Can I Dump RV Tanks at Home?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could dump your RV’s holding tanks at home? It would be much more convenient than sitting in line at the campground dump station on a Sunday morning. Well, guess what. You are in luck! You can dump your RV tanks at home!
You certainly can dump your RV’s black and gray water holding tanks at home. And it is not that difficult to do. There are several standard methods employed to handle this task, and this article will cover four of them.
And at the end of this article check out our Videos to see how to dump your RV tanks at home too!
Let’s just come out and say it, dump tanks are much like exes — no one likes talking about them ever! But it is one of those topics in full time RV living or even if you are a weekend warrior type camper, that needs to be discussed openly. Knowing how to take care of your RV dump tanks is one of the items that should be at the top of your maintenance checklist.
Why Dump RV Tanks At Home?
My short answer is because it is convenient and free to dump your RV tanks at home. But let’s not recreate the scene from Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie where the Griswald’s cousin Eddie dumped his RV waste into the city’s streetside sewer. Never do that for the same reason you see in the movie!
The best part besides the budget friendly advantage is how easy it is to do at home. But one major no-no is dumping the grey or black tanks onto the ground. Obviously, this will pollute the environment, and most likely will result in some local fines. Since it’s not that difficult to dump your RV tanks at home, just remember to always use safe disposal systems for dumping your waste water.
Is it Legal to Dump My RV Tanks at Home?
In most cases, it is legal to dump both your RV black and gray water tanks into an approved residential sewer system. There may be local ordinances and restrictions, and you should check them. However, the black and gray water from your RV is essentially the same as what comes from your toilets and sinks at home.
If you are dumping into an actual municipal sewer line, often called a “sanitary line,” you should have no problems. However, you do need to be sure you are not dumping into a storm drain. These often go to reservoirs, and this could get you into real trouble including a hefty fine.
One note before we get started, never empty your gray or black water tanks onto the ground. Doing so will contaminate the environment and can also result in some pretty hefty fines, as well. Always use a safe disposal system, like a sewer or septic system, for dumping your RV waste.
Can I Dump My RV Tanks Into My Private Septic System?
If your home has a septic system, you can also dump your RV waste holding tanks into your septic tank! Both your gray and black tanks are perfectly safe to empty into your septic system. Just know there are some critical issues you will want to keep in mind to ensure that both you and your septic system’s bacterial environment, stay healthy.
The great thing about using your sewer system at home is that you can also dump your gray water. If you use biodegradable, septic system friendly products that quickly break down, you can drop both tanks with no issue.
When using dish soaps, shampoo, cleaning products, and toilet paper in a conventional sewer system, the composition of those products isn’t a concern. However, with a septic system, it’s essential to be conscious of the kinds of products you’re using.
Not all products interact well with a septic system. By using products that do not interfere with the septic system’s naturally occurring waste break-down process, you can ensure your septic system lasts for a very long time.
Most folks don’t even realize that using antibacterial soaps at home is not recommended if they have a septic system. A septic system uses bacteria to help break down the waste and anti-bacterial hand soaps can kill helpful bacteria.
Types of RV Tanks
I’d like to share with you the different types of RV water tanks before we jump into how we can dump our RV tanks at home. Many of you are new RVers and may like to know the difference between black water, grey water, and freshwater tanks.
- Black Water Tank – this is the nasty sewage and waste water from your RV toilet.
- Grey Water Tank – this holds your RV’s dirty water from your shower, sinks from when you wash dishes, or brush your teeth for example.
- Fresh Water Tank – this is obviously your cleanest tank that supplies your faucets and shower with fresh water.
For an in depth explanation about the types of RV tanks check out our article called What Are RV Holding Tanks and How Do They Work?
What Is Black Water?
As stated earlier, RV black water is that which your toilet sewer system (aka human waste) dumps into. Always dump your RV black water tanks first! Why? Because then you can use the gray water tank to semi clean and wash out your hose.
What Is Grey Water?
Grey waste water comes from your kitchen sink, shower, and bathroom sink drain.
Almost all of the RVs have all three water tanks – grey, black, and fresh water. However, you may have a vintage trailer camper that does not have a grey water tank. If this is your situation, you can actually purchase a grey water tank and install it.
How to Dump Your RV Tanks at Home
Here are the four most common methods you can use to accomplish the task of emptying your RV’s wastewater tanks. Two of them may require the purchase of specialized tools. For another, you will only need a bucket. Well, perhaps a clothespin or a dab of Vicks Vapor Rub for your nose.
Here are the four most common methods for dumping your RV’s holding tanks at home:
1. Dump You RV Tanks into the Cleanout Pipe
Most folks have a sewage disposal system that is private or public. A private sewage system is typically called a septic system and a public sewage disposal system is called a residential sanitary sewer or residential sewer system. Both types almost always have what is called a cleanout. You can see a cleanout in the picture to the right.
