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How to Prepare Your RV Holding Tanks for Storage

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Last Updated on September 4, 2022 by Jessica Lauren Vine

If you’ve either forgotten or just plain failed to prepare your rigs holding tanks before storing it, especially if you live in a colder climate, you’ll find out next spring you’re in for a mess.

I know, I’ve been there.

After returning to Colorado from New York city one year, I found they had a few days of freezing then a thaw. Wow, what a mess when I got up there.

As an RV beginner or pro—DO NOT Make this mistake.

Here are a few pointers to get you on the right path. So, like Douglas Adams wrote, “DON’T PANIC.”

Freshwater Tank

This is where the fresh, clean water goes to your shower, your kitchen sink, and the toilet flusher and sink.

Some rigs are even equipped with an outside shower.

These tank sizes can range in volume based on the class, size, and configuration of the RV.

I have a 35-gallon freshwater tank in my Class C. But it’s just me. A family of 4 may need up to a 60-gallon tank.

Preparing this tank is simple

  • Turn on the sink
  • Turn on the shower and flush the toilet a few times
  • Keep doing this until the faucets start spraying and then just coughing water

If you have a spigot on the outside mounted to your tank, that will certainly empty the tank the fastest and save some wear and tear on your pumps.

Do not put antifreeze in your tank.

You’ll regret it.

I found that leaving valves at three quarters and drains open is a good practice, especially if you’re parked outside.

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Read YOUR OWNER’S MANUAL TO CONFIRM WHAT THE MANUFACTURER RECOMMENDS!

Grey Water Tank

This water shouldn’t have human waste in it but sometimes kids pee in the shower.

It’s the water from the sink and shower.

Most rigs are not equipped with a garbage disposal so be vigilant on keeping potato peels and other food waste from going down the drain and clogging the pipes.

Now in this realm, we need two things—a garden hose and rubber gloves.

First, you’ll have to find an RV dump station—we’re no Uncle Eddie from Christmas Vacation, dumping his rig into the storm drain. Put on your gloves and hook up the stinky slinky (sewer hose) to the city receptacle.

Check the owner’s manual for your rig to get this process right. Things can get nasty if you mess it up.

Figure 1 Standard RV sewer hookup. Don’t pull that lever until you are fully set up.
Figure 2 Blow-up of sewer line connectors. Easy to use.

Black Water Tank

This is the stinky and smelliest tank of the three. I don’t have to say why.

It’s probably a good idea to clean this tank after dumping. You should use a cleaning tool and chemicals to get it smelling like a rose again.

Unique RV Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Black Holding Tank Enhancer Liquid
Pros:
  • Removes tough stains
  • Clings to toilet bowl
  • Trusted by RVers
Cons:
  • Doesn't remove built-up stains
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Valterra Master Blaster RV Tank Cleaning Wand with Power Nozzle
$19.46

If you use this, you definitely need a splash guard. Or, of course, you could just take a shower after getting blasted by poop water. Your choice.

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Good news is that it works and gets the job done.

Pros:
  • Lightweight
Cons:
  • Splashing
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09/24/2022 12:32 am GMT

If not parking your rig in a heated garage but outside, I would recommend using RV antifreeze on both the Gray and Black tanks.

It couldn’t hurt.

Remember no antifreeze in your freshwater tank.

Get it fully drained and maybe there is a little bit of water you missed, but the tank is big enough for the ice to expand.

Several Last Items

Remember to flush out your freshwater lines and pumps as well as your water heater. Check your owner’s manual. Good luck and “keep on trucking.”

Before leaving, make sure to check out these other articles that can help you with RV life.

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Edward Kipfinger
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