Do This And Never Have a Toilet Clog In Your RV

PublishedApril 19, 2019

What's more disgusting than when your RV toilet won't drain? Um, nothing? Surely at least once you have watched in horror as an at-home toilet's water surged up and over the bowl. 

The panic that ensues is palpable. Having your toilet in your RV back up can't be much better. It's going to be harder to clear.

This is why RVers are so concerned about poop. We don't want it ON us, and we don't want to have to deal with it any more than we already have to.

Toilet paper roll on top of RV toilet

I don't even want to HAVE to know how to unclog plugged RV toilets. Clogs happen far too often. If you are a member of any RVing Facebook group, I'm sure you've seen a post from someone pleading for help with a clog.

Here's one. This person's RV toilet won't drain. I pulled it from Facebook just today.

Unclog Black Tank Facebook Post
Unclog Black Tank Facebook Post continuation

Some did their best to give their two cents. Others gave (typical) Facebook/forum nonsense advice. So what works and what doesn't? 

It can be frustrating to know, to say the least. Wouldn't the best thing be to prevent this situation in the first place? Then what makes ME a 'professional' at this subject? Absolutely nothing.

Dump station accident

Here, my hose was leaking near the RV connection point

This is my personal camper toilet experience mixed with logic. I have never had a clog. Of course, I am still scared to death of having one. I've had sewer hose leaks though. Ugh.

I am simply sharing with you what I do to never have a clog.  And so far, it has worked like a charm. I have ZERO doubt that it will work well for you, too!

The #1 Secret To No Black Tank Clogs

Here's my secret to never having any clogs. It's really simple:

Get a composting toilet!

Heh. Me so funny. Instead, and for real:

DO NOT FLUSH YOUR TOILET PAPER

You think not?

Well, simply re-read the person who posted it to Facebook above. What clogged the tank? No poo, just TOILET PAPER, and urine. (Things that make you go hmmmm.)

What if they had put zero TP in the tank? No clog. GUARANTEED.

Doesn't that sound nice? Well, it's doo-doo-able. (Couldn't help it)

At the very least, there is NOTHING negative that can come from this method. Remember this.

Used TP In The Trash? Eew, Gross!

So, this solution- some people are against it because they think it's too 'gross'. Trust me, it's not.

Let's have a look at my bathroom garbage can where my TP goes. Even a close-up of it (god forbid!):

Waste basket full of used toilet paper

GASP! Horrid! Disgusting!??

Trash can full of used toilet paper

OH MY GOSH! LOOK AT ALL THE... boring white toilet paper.

Yes, yes, you may be wondering, 'do you go #2 in your rig?' Of course I go #2! You don't see it in the can because I don't point the brown stuff up!

Naturally, it gets placed 'brown side down'. Stinky? Nope.

You may temporarily smell what you drop into the RV toilet, which may happen either way. You won't have a lingering smell from the small amount on the toilet paper in the trash.

You don't wipe giant globs of poo (so gross, sorry) off of your hiney, do you? Or wait, do you?

Errrrm lets not get into that. Let's talk about the benefits before you start arguing the many other ways of avoiding having your RV toilet clogged.

Four 'TP Free' Black Tank Benefits

There are four immediate awesome benefits to this method.

  1. Saves tank space. If you boondock, you can stay longer in between dumps.
  2. You can use any brand of toilet paper that you desire.
  3. You can use as much TP as you like.
  4. No RV toilet paper clogs.
  5. BONUS: If you have children (who behave), no worries they will put too much down the RV toilet.

Need I say more? I'd say 'no'... you can stop here and happily put this camper toilet method to immediate use.

But you may not share my opinion. (Which is fine.) Before you boo-hoo my method, let's look at why the other methods can fail.

Roll of toilet paper on patio mat

Typical Black Tank Clog Prevention Methods

Here are some 'popular' methods you hear to avoid clogs. There's plenty that I can argue about these. Let's dive right in.

'Use Plenty Of Water'

Ok, this sounds reasonable. But there is a problem.  How much is enough?

Some people recommend putting some water in the bowl before (or after) adding 'solids' to measure how much should go in.

Well, ok.

But how is this regulated? How much is enough, exactly?  Is this generalization enough to always prevent a clog?

Is there a poo/TP squares/water scientific ratio we need to know about and measure?And how much doo doo do YOU do? Also, is using a lot of water practical?

Definitely not if you're a full-time boondocker. It's MOST definitely not practical if you're a man.

Why? Heh.

This is where it gets interesting. (Hey, you asked.)

Dudes... if you fill the bowl full with water and try to settle in, well, your 'boys' are in for a surprise once you sit.

Some of your dangly bits even have issues with a  high water level in a regular toilet!

Penis Rock Arches NP

...you get the picture

If you fill the bowl, your junk will resemble a boat on the ocean. A sinking one?

