If you are an owner of an RV, you are probably familiar with the vast amount of maintenance that goes into caring for your vehicle in order to keep it running smoothly. From cleaning both the interior and exterior, to making sure the engine is working properly, RVs are a lot of work. When there is an issue with your RV it can be stressful, overwhelming, and extremely costly. There are a few common issues with RVs such as burst water lines, tire blowouts, window leaks and for the purpose of this post, toilet malfunctions- specifically clogged toilet holding tanks.

Clogged toilet holding tanks is actually a very common issue for RV owners. These clogs can make life inconvenient and frustrating for RV owners, especially while on a trip. Are you an RV owner that currently has a clogged toilet holding tank? Have you dealt with this issue before and are looking for ways to prevent it again or repair it yourself rather than calling a plumber? If so, let’s dive in on how to fix it.

How to Unclog Your RV Toilet Holding Tank Successfully

A friend of mine is a plumber in Sicklerville and gave some great tips (outlined below) for successfully unclogging your RV’s toilet holding tank on your own. He added that unclogging a toilet holding tank is not easy, and if you run into any additional problems while trying to work on it yourself, you should seek immediate assistance from a professional plumbing service. With that being said, if you are going to attempt to unclog your holding tank yourself, here’s how.

Pour Boiling Water Down the Toilet

This is one of the fastest and easiest ways to unclog your RV’s toilet holding tank. To begin, boil multiple pots of water and be sure to turn off the water main of your vehicle. Then pour the boiling water into the toilet and let it sit for a few hours or overnight. This quick trick should loosen any clogs, but if you want to be sure, you can boil one more pot of boiling water in the morning and let it sit for an hour or two before flushing your toilet again.

Utilize Drain Snakes

Some RV clogs are particularly stubborn and will require more than boiling water, this is when drain snakes come into play. Drain snakes are beneficial for RVs that have angled pipes that carry waste from the toilet to the holding tank. Compared to RVs that have straight pipes that bring waste to the holding tank, angled pipes are more prone to clogging. When one of these pipes clogs, it’s extremely difficult to unclog them and usually, the only successful method is by using a drain snake. Here is how to use a drain snake:

  1. Put the drain snake into the toilet carefully and feel your way through the plumbing by wriggling the drain snake
  2. Once you have hit the clog turn the handle clockwise and twist until the snake hooks into the offending plug
  3. Keep twisting until you feel the clog break apart and fall through into the holding tank
  4. After you remove the snake, flush the toilet a few times to make sure the clog is gone

Try Chemicals

Chemicals are another outstanding way to get rid of clogs in your RV holding tank. You can purchase a drain unclogger at the store or simply try dishwashing detergent/soap with a water softener. To do this, pour one cup of liquid dish detergent/soap into the toilet and then add one cup of the water softener. After that, pour one pot of boiling water on top and let all of this sit overnight. You should be able to flush your toilet with no problem in the morning and the clog should be gone.

It’s important to avoid harsh chemicals when unclogging your holding tank because most pipes in RVs are made of plastic. Harsh chemicals, like bleach, can damage or even burst your RVs plastic pipes.

What Caused the Clog?

There are a number of things that can cause an RV holding tank to clog, the most common culprits include:

  • The valves are not open or they are stuck shut; all valves should be open. If the valves are open and your toilet is still not flushing, you likely have a clog
  • Toilet paper. Be sure to buy RV-friendly toilet paper as this kind of toilet paper dissolves easily and makes it easy to flush
  • The tank is not filled with water
  • The black water valve is not closed which allows liquid waste to drain out and solid waste to build up. In some cases, the solid waste can build up so much that it can completely block the tank

Tips to Help You Prevent a Future Clog

A clogged holding tank can make any excursion or camping trip frustrating, so it’s important that you know how to prevent this from happening the best you can. Here are some tips to help you prevent any future RV holding tank clogs:

  • Buy RV-friendly toilet paper
  • Flush often/ try to flush twice
  • Use a bidet; using more water than toilet paper is an outstanding way to avoid clogs
  • Have water in the RV toilet holding tank
  • Make sure you are emptying the RV tank regularly; this will avoid solid waste build-up

Get the Most of Your RV

If you are lucky enough to be able to own or rent an RV, it’s important that you get the most out of it and get to enjoy your time using it. Whether you are going cross-country or you are simply going on a weekend getaway, it’s important your RV and all aspects of it are working the way that they should. Since the toilet is one of the main perks and conveniences of an RV, be sure that it is running smoothly and that you are taking care of it. Keep these tips and points in mind when caring for your RV’s toilet and if/when there is a clog. If you come across a clog in your holding tank that you are still struggling to get rid of, find a local plumber to help you assess the situation.