Banishing Bad Odors: Tackling Black Tank Smells in Your RV

Banishing Bad Odors: Tackling Black Tank Smells in Your RV

RVs are notorious for being just fine one day, followed by a head-scratching 'what's that noise/smell'? the next.

Today, we're talking about bad smells - and what the potential culprit is. If you haven't been flushing your black tank properly, there is a chance that solids and waste have been left behind causing a nasty stink.

There are several reasons why a bad smell could be present. It could be because:

  1. Leaks/issues with your toilet
  2. Your vent pipe or cap are obstructed
  3. Other plumbing issues like ruptured pipes
  4. You are flushing your black tank too frequently

If you've checked the toilet and vent cap and you are confident there are no major plumbing issues, then that means there is likely a problem internal to the tank. This could mean that you are flushing the black tank too frequently, which can lead waste and solid buildup inside the tank itself.

Here's how to fix the root cause and knock the smell back:

  1. Empty the Tank at an Approved Site: Start by locating an approved RV dump site and emptying the black tank completely. Don't be 'that guy' - make sure you are properly hooked up so you don't spill.
  2. Run the Tank Flush for 5 Minutes: Hook up to a water source, ensure your connections are tight, and run your tank flush approximately 5 minutes (or until water runs clear). The water can really help to dislodge and flush out any stubborn debris clinging to the tank walls, which might be causing the stench.
  3. Repeat the Tank Flush: Run the tank flush system for an additional 5 minutes, or again until the water is clear. Seems repetitive, but it's important to ensure that any remaining residue is flushed out.
  4. Allow tank to drain: Let the water and waste drain out. This step completes the cleaning process and should ensure that your black tank fresh and odor-free.
  5. (Optional) Add Odor-Controlling Chemicals: Consider using RV-friendly chemicals, such as Happy Camper (btw - not an affiliate link!), to further eliminate odors and maintain a fresh-smelling black tank. Follow the product's instructions for optimal results - you need less than you'd think.

The Pitfall of Over-Frequent Flushing

With all this in mind, make sure that you are not contributing to the root cause of the problem, which might be that you are dumping too often. Dumping too often, which is an understandable thing to do, can actually allow solids to remain behind. It's best to flush the tank only when it is at least three-quarters full. This ensures that there is enough waste and water to facilitate a thorough cleaning. Frequent flushing with insufficient content in the tank may result in solids accumulating and sticking to the tank walls, defeating the purpose of the flushing process.

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