Last updated on November 27th, 2023 at 07:30 am
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When it comes time to do some of the worst RV chores out there, unclogging and cleaning your RV’s toilet has got to be at the top of the charts. However, maintaining your RV toilet and waste tanks is one of the easiest ways to cut down on maintenance in the future.
So, let’s find out how to unclog an RV toilet!
There are many ways to unclog an RV toilet, from chemical black tank treatments to additional sewer hose attachments. There are even some home remedies out there you can perform cheaply and quickly so you can fix a clog, fast! These include ice, boiling water, and even dish soap!
But how exactly do you try these methods, and how can you best prevent future clogs? Let’s go over some helpful tips and tricks I’ve learned after living full-time in a vintage travel trailer to save you any regrets!
How Does My RV Toilet Get Clogged?
One of the first things you may ask yourself is how did my RV toilet get clogged in the first place!? While it’s anyone’s guess, there are a few major culprits that tend to lead to a clogged RV toilet or black water tank. The main issue leading to a clogged black water tank is when waste, toilet paper, and other products unsuitable for flushing end up down an RV toilet, and aren’t broken down properly inside the tank.
Your various solid wastes won’t break down without help, however, so it follows that doing nothing with your RV toilet and sewer system will lead to a clogged toilet! Your RV toilet is also more likely to get clogged in extremely cold or hot weather. The various wastes solidify more regularly in these types of weather conditions, as your black tank is located underneath your rig with little to no insulation.
Hot weather is a worse culprit of a clogged RV sewer system, as it will evaporate necessary liquids found inside the black tank. Water and other liquid waste are detrimental to fully draining your RV’s black tank! A clogged black tank isn’t anyone’s favorite thing, but it is a common issue with many RVers. You’re not alone in your struggle, and thankfully many companies have made products to assist with clogged toilets onboard an RV.
How To Unclog RV Toilet And What Products To Use?
Since a plunger just won’t work in an RV toilet system, you may be wondering what products are suitable and which ones can actually do some damage to a clogged toilet. Here are my top recommendations for additional purchases that you can make to help unclog your RV’s delicate sewer system.
1. Black Tank Cleaners
The most obvious choice to go with when it comes to unclogging your RV’s toilet is a black tank cleaner. These chemical-based products are quick and effective if you need an easy and efficient fix for your clogged toilet. It is what every RVer should get to know early on in their camping journeys!
There are countless black tank cleaner options out there on the market, and you can read more about those options here. Some forms might be easier to use than others, and you will no doubt have your own personal preferences. However, for most folks, I recommend Happy Camper tank cleaner which you can check out on Amazon by clicking here.
Not only is Happy Camper one of the easiest-to-use products out there, but it is also one of the most cost-effective chemical tank cleaning options too. Happy Camper’s highly concentrated water-activated mineral blend eliminates odor and breaks down solid and liquid waste. It’s a quick and effective way to eliminate clogs!
2. Wand Or Snake Options
Did you know you can bust up a clogged toilet with just water? There are many products on the market built just for RVs that can clean or otherwise power wash away the inside of your black tank!
Cleaning your holding tank is important because it keeps holding tank sensors clear and operating effectively as talked about in the video below. It also helps prevent unwanted odors from lingering in the tanks after you have emptied them.
This Flexible Swivel Stik from Camco is best used in RVs that have the holding tank mounted at an offset or away from the toilet. It easily attaches to any standard garden hose and has a flow-through body. The powerful rotary cleaning action sprays water onto the sides of the holding tank, helping to dislodge waste that remains after emptying the tank. It can also break up clogs, though it is best used to clean your tank after it has been emptied.
3. Sewer Hose Attachments
If you are a full-time RVer or anyone looking to have your black tank regularly cleaned without much hassle, I highly recommend this product from Camco. It attaches to your RV sewer hose so you can utilize it when you are fully hooked up to a sewer line.