I'm not sure what happens there. I'm... well, I'm a girl.

Worse, once you males go #2, whatever bits are hanging down there will be soon floating in fecal matter or even sewage. 

Gross. Not ideal.

Also, if you have kids, how do you make sure your children fill the rv toilet with enough water? They also might have fun with the TP.

Oh, you don't think toys like this below are fun? TP is fun as he**! Toilets can be fun to kids. So can toilet paper.

Spiderman toilet paper holder
Toilet Trouble game

One excellent way to keep too much TP from entering is to not put any in at all. So, with this 'add plenty of water' method, you are still at risk of having a clog.

ONE clog is too many clogs for this gal. I'm sticking to no TP down my RV toilet.

Side note: I am ULTRA conservative with my flushes. I do 'both numbers' into my tank.

Never had a problem.

I probably press the flush pedal for one second or less. I use as LITTLE water as possible.

'Add Ice And Drive Around'

This method of cleaning a black tank has been very well debunked by James of The Fit RV. It's not very effective.

He tested the theory using a clear tank in the back of his truck.

He added simulated feces, liquids and TP, added ice, drove around like a lunatic, and recorded the whole thing for proof. Then he shared his results.

Ice cubes closeup

Not gonna work

The result? Basically it's not going to do much at all.  Especially not for a clog.

It might clean a tiny bit of residue from the bottom or the side of your black tank at the top of however much water you put into it.

Definitely not enough to make it worth it. We linked to James' video HERE if you want to watch it.

'Use Chemicals To Break Down The Solids'

Nope. I don't use any tank treatments. It's not a septic tank.

I have no smells and no other issues.

If you have smells, consider an odor neutralizer. (Marshall has used Happy Camper enzyme.)

UPDATE- While here in Florida for late spring of 2020, I started getting smells and used Happy Camper. It's better now.

Happy Camper toilet treatment

RV Tank 'Treatments'

  1. Formaldehyde- Methyl alcohol and formaldehyde. Only pickles the organics in the tank. Hides odor, does nothing else.
  2. Chemicals- Supposed to break down solids into sludge. (Does nothing for mold/grease in the grey tank.)  Strong deodorizing to mask odor. Temp sensitive. (Struvites) Chemicals accentuate the struvite growing process, turning solids and TP into rock-solid substance on walls of tank.
  3. Probiotics- Gives health benefits to RV tanks. Eats gases instead of masking. Breaks solids into liquid. Eats grease and mold. Works in any temp. May help break down struvites.
  4. Enzymes/bacteria- More modern treatment. Doesn't help grease/mold in grey tank. Breaks down solids into a sludge. Deodorizes. Doesn't remove odors. Doesn't break down struvites.

I save $$ by not buying RV black water tank chemicals.

I don't see the need. (Unless you're in very hot places, vomit)

I don't worry too much about struvites because I don't rely on my holding tank monitor to show the correct black tank level. My guess is my travel trailer tank sensors are covered with them.

That's fine. I know about how long I can go until I need to dump.

I also have the added 'benefit' of being able to see right down into my black tank. There's no curve in my toilet pipe. 

(Really- it's very helpful! Also helpful in not clogging the pipe from the toilet to the tank.) Therefore If I NEED to, I can see if my tank is almost full.  

Still, you will figure out how long until you're full with not too much experience and without your sensors.

On another note, some RV tank cleaning professionals even claim that the CHEMICAL based treatments cause struvites to form even faster and turn TP into a rock-hard like substance.

(Struvites grow in EVERY black tank) Awesome.

'Buy Only RV Toilet Paper'

Ok, this can also help prevent clogs. But there's no guarantee.

But what if you don't like the feel of RV brand toilet paper?

You will hear people say they use Scotts, Charmin, X brand in their black tanks.

It pretty much runs the gamut as far as brands people say will work and 'not clog your tank'. (Until that one time that it does.)

Aqua Soft RV toilet paper

But does your butt like it?

Even RV toilet paper that turns into mush can 'mush up' a lot, and add to sludge. (Especially when combined with feces.)

It also still adds to the storage space of the tank, causing you to have to dump sooner than later.

Just My Opinion, Folks

This is MY (Kelly's) opinion, folks. Not necessarily Camp Addict's nor Marshall's opinion. On this subject, we are divided.

Marshall DOES put TP down in his tank. He has used Happy Camper in the past. He's never had a clog, either.

He's not going to use Happy Camper anymore, out of feeling like it's not necessary and to just to see 'what happens'.

I will update here if some crazy event happens. I know that this post will likely cause a slurry of opinions and arguments back my way.

Some will argue that putting 'feces' in landfills causes disease here in the USA, though landfills have drainage controls.

