RV Black Water Tank and Sensor Cleaning Tips

Note: When you make a purchase using our links in this article, we may make a commission at no additional cost to you. See the full disclosure here.

Sharing is caring!

Preventative Maintenance Tips for Your Black Tank and Its Sensors

Cleaning your RV black water tank and it’s sensors doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience as long as you clean and maintain it regularly. Routine washing can prevent bacteria build-up that leads to intense and unpleasant odors. Clogs are also much less frequent, leading to fewer complications and repairs.

When you’re enjoying a relaxing family camping trip, the last thing you want to worry about is an issue with your RV black water tank. To avoid this, follow our black water tank cleaning tips for your black water tank and its sensors.

How To Service Your Black Water Tank

RV black water tanks are easy to empty, as the process only requires a hook-up and a set of hands. It is the step after draining that is crucial, however. Rinsing and cleaning are essential to maintaining a clean holding tank.


For the best results, you should rinse your holding tank each time you dump. If this is not feasible, at least wash it out every other time.

Cleaning your RV’s black water tank is relatively simple once you learn how to do so. After dumping, fill the tank with clean water by flushing or pouring clean water into the toilet. You can also use a hose to run water in from outside. Once the RV holding tank is full, be sure to drain it. Continue using this method until the output is translucent and free of waste materials. For a better view, install a clear elbow into your septic hose.


Even with routine rinsing, you must give your motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel or camper’s black holding water tank a thorough cleaning now and then. You can do so using the safe and affordable process stated below. For best results, use all three techniques (in order) during the same cleaning session.

Method One: To clean your holding tank, mix dishwashing detergent, water, and ice cubes. Close the tank valve, fill the holding chamber halfway with water, and pour in ½ cup powdered dishwasher detergent (note: avoid using liquid detergent as bubbles will accumulate and spill out of the tank). Next, add ice cubes by tossing them down the toilet. Then drive around and let the ice cubes bang around inside your tank. The friction of the ice cubes will help to clean the tank and its sensors. Driving is helpful to move the liquid around in the tank. Leave the mixture soaking for up to 24 hours before emptying.  Following this, fill it with water and dump the tank again.

Method Two: A tank cleaning wand is a device that sprays water outwards rather than down, which is more effective when cleaning the black water tank. Before using this technique, be sure to open the black water valve. Next, attach the tank cleaning wand to a garden hose and put it through a window to reach the bathroom. Now direct the device down the toilet to spray the inside of the tank until the water comes out clear with no excess waste.

Method Three: Although excess chlorine can be corrosive to rubber plumbing, it can be a great cleaner when diluted with water. Use minimal amounts of chlorine and add plenty of water to avoid any adverse interactions. This technique is a great way to rid smells while also cleaning your RV black water tank. Be sure to flush with clean water immediately after you drain the chlorine mixture.


Even with regular rinsing and cleaning, occasional deep cleaning sanitizations are vital for the integrity of the holding tank. After dumping, fill your tank with water until it is 2/3 full, then pour 1 cup of bleach into the toilet. Keep filling with water until the tank is full and wait five minutes before dumping. Add clean water until the septic tank is full and drain again to ensure there is no remaining chemical residue.

The Best RV Black Water Tank Flush System

An RV black water tank cleaning wand is excellent for spraying down your holding reservoir. However, it can be tedious and cumbersome to direct the hose through the toilet each time. The RhinoFLEX Rhino Blaster, on the other hand, is a durable, reliable alternative that can be stretched, retracted, and twisted while maintaining its form. This sturdy RV sewer hose is made from 23 mils of heavy-duty polyolefin and is equipped to fit your needs.

The adapter cuts down on time and energy while providing an in-depth cleaning experience. Many other RV sewer hoses are flimsy and difficult to use as they are vinyl-based. The RhinoFLEX is resistant to these damages because it is composed of polypropylene and polycarbonate.

Unlike the wand, this device does not require a toilet hose as it sits at a 45-degree angle to rinse the black water tank. Leakage is not a concern as the clear plastic elbow connection maintains a secure connection with an RVs sewer outlet.

With the black tank valve open switch the valve to change the direction of water flow and connect a garden hose to the RV sewer hose. When the fresh water is turned on, its force will dislodge any obstructions and remove any residue stuck inside the container. A translucent elbow allows you to gauge when the tank is clean and ready to go.

RhinoFLEX Rhino BlasterWe love ours because after we dump our black water tank it takes much less time to refill the tank to give it a second flush. We used to have to sit inside the RV and run the hose and wand through the RV into the toilet or just run the toilet for a long time to refill the black tank.

