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RV Holding Tank Treatments: All You Need To Know

(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)

Kelly Headshot

By Kelly Beasley

Published: November 12, 2021

Last Updated: November 26, 2021

As an RV owner, you probably know it's good to use tank treatments to keep your RV holding tanks working smoothly.

There are many RV holding tank treatments out there. Sifting through what will benefit your tank the best can be intimidating.

Campsites arrow sign handwritten

It might also be overwhelming trying to sift through RV holding tank treatment reviews.

That said, there are a few things to know and look for to pick the best RV septic tank treatment catered for your needs.

First, do you NEED a camper holding tank treatment? Not necessarily.

But if you want to keep the solid waste from potentially clogging your pipes and keep foul odors at bay, use a holding tank treatment consistently.

You might be able to use the same treatment for all of your needs. (A one-size-fits-all holding tank treatment, if you will.)

Best RV Holding Tank Treatments

So which is the BEST RV holding tank treatment? It depends a bit on what you want it to do.

First, let me say that I have not used any tank treatment in YEARS (except for a short stint in Florida where odor became a problem), and my tanks are fine.

That said, I don't care whether my holding tank sensors work or not. 2 out of my 3 tank sensors still work correctly (my black tank sensors don't read correctly anymore).

That said, tank treatments perform tasks from dissolving solid waste to eliminating odors. Some do both of these tasks. You may want something that gets your sensors working again.

That's what we cover here.

Here you'll find our RV holding tank treatment reviews. We'll teach you things such as:

  • What holding tank treatment product do you need?
  • What does an RV black tank treatment do?
  • Should you treat your grey tank?
  • Also, do you really need an RV holding tank treatment? (and more)

We have had great experiences with the following two treatments for black water holding tanks (and gray water holding tanks).

Best Powder RV Holding 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 odors, it also contains minerals and uses micronutrients as a waste digester to break down biodegradable materials.

Happy Camper toilet treatment

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 RV holding tank on and off during the entire time he RV'd full-time.

If you need to clear your tank sensors or remove buildup or have another stubborn holding tank issue, they have a unique product for that.

They call it "Happy Campers Extreme Cleaner For Holding Tanks."

It is not intended to be a tank treatment or to eliminate odors. Their regular product removes odors.

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 RV Holding Tank Treatment

TankTechsRx

For a liquid holding tank treatment, we love TankTechsRx as a black holding tank treatment and a gray tank treatment.

It is the only RV holding tank treatment on the market that claims to remove struvites.

TankTech RX holding tank treatment

Anything powerful enough to remove struvites, which is an extremely hard buildup of minerals found in holding tanks, is also powerful enough to dissolve toilet paper and other solid waste.

The creator of this black tank treatment has done years of research on RV holding tanks as he used to clean RV holding tanks out for a living.

He saw what was left behind in many RV holding 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.

What Is An RV Holding Tank?

Your RV has a grey tank and a black tank. (Occasionally, on smaller RVs, the black and grey are combined.)

It likely also has a fresh water tank, but we aren't discussing that tank here.

The purpose of each holding tank is to capture all liquids that go down your drains or toilet so you may dry camp with your RV. These tanks help your RV function as a self-contained vehicle.

RV Holding Tank outlet

How Do RV Holding Tanks Work?

When you first get an camper, your RV waste holding tank system may be somewhat of a mystery to you.

Heck, the entire water system in your RV is probably puzzling at first. It's very different from a house that is hooked up permanently to a sewer or septic system.

Though your RV CAN connect to utilities, it is also built NOT to have to be connected to a sewer or septic line all the time.

Why? Because you may want to go camping out in the woods on public land where there are no utilities. Additionally, some campgrounds only offer dry camping (no utilities such as power, water, and sewer).

Therefore, RVs are built to be off-grid. But if you're off-grid, how do you get running water? How do you store your waste?

RV Plumbing Systems Briefly Explained

Your RV comes with a water pump to pressurize your water from the water tank, through the pipes, to the faucets or toilet.

Therefore, the water pump replaces the city water pressure.

RV kitchen faucet running

Then, once down a toilet or drain, the liquids are captured into your holding tank or tanks for future dumping at a dumpsite.

This is where your RV holding tank or tanks come in.

They store the nastiness that goes down your home's toilet or your sinks in your house.

Once full, you must move your RV to a dump station or dump your tanks into a portable dump tank.

What Is A Holding Tank Treatment?

A holding tank treatment can help with odor elimination, breaking down solids, and keeping your tank sensors working.

Because you cannot access the inside of your RV 'septic tanks' to scrub them down, your RV holding tanks will benefit from a holding tank treatment.

RV black tank treatments and grey tank treatments come in different forms, most often liquid or powder.

Types include enzyme treatment, chemical treatment, and probiotic treatments. Thankfully, most treatments these days are formaldehyde-free.

We recommend ONLY buying formaldehyde-free products due to the toxic effects of formaldehyde on humans.

Types Of Holding Tank Treatments

Here is a quick rundown on the different types of holding tank treatment products.

Powder Treatments

A powder RV sewer treatment is a popular way to treat a holding tank. Not only is it a great RV odor eliminator, but powders can digest waste (that sounds appetizing, doesn't it?).

To use powders, simply 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.

Happy Camper toilet treatment

Powder Treatment Example

Liquid Treatments

Another form that a holding tank deodorizer and digester comes in is as a liquid.

This type also requires measuring. Liquid treatments can spill or otherwise be messy.

We consider liquid tank treatments to be among the best RV waste digester products.

TankTech RX holding tank treatment

Liquid Treatment Example

Pod Treatments

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 draining 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, which is why we are saying be aware of what you are buying.

Tank treatment pod

Pod Treatment Example

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 an RV 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 to not get in this situation in the first place.

Holding tank

This is an example of a tank that is attached under an RV to hold black or grey water.

When Should I Add Chemicals To My Black Water Tank?

You can add RV black water tank chemicals either with 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 holding tank treatment that eliminates odors if you're having a stinky problem.

Some treatments break down solids, some are mostly geared towards eliminating odors, and some holding tank treatments help keep sensors clean and break down solids.

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 RV black tank treatments:

  • Control holding tank odor issues
  • Break down solids
  • Keep sensors on tank walls clear of debris

You may not have an issue with any of these holding tank issues. If you don't, then you don't necessarily need an RV black tank treatment.

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 toilet is full.

Most people also have no odor issues unless in EXTREME heat. This is rare for me, so I do not need an RV holding tank treatment in my tanks or drain lines.

However, if you have any of the three issues or want to prevent having any of them, you should probably use holding tank chemicals to fix your issue.

RV sewer pipe outlet

Are Gray Tank Chemicals Necessary?

The answer to whether or not gray tank chemicals are necessary is similar to the answer about whether or not black tank treatment is necessary.

  • 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 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 holding tank chemicals should help prevent or correct the problem.

Otherwise, you do not NEED to treat your gray tank. I have not treated my gray tank in the last 4+ years of my full-time RV living. And I've had zero problems.

Is An RV Black Tank A Septic Tank?

No, technically, your black tank is not a septic tank. It's a temporary holding tank. It's not made to hold sewage for months and months at a time the way septic tanks are.

It simply is a temporary tank to hold your used toilet paper and, errr, the other bits you flush. Also, septic tanks have leach fields, and septic tanks are underground.

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.

Flush toilet paper Featured

When you flush, you may get a minute or two of foul odors. 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 extremely hot 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 tank deodorizer.

We recommend Happy Camper.

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 homemade RV toilet chemicals, 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 home septic tank treatment or grey tank treatment will clean tank walls, getting rid of any residual toilet paper and other solid waste from the entire tank.

Toilet paper rolls making face on RV toilet

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
  • It's very hot where you are
  • Your RV black tank or gray tank vent is clogged or not opening (gray tank)

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 RV toilet chemicals are not necessary to eliminate odors in such situations.