The Rhino Blaster Tank Rinser latches securely onto your RVs sewer outlet. The 45-degree angle allows water to blast directly into the outlet, rinsing out residue. The Rhino Blaster Tank Rinser features a clear elbow to see when the water runs clear. A vacuum breaker prevents backflow into the water hose.
I own this product for my vintage trailer with an unreliable black tank valve. I know I used my Rhino to break up clogs while my tank was full. While you shouldn’t expect the best results when using the product in this way, it can definitely come in handy should you be in a tight spot with a clogged black tank!
Are There Home Remedies For A Clogged RV Toilet?
If you don’t have the time, budget, or opportunity to purchase any of these additional products, what can you do when your black tank is clogged? Thankfully there are home remedies you can perform just about anytime, anywhere, and all on a budget!
A tried and true old-school RVer trick, one of the easiest ways to break down solids in your black tank is by utilizing ice. The best part about this is that ice is readily sold at campgrounds and convenience stores, making it a cheap and easily accessible home remedy.
Put an entire bag of ice or two down your toilet and into your black tank. Make sure that your valves are all closed up, and take a drive. Feel free to go over any speed bumps in the road, as the more jostling of your tank that happens, the better!
After a half hour to an hour of travel in your rig, bring it back to the dump station and try to empty it. The ice should have pulverized or otherwise loosened whatever solids you have in your tank that are potentially clogging your sewer system.
Another helpful part of using ice is that it will add even more moisture to your tank, which means there is even more water to help with the flow of solids leaving your black tank once it comes time to drain it.
Dish Soap Or Vaseline
Looking for another solution to a clog that’s affordable, and even uses items you may have on hand in your rig already? Check out this home remedy, which utilizes dish soap or Vaseline!
Pour in an entire bottle of dish soap or a couple of helpings of laundry soap. Let it rest in your tank, and attempt to drain. This method may be best used as a preventative, but some RVers have reported that it helps with active clogs as well.
Adding a large quantity of dish soap or another lubricant (like laundry detergent) to your black tank can help keep things moving- literally. These soapy substances can coat the walls of your black water tank and keep any solid substances moving when it comes time to dump your tank’s contents.
Using dish or laundry soap can also potentially help your tank smell better, making it a convenient and cost-effective deodorizer too! Vaseline is also an excellent choice should you have it on hand, or any other off-brand petroleum jellies.
Another cheap and effective trick to clearing out a clogged black tank is using boiling water. Boiling water is great for breaking down any solid waste, especially paper products, inside your black tank.
Get your water boiling hot and let it cool for only a moment before pouring it into your toilet. I recommend at least a gallon if you can fit it inside your clogged black water tank. Let it sit for an hour or so, then try to drain your tank.
Repeat this process as necessary, and keep in mind that the more water you use, the better! Most RVs should be built with durable enough plastic or metal that the hot water shouldn’t damage anything. However, take this into consideration and let your water cool a bit more should you own a more frail rig.
Vinegar And Baking Soda
While this trick may or may not work, I’ve tried it with some success in my rig before. Pour an entire box of baking soda into your black tank. Then add a half gallon of vinegar. The chemical reaction involved with these two products may not smell the best, but it has been known to fizz and agitate the contents of black water tanks, sometimes leading to the loosening of a clog.
Some RVers don’t find this method successful; some do. Since it is a relatively affordable alternative to other harsher chemical products and can help reduce the overall cost of RV living, I say give it a try! It definitely had some sort of effect on the last clog I had in my little rig!
How Can I Prevent Future Clogs In My RV Toilet?
Let’s say you’ve managed to release the clog in your black water tank and don’t want to repeat the clog in the future. Good for you! What can you do to prevent future clogs?
Use Less Toilet Paper
While it may not be ideal, especially if you are traveling with a family used to indoor plumbing, using less toilet paper is an easy solution to a clogged RV toilet. It is a cost-effective solution as well! I’m not saying give up on using toilet paper entirely; just use a few fewer sheets than you normally would! Your sewer system will thank you.