Now we just use the water hose at the dump station and attach it to our RhinoFLEX Rhino Blaster and quickly and easily refill the black tank and the waste water goes right down the sewer hose. It is the best way I know of to maintain your black water tank and sensors. Just remember to close your sewer tank valve when you are done.

NOTE: Never attach a freshwater hose to the Rhino Blaster and always wear heavy duty protective nitrile gloves while handling all parts of your septic system and hoses.

RV Black Water Tank Sensor Cleaning

Fully functioning RV black water tank sensors are vital to the dumping process. If your sensor is faulty, it will signal that the tank is full or partially full after emptying your holding tank.

Small pieces of metal, also known as sensors, are located at 1/3, 2/3, and full increments. When the basin fills to each mark, the electrical circuit is completed, which turns on the RV monitoring panel light. This control pad indicates when you need to empty your tank.

When the sensors stay lit even after dumping, excess residue or waste stuck to the black water tank is usually the root cause. This material is wet, which causes it to complete the electrical circuit, even when there is nothing in the tank.

To fix this issue, fill the holding tank with water and add high-quality sensor cleaner into the toilet. The container label should instruct how much to use and any other specific directions. Allow the mixture to settle for 8-12 hours. If possible, take a short drive to squish around the water and loosen any debris. After the allotted time, empty the tank and observe changes. If the sensor is still not working, repeat the process until you achieve the desired results.

To prevent this from reoccurring, regularly rinse, clean, and sanitize your RV black tank, as stated above. Also, be sure to use toilet paper that is specially designed for an RV plumbing system to avoid build-up.

You can even use these same methods to clean your RV gray water tank as well!

How Do RV Black Water Tank Chemicals Work?

RV black water tanks host a variety of odor-causing bacteria that can turn any trip into an awful one. Holding tanks can also clog up and wreak havoc on the overall black water system, which is why it is necessary to break down the bacteria and excess material before it becomes an issue.

Compared to a home or public toilet, an RV black water system requires much more maintenance. Standard plumbing pushes waste and many gallons of water through a pipe until it reaches a sewage treatment plant.

An RV plumbing system, on the other hand, uses limited water to push the waste into the holding tank. With more debris than water in this localized area, bacteria multiply quickly, resulting in a putrid smell. Driving can also make the odor worse as the contents move and release the stench.

Adding chemicals that contain bacteria and enzymes to the tank will decompose the solids and keep the contents liquified, thus preventing jams to the system. The smell is also eliminated in this process, as these added compounds dissolve the bacteria.

There are various RV holding tank treatments on the market that can help get the job done. These cleansers can be found as liquid or dissolving tablets and contain either one or a combination of formaldehyde, an enzyme, a mineral or salt, and bacteria. These products are straightforward, as you quickly add them to the black water tank via the toilet.

Regardless, always be sure you are choosing high-quality, environmentally friendly products to avoid stains and other issues.

Do Black Water Tanks Require Special Toilet Paper?

Toilet paper is something for any RV owner to consider. Regular tissue does not break down well and will sink to the bottom of the RV black water tank. This process will make emptying more difficult and lead to clogs. Adding more chemicals to counteract this issue will not be helpful, as it will only lead to higher costs and a greater risk of blockage.

Therefore, RV-friendly toilet paper is a much better choice as its purpose is for these plumbing systems. Compared to regular brands, these products dissolve faster and more effectively to ensure the tank doesn’t get clogged.

While RV tissue is a tad more expensive than standard toilet paper, it is well worth it to spend a few extra dollars beforehand to save money in the long run. Aside from causing issues with your black water tank, using this tissue will increase your chemical expenses. For these reasons, it is much more cost effective to spend more on toilet tissue rather than cleaning products. RV toilet paper is also much eco-friendlier than chemicals, making it a better choice all around.

There are many brands you can buy at RV dealerships, accessory stores, or online. To decide which kind to purchase, be sure the package label states either that the product is made specifically for RVs or that it is safe for RV toilet systems. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so you may need to try a few different brands until you find one that suits you.

RELATED READING: Check out our article called 29 Must Have RV Accessories for a New Camper or Travel Trailer for all of the gear you need for your RV!


Creating a routine with your RV black water system is the best way to prevent damage, reduce odors, and avoid costly repairs.

Using a reliable, effective technique, regularly rinse, clean, and sanitize your RV black water tank and purchase the highest quality chemicals you can afford. Always use special toilet paper and avoid flushing other materials down the toilet.

Abiding by these guidelines will help maintain the integrity of your tank while creating a much better experience for both you and your passengers.

Check out these other helpful articles too!

What is your method for cleaning and maintaining your black water tank and its sensors? Please share in the comments below.


Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment