Today’s blog may not be of any interest to our family and friends unless they plan on RVing or have a fascination for all that is RV-related. If you want to learn about RVing keep reading. This may be a very weird blog to those who really just want to know about our travels because it’s about the toilet and the black tank. If you are planning on living in an RV, and know nothing about an RV toilet this is good information for you. We don’t know all yet but have learned enough to know we can share with those who are just starting out. Since the weirdness of all this is slowly becoming our normal, here goes! THERE WILL BE NO PICTURES IN THIS BLOG!
Roy and I have never camped in our lives, not in a tent, not in a cabin, and certainly not in an RV. The closest our family ever came to camping was when our sons camped out in their big tree house across the pond from our house. Roy and I slept in our nice warm bed while they roughed it in the treehouse, never more than one night at a time!
We’ve never even been in an RV until we started looking for ours. We went into this knowing absolutely nothing about this new world of ours so the odds of making mistakes are high and the odds of us learning a lot is high as well. Everything is new and interesting to us. I’ve never used a toilet that didn’t flush using a handle on the toilet tank. Our new home has a toilet that flushes by stepping on a pedal and has no holding tank behind the toilet. This aspect of RVing is absolutely the weirdest part of our transition from a sticks house to an RV.
I’m not a plumber but I’ve seen enough plumbing work done to understand how a house toilet works. Fairly simple and who really cares what happens once you flush. Well in an RV it’s very different. There is no water (or very little) in the toilet bowl. You can add more water by pushing down on the pedal just a little bit. which is the reverse of what you do when you’re flushing and you push down on the pedal. That allows some water into the bowl for “special occasions”. I don’t want to get too graphic so if you can’t imagine what a “special occasion” is, think about it.
Once you’ve done whatever you’re going to do in the toilet, you push the pedal down with your foot to flush it. A little dome opens over a 3 to 4-inch wide pipe and your “stuff” goes down the pipe to the big black tank which in our RV goes from one side of the RV to the other. You can look down the tank (yes I did that today!) and see all your stuff and water. Not something I want to do again but I did learn from it. I learned all this today because Roy took me on a potty tour to learn all about the black tank and how the toilet works. I want to learn as much as possible about all things RV so I can be as helpful as possible when we are on the road.
The black tank is a large tank that is black that all of the toilet water, toilet paper, and “stuff” goes into. Nothing else goes into it. The gray tank is a large tank that is gray that all the shower water and sink water goes into. Since we are parked in our own driveway and we don’t live near anyone we have a long expandable tube attached to the gray tank (definitely not the black tank) and it continually empties into our side yard. That allows us to not worry about filling up the gray tank and having to empty it.
We also had a problem that was uncovered today when I opened one of the empty storage bins underneath the RV (right under the toilet) to see how much room was in it. It was empty but had a lot of pee in it which is just about as gross as it gets. Roy had to figure out where it was coming from so he could stop it which lead to the toilet lesson for the day! We now have one very clean and sanitized storage bin!
Something interesting about the black tank – it has sensors that show up on the control panel indicating whether it is ¼, ½ ¾ or completely full. The gray tank has the same type of sensors so you know when to empty both of them. This is a whole different aspect that is totally, totally different than a house toilet. About every two weeks, we have to empty our black tank and you do that at a “dump”. RV dealerships have dumps and our RV spot at Disney had one. I think a lot of RV parks have them but don’t have any experience with them yet.
We know nothing about the chemicals some use in their tanks. Most people say to just make sure you put plenty of water in the tank so nothing gets stuck…………………… We just read about a method called the GEO Method that uses Dawn Dishwashing Liquid (blue) and Calgon Water Softener after you empty your tank and it takes care of lots of issues! We’ll try that one as soon as we buy some. We don’t have a real problem so far. I like things always smelling pleasant and reading other people’s descriptions of “smells” makes me want to be much more proactive than sitting back and wait!
Toilet paper is another “topic” of discussion amongst RV owners. Our wonderful Charmin toilet paper is considered by some to be not appropriate for use in an RV toilet. Most RV bloggers say they use their regular toilet paper and don’t have any problems. Our RV Technician says that you must buy RV toilet paper or it stays forever in the bottom of your black tank and can fill it up. He said it mixes with the liquids and makes like paper mache which is hard. I’ve heard RV toilet paper is not as soft. We just bought some septic tank safe paper at Lowe’s so we’ll see how that does and then try real RV toilet paper last. There is a test they say to do that shows if the toilet paper dissolves quickly. I put our Charmin in a cup of water and stirred it for a few days and it did get looser but didn’t come close to disintegrating like they say the RV toilet paper does. I’ll have to put the paper we just bought to that same test and report on it!
Like I said previously this aspect of RVing is the weirdest. I’ve never liked using the toilet on an airplane for similar reasons to why I dreaded using the toilet in our RV. It must be some phobia I had but now I think our RV toilet is very normal. I guess it’s our new normal!
This is definitely a basics lesson on RV toilets as we only know what we’ve learned these last two months and you don’t just naturally spend too much time focusing on the toilet! If experienced RVers read this and can give us tips please comment away!
I plan to write about our tiny washer/dryer combo next time since that’s a cool, very different aspect of RV life.
2 thoughts on “01.04.13 Black tanks and toilets, oh my!”
I had a good laugh at your post! And yes, I am glad that there were NO pictures of the black tank! There is a really nice post that has great info on winterizing your rv here:
Hi Rosalyn, been reading your blogs and really enjoying them. My mom and dad had a camper and I remember daddy having to drain the pipes and a tank in the winter to prevent pipes bursting. But if they were camping when it was really cold they would leave the faucets dripping overnight so the pipes would not freeze. Just thought I’d run that by you but ya’ll probably already know to do that.