How To Get Rid Of Holding Tank Odor In Your Rv? – Easy Steps

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Having a smelly toilet in your RV is never a good impression. Even though you never undermine yourself to take good care of your RV toilet system, eventually you will face issues such as holding tank odor. That begs the question, how to get rid of holding tank odor?

In short, leaks, clogs, and full-holding tanks are the main causes of tank odor. If you can master each of these problems, you will have a great smelling RV all year long. 

Here is my ultimate guide to an odor-free holding tank. Now you too can have the benefits of thorough cleaning and enjoy RV life to the fullest.

Let’s start the guide, shall we?

Major Causes of RV Holding Tank Smell

Causes Of RV Holding Tank Smell

Well, let me tell this upfront, your RV black tank will always smell bad. It’s not like you are dumping good stuff there. However, the bad smell should not float inside your RV or in your tiny toilet space for that matter.

Here I have listed some major causes that will leave your RV smelling like rotten eggs. You could face either one of them or if you are unlucky, more than one can join forces to make your day a little bit unpleasant.

  1. Black tank getting full
  2. Particle build-up in the black tank
  3. You have a blocked septic vent
  4. Bad toilet seal or flapper
  5. Leaking at the toilet base (Flange)
  6. Regular toilet cleaning

Fortunately for you, all these issues are easy to fix with common tools and a little patience of yours. In the next section, I will discuss how you can address each problem and stop your camper from smelling like a potty house.

Ways To Eliminate Holding Tank Odor

As I explained earlier your black tank odor should never be inside of your motorhome. It will either exit through the septic vent or else stay in the tank. Now let me walk you through simple ways to get rid of holding tank odor.

1. Follow a Strict Dumping Schedule

The first thing you should do when you sense your camper smells like sewage is to dump the waste tank at an RV Station. Even though you feel the holding tank is not quite full you should dump it anyway.

Besides, every RV owner must have a dumping schedule in place and you should have one too. It’s best to make your dumping schedule based on toilet usage and the intervals it starts to smell bad. Make sure you follow the schedule strictly or set an alert on your phone as an alternative.

Another good practice you can follow is to start each journey with an empty black tank. That way you will have more time before it fills again and you don’t need to deal with the problem while traveling remote places.

It is very critical that you empty the tank thoroughly. A good volume of water in the holding tank primarily helps a lot in this case along with creating positive pressure. You can also add a dumping Pump to speed up the process if you like. 

2. Prevent Particle Build-up

The particle build-up in the holding tank is pretty common in most travel trailers. This problem not only stinks up your RV interior but it also a major reason for introducing clogs in your system. 

Many RV owners get a full tank signal from the sensor despite dumping the tank just a few days back. Believe it or not, most times your sensor is fine. The waste build-up is the cause you are getting a false signal. 

To prevent this situation, you need to make sure you are discarding all the waste particles, not just the water. Using a sewer pipe with a transparent elbow certainly helps to monitor the exchange. 

3. Unclog Septic Vent

Your black tank should have a septic vent which you will find on the roof of an RV. This vent is the only way all the bad smell escapes without making any wrong turn into your motorhome. 

Dust, dead leaves, and other small debris could accumulate over time and cause a clog in the vent. This is not an ideal situation in any circumstances. Consequently, you will experience your RV toilet smells when flushed as there are no other ways to escape the air.

The easy way to unclog your septic vent is to apply a stream of water from the top side while you are dumping at an RV station. Do this operation carefully with a simple water hose as it may require a huge amount of water.

4. Maintain Proper Water Seal

Most modern RV toilet units have some sort of water seal in it. It helps to keep the bad air out when you are not using the toilet. The water between the bowl and holding tank prevents the funky smell from getting in.

If your toilet unit has a flush tank, each time you pull the flush it will leave some water in the bowl to make a water seal. On the other hand, the toilet unit with a flush pedal has to manually add some water right after closing the flapper.

5. Watch Out For Leakage

Sometimes your camper toilet smells simply because of leakage at the contact point with the drain pipe. If you know your way around the RV toilets, you understand the flange connects the unit to the drain pipe.

Loose bolts and broken flanges are the two most predominant reasons for leaks. The bad odor can easily come through these leaks and mess up a peaceful environment. This is also an open invitation to many pesky insects.

The simple way to get rid of these leaks is to use a wrench to tighten the nuts if it’s only a fittings issue. Fixing and broken flange generally needs more work. You need to remove the toilet from the drainpipe contact and then install a new replacement flange.

For solid contact, you can either use a rubber seal or wax seal. This depends widely on the toilet model you have in your motorhome. 

