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There are few things that seem more intimidating than taking your RV to a dump station. It’s intimidating, but a necessary and inevitable part of owning an RV. Eventually, your wastewater tanks will need to be emptied and it’s important to know how to do it properly.
This article should make you feel confident that you know what to do and how to do it when you pull up to the dump station. But if you just want the quick answer, here’s what you need to know about using a RV dump station:
After paying anywhere from $0 to $25 to use the station you’ll want to line up your RV correctly, ensure proper connection with your hoses, dump your tanks in the correct order (black, then gray), and thoroughly clean up after yourself. Basic cleaning supplies like gloves and sanitary wipes can make the process easier.
We’ll make sure you’re as prepared as possible for your next trip to an RV dump station.
Where Can I Find A Dump Station?
You’ll likely find an RV dump station at campgrounds, truck stops, and some interstate rest stops. Look out for a brown road sign that has an image of an RV with an arrow pointing towards the ground. This sign indicates an RV dumping station is nearby.
There are plenty of ways to look up where the next dump station is on your journey, depending on how far you’re going and how long your trip is, you might want to plan your stops ahead. This website is a great resource to help you figure out where to go and how much it might be.
How Much Do Dump Stations Cost?
Many campground dump stations will be free for guests, but charge fees for people not staying there. There are also plenty of free stations across the country. There are also plenty of ones that may charge you a small fee. Dump stations will cost anywhere from $5 to $25 per dump. Make sure to factor these costs into your travel budget, since they can add up.
What Supplies Do You Need for the RV Dump Station?
There are a few items you need to make sure you have before heading to the RV dump station. Having these on hand will help everything go smoothly and will take some of the intimidation factors out of the dumping process. It will also keep things more sanitary.
Sewer Hose & Attachments
You can’t do any dumping without a sewer hose. This hose will connect the RV’s drain valve to a dump station’s sewer connection. What hose to get might seem daunting at first but you’ll want to look for something between 15 and 20 feet long and durable.
You will also need some attachments to make the hose more effective and useful.
You’ll want to get a 4-in-1 adapter and a clear elbow attachment. These attachments will ensure that you have a secure connection to the sewer dump. If your connections aren’t secure the pressure of the water can cause the hose to disconnect leading to at best splattering and at worst a downpour of the black and or gray water from your tanks.
The clear elbow will help you keep an eye on when the water from your tank begins to run clean.
In addition to the sewer hose, you will want to have a designated utility hose on hand as well.
This hose will be used to clean up after yourself at the dump station. It’s important to make sure that this hose is designated for this use and this use alone. Since this hose will be used to clean your black and gray tanks cross-contamination with any drinking water can be a huge health risk. Make sure to store this hose far from your drinking water.
Raw sewage means you need to take precautions like wearing gloves. I recommend disposable ones so that you can be sure they are clean each time. If you want to use reusable ones then you will need to take the extra step to clean and sanitize them after each trip to the dumping ground.
If you use disposable gloves, make sure you dispose of them properly in the garbage at the dump station.
Depending on how many precautions you want to take, you might want to consider rubber boots or wearing clothes that you don’t care if they get dirty or not.
You should have sanitizing wipes or sanitizing spray with towels on hand. Cleaning and sanitizing everything you use before storing them away is necessary to avoid bad smells and bacteria growth on your hoses and attachments. You’ll want to clean the dump station water spigot and any handles you touch.
Proper Storage & Care
You’ve just invested time and money into buying the proper supplies for your RV dump station trip, so you’ll want to make sure to store and care for them correctly.
All of these items should be stored in a place where they will not come into contact with your drinking water or food.
You should use bleach diluted with water to clean the hoses and attachments before starting your RV season. If you are a full-time RVer then do this once or twice a year. Also, make sure to do a visual check on your hoses to make sure there are no holes or leaks anywhere. You can double-check that there are no holes by running water through the hoses and seeing if any leaks through.
When Should You Dump?
There are a few rules of thumb to follow as far as when you should head to the RV dump station. Going too often will lead to a build-up of waste solids in your tanks, and can add up if you aren’t going to free dump stations. Going not often enough can result in bad smells, and the full tanks can actually add weight to your vehicle ultimately affecting your fuel mileage. More likely than not, topping off your gas will cost you a lot more than even the most expensive dump stations.
There are a few rules of thumb to follow as far as when you should head to the RV dump station. Going too often will lead to a build-up of waste solids in your tanks, and can add up if you aren’t going to free dump stations. Going not often enough can result in bad smells, and the full tanks can actually add weight to your vehicle ultimately affecting your fuel mileage.
More likely than not, topping off your gas will cost you a lot more than even the most expensive dump stations.
How often you need to dump will depend on how often you use your RV. If you tend to only use your RV for weekend trips, then you should make sure to dump after every use. That will help avoid unwanted smells from sitting for too long unattended in your RV. If you are a full-time RVer or closer to full-time then you should dump as needed. A good rule to follow is to wait until your tanks are ⅔ full.
