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How to Efficiently Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water Tank

The RV freshwater tank is an essential part of your RV. You need water to survive. Not just for drinking but for bathing, cleaning dishes, brushing your teeth, cooking, and flushing the toilet.

However, the idea of drinking from your RV freshwater tank may give you the creeps…especially if you’re in a used or vintage unit. Bacteria can grow if the water sits too long. The tank can even give it a bad taste.

Fear not!

Drinking from your freshwater tank is perfectly safe if you properly sanitize it.

Today we’re sharing step-by-step instructions to help you have cleaner, better-tasting water straight from your RV freshwater tank.

Why You Should Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water Tank

The biggest reason you should sanitize your RV fresh water tank is for your health.

It can go stale and be a breeding ground for bacteria. This can make you sick. Another reason you want to clean your RV fresh water tank is mineral build-up.

The buildup can clog your water lines. It’s essential to manage this properly.

How Often Should You Clean Your RV Fresh Water System?

There are a couple of times you should sanitize your RV fresh water tank.

The first one is every six months. This is the recommended amount of time for any full-time RVers.

The second is when you take it out of storage. If the RV has been sitting around, the old leftover water will get stale in the tank. It’s essential to clean it out.

Another is if you fill the tank at a campground with contaminated water. That means your water is now contaminated. You should also always clean the tank out when you buy a new RV, whether it’s new or used.

Another sign it’s time to clean the tank is if the water starts smelling weird.

How to Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water Tank Step By Step

The process of sanitizing your RV fresh water tank is fairly easy, it just takes up to 12-hours to properly sanitize. Our step-by-step instructions are for generic RVs and trailers. Ensure you reference your owner’s manual for specific steps related to your make & model.

Step 1: The first step is to drain the water system. A drain valve under your RV empties the fresh water tank and water lines. You also want to make sure to empty your water heater tank.

Step 2: Create the water sanitizing solution. The best and most recommended solution is bleach. But you can also buy an RV solution at any store that carries RV supplies. Also, if you are concerned about bleach’s health risks, you can use distilled vinegar. Vinegar isn’t as effective but much safer to consume.

Mix ¼ cup bleach for every 16 gallons in your freshwater tank to make the solution. Measure how much you need for your tank, dilute it in water, then pour it in. (Make sure you close the valves and plug the water heater tank.)

Step 3: After pouring the solution into the tank, fill the remainder with water. You want the solution to be in all the freshwater lines as well. Once the water coming out smells like the solution, turn them off.

Step 4: Now that the water lines have the solution in them and the tank is full, take your RV for a spin. Driving (or towing) your RV will help slosh around the cleaner inside the tank. After that, let the water sit for 12 hours. This will give the solution time to kill anything that might be living in the tank and water lines.

Step 5: Once the solution has sat for 12 hours it’s time to flush the system. Open up the water valves and let the water drain from the fresh water tank, water lines, and water heater tank. Run the water through the whole system until there is no longer the smell of solution coming from the water system.

Tips for Keeping Your Fresh Water Tank Clean

You can do a few things to keep your RV fresh water tank clean.

The first is always to put potable water in your tank. Never put water that is non-potable or you will need to clean it because it’s now contaminated.

Make sure to sanitize your tank every six months regularly.

Lastly, use a water filter when filling your water tank. 

Now you Know!

When it comes to your RV fresh water tank you want to make sure it stays fresh. It might seem like a pain to always be cleaning it but it will save you from getting sick.

It will also help maintain your water system longer. The more mineral build-up that occurs in your lines the sooner they will break and cause water damage.

If you’re in a handy-man mood – take a look a this list of issues an RV mechanic says will be the first to break!

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  1. roger j watson says:

    I believe Your instructions for sanitizing the fresh water are not clear nor complete.
    1. After 12 hours and I pump all the sanitized fresh water through all lines, do I leave them dry or leave some small amount in the tank to discourage any build-up while trailer is not in use?
    2. After the solution has been flushed, do I flush the tank and lines with fresh filtered water?
    3. Should I leave sanitized water in or flush the sanitized water through my grey tank?
    4. If I choose vinegar, what is the recommended solution and how should VINEGAR be handled within the system?

  2. Dave White says:

    Can staying plugged into your home electric to long damage your RV’s electrical system?

  3. Dennis says:

    Most RV water storage tanks do not have an opening to pour in bleach. The only entry access is via a water hose connection. This article has absolutely no merit.

  4. Dan Noar says:

    Never drink from your fresh water tank.
    How to sanitize your fresh water tank

  5. Mike Daw says:

    We always use a quality filter. We also have a residential fridge that filters the water that comes out of the fridge and ice dispenser. We drink the fridge water all the time and change all filters every six months. Water is perfect and never sanitized the tank.
    Might do the vinegar thing someday?

  6. Michael Dunn says:

    Can’t imagine drinking water from the RV tank but then we don’t drink tap water either. This procedure likely nec if you’re full time. For most of us though it’s for camping trips. I always drain tanks after every trip and in the winter make sure you get every drop out or your pipes will freeze and crack. When camping in cold weather leave the water heater on at night and the space heater seems to keep the pipes from freezing. My old trailer 10 years , 100 trips never flushed tank but once when it was brand new.

  7. 5150 says:

    Ok this is not rocket science use a funnel to add the proper amount of bleach , then fill tank with a water hose. Then take a short drive after that let sit for 12hrs and wha La tank is sanitized as soon as you rinse and drain the tank again. Common sense, article has a lot of merit, if you actually read it.

  8. David says:

    You should bypass your hot water heater. Not good to put bleach in it, especially if it has a stainless steel tank.