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An RV’s plumbing system isn’t very complicated overall. The holding tanks involved in your rig even have convenient tank monitoring sensors, designed to tell you the levels of liquid found in these tanks.
However, what do you do when these sensors aren’t working, or consistently malfunction? It may be time to invest in a reliable RV tank sensor cleaner, something that works to get your tank sensors back up and running properly!
What specifically are these cleaners good for? And what else should you consider when it comes time to commit to one of these products?
Let’s take a deeper look at RV tank sensor cleaners, and then I’ll show you my top picks for cleaning your RV’s tank sensors! But if you just want to skip ahead and see what made the list you can check it out here:
- Best Overall: Unique Sensor Cleaner Liquid
- Best on a Budget: Camco 41146 TST Probe Cleaner
- Most Concentrated Formula: Thetford RV Level Gauge Cleaner
- Most Eco-Friendly: Caravan RV Sensor and Tank Cleaner
- Most Deodorizing: Valterra V22011 Sensor Power Tank Gauge Cleaner
- Easiest to Use: Walex CMDOBG Commando Black Holding Tank Cleaner Drop-Ins
What is RV Tank Sensor Cleaner Used For?
RV tank sensor cleaning products are used for exactly what they sound like they would be used for: these products are built to clean the interior sensors of your black and even gray holding tanks.
These cleaners are often highly concentrated and powerful, capable of removing buildup and toilet paper from your black tank sensors. These cleaning products are built primarily for your tank’s interior sensors; if you have exterior tank sensors, then you don’t need to worry about these products.
RV tank sensor cleaner isn’t a necessity for many RVers, but it can help extend the life of your tank sensors. Tank probes often need replacing, especially if you own your RV for more than a decade. Using sensor cleaners can be a great way to keep these probes working correctly!
Types of RV Tank Sensor Cleaner
There are a few different types of tank sensor cleaners. Much like black tank treatments, these different types range in price and ease of use. Let’s take a look at them now.
The most common type of RV tank sensor cleaner is found in liquid form. This solution is often mixed with water and dumped into your black or gray holding tank, and left to sit overnight if not longer.
Liquid treatments are usually easy to find and are more affordable than other options. However, carrying around a bulky and heavy bottle of liquid may not be ideal to every RVer, and these liquid chemicals are often harmful to skin and eyes.
Just like black tank treatments, tank sensor cleaners can be found in powder form. These packets are similar to the liquid treatments, in that you dump a specific amount of powder into the water of your holding tank and allow it to sit for some time.
Powder treatments can be easier to measure, more lightweight, and may suit some RVers better than liquid treatment. However, the cost and effectiveness vary when it comes to powdered tank sensor cleaners.
The easiest to use tank sensor cleaning option comes in the form of a capsule or tablet treatment. These little pods are dosed out, one treatment per capsule, and you simply toss them into the tank of your choice- no mess or fuss!
However, with less clean up comes a higher cost, and capsule black tank cleaners are among some of the most expensive options out there. This is something to think about when you begin shopping for your new RV tank sensor cleaner.
What’s the Difference Between Tank Sensor Cleaner and Black Tank Treatments?
If you haven’t heard of RV tank sensor cleaners before, it may be a good time to learn. Tank sensor cleaners operate similarly to black or gray tank cleaners and treatments in general, but there are a few key differences.
While black tank treatments have the possibility of cleaning the sensors found inside of your black tank, that is not their primary function. Black tank treatments are built to break down solid waste found inside of your black tank, as well as deodorize.
Sensor cleaners are made to clean any buildup of gunk found on the interior sensors of your black tank. These cleaners don’t necessarily deodorize your black tank, but they can. Their primary function is to clean, and restore normal operation to your tank sensors!
While these two products are similar, it is important to not mix them up. If you are struggling with accurate readings from your tank sensors, consider purchasing a tank sensor cleaner.
If you are dealing with consistent clogging and odors inside of your black tank, consider purchasing a black tank treatment instead. These treatments are far better than sensor cleaners at unclogging your RV toilet!
