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Are RV Black Water Tanks Vented?

Being familiar with the various parts of your RV becomes rather important if you are planning a long trip. If you've traveled in one before, you've probably had to empty the dreaded black water tank on board. Is this wastewater holding tank vented? We did the research so that you'll know what this tank consists of.

The black water tank on an RV must be vented for safety reasons. In addition, the grey water tank is also built with a vent.

Now that we know that black water tanks are vented, we'll discuss why this venting is important. You might also be wondering where the black water tank vent is located or how you stop this tank from smelling. For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what our research has uncovered.

Man with RV vehicle in dumping station - Are RV Black Water Tanks Vented

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Why Do Manufacturers Have Vents For The Black Water Tank?

The human waste that slowly begins to fill the black water tank on an RV emits gases that are not only unpleasant to the senses but also harmful to the human body.

RV manufacturers use a ventilation system for both the black and grey water tanks so that these gases will be able to safely escape the tanks. Without proper ventilation, the gases will continue to build in the tanks before being expelled into the interior of your RV.

These vents are commonly built to join a singular ventilation stack that protrudes from your RV's roof. This way, the gases can escape up and away instead of out the side. Imagine trying to enjoy the outdoors next to your RV if that were the case!

How Can I Keep My Black Water Tank From Smelling?

If you spend any amount of time in an RV, you'll want it to smell as fresh as possible. Nothing will ruin this experience more than the raw sewage smell that can be emitted from the toilet. But there are precautions that you can take to keep this from happening.

 Ensuring good sewer hose connection to RV holding tanks while dumping wastewater and sewage

Empty And Clean The Black Water Tank Regularly

A full tank will allow sewer gases to escape. At first, these will come from the toilet. But if the tank gets too full, the waste from it will begin to seep from the seals around the RV's toilet. 

Empty and flush the black water tank regularly. How often you should do this will depend on the frequency of use. It's advised to do this at the end of every trip. But if you live in your RV, you will most likely need to have this done every two to four weeks.

Make sure that you thoroughly flush the black water tank after it is emptied. Using an approved chemical cleaner will help kill the harmful and smelly bacteria that have built up in the system.

Use Approved Chemicals

Only used chemicals approved to clean the RV's black water tank. While there are a good number of chemicals out there that will kill bacteria, some will do your system more harm than good. If it doesn't say it's safe for an RV, do not use it.

The best way to get these approved chemicals is from an RV dealership or RV accessories supplier.

Don't Flush Anything That You Shouldn't

Flushing certain items in the RV's toilet can cause clogs. Some can even do damage to the system. Ensure you only use RV toilet paper and avoid flushing feminine hygiene products. 

Clogs can build up over time, rendering the sensors useless. You will depend on these sensors to alert you when the black water tank is getting full and ready to be emptied. So, keeping them clean is a must.

Use A Black Water Tank Deodorizer

In between emptying and cleaning the black water tank, you should consider using a tank deodorizer. Unlike the chemicals you use during cleanings that kill harmful bacteria, a deodorizer will not work against these microscopic organisms. Rather, they are employed to mask the smells.

Make Sure The Black Water Tank Is Properly Ventilated

Finally, the black water tank needs to be ventilated. If there are clogs or obstructions, it will be unable to do its job. You can avoid many clogs and obstructions by ensuring that you do a thorough job emptying and cleaning the black water tank.

Why Is My RV Toilet Burping?

If your RV toilet is burping or expelling any air, it's a sign that action needs to be taken as soon as possible. The burping is the result of the black water ventilation system becoming clogged. This needs to be remedied or your RV will become overtaken by the smell of untreated sewage.

The most common cause for the vents to become clogged is that the black water tank has become too full. If this is the case, the sensors in the tank will typically alert you.

But these sensors can become obstructed, so don't rely exclusively on them. Drain and flush your black water tank as soon as possible and this problem will go away.

Clogging can also cause the burping problem. Pieces of toilet paper can clump, cover, or clog the ventilation system. This makes it important to thoroughly flush your black water tank when you clean it. If you do not, you will find yourself emptying the tank more frequently in an attempt to unclog the system.

RV vehicle detail

Can I Use Bleach To Clean My Black Water Tank?

There are a variety of chemical treatments available to clean your black water tank. This will need to be done with some regularity, as you do not want any of the waste inside the tank to solidify. This can lead to sensors being obstructed over time and can also cause clogs to slowly form.

Though you might be tempted to use bleach to do this job, there are several things you should know before you do. Bleach is corrosive, and too much of it will damage the seals and other components of your system.

Bleach will also work to kill the good bacteria that you want in the black water tank. So using the appropriate amount of this chemical is important. 

1/4 cup of bleach can be added to a gallon of water and placed into the black water tank. As an alternative, you can use one of the many approved chemical treatments available. These will cost a bit more than bleach but will come without the risks.

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pour bleach

Where Can I Empty My Black Water Tank?

Black water tanks will need to be frequently emptied. But their contents must be disposed of in an approved manner. The water from these tanks must be transferred into a system that handles raw sewage for health and safety reasons.

Most campgrounds will have an area where your black water tank can be legally emptied. Typically, these are connected to a septic tank, where the sewage can be treated before it is released into the ground.

Occasionally, one might be connected to a municipal sewer system, whose sewage treatment plant would ultimately be taking care of the problem.

But you can also empty your black water tank at home as long as there are not any local ordinances against it. This can be done via bucket brigade into your toilet or into any approved wastewater system (law providing). Just don't place your drain hose into a storm sewer and empty the contents there.

A blue sani-dump sign with a direction arrow, Camping sewage dump station at a mobile home

Final Thoughts

The black water tank on an RV serves an important function and must be properly maintained. Keeping it regularly emptied, flushed, and cleaned will ensure that clogs are eliminated and keep anything from obstructing the ventilation system. These vents will not allow gases to escape if they are clogged, which can lead to an unpleasant RVing experience.

We hope you found this post on RVs to be helpful. For additional information, we suggest reading the following posts:

RV Water Heater Isn’t Working On Electric Or Gas – What To Do?

What States Allow You To Live In An RV On Your Property?

How Long Does A Grey Water Tank Last You Without Hookups?