank. I did not treat my gray tank in 5+ years of full-time RV living. And I had zero problems.
Do I Need An RV Toilet Deodorizer?
When your black tank is connected correctly and your toilet seals are intact, you SHOULD NOT have black tank smells constantly in your RV.
You may get a minute or two of foul odors when you flush. This is ESPECIALLY true if you have your overhead fan on when you flush (don't do this), but otherwise, your RV should be odor-free.
The one exception is when you are camping in scorching weather.
Gross as it is, for some reason, the 'cooking' of the sewage sometimes causes it to seep into your living space. In that case, you could use an RV black tank deodorizer.
Can I Make A Homemade RV Holding Tank Treatment?
You can make your own holding tank treatment if you want to. Don't expect it to dissolve solid waste, but you might conjure up a homemade RV tank deodorizer or tank cleaner.
A quick Google search for "homemade RV septic tank deodorizer" will conjure up many ways to DIY. Everyone has their favorites that they claim to work the best.
I have never tried to make a homemade black tank cleaner, and I don't use or need any treatments at all (because I have no smells, don't care if my sensors work or not, and don't put TP down the toilet).
Still, some claim doing a DIY tank treatment will clean tank walls, getting rid of any residual toilet paper and other solid waste from the entire tank. Your mileage may vary.
Why Does My RV Smell Bad?
There are four main reasons you have a sewer smell or other offensive odor in your RV.
- Your toilet seals have failed
- Your RV toilet bowl is not clean (time to learn how to clean an RV toilet?)
- It's very hot where you are
- Your RV black tank or gray tank vent is clogged or not opening
First, you should figure out which of these the problem is. If it's the heat, get a tank treatment with the most powerful odor control (we like Happy Camper for this).
Tanks rarely stink inside the RV in cold temperatures, so a black tank treatment is not necessary to eliminate odors in such situations.
If it's your vent valve, replace it. (It's straightforward to replace.)
If it's your toilet seal, replace the seal.
If it smells like urine, your toilet bowl might not be rinsed well enough.
How Much Does An RV Holding Tank Treatment Cost?
A container of RV holding tank treatment will typically cost between $10 and $30.
Cost depends on the number of treatments inside the package and which product you choose to buy.
You can certainly purchase more expensive packages with many more tablets or much more liquid, but most RV septic treatment packages are no more than $30.
What Is The Difference Between An RV Holding Tank Deodorizer And A Treatment?
An RV tank deodorizer will generally only mask the holding tank odor, while a treatment will break down (digest) the solids in a waste tank and eliminate the odor.
We don't recommend that you use ONLY an RV deodorizer product but instead use one of the best black tank treatment options for breaking down waste and eliminating obnoxious smells.
As long as you are putting some product in your sewage tank, you might as well use one that does everything!
Do I Add New Treatment After Every Dump?
Yes, once you dump your tanks, they are empty and need a new 'dose'.
Follow the manufacturer's advice on how to add the new black water tank treatment and when.
Do I Need To Use A Tank Treatment In Portable Toilets?
The only time you might need to use a treatment in a portable toilet when you are camping would be for odor elimination.
The tanks in a camper porta potty are so small and portable that clogs aren't a thing.
They have no sensors, so even the best RV black tank treatment won't help clean them, lol!
Clogging isn't an issue for this kind of toilet because there are no pipes that can clog.
Though not a NECESSITY, your camper has waste tanks that sometimes need attention.
Whether you need an RV black tank deodorizer to keep smells at bay or a product that breaks down waste and prevents sensor reading issues, there is an RV black water treatment to fit your needs.
There are also holding tank deodorant treatments that will solve your problems.
Try what we consider the best RV tank treatment products if you want, or look for another solution that takes care of your problem. Our tank treatment reviews will help you decide.
Most these days are formaldehyde-free but look for ones without added harmful chemicals.
Use them during every outing in your grey and black tank, and your tanks should stay odor-free and clog-free.
Don't forget only to put septic-safe toilet paper into your toilet bowl! This is the best way to prevent a clog.
Still, tank treatments can keep sensors clean, smells at bay, and will keep your tank cleaner than not!
You don't want tank problems when you are out camping! Prevention is best.
Author: Kelly Beasley
As a seasoned and passionate RVing expert, I have dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 5.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road. Join me on this journey and let's make some unforgettable memories.