It might look like a sewer cleanout you have seen when at a campground and the idea is exactly the same. just run your sewer hose from your RV to the cleanout and dump your black and then your gray water tanks.
If you have a septic system you are allowed to dump without making sure it is allowed in your jurisdiction. But if you have a public sewer system you need to check before dumping. I also suggest being a good neighbor and letting your neighbor know you have checked and you will be dumping your sewer tank once in a while.
We typically don’t dump at home. But every now and then we go away for a weekend and there are no hookups so we end up dumping at home. Or, when we clean the RV tank system we will dump it at home too.
I also highly recommend getting a RhinoFLEX Rhino Blaster with a gate valve to make cleaning your black water tank easier. We used to dump our black water tank and then if we wanted to rinse it thoroughly we would need to refill it by running a hose with a septic cleaning wand through the RV window and down the toilet, or we would have to hold the toilet handle and run water for 15 minutes until the tank was full.
Then we bought a RhinoFLEX Rhino Blaster. See the picture to the right. The great thing about the Rhino Blaster is that we can attach a garden hose right to it and fill the black tank very quickly. The key is to buy the Rhino Blaster with the gate valve. With the gate valve closed it holds water in so you can open the black tank valve and fill the black tank to flush it out with clean water. It is a time saver and it’s very convenient.
2. The Bucket Method
The bucket method is the simplest but should only be used if you have no other way to dump your tanks.
If this is the case, then the bucket method is an option but you will be exposed to raw sewage so take extreme care.
It is quite simple:
- Get a bucket
- Carefully release your RV’s tank into the bucket until it is full
- Pour the contents of the bucket into your toilet and flush
- Repeat until the tank is empty
- Clean the bucket out
As you can see, this is a straightforward solution to emptying your tanks at home. While it may not be enjoyable when it comes to the black tank, if you only have is a little gray water to get rid of, it’s not bad. And, as with all dumping techniques, wearing gloves during the process is recommended.
The best gloves I have found are Heavy Duty Orange Nitrile 8 Mil Disposable Gloves with Diamond Texture. Most disposable gloves are only 4 to 6 mil and sometimes they rip or tear. Mil refers to the thickness of the rubber. But the 8 mil rubber gloves hold up much better and the diamond grip is fantastic.
3. The Macerator Method
The macerator method is the most challenging option, but it is also a good option for those who either do not have a septic system and still want to be able to dump out the whole tank at home.
This method involves grinding everything in your tank up with a tool called a macerator and converting it into a sludge. You will then use a garden hose to funnel the sludge into your toilet.
This method does require the purchase of some special equipment. Typically, it will cost about $150 to $200 for everything you need.
- RV waste macerator Pump
- Hose adapter
- CDFJ adapter
- Garden Hose (It is recommended that you use a separate hose for this, and not the garden hose you use for your lawn and garden)
1. First, connect the macerator to your waste outlet (You can attach the hose adapter to your RV’s waste outlet to get a better angle and to allow for better monitoring of the contents of the tank).
2. Plug your pump in (These can often be connected to your RV batteries).
3. Using the CDFJ adapter, connect the garden hose to the macerator.
4. Run the garden hose into your toilet at home. For long distances, a larger-diameter hose and a more powerful pump are recommended.
5. Open your RV’s waste release valve and then turn on the macerator.
6. Be prepared to flush the toilet as often as required.
7. Run clean water through the system to make sure everything is cleaned out. It is at this stage the transparent adapter helps.
8. Once clear water is running from your RV, you are done. This method does take a while, so you will need to be patient.
9. When finished, turn off the pump and disconnect everything.
4. The Septic Tank Method
Emptying your holding tanks into a septic system is perhaps the best method, and if you have a cleanout, the easiest way as well. The cleanout is a PVC pipe that is above ground with a screw cap. The cleanout is found between the house and the septic tank.
Using the Cleanout
The best way to access the septic system is by using your septic system’s cleanout. Remove the screw-on cap and securely attach your RV hose to the cleanout. Make sure it is well secured. You do not want the connection breaking loose while you empty your wastewater tanks!
Once you have hooked everything up, you may choose to leave it hooked up as you would at any RV park. You can also remove it once you are done.
Using the Septic Tank’s Access Port
If using the cleanout isn’t an option, you can also use your septic tank’s access port. However, this method is not nearly as attractive.
Carefully remove the lid. Lifting the cover may take two people. Make sure to avoid any of the fumes that are released. They can be deadly.
When using the access port, be sure that you are dumping on the side of the baffle that accepts solids. This will be the side of the access port closest to the house.
