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.
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.
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.
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 RV sanitation 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!
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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. (Even if it is camper safe toilet paper.)
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!):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 Campers organic RV holding tank treatment.)
UPDATE- While here in Florida for late spring of 2020, I started getting smells and used Happy Camper. It's better now.
RV Tank 'Treatments'
- Formaldehyde- Methyl alcohol and formaldehyde. Only pickles the organics in the tank. Hides odor, does nothing else.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
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.)
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.