How To Clean/Sanitize Your RV Water System And Its Tanks

Many RVers are making the same mistake of not regularly cleaning and sanitizing the water system and freshwater tank in their RV camper. Avoiding this is the only way to ensure that you have safe RV drinking water whenever you want to hit the road with your recreational vehicle. Cleaning and sanitizing the whole RV water system is something everybody should do at least once a year. When you put your RV in the garage, and it had water sitting in the fresh water tank for months without being used, it certainly should be sanitized for safety, smell, and taste reasons.

Maintaining your RV water system is equally important for the non-drinking water coming out of your faucets and shower. With proper care, you won’t end up with algae, slime, or harmful bacteria in your water system, which may harm your health or cost you tons of money to replace your plumbing and tanks. The majority of the people skip out on RV water system maintenance because they think it’s too much work, but in reality, sanitizing the system is a simple thing to do, and it doesn’t require much work. In this article, we are going to talk about when you should do it, what you will need, and we’ll go through the procedure of cleaning the water system in your RV. 

When Should You Clean/Sanitize Your RV Water System? 

So, how do you know that the time has come for you to thoroughly sanitize the water system of your RV? 

  • When water is left in the system for quite some time, you can notice a stale odor while using the water system. It’s a sign to sanitize the entire system. 
  • If your RV has been sitting for 50 days or more and the water system has not been used meanwhile. 
  • It’s time to clean it if you have a problem with algae or slime in your water tank. 
  • If you use water filters that remove contaminants like sand and rust, you should know that a filter is not a purifier and won’t kill bacteria and other microorganisms. It’s for the best to sanitize the whole water system. 

What Are You Going To Need To Sanitize The Water System? 

Cleaning the RV water system is an effortless and straightforward procedure. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, and it doesn’t take a lot of preparation. Yet, there are six essential things that you’re going to need: 

  • Access to potable water and a place to dump the grey tank. As you’re going to fill the fresh water tank and drain it several times, it’s a necessity to have clean water nearby and a place to dump the water. 
  • A regular freshwater hose. 
  • Ordinary Bleach. Bleach is what’s going to clean the whole system thoroughly. 
  • A Funnel. You will need a funnel to pour the bleach and mix it into the freshwater tank. 
  • One gallon container. You can’t dump bleach straight into the holding tank without mixing it with a little bit of water first. 
  • ¼ Measuring Cup. The central part of the proceeding consists of mixing ¼ cup of regular bleach with water for every 15 gallons of the freshwater holding tank. 

The Process 

First and foremost, make sure you’re not connected to city water. As it’s the part of the water system that gets the water to the faucet, shower, and toilet, turn off the water pump together with the water heater and then drain the water heater. The easiest way to do this is by removing the drain plug, usually accessed on the outside by opening the water heater door. Afterward, close the pressure relief valve and screw the drain plug back on. 

The Process

Make sure to drain the whole water system in your RV by turning on faucets and emptying the grey water tank. The next step is to bypass any internal or external filters. If it’s not possible, change the RV water filters when done sanitizing. Please fill out the freshwater tank with potable water until it’s about ⅓ full. 

The next thing you want to do is to make your bleach mix. As mentioned before, you want to brew a ¼ cup of regular bleach for every 15 gallons of water in the tank. Add the bleach to the one-gallon container and then fill it up with potable water. Discharge the mix into the fresh water holding tank. Afterward, fill out the fresh water tank with clean water until almost full. 

Now turn on the RV water pump, and turn on one faucet at a time in the recreational vehicle. Let it run until the water smells like bleach, then turn it off and do the next valve in line. In most cases, you should feel the bleach after a minute or two of each faucet. Now, wait for at least three hours. If you want the sanitation of the water system to be as thorough as it can, wait for about twelve hours to make sure the bleach does its job entirely. When the time has come, it’s the right time to start the draining process. Unlock the grey tank valve and empty it, and leave it open until the draining process is done. 

 Switch on the water pump and the faucets again. Leave them on to run through the water lines until the freshwater holding tank is empty. Refill the emptied freshwater holding tank, turn on faucets back, and repeat until the water coming out of your taps doesn’t smell like bleacher anymore. When you won’t be able to feel bleach anymore, you’re done! Ensure there is no air in it and turn your water heater back on because it’s super easy to harm the water heater if it’s turned on with air inside it. 

RV Water System And Its Tanks

How Can You Sanitize The RV Water Lines Only And Not The Fresh Water Holding Tank? 

Sanitizing only the water lines is also very doable. You can do this by pumping the bleach and water mix directly into your city water connection. To do this procedure, you’re probably going to need a portable RV water pump

Another option is to connect the water hose to the city water connection, fill the tube with the mixture, hold the hose up, so it stays there, and then connect it to potable water and turn it on. Please turn on your faucets until it smells like bleach, then turn them off. Same procedure as above, let it sit for at least three hours before turning them on again. Make sure you have the grey tank valve opened, so it doesn’t overflow. 

Wrap Up 

Before you hit the road for your next trip with your RV, thoroughly inspect the condition of the vehicle. Besides the obvious choices such as tire pressure, windshield wipers, AC units, and more, spend the necessary time to check and sanitize the water system as well. Since your recreational vehicle is going to be your home in the upcoming period, make sure the water system is in elite shape and that you have clean and filtered water to use on your road trip.