The RV water system is one of the most important systems you have on your recreational vehicle and knowing how it works can help you prevent many undesirable situations like clogged pipes. The system is made up of three different holding tanks: freshwater, black water, and gray water. These three tanks are serviced by ports on the outside of your rig, usually near your electrical connection. Filling the fresh water tank is straightforward, however you should use a white, food-grade hose to prevent adding any unpleasant odors or tastes to your water supply. Draining the wastewater tanks is also simple, requiring only the connecting of a sewage hose and the pushing of a drain lever, followed by the cleaning of the hoses with a spray attachment before storing them.

Related: How to Choose the Best RV Water Filter

Fresh Water Supply

If your RV has a fresh water holding tank, it will most likely have a “city water source” outside fixture. An overflow tube should be installed in most holding tanks to alert you when the tank is full of water. If you require a constant supply of water, though, you’ll need to turn that valve off so that water doesn’t seep out when your system is pressured and you’re camping in the same location for several days.

You’ll need a water pump to provide your system with freshwater if you’re boondocking or in a location where there isn’t a constant water supply. When you wish to access your freshwater tank, most manufactured RVs include a 12-volt pump that pulls water from it. These are often wired such that when you turn on a faucet, the water pump will automatically engage and operate until the faucet or valve is turned off.

Grey Water

Gray water is water that was used and it is drained when doing activities like washing dishes, showering in an indoor shower, or even washing your hands and face or brushing your teeth. Gray water is not sewage, and it should be disposed of properly since certain soaps are harmful to the environment. Grey water can include microscopic bits of food that can attract bugs and vermin if poured straight onto the ground. Small pieces of human waste, such as hair fragments from shaving and other grooming practices, may also end up in your gray water tank, which is not ecologically friendly.

Black Water

Black water is untreated sewage that must always be properly disposed of. A black water tank is usually installed on all RVs. It’s the tank that collects the human waste water and it is very important that you visit a dump station often to get rid of the waste.

How To Clean Your RV Water Systems

It’s no surprise that fresh, clean and potable water is essential for a safe and healthy life on the road. Fortunately, pure water is included in the package for RV campers. Fresh- and wastewater tanks are standard in most mid-sized and larger campers, allowing travelers to bring a full plumbing system with them wherever they go.

Drain the tanks completely

If you have a hot water tank, keep in mind that it may need to be drained separately. However, don’t try to drain it when it’s hot or under pressure, since this might cause harm to your entire RV water system. 

To avoid damage to the system, switch on the water pump which will start pumping water and push any residual water out and then turn it off as soon as the water stops draining.

Mix the cleaning solution

Using a simple combination of bleach and fresh water to disinfect your water tank is the best option. In a one-gallon bucket, mix a quarter cup of bleach with ordinary tap water for every 15 gallons of fresh water tank capacity in your RV. If you have a 45-gallon fresh water tank, for example, you would simply pour 3/4 cup bleach into the bucket and top it out with tap water.

Make sure the mixture went through all the tanks and plumbing

After that, you’ll need to add bleach to the water system. Just pour the mixture into the tank and remember to be very cautious when putting pure bleach into your RV’s fresh water tank. Too much bleach can cause harm to your water system so make sure the tap water to bleach ratio is right. 

After you’ve placed the solution into the tank, keep filling it with ordinary, fresh water until it’s full. Turn on your water pump and run all of your internal taps, including your shower, until you smell bleach in the water after it’s been filled. This guarantees that the internal pipes are sanitized as well. Turn off the faucets and the water pump, and leave the bleach solution in your water tank for at least 12 hours. 

Drain the mixture and rinse

When the 12 hours have passed, make sure you drain the bleachy water from the water system and top off the tanks with clean tap water. You need to do this to completely get rid of the bleach solution you introduced earlier so another draining of the pipes is needed.  

Drain the tanks of the clean water

Drain the second batch of water, making sure the drainage liquid no longer smells like bleach. You may need to repeat this process a few times to guarantee that all of the bleach has been removed from the system. This is critical because you’ll soon be utilizing this tank to store drinking water and you want to make sure it’s bleach-free. After you’ve double-checked that the bleach is completely gone, your tank is ready to be filled with drinkable water for your next camping trip.

Regardless of the class or size of your RV, most manufactured RV water systems are comparable. Of course, these will vary depending on the year your RV was built and the size of your RV, but most modern RVs will always follow the simple plumbing guideline. Knowing how your RV water system works and how to maintain it in perfect condition can be the difference between an amazing camping adventure and one that was just not that memorable.