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Black and Grey Tank Cleaning


dougknight86
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Twice a year I would use Happy Campers Extreme Holding Tank Cleaner in both my tanks.  Unfortunately this product is no longer available and I am looking for recommendations as to what to use.

Being full timers we spend six months in US (Florida) and the other six months in Canada.  On the trip south in the fall and north in the spring, I put the cleaner in the tanks while we travel.  Upon arrival at our destination we dump them and they are good.

Please advise what you recommend to keep the tanks clean and the level sensors operating.  I have the SeaLevel II tank monitor system.

Doug Knight

’05 Dynasty w/ ‘14 CR-V

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Water and more water. That's all I use in 11 years full timing. Never had a smell and tanks are clean. The SeeLevel system's sensors are mounted OUTSIDE the tanks so they aren't an issue. Some swear by Calgon dumping in the tank, but I've found water to be my friend. I don't empty the black until over 1/2 full and I leave the grey water open until the night before we're ready to leave, then I close it and use the dishwater from the night before and the hot shower water from that morning to flush out the black tank.  YMMV...Dennis

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I have been Rving for over 35 Years and the the best product I have used is RV Digest-it by Unique. Non toxic, biodegradable, smells good, and only used 2 oz per tank. Never have to flush tanks, they don't recommend it because you want the bacteria to stay in the tank. When I dump black tank the only thing that comes out is brown water. 

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On 5/25/2020 at 4:50 PM, Dennis H said:

Water and more water. That's all I use in 11 years full timing. Never had a smell and tanks are clean. ... I don't empty the black until over 1/2 full and I leave the grey water open until the night before we're ready to leave, then I close it and use the dishwater from the night before and the hot shower water from that morning to flush out the black tank.  YMMV...Dennis

X2. If I were putting the RV in storage for several months I might want to 'clean' the tanks and let them dry out, but what's the point if they're constantly in use? As long as there's water in the black tank, bacterial activity should keep everything liquid and prevent accumulation on the bottom and sides of the tank.

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I have experimented with the GEO Method, the Camco products, Happy Camper and something called "TankTechsRx".   And a WHOLE lot more...  

Bottom line.  I have NEVER had any odor.  I take that back....had one whiff when the ball seal on the flush valve was dry.  Typically, I use Silicone grease on it annually and also use a toothpick to clean off any scale or gunk.  

I still have issues with the black tank "Monaco" level system working.  It always reads high.  No matter how I clean it or how i backflush and such....after 3 days of normal to light usage, it will read less than 1/3 in the CG.  Get on the road....it will then read 1/3 full.  When you get to the next campsite....it will never go back or settle down.

Knowing how level probes work and also imagining the "paper" residue on the sides of the tank, when the tank gets agitated, the residue there tends to wick and then you get false readings.  NOW....if you install the SeeLevel and don't do some tank cleaning, you may also have  inaccurate readings.  Many, in years past, have reported that.  Read the SeeLevel install and trouble shooting guidelines.  A DIRTY (as in gunk and buildup on the walls) will also give inconsistent or inaccurate readings for the Capacitance Based Systems.

My gut feel....GET OVER IT.  If you don't have a smell issue....then over treating and trying to make the OEM 12 VDC Monaco system work is nothing but an exercise in futility.  If you really wanted them to work and you did not want to invest in the See Level, then my past process engineering background only has ONE fix.  

Disconnect everything.  There are Diodes in the system in either the Tank harness or the Sensor harness.  These diodes allow you to read two different monitors.  If you take the Tank harness and splice or cut into it and then get a power supply that is maybe 150 VDC, measure the voltage from the common to the other three (1/3, 2/3 and full) probes.  I THINK that with a higher voltage potential, that you will not "light up" or measure a full 150 VDC when the probe is actually not in the liquid (above the level) and the wicking will not be an issue.

SO....you put in 150 VDC.  Then you install 4 LED's or such that REQUIRE 150 VDC.  Bingo, you have a level device that is accurate.  You would have to build your own black box or drill some holes in the panel upstairs as the led monitor is 12 VDC.  I base that on doing tank level or process control projects for many years.  We used "Individually Transformered" "level sensors.  You picked the voltage for the level probes.  In some cases, if you were monitoring a sewage tank and there was floating feces....you had to go to 600 Volts (can't remember if it was AC or DC).  Therefore, when a floater wedged between the level probe cluster (a bunch of SS rods in a flange hanging down with plastic spacers or inserts to keep them uniformly apart (think about a Gatling Gun barrel assembly where each barrel was a rod), the higher voltage would "burn it out".  

SO....using 12 VDC and having paper or crud on the internal sides of the tank and them "wicking" is a disaster for accuracy...

The OTHER thing that has come through....LOUD AND CLEAN....over the years.  Always leave some liquid in the tank....unless you are storing it for the winter.  Keeping the liquid (maybe 5 gallons or so) will prevent odors from forming as you always have some anaerobic bacteria or digestion going on.  A dry tank is just something to cause problems.

I would dutifully drain my tanks after each trip.  I think that i allowed the TP and crud to dry on the sidewalls and there is not much I can do to clean or remove that.  

Just my theory.  I do seem to have less accuracy issues now that I leave in liquid.  I will continue to do some tank cleaning using the Techs stuff.  That gets high ratings on Amazon.  But it is a "digestion" product and NOT a detergent based or soap based cleaner.  If I really wanted to clean the tank....i MIGHT fill it to 2/3 capacity.  Then dissolve maybe half a box of "Cascade Powder Dishwasher Soap"  in enough hot water to solubalize it.  That stuff will clean coffee stains and such after soaking.  I doubt it would impact the tanks....might be a little corrosive on the probes.  Would worry about the gasket on the back flush....

Anyone EVER try that?  That should clean the tank....and if you then kept liquid in it....I don't think you would have further issues.

BTW....Don't fall for the line that a little bit of "septic water" from the Black tank in the Gray tank is gonna cause the sun go not come up.  If you ever watch (via a clear fitting), the Gray tank has all sorts of food particles and mess from dishwashing.   Leave that crud in the bottom of the tank and it eventually will start to ferment or "digest".  YES....the feces and stuff have more bacteria....but the Gray tank ain't far behind.  The water at the end starts to cloud up and then you see particles of food.  I back flush the Black Tank and get it pretty clean.  Then I turn off the Sanicon and put in about 10 gallons of back flush water in the Black tank with both valves open....that tends to rinse out the Gray tank.

My OPINIONS.....some gut....some science....a LOT of trial and error and experimetation.  If I am wrong and there has been experimentation and such....chime in....we all learn....

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2 hours ago, Tom Cherry said:

Typically, I use Silicone grease on it annually and also use a toothpick to clean off any scale or gunk.  

Tom, I sincerely hope you throw that toothpick away when done and not use it. :) ....Dennis

Many of these products, like RidX cannot work because the product is not in the tank long enough. Read the labels. Products like RidX are formulated for septic tanks and such, not holding tanks or portapotties. Most smells can be eliminated simply by being aware of what you put in your tank. Flush only human waste and toilet paper. Wipe off your plates with a paper towel before washing them in the sink. Use plenty of water to flush and wash. Don't use baby wipes and/or flushable wipes.....Dennis

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2 hours ago, Dennis H said:

Tom, I sincerely hope you throw that toothpick away when done and not use it. 🙂 ....Dennis

Many of these products, like RidX cannot work because the product is not in the tank long enough. Read the labels. Products like RidX are formulated for septic tanks and such, not holding tanks or portapotties. Most smells can be eliminated simply by being aware of what you put in your tank. Flush only human waste and toilet paper. Wipe off your plates with a paper towel before washing them in the sink. Use plenty of water to flush and wash. Don't use baby wipes and/or flushable wipes.....Dennis

Dennis

RV Rid-X  works no differently than the ordinary, available everywhere, Liquid Rid-X which I've been using successfully in both my black and grey tanks since 2001.

RID-X RV Toilet Treatment Liquid, Citrus, 16 Treatments, 48oz ...RID-X Septic Treatment Drain Opener, 6 Month Supply of Liquid ...