But didn’t I just say that if you only use your RV on weekends you’ll want to dump every time? What if the tank isn’t ⅔ full?
You’ll need to add water to the tank until it is ⅔ full and then dump. You always want to make sure there is enough water in the tanks that the waste solids will flush out and not be left behind.
How to use an RV Dump station?
Now you know what an RV dump station is, where to find one, how often you should use it, and all of the supplies you need, but how do you actually dump your tanks? The section below will walk you through step by step.
1. Line Up Your RV
It might sound obvious, but you need to line up your RV properly at the RV dump station. To do this, you need to know where your sewer dump connection is before you pull in. Once you know that, you want to get your RV close enough to the dump station’s sewer line so that your hose will connect. The longer your hose, the more leeway you’ll have when doing this.
Keep in mind you might have more than one connection on your RV, so try to maneuver your RV in a way that both connections reach the dump station’s sewage line. You will have some equipment you’ll need to set up as well, so don’t get so close you can’t easily move around to clean your hoses or connect them properly.
Probably just as important as getting in properly, you need to make sure you have an exit plan as well. Don’t pull in so tight to the dump station that you won’t have enough room to make it out when you’re ready to leave. Dump stations can be hives of activity and you may have a line of people waiting behind you so make sure you don’t hold them up by not being able to get out of the place.
Gloves and any other protective gear of your choosing should be put on after you safely park by the dump station.
2. Connect the Sewer Hose
Before connecting any hoses, check that your wastewater valves are closed. You’re going to be removing the sewer cap in a moment and if they aren’t closed a smelly mess will be waiting for you. At this point, you should also make sure that your 4-in-1 attachment and your clear elbow attachment are securely on your sewer hose.
The video below is a quick and easy tutorial on how to properly connect your hose from your RV to the sewer line. It also has a few additional tips and tricks to make your time at the dump station even easier.
Connect the side of your hose that has the clear elbow attachment to the dump station’s sewer line. There is a possibility that your attachment won’t fit with every dump station drain. If it doesn’t fit, you will want to put the hose about 6-8 inches down the hole and add a weighted object to keep the hose from flying out once the valves are released. Many dump stations will have bricks, large rocks, or cement blocks for this purpose, but in the worst-case scenario, you may need to use your foot to hold the hose down.
You’ll want to connect the 4-in-1 attachment side of your hose to your RV sewer valve. As you twist off the cap to the sewer valve and place the hose below so it can catch any drips while you connect the hose. This will help make cleaning up a little easier once you’re finished.
3. Decide Which Tank to Dump First
Basically, you want to go from “dirtiest” to “cleanest” tank when dumping. You always want to start with the black tank and follow it up with your gray tank. If you have two separate gray tanks, one for the kitchen and one for the shower, you’ll want to empty the kitchen tank and then the shower tank.
The philosophy here is that if you start with the black tank and get rid of the raw sewage first, the next two tanks will clean the lines a bit before you actually hose everything off. You want to do the kitchen tank second because it can contain food particles and oils, whereas your shower tank is almost all water and soap.
4. Release the Valves
After double and triple checking that all of your connections are tight, you can open the black tank’s valve. Follow this up with your gray tanks.
Once the water looks clean as it is flowing through the clear elbow attachment, you can close all your valves and disconnect the sewer hose for your RV. Immediately place the end of the hose below your RV drain valve to catch the dripping liquids.
5. Flushing the Tanks
Flushing the tanks isn’t something that you will want to do if you are at the dumping station during a busy time or if there are people waiting on you, but it is an important step to take when possible. It will help get solid waste out of your tanks so it doesn’t build up over time. It’s typically only necessary to do with your black tank.
To flush out the tanks, fill them with ⅔ water and then repeat the emptying process.
6. Cleaning Up After Yourself
Before putting your hose away, make sure to leave the end that is connected to the dump station’s sewer hole and lift the other end up. This allows excess liquids to durian from the hose directly into the dump station. Then use your utility hose to flush water down the sewer hose and attachments to flush out the rest of the liquids. Use your disinfectant to wipe down each end of your hose.
Make sure to rinse the area surrounding the dump station hole and your RV to clean up any messes. Finally, dispose of your gloves or sanitize your reusable ones before putting them away.
Dump stations seem to be closing up around the country due to improper use making it more trouble than it’s worth to keep them open. Making sure to be respectful of the station and other RVer’s while at the dump station will help keep locations open.
If there’s a line, don’t take up too much time. Skip on non-essential steps like flushing your tanks out or time your visits during off peak hours.
Always clean up after yourself thoroughly. Don’t leave a mess of potentially dangerous wastewater for the next person or the owner to clean up later.
Basically, leave the dump station the way you would want it to look when you first pulled up to it.
If you follow the steps detailed in this article you’ll have no trouble emptying your tanks properly and sanitarily while maintaining respect for the dump station and other RVer’s.