Hop onto any RV forum and you’ll see countless threads asking if people keep their RV tanks full or empty or somewhere in-between when traveling.
It’s a good question. So we’ve done some research to provide you with the answer.
Let’s take a look!
Types of RV Tanks
If you own an RV, you likely have three different tanks. A freshwater tank holds your usable water. Your gray tank holds water coming from drains such as your kitchen sink and shower. And your toilet feeds into your black tank.
An RV grey tank is a holding tank that collects wastewater from the RV’s kitchen and bathroom sinks, shower, and/or washing machine. The water in the grey tank is typically from activities like dishwashing, showering, and handwashing, and can contain soap, shampoo, and other cleaning agents.
The grey water tank is an important component of an RV’s plumbing system, and it must be regularly emptied to prevent overflowing or causing damage to the RV.
An RV black tank is a holding tank that collects sewage waste from the RV’s toilet. This tank is designed to hold human waste and toilet paper until it can be properly disposed of at a dump station or other suitable location. Black tanks typically hold more waste than grey tanks, and they require additional maintenance and care to ensure they do not become clogged or damaged.
It is important to follow proper waste disposal guidelines and maintain the black tank to prevent unpleasant odors and potential health hazards. Regularly emptying and cleaning the black tank is crucial for the overall functioning and hygiene of an RV’s plumbing system.
Traveling with Full Black or Gray
Most people suggest you travel with your RV black and gray tanks empty unless you’re cleaning them. In that case, empty them as usual, then add a few gallons of water to each. You can pour from a bucket or pitcher into the toilet and just run some water in your sink or shower.
When you’re driving, the water will slosh around to help clean the tanks.
You’ll see recommendations out there for adding ice cubes, a tiny amount of dish soap, or a specialized cleaner to the tanks as well. In addition, some RVs also come with black tank sprayers, or you can purchase one.
Pro Tip: Is it legal to dump RV black water on the ground?
Traveling With a Full Freshwater Tank
Honestly, there’s no definitive answer as to whether you should travel with your RV freshwater tank full, empty, or half-full.
For smaller rigs and tow vehicles, it might impact your gas mileage a little. And some people warn that a full tank could cause handling issues, especially in smaller trailers.
However, most people citing personal experience state there doesn’t seem to be a problem driving with a full tank even in the smaller RVs.
Having an empty freshwater tank when storing your RV for more than a couple of days is a good idea. It’s not a sealed container, so bacteria and other organisms can grow inside.
In fact, cleaning and sanitizing your tank regularly is a good idea.
However, many people prefer to drive their RV with at least half a tank if not a full one. Sometimes their reasoning is cautionary. What if you break down on a hot day in the desert and it’ll take hours for someone to get to you?
What if you stop for the night and there’s no water or you end up in a boil-water scenario?
Others like to fill their tank at home because they know the water is good. In addition, it’s one less thing to deal with on your way or once you arrive at your dry camping location.
Can You Dump RV Tanks at Home?
In most cases, it is not legal or advisable to dump RV tanks at home. RV wastewater contains a variety of chemicals, bacteria, and other contaminants that can harm the environment and pose a health risk to people and animals.
Dumping RV tanks improperly can also damage your property, as the wastewater can seep into the ground and contaminate the soil and groundwater.
If you connect it to your septic tank, it may fill that tank too quickly. If you dump it in your city sewage line, you’re using city property with paying a fee (cities usually charge a sewage fee base on the amount of water you use).
Many municipalities have laws and regulations regarding the disposal of RV wastewater, and most require that it be dumped at approved dump stations or wastewater treatment facilities. In some areas, it is possible to find pump-out services that will come to your home and safely remove the contents of your RV tanks for proper disposal.
If you are unsure about the laws and regulations in your area regarding the disposal of RV wastewater, it is best to consult with your local government or waste management authority to find out the proper procedures for disposing of your RV’s wastewater.
How to Find a Dump Station?
Finding a RV dump station is relatively easy, and there are several ways to locate one. Here are some common methods:
RV Dump Station Directories: There are many online directories and mobile apps that provide a list of dump stations in a specific area. Some of the popular directories include RV Dump Sites, Sanidumps, and Allstays. You can also search on Google Maps or use the RV Trip Wizard app to find dump stations.
RV Parks and Campgrounds: Many RV parks and campgrounds have dump stations available for their guests. If you are staying at an RV park or campground, be sure to ask if they have a dump station on site.
Gas Stations and Truck Stops: Some gas stations and truck stops also offer dump stations for RVs. These locations can be found on some online directories or by searching on Google Maps.
Government Facilities: Some government-run facilities, such as rest areas and state parks, may have dump stations available for RVs. Check with the local authorities to find out if there are any dump stations available in these areas.
RV Service Centers: RV service centers or dealerships may also have dump stations available for their customers.
When using a dump station, be sure to follow all posted rules and regulations, and dispose of your RV’s waste properly to avoid harming the environment.
Should You Travel With Your Tanks Full?
For black and gray tanks, the answer is mostly “no.” But you may want to have a little water in there for cleaning purposes. For your freshwater tank, though, it’s really up to you. Do you travel with your RV freshwater tank full or empty?
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We ALWAYS travel with a few gallons of fresh water in the tank to be able to flush the toilet and wash hands.