How Often Should I Clean My Tank Sensors?
If you are relatively new to RV ownership, you may be wondering how often you need to clean your RV tank sensors. This can be a tricky question, and may depend on the age of your existing tank sensors.
Your tank sensors should be cleaned regularly in order to prevent inaccurate readings or unnecessary buildup. Regular draining and performing treatment of your black water tank usually gets your sensors cleaned too, but you may need to treat them separately from time to time.
If you ever receive a false reading from your tank sensors, chances are it is time to clean them. Consider using a portable waste tank if you are camping for an extended period of time! But what should you consider in a tank sensor cleaner before you make your final purchase?
What to Consider in an RV Tank Sensor Cleaner
RV tank sensor cleaners are fairly straightforward- as with all cleaning products, it is important to follow the instructions from the manufacturer. But what else should you consider?
Type of Cleaner
Since we have already gone over the different types of cleaner, you may already have a favorite style in mind. Choosing from powder, liquid, or capsule treatments can be tricky, but they each have their own benefits and negatives.
Liquid treatment is the most common type of treatment, and it is an affordable solution. However, the dosing can be complicated, and the bottles are often heavy and may take up more storage space than you care for.
Powder treatment is also affordable, but it can be cumbersome and messy. However, many RVers enjoy powder treatment for cleaning their tank and tank sensors because they can choose the amount needed for both the size of their tank and the strength needed to clear up gunk.
Capsule or individual treatments are the most expensive tank sensor cleaner options out there. However, the exact dosing makes cleaning your sensors easy, and you won’t have to worry about getting chemicals on your hands.
The type of treatment that you ultimately choose should be determined by your storage needs and how easy the treatment is to use. Once you determine that, choosing the right type of cleaner will be a breeze!
Your budget should be a consideration when you are making any RV purchases. RV maintenance can add up quickly, but regularly maintaining your black tank and tank sensors can be a less costly expense in the long run.
Most tank sensors are relatively affordable, though capsule treatments are pricey. You may want to consider buying whatever product you decide on in bulk, but this will affect your overall storage capacity.
Amount of Cleaner Needed
Are you hoping to treat all of your tank sensors, not just your black tank probes? And what about buying your cleaner in bulk to help save some money? The amount of cleaner that you need will affect what product that you ultimately decide on.
Many tank sensor cleaners come in smaller amounts, and you may need to consider a larger initial supply, especially if you haven’t treated your tank sensors yet. The buildup may require a few extra doses!
Use in Fresh and Gray Water Tanks
Do you have tank sensors in all of your tanks, not just your black tank? While your black tank sensors are the most likely to malfunction, your gray and freshwater tanks could also have sensor issues if they haven’t been cleaned in some time.
Some tank sensor cleaners are safe for use across all of your tanks, but others should never be put in your freshwater tank. Keep this in mind when making a final decision on a product- you don’t have to buy a product made for all of your tanks, but it could come in handy!
Eco-Friendliness of the Product
As an RVer, it is important to try and purchase eco-friendly products whenever possible. RV chemicals can often damage local natural environments, whether it be from runoff or just leaving products outside for wildlife to interfere with.
Choosing an eco-friendly tank sensor cleaner is a good idea, and most of them are nowadays. This should definitely be a top priority for those of you with kids and pets as well.
Strength of the Product
The strength of the product can make a huge difference in the efficiency and overall effectiveness of a single dose. If you know you have a lot of buildup or gunk inside of your tank, you may be on the hunt for a strong sensor cleaner.
However, most products are capable of cleaning sensors when used regularly, so you won’t have to worry should you be performing regular maintenance. A higher strength product has the potential of costing more as well, which is something to consider.
Pros and Cons of Tank Sensor Cleaners
Tank sensor cleaning products can be very beneficial to many RVers. But, like everything, there are some cons as well. Let’s take a look at some of them now.
Pro: tank sensor cleaners target your tank’s sensors
The main benefit of tank sensor cleaners is that they target your sensors specifically. If you know you are experiencing inaccurate readings from your sensors, then this product is made for you.