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Thanks for the info, Mel. Shows we're never too old to learn. I was not aware RidX had a product for RVs. Only one I was familiar with was the one we put in our septic tank growing up. That said, in researching RidX's site, they do not show the 'treatment' package, only a 'deodorizer'.  Do you know if the product you show is still available??? A search revealed that product on Amazon but it says it's not available and doesn't know when/if it may become available again....RidX's site does not list it.  I'm talking about the one on the left as the one on the right is for septic tanks once a month treatment. That one I'm familiar with and it's not recommended for RVs......Dennis

Edited by Dennis H
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7 hours ago, Dennis H said:

Thanks for the info, Mel. Shows we're never too old to learn. I was not aware RidX had a product for RVs. Only one I was familiar with was the one we put in our septic tank growing up. That said, in researching RidX's site, they do not show the 'treatment' package, only a 'deodorizer'.  Do you know if the product you show is still available??? A search revealed that product on Amazon but it says it's not available and doesn't know when/if it may become available again....RidX's site does not list it.  I'm talking about the one on the left as the one on the right is for septic tanks once a month treatment. That one I'm familiar with and it's not recommended for RVs......Dennis

dennis

I use this ordinary unscented Rid-X:images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcS8fRyxNxrzCaDymCL-j

Which is readily available.

BTW,  methinks Rid-X  simply added a "fresh scent" to,  and re-labeled some ordinary Rid-X "RV Rid-X",  (an attempt to trick RVers and/or to make more $$) ?

image.jpeg

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1 hour ago, Mel S - '96 Safari said:

dennis

I use this ordinary unscented Rid-X:images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcS8fRyxNxrzCaDymCL-j

Which is readily available.

BTW,  methinks Rid-X  simply added a "fresh scent" to,  and re-labeled some ordinary Rid-X "RV Rid-X",  (an attempt to trick RVers and/or to make more $$) ?

image.jpeg

Mel,

You may recall that the Colonel was an ardent FAN of Rid-x or sometimes called Redex.  It was blasphemy to contradict him.  You MAY have been on board when there were discussions.  I can only cite one....where the Camelot's black tank (full timing for maybe a year) would not WORK with the SeeLevel system.  The owner had used Rid-X and also the correct toilet tissue.

I think that I got chewed out for posting such sacreligious info....but here it is.  I copied and pasted it just now from the SeeLevel site.... This comes from the Main Install manual and is item 7 in the list of Trouble Shooting Guidelines.

7>  There may be a buildup on the inside walls of black and grey tanks. We get calls occasionally about older coaches that have not been in service for a few years in which the black tank will now indicate a level even though it is empty. The likely cause is that the tank has a significant build-up, probably exceeding ¼ to ½ inch thick! Redex is not an acceptable (Page break and Manual reference 709-2P RV Manual Page 25) chemical to promote clean tank walls; it is far too slow to get the breakdown action started. Use an RV type of liquid chemical, we suggest Tissue Digester, Sensor Cleaner, or the latest we have used called Happy Campers Holding Tank Extreme Cleaner available at www.happycampersworld.com. The next time you take a trip, leave with a high concentration of the chemical in the tank and approximately 30% full of fresh water. Hopefully you can drive for 2-3 days allowing the tank levels to rise through normal use. We recommend that you exceed the level that you see the system report when the tank is empty. After the sloshing and the soaking hopefully the build-up will be flushed away when the tank is drained and flushed. If you still have symptoms the treatment may required a few more times. The waste did not build up on the tank wall in one day, so it may not dissolve in one treatment! The build-up looks like water to the system since it holds a significant volume of water in the build-up area. It takes much more than a film or piece of tissue to cause the error.

OK....having said that....Rid-X works as an AID to the Aerobic (and maybe Anaerobic) bacteria.  Basically, when you add Rid-X, you are assuming that the Black Holding tank is a "Septic Tank".  YES....it is.  But it does not have the retention time that a standard household (or commercial) tank has.  Probably DOES eliminate SMELL...based on user's comments....

