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Many RV owners have had the same question: Can you empty your RV holding tanks at home instead of at a dump site?
As an RV owner, you could have several reasons for wanting to avoid dump stations and opt instead to do this slightly unpleasant chore at your home. That's why we have done all the research into the subject to see if this is a viable option or an unrealistic "poop" dream. Information on this topic is scattered all around the internet - we have distilled it down into the best and most vital information that you need before you decide where to dump your tanks.
Before we delve into all the messy details, let me assure you that yes, it is possible to empty your RV holding tanks at home. And what's more, there are several possible methods you can use to accomplish this task. Some of them will require the purchase of specialized tools while for others you will only need a bucket and maybe a clothespin for your nose. Here are the main options for dumping out at home:
- The Bucket Method (for small amounts)
- The Macerator Method
- The Septic Tank Method
Alright, now that we know it is possible to empty your tanks at home, let's dig into the details. In this article, we will cover the various methods, what all is needed with each one, and how to do the job in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. Let's go!
Why Dump Out at Home?
I am guessing some of you have never considered the option of dumping out at home. Let's first cover the reasons some of your RV peers are so interested in the subject. For a breakdown of all your RV tank dumping options, check out our comprehensive article on the subject!
Perhaps you grew up RVing and your parents always dumped out at those RV dump stations you see all over the place. In that case, you probably never considered doing it at home as an option. Or, maybe your preferred camping destination is nowhere near any dump stations, making your drive home much longer and/or more difficult than if you skip the station.
Alternatively, some folks live out of RVs and driving the rig to a dump station regularly is a huge hassle. In that case, being able to do the job on the property you park on is WAY easier. No matter your reasons, you will want to consider all of your options before deciding what your choice will be.
How to Empty Your RV Tanks at Home
Before we begin, I just wanted to make sure I mentioned one very important point: Never empty your gray- or black-water tanks onto the ground. Doing so can not only contaminate the environment but result in hefty fines as well. Always use a safe receptacle, like a sewer system, for your waste. Alright, now let's discuss some options.
The Bucket Method
Ideally, you will only use this method if you have a very small amount of wastewater in your tanks. For example, say you previously dumped out and you ended up with just a few gallons of waste in your tanks. At this point, you just want to get home without the time and hassle involved with the RV dump station. This is the option for you.
Okay, get your notepad ready. This gets complicated. Ready? Okay, here goes:
- Get a bucket
- Release your RV tank into the bucket until it is full
- Dump the bucket into your toilet
- Repeat until the tank is empty
- Rinse the bucket out
As you can see, this is actually a very simple and inelegant solution to emptying your tanks at home. While it may not be very pleasant when it comes to the black tank, it really isn't bad at all if all you have is a little gray water to evacuate. And, as with all dump-out techniques, I would highly recommend using some gloves throughout the process.
Macerator Pump Method (The Poo Smoothie)
Now we have come to the most complicated option. Nevertheless, this is the best option for those a) with no septic tank and who b) want to be able to dump out a large amount at home (even the whole tank). Essentially, you will be grinding everything in your tank up with something called a macerator, then funneling it all through your garden hose and into your toilet. That's right, you are blending your poo up into a smoothie-like consistency that can easily be flushed.
Clearly, you will need some special equipment. For everything, it will probably cost you around $150 to $200. Amazon links to popular products in each category are included for your convenience.
- RV waste macerator Pump
- Hose adapter
- CDFJ adapter
- Water hose (use a separate hose for this, not the one you use for regular hose duty!)
- Connect the macerator pump to your waste outlet (the hose adapter can be attached to the outlet first for a better angle and to be able to monitor the contents of the tank).
- Plug your pump in - usually, you will simply connect it to your RV batteries.
- Next, attach the garden hose to the macerator using the CDFJ adapter. Route the hose into your toilet at home. The shorter the distance, the less your pump will have to strain. For extra long distances, a larger-diameter hose and a more powerful pump will greatly help!
- Open the RV waste release valve and turn on the macerator pump.
- Flush the toilet as needed.
- Run clean water through your system to clean it all out. This is where the clear adapter really helps out. Once the water runs clear from your RV, you know that everything has been emptied out. This method can take a while so be patient.
- When you're done, just turn off the pump and disconnect everything. You did it!
Can I Dump my RV into my Septic Tank?
Okay, so far we have ignored one final option. Note that this technique only applies to homes that use septic tanks, however. If you are not sure whether you use a septic tank, you probably don't. Just in case, however, a septic tank is a large holding tank buried underground that holds your waste. People with septic tanks do not use a sewer system and have to periodically empty the tank out.
If you are one of these lucky people, you are in luck because you can actually dump your RV tanks out right into your septic tank! Both your gray and black tank are perfectly fine to dump into the septic system. Just know there are some important safety measures to follow if you choose this method.
Using the Cleanout
All experts on the subject agree that the best way to do the job is by using your septic system's cleanout. This is the PVC pipe that sticks out of the ground, usually situated between the house and the tank. Remove the screw-on cap and hook it up to your RV hose. Make sure it is secure on the pipe as you do not want the hose coming loose as you empty your tanks! Once you have hooked it up, you can choose to leave it attached as you would at an RV park, or remove it once your tanks are empty.
Using the Access Port
If using the cleanout isn't an option, you will need to find your access port. As you will see, this method is not nearly as attractive. Carefully remove the lid, making sure to avoid any of the possibly-fatal fumes that are released. In this case, be sure that you are dumping on the side of the baffle that accepts solids. And note that you cannot leave your RV hooked up this was due to the fumes and possibility of killing off all of the helpful bacteria in your septic tank.
As was mentioned earlier, there are several steps to this process and not following them can be deadly. Avoid the toxic fumes that emanate from your septic tank, and always use the correct side of the baffle (the one that collects solids, closest to the house). Be careful not to use any chemicals in your RV black tank as this can kill off the beneficial bacteria in your home septic tank. For more helpful information on using the septic tank method, check out this great article.
How Often Should You Empty Your RV Holding Tank?
Finally, let's just cover one more aspect of RV holding tanks. That is, how often one should actually dump out. This question pertains to anyone who uses their RV without hookups - that is, if you are using your tanks to hold your black- and gray-water waste instead of connecting to a sewer system that continuously empties your tanks as you use them.
In short, you should empty your tanks before they are full or whenever you are done camping. To know what to expect in your situation, however, it gets a little more complicated than that.
First, you will have to consider how large your tanks are and how many people will be using the RV. For example, if you only have two people staying in your RV, you can generally expect to need to dump out once every 5-7 days in an average-size RV. Up it to 5 people, and you might find yourself dumping out every other day. It really just depends on your situation.
As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that you empty your tanks when they are 2/3 full. If you go too far over this amount, your tanks can become backed up and even get clogged. On the other hand, if you have too little in your tanks, there won't be as much pressure and the dumping process will be slowed down.
If you are lucky, your RV will have a gauge that tells you just when you have hit this mark. If not, you will need to carefully monitor how much you have emptied into the tank as you are camping and be sure to dump out before they get too full. The more you use the RV, the more familiar you will get with the tanks and how often they require dumping.
Hopefully, you now know what you need in order to dump out at home. Whether or not it makes sense really depends on your situation. For example, the cost of the macerator method will most likely turn away anyone who was only casually interested in the process. On the other hand, if dumping out at home will make your life MUCH easier, it really isn't all that bad of an investment to make. Now that you are armed with this information, make sure you enjoy your RV to its full potential!