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Is RV Grey Water That Bad?

Is RV Grey Water That Bad? 

RV grey water isn’t sewage, so is it really that bad? 

What is grey water, really? And why does it smell so bad? Also, where can you dump it? 

In this article, we’re answering all these questions and more. What’s in it, why it smells gross, and how to responsibly dispose of it. 

Let’s take a look!

What is RV Grey Water? 

RV grey water is a normal part of everyday RV life. It’s waste water from the shower, sink, dishwasher, and washing machines in RV campers. Grey water is used wash water mixed with soap, toothpaste, detergent, any liquids poured down the sink, and whatever cleaning chemicals or holding tank additives have been used in the RV. 

While RV grey water is not raw sewage, it’s still wastewater that should be dumped responsibly. 

Close up of recreational vehicle at sewage dump station in campground.

Difference Between RV Grey Water and RV Black Water

An RV grey tank holds the grey waste water from the sink, shower, and other water-using appliances in the RV. The RV black tank holds only the wastewater and waste from the RV toilet.

In some RVs, the black tank also holds water from the bathroom sink, but it’s still raw sewage due to the waste from the toilet. 

Grey water isn’t as noxious as RV black water. A grey water holding tank typically fills up faster due to how much water humans use, filling up in anywhere from three days to one week. Grey tanks are also usually larger than black tanks. 

Black tanks can take one to three weeks to fully fill, depending on use, and are usually the smallest holding tank on an RV. 

Why Does It Stink? 

Contrary to popular belief, RV grey water actually does stink. While it doesn’t stink as bad as black water, it’s high on the charts of smells I’d rather never smell. 

Grey water and grey tanks tend to get stinky because the water mixed with food particles and soaps and detergents is a prime environment for bacteria to grow. It’s basically like tens of gallons of dirty dishwater that’s been sitting for several days, so it’s pretty gross! 

Can You Dump RV Grey Water Anywhere? 

Grey water should really only be dumped in approved RV dumping stations, just like RV black water. 

There are certain places and circumstances (like some BLM land) where dumping grey water on the ground isn’t illegal. But, just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean it’s okay or acceptable to do so. 

Gray water is still pretty gross and it can damage local ecosystems. So even in places where it’s technically allowed, most RVers frown upon it, and for good reason. 

Can It Harm the Environment? 

Grey water can certainly harm the environment. While grey water isn’t a biohazard like raw sewage, it still contains substances and bacteria that aren’t native to the environment. 

Chemicals and soaps can kill native plant, insect, and animal life. 

If grey water is dumped in an area where it can enter a water source, it can help facilitate the growth of harmful algae blooms and damage local water systems.

Food scraps and pieces in RV grey water can attract scavengers. Since the food scraps aren’t a part of their regular diet, it can be harmful to them. In addition, grey water can facilitate the habituation of animals to humans, associating humans with food. When animals, especially predators, begin to associate humans with food, they’re often euthanized. 

Another way grey water harms the environment is by erosion. When you dump grey water on the ground, it’s usually dozens of gallons pouring out all at once. The excessive amounts of water erode the ground and can drown native plant species, insects, and burrowing animals. 

Man Emptying RV Sewer at Dump Station After Camping

Can Grey Water Be Recycled? 

Recycling grey water is possible, but it’s not easy or practical for the RV lifestyle. There are greywater recycling products and tutorials online. But, for the average RVer, dumping your grey water is the safest and most convenient thing to do. 

How to Dump Grey Water on the Ground, Legally and Safely

We never recommend dumping your grey water on the ground. Like we said, even in places that it’s legal, it’s frowned upon. 

But we know that sometimes things happen – like maybe your RV is stranded and you can’t get to a dump station. If you must dump your grey water on the ground, here’s how to do it with the least detrimental impacts. 

First, be sure it’s legal where you are. 

Never dump your RV grey water even remotely close to a water source like a pond, lake, or river. Take special care to ensure that your grey water drainage will not enter a water source. 

The key to safely dumping grey water on the ground is to do it slowly and spread it out. Don’t open your gray water valve at full speed! Let it drain slowly and be sure to keep the hose moving so that you don’t pour a large amount of water in any one area. 

Lastly, if you know you’ll dump your grey water on the ground, try to keep food scraps out of the sink and only use biodegradable soaps, and don’t use holding tank additives to your grey tank. 

If you must dump on the ground, you should focus on having the least ecological impact possible. 

Tips for Proper Disposal

Now that you know how to dump RV grey water on the ground in emergency situations, here’s how to properly dispose of it in all other situations. 

If you’re boondocking, you need to find the closest dump station. 

Did you know most RV parks and campgrounds will let you use their dump station, even if you’re not paying for a campsite? If you didn’t, now you did! Most will charge a small fee like $5 to come in and dump your tanks. 

There are apps and websites specifically for finding the closest dump station to you, and many of them are free! Examples include Allstays, Campendium, and the app RV Dump Stations that costs just 99 cents.

Breaking camp just to go dump your grey water is super annoying. We get it! But it doesn’t have to be. You actually don’t even have to break camp to dump… and we’ll tell you how!

The answer? Portable waste tanks. A portable waste tank is a waste tank on wheels that comes in many different sizes, perfect for transporting your waste water to the nearest dump station. With a portable waste tank, you never have to worry about breaking camp just to dump. With one of these, there’s no reason to ever dump grey water on the ground!

Dump RV Grey Water Responsibly

Now that you know what RV grey water is, we hope you have the resources you need to dump it responsibly.

Dealing with waste and waste water is just a normal part of everyday life for all RVers! 

But it’s helpful to know that in a pinch, there are places where it’s legal to dump grey water on the ground. Always remember to avoid water sources and slowly and evenly distribute your grey water. 

All other times, use the resources above (and Google) to find the nearest RV dump station.

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