I have NEVER had any odors from my tank....except when the seal on the ball valve was a little coated.  I have used at least 5 different products.

The Rid-X will probably keep the tank active.  If you full time and rarely dump, then it IS like a septic tank.  But, it is NOT a cleaner and never was meant to be.  The Colonel's point was that when you had Bacteria....the feces and TP would digest or breakdown quicker.  He was from both a scientific and practical standpoint....CORRECT.  He was also an advocate of never totally draining or leaving your tanks DRY.  Had I learned that factoid early on....My OEM system might be better.

BUT....as SeeLevel point out....the residue in the tank MUST be removed before the capacitance sender can accurately differentiate sludge or crud from liquid.  You have GOT to have a clean sidewall in the tank.  

Don't knock that it works for you and you may not have the same issues or concentrations inside your tank.  My issue....I DO and I have tried to find the magic chemical to dissolve them....and it has not happened.  The GEO Method is a common way to clean.  It works on the principal of having some detergent break down the material.  You do that via agitations and soaking and such.  THEN, you leave a water softener coating....so that future deposits will not adhere.  

That worked on my Winnie.  

But, I have yet to find the magic potion for my Camelot....and despite leaving in the various chemicals and using the ones recommended....the layers of sludge (thin films) in the lower section will not go away....

Just some info from the manufacturers and experts....

Edited by Tom Cherry
correction
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39 minutes ago, Tom Cherry said:

Mel,

You may recall that the Colonel was an ardent FAN of Rid-x or sometimes called Redex.  It was blasphemy to contradict him. 

Don't knock that it works for you and you may not have the same issues or concentrations inside your tank. 

But, I have yet to find the magic potion for my Camelot....and despite leaving in the various chemicals and using the ones recommended....the layers of sludge (thin films) in the lower section will not go away....

 

 

Tom Cherry

That I do remember.

Rid-X has always worked well for me but I learned long ago that I can live with inaccurate tank readings.

(I don't have the SeeLevel tank monitoring system).

 

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1 hour ago, Mel S - '96 Safari said:

 

Tom Cherry

That I do remember.

Rid-X has always worked well for me but I learned long ago that I can live with inaccurate tank readings.

(I don't have the SeeLevel tank monitoring system).

 

And that is great.  I keep getting frustrated using the tank cleaners.  I think that Rid-X would work great for controlling odors, especially if you have a residual of the "ookie-pookie" in the tank and not do a 100% backflushed and cleaned tank.

As they say....whatever works for you and your need....is what to do as long as you aren't trying to do brain surgery on yourself.

All I wanted to get across is that Rid-X is NOT a tank cleaner and it will NOT make your sensors any more accurate.

I did some MORE reading today.  Thetford has TWO products.  The TP Dissolver that SeeLevel recommends is theirs.  They also have an RV Sensor Cleaner.  The Amazon ratings on it are not overwhelming.  

IF you really used several containers of it and cleaned and agitated your tanks many times.....then followed up with some Dawn or the GeoMethod and such....and THEN used something like Happy Camper or maybe even Rid-X and kept the tanks WET....then you should be OK.

My issues were that I have always used the Sanicon.  I have always back flushed.  I am the original owner.  I don't know how much "crap" in is there.  Some say up to 1/2" of crud.  I don't know HOW I would manage to get that.

My feeling, without dropping an inspection camera in the tank and doing some probing with a coat hanger or a "mini scoop" on a rod is that there is a very THIN film of crud...mostly TP.  It wicks quickly.  BUT, with the SeeLevel, you are measuring a MASS (liquid in the tank) using capacitance discharge electronics.  BUT, the level probes are sensing very low LED voltage on the Monaco system.  If you, as I suggested, upped the voltage and also removed the diodes and only used ONE

gage....then you might find the OEM works....or you build your own small panel of lights....and use a higher voltage via a step up transformer.

That seems like a lot of work.  BUT, if you have ever seen the pictures or heard the tales of someone taking off the white service panel in the wet bay of a Camelot....building a small panel with four LED's and putting in a step up transformer and rewiring is much less of a job....way less.

SOMEONE needs to do this and tell us how it works....

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