Note that you should not leave your RV hooked up when using the Access Port because of the fumes as well as the possibility of killing the helpful bacteria in your septic tank.
You need to be especially careful when using the access port. It is vital to avoid the deadly fumes that emanate from your septic tank, and always use the side of the tank that collects solids (the side nearest to the house). Be careful not to use any chemicals in your RV black tank that can kill the beneficial bacteria that break down the waste in your septic tank.
How Often Should I Empty My Black Water Tank?
If you think you only have to dump your RV black water tank once at the end of your trip think again! You should dump your RV black tank when it is at least 2/3 full or more. You can use your tank sensors to keep an eye on the levels and then go ahead and dump your tanks.
Can I Leave My Black Tank Valve Open?
We get this question all the time and the answer is no. You should not leave your black tank valve open when you are hooked up while camping or if hooked up at home. Some of the waste in the black tank is solid and it needs the pressure of an almost full tank to help force the waste out of the tank and into the sewer connection.
Can I Flush My Black Tank at Home?
Great question and yes you can. After you dump your RV black tank that is the perfect time to fill it with clean water and flush it out to ensure you clear the tank. This will keep debris from building up inside your tank over time.
Honestly, you’ll want to do regular upkeep and maintenance on your RV waste tank so you don’t run into problems later that are costly and a pain to deal with if you are out in the wilderness somewhere!
Since you will already be hooked up to a sewer system it’s very easy and just takes an extra 10 to 15 minutes tops. Just remember, plumbing in your RV is totally different than plumbing at your house that is connected to the city sewer system.
Your RV holding tanks are probably one if not the most important part of your camper because it is what makes it possible to use your bathroom and kitchen efficiently and safely.
What to Do if You Don’t Have Tank Level Indicators?
Fortunately, your typical RV holding tank sizes are pretty good. Of course, if you have a 15 foot canned ham camper, your tanks will be smaller compared to a large Class A RV. No matter what size holding tanks you have, your owner’s manual or RV dealer will have that information for you.
Every RV couple or family will use their holding tanks differently. Since it is based on your personal use, the time you can go in between dumping your black and gray water tanks will vary from person to person. Fortunately, most newer RVs have an onboard tank level sensor indicator.
However, very small and older trailers probably will not have a tank sensor system included. If this is your case, then literally if things rise up (yes, you know such as waste water not flushing or coming up in your tub or toilet!) then your RV tanks are full and you need to dump them.
But here is a very important rule to follow: as tempting as it may be to dump before they are completely full, you always should wait, especially in the cold winter months since smaller amounts of waste water are likely to freeze.
Benefits & Risks of Emptying Your RV Tanks At Home
The benefits of emptying your RV tanks at home are convenience and budget (some dump stations do charge a small fee).
The risks of doing so are if you improperly dispose of your RV waste and end up paying a city fine or ruining your property. However, this should not be the case if you follow our suggestions here.
How to Stay Safe While Dumping RV Tanks at Home
Perhaps the thought of disposing of your RV black water, grey water, and fresh water tanks scares you to death. If so, don’t give up on this RV lifestyle just yet. There is still hope!
The best way to stay safe is by not coming into contact with any waste water. So, be sure your connections are tight, use septic hose weights to prevent the sewer hose from popping out of the sewer connection, wear gloves, and wash or sanitize your hands when you are done.
Don’t know what sewer weights are? Check out our article called What are RV Sewer Hose Weights?
What About Dumping Gray Water at Home?
Yes! You can dump your grey water tank at home too! Here are some tips for dumping grey water at home.
- Always dump the grey tank after the black tank. This helps to rinse and flush the black water and any leftover solids through the hose completely.
- It’s a good idea to fill and flush your grey tank too!
As an additional note, you can leave your grey water tank valve open while you are hooked up to a sewer connection. Since grey water contains no solid waste the water will drain freely with no obstructions. Just close the grey valve near the end of your trip to fill it so you can use the grey water to flush the black water through the sewer hose.
What if I Can’t Dump My RV Tanks at Home?
If you are staying at a campground, state park, or national park, there usually is a dump station on the premises. So you might have to wait in line to dump your tanks. I have stayed at a few that did not have a dump station, but this is fairly rare.
Another option is to get the App RV Dump Station Finder so you can find dump stations near you wherever you are and you can dump your tanks before you get home.
As you can see, dumping your RV’s waste tanks at home is not a problem, and there are several methods to get the job done. It is also clear that if your home has a septic system with a cleanout access point, you are way ahead in the game.
Remember that there are some considerations as well as some real hazards that need to be taken into serious account to ensure the dumping process goes smoothly and safely. Dumping your RV’s tanks at home is certainly doable and a great option for many RV owners out there.
Do you have any additional tips or advice for dumping RV tanks at home? Please leave your comments below.