While these cleaners are often capable of cleaning your tank and the walls as well, having a product that is built for cleaning the regular buildup that occurs on your tank sensors can be a game changer.
Con: not all sensor cleaners are miracle workers
Given that sensor cleaners are made specifically for cleaning your tank sensors, it should be a safe bet that not every sensor cleaner is going to be capable of unclogging your black tanks. They are not among the most powerful chemicals that you can buy for your black tank.
Sensor cleaners have been known to help when you have a clogged RV toilet, but don’t expect this of these products. They are made primarily for cleaning your tank sensors, not for troubleshooting why your RV toilet bubbles when you flush it.
Pro: consistently accurate sensor readings
If you regularly use tank sensor cleaner, you will most likely experience more accurate readings than if you didn’t use tank sensor cleaner. Regularly maintaining your sensors will help extend the life of these probes.
It can be highly inconvenient for these sensors to malfunction, especially if they do so while you are camping. Using tank sensor cleaning solutions will make this worry a thing of the past.
Con: may not fully clean or deodorize the rest of your tank
Given that sensor cleaners are designed to maintain your sensors almost exclusively, some of these products may not help with other issues found in your black tank. Some sensor cleaners do have deodorizing and liquifying capabilities, but this is not something that you should expect.
This can be disappointing for many RVers to hear, as having yet another product around can be overwhelming. Storage is always at a premium in RVs too, so you may not want to have a tank sensor cleaner taking up space in your rig.
Pro: clear cleaning instructions
Almost all sensor cleaners have very clear and easy to follow instructions included with their product. This can be convenient, especially for busy families and those of you trying out various RV products for the first time.
While measuring is usually required with these products, the instructions should be very easy to figure out. You should always pay attention to the amount of time that sensor cleaners need to properly clean- they may need to sit overnight, or even longer!
Con: may be able to accomplish the same thing with black tank cleaners
Many RVers may not have ever used tank sensor cleaning products, given that a lot of black tank treatments have sensor cleaning capabilities as well. You may not even need to use sensor cleaner if you regularly use black tank treatments.
However, sensor cleaners are still something to consider, especially if you have malfunctioning probes in your gray or freshwater tanks. Black tank treatments should never be placed in either of these tanks, but some sensor cleaning products can be used in other tanks.
If you are looking for waste liquefaction and odor elimination, then choosing a black tank treatment over a sensor cleaner should be a priority. Many of these black tank treatment products can also clean gunk from your sensors, so having two products may be redundant.
Tank Sensor Cleaner Alternatives
If you are on the fence about tank sensor cleaners in general, you may be wondering if there are any alternatives. You may find something else that works better for you, or you may be looking for as many options as possible. Let’s take a look at some other RVer favorites.
Black Tank Treatments
There are countless black tank treatments on the market today, and if your black tank sensors are giving you trouble, you may need some help cleaning your entire tank, not just the probes. That’s where black tank treatments come into play.
My top black tank treatment recommendation can be purchased via Amazon here– this product is perfect for regular maintenance as well as long-term buildup if you do a couple doses. It can also clean your tank’s sensors, and may help with any inaccurate readings.
RV Friendly Toilet Paper
Most black tank sensors experience troubles or malfunction because of toilet paper buildup on the nodes. This can be easily prevented by purchasing RV friendly toilet paper. While the cost can be high, these products have been known to make a difference with many probes.
I recommend this product, which can be purchased on Amazon. It dissolves quickly, which means that you are less likely to experience sensor malfunctions. However, you may be able to use septic safe toilet paper in conjunction with a black tank treatment product instead.
There are a few home remedies that could be helpful in cleaning your tank sensors. These remedies can include:
- Boiling water and running it down your sink or toilet
- Placing ice in your tanks and taking a drive
- Baking soda and vinegar can dissolve some solid waste products
- Dish soap can help lubricate your tank sensors and tank walls
While a chemical based sensor cleaner works better than most home remedies, you may want to try these methods out, especially if you are in a pinch. No one wants an overfilled black tank on a camping trip!
