How To Dump RV Tanks At Home (The Right Way)

how to dump rv tanks at home

The average individual uses about 88 gallons of water daily on an RV trip and it’s essential to safely and responsibly dispose of the wastewater you produce.

The onboard holding tanks collect dirty water from the kitchen sink and shower (grey water tank), and sewage waste from the toilet (black water tank). If you own an RV, you must drain both tanks regularly to avoid overspill and the resulting mess.

Here, we’ll show you how to dump RV tanks at home without contaminating the environment or risking a fine.

Is It Legal To Dump RV Tanks At Home?

It is legal to dump RV black and grey water tanks at home, but the wastewater must go into an approved residential sewer system. Different areas may have specific local ordinances, and as a responsible RV owner, you should look into them before dumping your tanks.

If you dump your tanks directly into a sanitary line or municipal sewer line, you shouldn’t have any problems. Under no circumstances should you dump your RV tanks into a storm drain, as these drains often lead to reservoirs.

Draining your tanks into storm drains risks local water contamination, which could earn you a hefty fine from the city, along with some words from angry neighbors.

Is It Legal To Dump RV Tanks Into My Septic System?

If you aren’t using the main municipal sewer line, you do have the option of dumping your RV tanks directly into your septic tank.

However, consider whether you’re using environmentally-friendly detergents and soaps, as harsh chemicals in the wastewater can kill beneficial bacteria in your septic tank. Check out our reviews of the best RV black tank treatments for some eco-friendly options.

How To Dump Your RV Tanks At Home – 4 Practical Methods

There are four main methods to dump your RV tanks at home. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages and will vary slightly depending on whether you dump your tanks into the main sewer line, a septic tank, or use a bucket or macerator pump. 

Let’s take a closer look at how to dump RV tanks at home.

The Residential Sewer Line and Septic Tank Methods

Most people have access to either a public or private sewage disposal system. The private sewage disposal system works like a septic system, while the municipal sewage disposal system uses a residential sanitary line or main sewer line.

Both sewer systems have a cleanout, a small pipe that sticks out of the ground from the main sewer line or septic tank that’s sealed with an end cap.

When emptying your holding tanks into any of these sewer systems, you should:

  • Locate the septic tank or sewer line access port. You may need a large wrench and some help during this step.
  • Park your RV beside the access port and connect the disposal hose to the black water tank.
  • Wear protective face and hand gear to stay protected and sanitary.
  • Connect the end of the output hose to the septic tank’s access port. Take your time when removing sewer end caps, as harmful fumes could escape.
  • Ensure that the output hose points downward into the access port and is secure enough to prevent waste from spraying out of the sides.
  • Before you begin emptying your black water tank, check that you are on the solid waste and not the storm drain side of your sewer system to avoid emptying harmful waste into a storm drain.
  • Pull the valve to empty the black water tank, ensuring it drains completely.
  • Flush the black water tank with clean water and then drain all the water from the tank.
  • After emptying the black tank, you can now empty the grey water holding tank and repeat the steps above.
  • You should always empty the black tank before the grey tank so you can clean the dumping hose with the soap and detergent residue in the greywater.
  • Rinse the inside of your dumping hose before disconnecting it from the sewer connection.
  • Remove the sewer hose and store it properly.

For a more thorough step-by-step process, check out our guide on how to to hook up an RV sewer hose and use it.

Important: Only use the septic tank method if you are sure that there are no harsh chemicals and soaps in your grey and black water that can kill vital bacteria inside your septic tank.

Always check to make sure your area allows you to dump into your septic tank or public sewer line before you begin the process. We also suggest talking to your neighbors to let them know that you’re dumping into the sewer line and not the storm drain to avoid confusion or confrontation later.

If you’d like to enhance hygiene levels and keep things extra clean, we suggest investing in a flush valve. These valves remove solidified waste from the bottom of the RV’s black water tank, ensuring that it doesn’t fill up sooner than it should.

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The Bucket Method

To use the bucket method for dumping your RV’s tanks, follow these steps:

  • Put on protective hand and face gear, and fill the bucket with the grey and black water. Avoid filling the bucket to the brim.
  • Carefully empty the bucket into your home toilet and flush it to clear all the waste.
  • Take your time when walking and ensure that you do not spill any of the contents from the bucket.

Although the bucket method is the simplest and most cost-effective dumping method, it is also the messiest and most tedious.

This method works best for emptying smaller holding tanks, as larger ones make for a lengthy and challenging process.

The Macerator Method

This dumping method is slightly more complicated, but it makes the job of emptying your holding tanks much more manageable. A macerator pump will not just pump out the waste. It also helps churn the solid waste, making it quicker to dump and allowing you to use just about any size hose.

This video breaks down exactly how to use the macerator pump method at home.

High level, the macerator pump method looks like this:

  • First, connect the outlet hose of the black water holding tank to the macerator pump’s input valve.
  • Then, connect a long hose to the outlet valve and drag the hose’s end to your sewer inlet or toilet.
  • Open the black water tank’s outlet valve and turn on the macerator pump.

Tip: Use a clear elbow so you can see when the flow stops. You don’t want to risk burning out the macerator pump by running it dry.

If you choose this method, prepare to spend a bit of money on a macerator pump kit, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

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Benefits & Risks Of Emptying Your RV Tanks At Home

The most significant benefit of dumping your RV tank at home is that it’s economical, and you won’t have to pay fees to use dumping stations. Not to mention extremely convenient.

You also can convert your RV into a spare room or permanent home addition for when you have guests sleeping over.

The main disadvantage of dumping your RV tanks at home comes with the possibility of spilling raw sewage, especially if you use the bucket method.

Even if you dump directly into your septic tank, you must ensure that you connect the outlet hose to the septic tank’s access port securely to avoid raw sewage spraying out the sides. But, that goes for whether your dumping at home or at a dumping station.

And of course, it could be illegal in your area to empty your tanks at home. So, be sure you are following all laws on the matter or you could face a hefty fine.

How Often Should You Dump the RV Black Water Tank?

You won’t find a universal answer to this question, as the frequency with which you need to dump your tanks varies, depending on how often you use your toilet and the size of your black water tank.

If you mostly travel alone, you might be able to last a week or longer without the need to dump. However, if your RV has smaller holding tanks or if you camp with a large family, you may need to empty your black tank every other day.

Most RVs have a sensor, which shows you how full your grey and black water tanks are. However, some trailers like the Casitas have no sensor, so you need to be mindful of that when buying your RV. Allowing the tank to get too full can cause your black tank to leak and other issues.

So, as a rule of thumb, dump your RV black water tank when it’s at least 2/3rds full, and no sooner. This will ensure that any solids have enough time to break down and the weight of the waste will help it empty out easier.

And be sure to clean out your RV black water tank regularly after emptying it to keep it clean and smelling fresh.

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