If it's your vent valve, replace it. (It's very easy to replace.)

If it's your toilet seal, replace the seal.

If it smells like urine, your RV toilet bowl might not be rinsed well enough.

Do Gray Tanks Produce Odor?

FOR SURE, grey tanks can smell as bad as or even worse than a black tank. Human waste (sewage) is disgusting.

But so is dirty water from your sinks and shower. If you have an odor in your RV, don't immediately blame your black tank.

Just remember that smelling your grey tank inside your RV is not normal, especially in cold temperatures. If you smell foul odors, you have an issue that needs attention.

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 treatment you choose to buy.

You certainly can purchase more expensive packages with many more tablets or much more liquid, but in general, most RV septic treatment packages are no more than $30.

pointing at black tank valve handle

Additional Frequently Asked Questions:

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 RV toilet chemicals for breaking down waste and eliminating odors.

As long as you are putting some product in your sewage tank, you might as well use one that does everything!

What Type Of Toilet Paper Should I Use In My RV?

If you decide to put your used toilet paper down your black tank, make SURE you use either RV toilet paper or septic-safe toilet paper.

I put my RV toilet tissue into a small garbage bag to avoid clogs altogether and save room in my black holding tank since I only dry camp.

Therefore, I can use any brand of toilet paper since I don't put it into my RV toilet.

Roll of toilet paper on patio mat

Gray Tank Care

Your RV sink is different from any of your home sinks in that instead of going into the sewer system or septic tank; it goes into an RV gray tank.

Food particles are not usually very big, but the less you allow down the drain, the better.

The less that goes down, the fewer potential bits will end up messing up the reading of a sensor in your grey tank.

Do I Add New Treatment After Every Dump?

Yes, once you dump your tanks, they are empty and need new treatment.

Follow the manufacturer's advice on how to add the new holding tank chemical treatment and when.

Will Holding Tank Treatments Remove Struvites?

There is only one holding tank treatment that claims to prevent and remove struvites.

It is one of our recommended RV holding tank treatments, Tank Techs RX.

Waste Master hose in use

Can I Store My RV With The Black Tank Still Full?

NEVER store your RV (For more than, say, a month - less in extreme dry climates) with sewage still inside the tank. Your black tank is NOT sealed. It has a vent opening that goes up to the roof.

Especially in extreme hot environments, the liquids will eventually evaporate from the black tank, leaving toilet paper and poo in there to harden.

Even if you used a black tank treatment, the solids, though dissolved, will remain.

This will very likely cause a black tank clog. This, you do not want to deal with.

Do I Need To Use A Tank Treatment In Portable Toilets?

The only time you might need to use a tank treatment in a portable toilet when you are RV camping would be for odor elimination.

The tanks 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 RV black tank due to the fact that there is not really any pipes that can be clogged.

Class C motorhome aerial view driving winding road Canyonlands National Park Utah

Conclusion

Though not a NECESSITY, your RV has waste tanks that may need attention at times.

Whether you need an RV black tank deodorizer to keep smells at bay, waste breakdown for your tanks, or a waste digester to prevent 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 RV toilet chemical reviews will help you decide.

Most these days are formaldehyde-free but look for ones without harmful chemicals added to them.

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 clear, odors at bay and will keep your tank cleaner than not!

You don't want tank problems when you are out camping! Prevention is best.

Kelly Headshot

He-llllo. I'm the co-founder of Camp Addict, which my biz partner and I launched in 2017. I frigging love the RVing lifestyle but in December of 2020, I converted to part-time RV life. Heck, I lived in my travel trailer for over 5.5 years, STRICTLY boondocking for pretty much all of it. Boondocking is a GREAT way to live, but it's not easy. Anyway, I'm passionate about animals, can't stand campgrounds, I hardly ever cook, and I love a good dance party. Currently, I can be found plotting and scheming whether or not to start collecting farm animals (or plotting my next RV trip!) at my beautiful new 'ranch' named 'Hotel Kellyfornia', in Southern Arizona. 

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