New Tank Sensors
My final recommendation, especially if you have already experienced difficulties with your tank sensors, is simply installing new probes. While changing these out can be a bit hands-on, it may be worth considering, especially if you aren’t sure how old your current sensors are.
You can either replace your interior sensors (I recommend these, available on Amazon), or install exterior sensors. These exterior probes are less prone to malfunctioning, given that they are stored on the outside of your tanks. Try these out, also available on Amazon.
No matter the solution, your existing tank sensors need occasional maintenance and cleaning, so keep this in mind the next time your sensors seem to be malfunctioning! A simple tank sensor cleaner may be just what the doctor ordered.
The Best Tank Sensor Cleaners for Your RV
If you are ready to begin shopping for a reliable tank sensor cleaner, it’s time to check out some of my top picks. Let’s get started!
Best Overall: Unique Sensor Cleaner Liquid
✔️ Easy-to-follow instructions with a compact bottle for storage
✔️ Specifically formulated for sensor cleaning
❌ May need extra time to work well
The leading brand for cleaning and restoring black tank sensor probes, Unique has created a 32-ounce liquid product, perfect for storing onboard your RV. This product breaks down and removes waste that is clinging to sensor probes, in any condition.
Unique Sensor Cleaner’s liquid formula delivers a powerful blend of bio-enzymatic cleaners into your holding tank, wasting no time breaking down the large debris that covers your sensors. The activated enzymes break down the waste so the activated cleaners can liquify it, preventing that waste from being able to cover your sensors ever again.
This sensor cleaner also works to break down built up waste in tanks that have been neglected for many years, leaving even these abused sensors restored and reading properly. This liquid formula also works in such a way that no driving is necessary to clean the sensors.
This product normally works within 12 – 72 hours, and helps reverse years of neglect. This product can even restore sensors in permanently parked RVs. It is proudly made in the USA and is formulated With trust – it contains no hidden chemicals!
This product works great but may need a couple of doses and extra sitting time for especially dirty sensors. Still, it’s a much safer product than many others on the market. Plus, it’s safe to use in both your black and gray water tanks!
You can read more reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Best on a Budget: Camco 41146 TST Probe Cleaner
✔️ Easy on the budget with a reliable brand behind it
✔️ Biodegradable for extra eco-friendliness
❌ Bottle is a bit bulky
Camco makes quality products for RVing, boating, camping, towing, tailgating, grilling and more. You can’t own an RV and never own a Camco brand product, as they are one of the top brands in the RV business!
This sensor cleaner is perfect for those of you on a budget, as it is a powerful liquid solution at a much lower price than many other brands. Camco is often known for its affordability and reliability, something that quickly becomes necessary for those of you new to RVing.
This liquid treatment is safe to use in both black and gray water tanks, and has up to four solutions in one 32 ounce bottle. It is completely biodegradable, which means it is an eco-friendly option. It should be used with care around kids and pets, however.
This sensor cleaner is capable of removing built up sludge and restoring your sensors to their full, original capabilities. The instructions are clear and easy to follow as well. Some reviewers mention this product needing more than one dose for full sensor cleaning, but this is easy enough to accomplish.
You can learn more and see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Most Concentrated Formula: Thetford RV Level Gauge Cleaner
✔️ Super simple to use
✔️ Made for long-term buildup situations with a space-friendly bottle size
❌ More than one treatment may be needed to really get things clean
Thetford’s Level Gauge Cleaner is specially formulated to dissolve tissue waste sludge and soap scum build-up. Another well known brand in the RV world, Thetford manufactures many products, including toilets, portable waste tanks, cleaning products, and even stovetops.
Their sensor cleaner is just another in a long line of reliable products. The 100% biodegradable liquid works with both black and grey water tanks, on RVs or boats. The Level Gauge Cleaner prevents build-ups and restores level sensor operation fast. This concentrated formula is popular among many RVers.