You can also look into purchasing RV-specific toilet paper should you have a finicky rig. While it may be expensive, RV toilet paper breaks down much faster than any other type and is readily available in most stores.
Use Extra Water
RV toilets can be an adjustment if you and your family are used to indoor plumbing. For the average house toilet, the amount of water is predetermined by the toilet’s system and inner workings. In an RV, the amount of water you use in your toilet is usually determined by the user. This can be great for functionality, or it can potentially spell disaster for your black tank.
If you are able to use more water than you usually do while using the toilet, it can promote more lubrication and the natural flow of the solid waste found in your black tank. It can be hard to determine how much water you should use, and it can be tedious to fill the bowl after every use.
However, more water is usually worth it if you aren’t boondocking and have access to a dump station. It makes the flow a lot stronger, pulling out even more solid waste and toilet paper when you reach the dump station!
Perform Regular Maintenance
You may be skeptical about using chemical-based black tank cleaners. I can understand that, but they truly are the best tool for keeping your sewer system regularly maintained and taken care of.
Whether it’s a pod, capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid, dropping in a black tank cleaning solution at the end of your camping season is a good call. It also helps keep your tank smelling nice and fresh!
Clogged RV Toilet FAQs
There’s lots to think about with RVing, and it’s totally normal to have a million questions! Getting to the bottom of your RV will take some time, but understanding crucial elements such as your RV plumbing and electrics can help things run a lot smoother.
What Can You Put Down An RV Toilet To Unclog It?
There are several different ways to unclog an RV toilet, all of which involved putting something down into the toilet or black tank itself. Chemical options include using specific black tank cleaners, but often these can be harsh, and you likely won’t want to store the product in the reach of children or pets.
There are a few non-chemical options for unclogging an RV toilet such as putting ice into the tank and taking your rig for a spin, using boiling water, or pouring in some vinegar and baking soda. It’s best to keep an eye on your toilet and tank to help prevent future clogs, and always remember to dispose of tampons and other hygiene items in a bin and not down the toilet.
What To Do With An RV Black Tank Clogged With Toilet Paper?
Items like toilet paper and flushable wipes can be a nightmare for an RV black tank, and if you’ve been dealing with a clog for a while, it’ll likely be trickier to get your tank clean. It is possible, however, to unclog an RV black tank that’s backed up with toilet paper, but the most effective method will typically be a chemical RV black tank-specific cleaner.
Many of these cleaners work by digesting the waste pyramid and breaking everything down so it can be drained out from a black tank far easier. It can take a little time for these products to work, so you may have to complete the cleaning overnight to give it plenty of time to work.
Will A Plunger Work On An RV Toilet?
A plunger won’t be your best friend at all during an RV toilet clog as it’s pretty pointless to use one. RV toilets tend to encounter issues when waste builds up in the tank and pushes up toward the toilet itself. A plunger won’t be any good at getting rid of black tank clogs as it’s not a case of sucking the waste back up, but figuring out a way to break it down in the tank and thoroughly flush it out.
Why Is My RV Toilet Not Draining To The Black Tank?
If your RV toilet isn’t draining to the black tank, it’s likely there’s an issue somewhere along the way. This can be a blocked sewer pipe or a clogged black tank vent. This is easily done, and something that can be avoided in a few different ways. When parked at a campground, be sure not to connect to the sewer for the duration of your stay as liquid waste will leave immediately but solid waste can build up and become difficult to clean away.
It’s also vital to stay on top of regular RV toilet maintenance to ensure smooth operation in the future. Limiting toilet paper flushing and avoiding the dumping of sanitary items down the toilet can massively help reduce the chance of a blockage.
Having a clogged RV toilet is never fun. It can ruin a camping trip, but thankfully you don’t have to let it ruin yours! Following this guide for both helpful RV toilet products, as well as home remedies is a good idea so you can get back to enjoying your camping adventure without having to worry about a clogged toilet!