RVing brings with it many wonderful things — the freedom to adventure along the open road, the simplicity of life on wheels, and the wonders of nature at your doorstep, to name a few.
But RVing also brings with it a special set of challenges that can make road life tough if you don’t know how to tackle them.
And one of the biggest challenges while living in a camper is handling those nasty odors that can emanate from your RV holding tank.
Which probably has you wondering — What is the best homemade RV holding tank treatment?
The best homemade RV holding tank deodorizer recipe depends a bit on your situation. For example, if you dry camp (i.e. camping without hookups) a lot, you’ll want to mix a homemade RV holding tank treatment that uses little water.
That said, the best homemade RV holding tank deodorizers are the ones that use natural materials like water and citrus.
These keep your RV septic system fresh without harming the environment.
In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of homemade RV holding tank treatments, show how to figure out the best treatment to controls black and gray water odors and keep RV tanks tanks clean and sensors working properly.
What Is An RV Holding Tank?
All RVs, except some very small ones come with holding tanks. These are simply the tanks that hold all the liquids for your RV.
As the name implies, holding tanks are designed to hold liquids in your RV so you can travel without being hooked up.
Depending on the size of your RV, holding tanks can range in size from 10 gallons to 100+ gallons in capacity for larger RVs.
If you are connected to RV hookups, you’ll have a place to drain your holding tanks, otherwise, you’ll need to find RV dumps along your trip when your holding tanks fill up.
Homemade RV holding tank treatments become important so you can manage the balance of your holding tanks to keep smells down and to stop grime from building up.
Types Of RV Holding Tanks
All RVs have 3 basic types of holding tanks:
- Fresh water holding tank: Holds all the water used for showering, bathrooms, and sinks for use when you’re not hooked to city water.
- Black (sewer) holding tank: This holds all the “black waste” aka the nasty stuff that goes down your toilet.
- Grey (drainwater) holding tank: This holds all the wastewater that drains from your toilet, shower, and sinks.
Some larger RVs will actually have 2 black tanks and/or 2 grey tanks. This is especially true for campers with 2 bathrooms.
Why Should I Put Homemade Tank Treatment Into My RV Holding Tanks?
RV holding tanks are prone to stinking because they hold water and waste in them.
Even the grey tank, which just holds water from your shower/sink drains can start to stink because of the food debris that inevitably gets into that tank from your kitchen sink.
Additionally, tanks can build up grime over time which can clog them and will make it difficult for the sensors inside them to tell you how empty/full they are.
Holding tank treatments become necessary because they help you keep those smells down and keep the grime from growing.
Homemade holding tank treatments are better solutions because they can be made with household ingredients and are generally better for the environment than most treatments you’ll buy at stores.
3 Best Homemade RV Holding Tank Treatments
There are a few homemade RV holding tank methods to choose from.
Below, we’ll break down the different types of homemade holding tank treatments to help you figure out the best tank deodorizer for your RV:
1: The Geo Method: Homemade RV Holding Tank Deodorizer
This method works sort of like your washing machine. The idea here is that washing machines don’t need to be cleaned because the constant process of detergents running through them keeps them clean.
In the same way, The Geo Method encourages you to be constantly running homemade, eco-friendly holding tank treatment through your RV holding tanks all the time.
Here’s how to use The Geo Method as a homemade RV holding tank treatment:
- 2 cups powdered water softener
- 1 cup natural laundry detergent
- 1 gallon of warm water
- Bleach or chlorine (optional because it’s not eco-friendly, but will control odor)
How to clean your RV holding tanks with The Geo Method
Cleaning your RV tank via The Geo Method is more than just a cleaning, rather its regular upkeep that keeps your tanks fresh and clean so you don’t have to do major cleanings or deal with RV holding tank odor.