Thetford’s Level Gauge Cleaner is designed to work with RV and boat plumbing systems, and has long been used in this capacity. It dissolves content in both your black or gray water tank, and is made to be used regularly. The convenient 19-ounce bottle is easy to store.
When used as part of your regular maintenance routine, this chemical formula prevents buildup on probes and tanks. This Level Gauge Cleaner is 100% biodegradable, which means that the delicate ecosystems found while camping will be safe while using this product.
While this concentrated formula is reliable, dirtier sensors may need more than just one dose, so keep this in mind when trying this product out, especially on gunked-up sensors. You can read more reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Most Eco-Friendly: Caravan RV Sensor and Tank Cleaner
✔️ Extra eco-friendly and easy to use
✔️ You can expect results within 12 hours or so
❌ Not the most budget-friendly
Looking for a completely safe product, for your family and your natural environment? Caravan’s unique plant-based formula is effective, yet safe for people, pets, waterways, septic tanks, and the environment.
Just fill your black or gray holding tank with water, shake the Caravan product, pour 16 ounces of the product into your toilet or sink, flush it down, and let the product soak! You can even travel and use your toilet as normal while the sensor and tank cleaner works its magic.
This proprietary formula begins breaking down bacteria immediately. Most sensors are cleaned overnight! While it is not necessary to let this product soak for an extended period of time, many reviewers mention having more success this way.
This product also recommends going for a brief drive while soaking your tanks. It isn’t necessary, but it is said to help! Having your sensors working correctly gives you the confidence you need to continue living life, without worrying if the tank will be backed up.
You can read more and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Most Deodorizing: Valterra V22011 Sensor Power Tank Gauge Cleaner
✔️ Deodorizes on top of cleaning your tank
✔️ Concentrated formula with easy-to-store bottle
❌ Not the most budget-friendly
Another recognized brand in the RV world, Valterra is a popular sewer valve and other plumbing fixture manufacturer. They have their own brand of sensor cleaner as well, and it can even help deodorize your black or gray tank too!
This product is designed to break down even the heaviest accumulations of waste, tissue, soap and grease to restore normal sensor function in both gray and black water tanks. THere are no harsh chemicals, making this product non-toxic and safe for the environment.
The instructions found with this bottle make it easy to use and follow. This product will not harm your valves, piping, or tanks like some other products can. It is safe for septic systems, dump stations and treatment facilities, making it convenient to use while on the road.
This product contains 2 treatments per bottle, which means you can treat both your black and gray water tanks at one time. Some reviewers mention letting it soak for up to 24 hours, as well as driving around to agitate the formula. You can read more and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.
Easiest to Use: Walex CMDOBG Commando Black Holding Tank Cleaner Drop-Ins
✔️ Cleans both black tank and sensors
✔️ Easy to use capsule
❌ Can't be used in gray tanks
Looking for a capsule sensor cleaner that can also clean your black holding tank? Check out this product from Walex. While Walex isn’t as popular of a brand as Thetford or Camco, this product has been taking RVers by store because of its cleaning capabilities.
Experiencing false readings from your sensors or odor from your black holding tank? You likely have residual waste buildup on your holding tank walls and sensors, which is exactly what this product is made to combat.
Using Commando Black Holding Tank Cleaner will remove the odors and sensor buildup that has occurred in as little as 12 hours. The concentrated, scientifically developed formula is filled with natural enzymes to penetrate the walls and sensors to break down waste and paper buildup in your tank.
Commando’s powerful enzymes liquefy waste as well as paper, cleaning residual waste and paper caked to your tank walls. All it takes is one packet of Commando to restore your tank to its original state! Both your sensors and tank will be clean after this product.
Driving your vehicle to agitate the tank can help speed up the process, but it is not required. 12 hours is sufficient to break down most waste and paper, but extreme cases may require letting the tank sit for 24 hours to penetrate and clean residual buildup off the walls. Check out more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.
Choosing a reliable and effective tank sensor cleaner doesn’t have to be frustrating or difficult. You can get your tank sensors working again with any one of these products, and know that regular maintenance is key to these devices working in the long run!