6. Keep Your Toilet Clean

Assuming you have great RV waste tank odor control, accompanied with no leakage, clogging, or broken seal, you are still at risk of bad odor from the toilet. It is not necessarily true that bad odor only comes from the holding tank. 

Your dirty bowl can play a big part in producing a funky smell. Not cleaning your toilet bowl properly will encourage this dramatically. Due to water limitation in RV often it’s hard to clean daily with necessary cleaning supplies.

Nevertheless, it’s best to clean your RV toilet bowl whenever you can with proper cleaning solutions.

Tips to Keep Your Black Water Tank Odor-Free

Black tank maintenance can be sometimes confusing and hard to achieve. For that particular reason, I have listed some of the best pro tips to make your black tank odor-free.

1. Use RV toilet Paper

RV toilet paper is different from residential toilet paper. They are soft and easily biodegradable in anaerobic conditions. This special toilet paper also does not clog up your system which is the major reason for odor. 

2. Apply proper tank treatment

Using tank treatment is a vital part of RV holding tank maintenance. You can’t stop a black tank from producing a bad smell, but you can take preventative measures to slow down the process.
Some of the popular tank treatment comes in small drop in packs and liquids. You can also find powder treatments like bleach, borax that happen to be equally effective black tank odor eliminators as others. There are other homemade RV holding tank treatments like vinegar, detergent, or dish soap.

3. Drive back and forth before dumping

The waste build-up is a real thing. If your RV had been staying still for days there is a chance they made thick layers stacking on each other. In this instance, it will be hard to dump it all together. Driving back and forth right before dumping helps a lot.  

4. Use plenty of water while dumping

A large amount of water aid in dissolving the waste particle evenly. Besides, you will have adequate positive pressure due to the volume of water which will allow you to discard more efficiently.
Just flush a couple of times to add more water to the tank. If you have a separate water intake valve on the outside, you can also use that as well.

5. Use a sprinkler to break down buildup

Some RV holding tanks come with sprinklers inside to break down particles. The narrow and fast water stream easily crushes chunks and distributes throughout the tank. This is great for clean dumping at the RV station.

6. Keep vents clean

Keeping vents clean is one of the best RV black water tank odor control methods. It does not require special skill or an unfair effort to maintain an overall dirt-free vent. 

7. Leave the valve close when not using

Keep your Dumping valve close when you are done with the operation. Leaving it open will permit sediment gathering. Plus the open valve circulates bad odors anyway.

8. Use toilet deodorant

There are special RV holding tank chemicals in the market that helps with bad odor almost instantly. Just drop in some in the tank and let it do its magic.

How to Properly Clean Your RV Black Tank?

I have already discussed some of the major issues leading to holding tank odor. If you still have a hard time removing the smell, you need a full cleaning of the tank. That includes all the cleaning procedures performed systematically.

Here is how to clean RV black tank thoroughly

Step- 1

At first, you need to remove all the clogs in your system. This includes vent clog, particle clog in the tank, and so on. Use a couple of gallons of hot water in vents and holding tanks. Wait a couple of minutes to soften the clog.

Step- 2

After removing clogs from the channel, it’s time to dump all that waste. But wait! You need to give a good shake to the tank so the clumps break down. The easy way to do that is to drive your vehicle around for a bit.

Step- 3

Next, start dumping the waste. After emptying the tank, fill it with water again. Drive back and forth a couple of times then dump again. Do this 2 or 3 times to make sure there are no particles left to dump. 

Step- 4

This time, fill it up halfway and apply the best cleaning solution to the water. Drive back and forth. And dump. By now you should have a holding thank and no foul smell.

RV Holding Tank Odor Related FAQs

1. What Supplies Do You Need To Clean A Holding Tank?

For general cleaning, any household detergent or bleach is more than enough to do a decent holding tank cleaning. But if you are looking for a more thorough approach, get the RV tank cleaning chemicals. Fill the tank with water and chemicals then dump. Repeat the process a couple more for better results.

2. What Is The RV Holding Tank Deodorizer?

This is a special type of RV holding tank liquid that muffles the intensity of bad smell. Apart from the liquid form, these are also available in powder or capsule form factor. Read the instructions on the label to get the best result from the Tank deodorizer.

3. Why Does My Camper Smell Like Poop?

There are several ways to look at this. You may have a full black tank, clogged vent, or leak at the toilet flange. Inspect each of these components and make the necessary fixing to get rid of the smell. Contact RV holding tank professionals for an expert opinion.

Final Verdict

Honestly speaking, with a smelly toilet RVing feels more challenging to deal with. But as long as you know how to get rid of holding tank odor, no one can stop you from making difference.
I hope this article provides you with insights regarding holding tank odor and fixing it along the way. 

Eric Weldon
Eric Weldon
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