Follow these steps to use The Geo Method to Keep your RV tanks clean naturally:
- Dump your black and grey holding tanks
- Close your holding tanks so they’ll hold the tank treatment
- Dissolve 2 cups of powdered water softener into 1 gallon of water
- Add laundry detergent to your water mix
- Dump this mix down your tank and add some extra fresh water into the tank from your sinks, showers, and toilets
- Wait a few days before dumping your tanks to give the Geo mixture a chance to do its job
- Optional — Dump the chlorine or bleach down your holding tank. But please note, while this helps keep odors down, it also kills the beneficial bacteria that help your tanks break down waste. It’s also not eco-friendly, but can be necessary if you have really bad holding tank odor…
By proactively continuing with The Geo Method, you’ll be able to ensure that your RV holding tanks stay clean and don’t get major gunk built up.
2: DIY Citric Acid RV Holding Tank Cleaning Bombs
Though it might sound extreme to put a “bomb” down your RV holding tanks, the ones we’re about to talk about will keep those RV toilets smelling orangy clean.
The acid found in citrus fruits is actually a weak acid that won’t damage your tanks but will do a number on smells.
It’s so effective, in fact, that this rv tank deodorizer method included in a number of commercial RV tank cleaners.
Here’s how to make and use citrus bombs as a homemade holding tank treatment:
- 1 tbsp. clean water
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- ⅓ cup Borax
- ⅓ cup citric acid
Make Your Own Citrus RV Black Tank Cleaning Bombs
- Mix the baking soda, borax and citric acid in a small plastic baggie
- Slowly add water to the baggie to get the ingredients to mix together
- Press the mix tightly into a silicone mold
- Let dry for 1 day
- Pop the citrus bombs out of the mold and store in an airtight container until needed
Finally, you use your homemade citrus bombs by first dumping your holding tanks and then reclosing the valves.
Then, flush a couple gallons of fresh water down your toilet and drop a cleaning bomb down.
You should hear the bomb fizz inside the water. Whenever possible, try to put your citrus bombs down the toilet just ahead of travelling so that the water and your homemade RV holding tank treatment will swish around as you travel.
3: The “Unique Method” Of Homemade RV Holding Tank Treating
The “Unique Method” is more of a homemade process than it is a specific treatment of your RV holding tank.
It basically involves using generous amounts of water and creating an environment in your holding tanks that allows the good bacteria (the kind that breaks down waste and prevents clogs) to thrive.
To enact The Unique Method in your RVing household, do the following:
- Keep your black tank closed until it’s above at least ½ tank full — By doing this and adding lots of water with each flush, you’ll ensure everything gets broken down.
- Fill your RV toilet bowl with water before each use — While this might seem a bit wasteful, the fact is it’s one of the best homemade ways to keep your holding tank fresh, clean, and unclogged. And besides, the RVing household uses far less water overall than the average home, so you’re already doing your part in a big way.
- Treat your holding tanks every time you dump — Using something like Happy Campers Organic tank treatment to season your tank every time you dump.
- Always leave a bit of water in your RV toilet bowl to keep smells from escaping your tank.
- Try to always keep holding tank temperatures lower than 85 degrees fahrenheit.
- Use only mild cleaners in your tanks if you’re trying to keep odors down (i.e. NOT chlorine and bleach).
- Dump your tanks every 4-5 days to prevent odor buildup.
- Remember to use lots of water when you flush.
- Deep clean your RV holding tanks twice each year to stop build up.
Even though the Unique Method doesn’t use totally homemade ingredients, it does depend on a homemade recipe of proactive persistence when it comes to keeping your holding tanks clean and odor free.
Which Homemade RV Holding Tank Treatment Is Best?
If you plan to do a lot of dry camping, the Citrus Bomb method is the best homemade RV holding tank treatment because it doesn’t require lots of water.
You can also make the citrus bombs before you go camping, meaning you won’t really have any prep on the road.
If, however, you will be hooked up to city water+sewer for long periods of time, the Unique Method is best rv tank deodorizer because it’s the most proactive RV holding tank treatment you can do.
Even though the Unique Method uses a non-homemade ingredient (though you could substitute it with a citrus bomb!) it’s still one of the best ways to treat your RV holding tank.
This isn’t to say that the Geo Method isn’t great as well! It’s simply that we prefer the two methods above because they seem to work best overall depending on how you’re RVing.
Homemade RV holding tank treatments are a great way to keep things clean and smelling fresh on the road.
By following the recipes above, you can figure out the best homemade RV holding tank treatment for you and yours while you RV along the road.