(And nevermind the dog poo and diapers that regularly go into them.

We're not putting chunks of POO in, not like that.)

Red X over wad of toilet paper in RV toilet

Just Say No!

Others will say that they have had perfect maintenance using  'X' treatment, or no treatment and put TP down their RV toilet.

That's great! I simply find that my method saves tank space and I have zero worry about clogs. Do whatever works for you!

I just think that this is such a no-brainer, and it has worked so well for me that I wanted to share.

Be warned, there are still a couple of other things that can cause your tank to clog. Let's review.

Other RV Toilet Clog Causes

These are all avoidable for the most part.

Let's learn what can cause an RV toilet clog that has nothing to do with toilet paper.

Leaving Your Black Tank Valve Open

Unless you're new to RVing, you have heard this a million times.

If you are connected to a sewer dump and you leave your RV black water tank valve open 24/7, the liquids will escape while the solids pile up.

This forms a 'pyramid' of poo (yum!) and will eventually cause your toilet to not drain.   Don't do this! It's also best to wait until your tank is close to full to dump.

This way it all goes out in a rush, taking most of the tank contents with it.

Next...

A Leak in or Around Your RV Black Tank

If you have a leak in your system, the same thing can happen as above.

The liquids will escape, leaving the solids with nothing to help flush them out.

holding tank drain valve

Check around these parts regularly

Hopefully, you will smell it before ALL the liquids drain out. Check regularly for drips under your RV. NOTHING should be dripping, nor stinking, coming from your RV.

You may have water dripping from your hot water heater' pressure relief valve while it's running. That's about it. Grossssssss.

Conclusion

It's simple. Don't put TP down your RV toilet.

Then you can use your favorite brand! Use as much as you want! No tank treatments necessary. Listen, I haven't used any tank treatments in over five years (Until May of 2020 for Florida heat).

Zero smell, zero clogs, and I put VERY LITTLE water down my toilet! (Remember, I am a full-time boondocker.)

Keep your black tank valve closed when hooked up in a campground. Watch for leaks.

Do these things and you should be golden! (Especially if you have a curve in the pipe leading from your toilet to your black tank.)

And hey, if you can't convince your partner to put TP in the trash, let them know THEY will be the one doing the 'unclogging', since they wanted to put TP down the tank.

See if that angle works, heh.

Ok, Camp On clog-free you guys!

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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  • Only #2 paper goes in the black tank. #1 goes in the waste basket. Females use way more #1 paper than #2 paper. Talking on the mobile on the throne is not allowed. Here’s my method, black water and grey water tanks are side by side in my coach. When I’m going to dump the black water, I will close the gray water valve and let the gray fill and keep an eye on fullness in coach as we use the gray water, washing last minute clothes, shower, dish washer, etc. When we dump I will open the black and empty it, and then open the gray and let it flow into the black as well as into the dump as I have a clear dump 45 degree angle onto my hose. Eyeing the water level electronic indicator when the gray is one fourth empty I shut of the gray and empty the black. I do it twice as the grey is 60 gallons and the black is 40 gallons. The black is cleaner than when we started and toilet paper is swept out. When black is empty shut off and then I empty gray and it helps clean out the hose. Sometimes before the gray is completely empty I will shut off all valves and disconnect the 45 degree angle fitting and squirt some dawn soap around inside the fitting and reconnect and then dump the rest of the gray. All Clean.

    • Hi Ella,

      Well, that’s a tidbit I never thought of! Many people object to the paper in the trash idea likely because of fear of seeing the brown or smelling it. (Neither of which happen)

      But yeah, one COULD just put brown down and put #1 TP into the trash! That’s a great twist.

      As for your tanks, I don’t know that mine would do anything like that. Glad you like it and it works for you! I can see STRAIGHT down into my black tank through the toilet. Never once have I seen leftover TP or anything else laying on that small section of the tank after dumping. Therefore, I am never concerned about flushing or an additional type of flush.

      I DO LOVE that I have that capability.

      Thank you for your comment- I have heard of this double flush type of thing before, just never bothered as I believe my tanks drain adequately with nothing ever left behind. ESPECIALLY since I no longer flush my TP down the toilet.

      Cheers!

    • Hi Jack,

      Yeah, my tank has not seen any considerable amount of TP whatsoever for years now!

      Wow, your sensors work? That’s great! But… don’t count on that lasting unless you’re using Tank Techs RX in your system.

      This product keeps struvites (a hard film) from forming on the walls of your tank. Struvites are present in ALL sewer systems, even municipal systems/tanks. If used properly, it should keep struvites from messing up your black tank sensors. (Of course, solids COULD jam your sensors, but it’s much less likely.)

      At the least, you’re not going to have a clog in your system from toilet paper, the most common cause of a clog!

      Well done, and Camp On!

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