How to Sanitize RV Freshwater Tank & Lines (3 Easy Steps)

To keep the water in your RV “fresh” and avoid making you and your family sick, sanitizing the freshwater tank and water lines is extremely important.

Depending on where you got your water from and how long it’s been sitting in the tank, bacteria and other impurities will eventually build up and make the water unsafe to consume… or even use.

In this quick guide, you’ll learn how to sanitize your RV freshwater system (tank and lines) in 3 easy steps! Plus, learn how often you should do it and what NOT to do (this is important)!

How Often Should I Sanitize My RV Water Tank?

Typically, we recommend you sanitize your RVs freshwater system after pulling it out of storage as part of the camper de-winterization process.

If you live in your RV full-time, then every six months is a good schedule to set.

But remember, if you notice that the water tastes a bit strange or has a foul odor, it’s time to sanitize the tanks immediately. In other words, don’t wait around for the scheduled sanitization.

Tip: Keep your freshwater system cleaner for longer by only adding filtered water to your tank with the Camco TastePure RV Water Filter. And be sure to flush your water system if the water in your tank is over two weeks old. Learn more in our guide on How Long To keep Freshwater In An RV Tank.

How to Sanitize RV Freshwater Tank & Lines

Are you ready to sanitize your RVs freshwater system? Here’s how to do it in 3 easy steps!

Step 1: Fill The Freshwater System With Bleach Mix

After ensuring all of your drain lines are closed, and drain plugs are installed, we first need to fill the freshwater tank with a bleach and water mix.

You will need a ¼ cup of bleach for every 15 gallons of water in the tank. So, if you have a 30-gallon tank, you will need a 1/2 cup of bleach.

The most important thing to remember is never to pour the bleach directly into the tank. You’ll want to:

  1. Mix the bleach with the water
  2. Pour the mix into the freshwater tank through a gravity feed
  3. Fill the rest of the tank full with water

After your tank is full, turn on any faucets until you smell bleach coming out of them, and then close them. This simply fills the water lines and the entire water system with the bleach and water mixture.

Now, let the mixture sit in the tank and lines for 12 hours to effectively sanitize it.

Step 2: Drain The Bleached Water

After the bleach mix has had time to properly sanitize the system, it’s time to drain it. Be sure to drain all the water completely from the system, including your water heater, outside shower if you have one, etc.

Step 3: Flush The System

After draining the system, refill the tank with clean potable water, turn the water pump on, and run water through all the faucets until the smell of bleach disappears.

Important: You may have to repeat this step a few times to completely rid the system of bleach.

And that’s it! You are now ready to fill your RV water tank with freshwater. Don’t forget to bleed the RV water lines after filling the freshwater tank, so you’re not surprised by sputtering water later!

How to Sanitize RV Freshwater Tank Without Bleach

While cleaning your RV freshwater system with a bleach mixture is fairly easy and extremely effective, there are a few other methods you could try if you don’t like the idea of using bleach.

Sanitize RV Water Tank With Camco Spring Fresh

Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner and Deodorizer for RV and Marine (phew, that’s a mouthful!) is a product that provides a safe and easy way to sanitize your freshwater system.

It’s specially formulated to clean your tanks and lines and remove bad odors.

And it’s super simple to use:

  1. Drain the RV fresh water tank and lines, including the water heater. Be sure to close the valves once drained.
  2. Fill your freshwater tank 2/3 full of water and add Spring Fresh Cleaner. Add 1 quart for every 25 gallons of tank capacity.
  3. Turn faucets on for 2 minutes to allow the solution to fill the entire system, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Flush the system twice to completely remove the product.
Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner and Deodorizer

Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner and Deodorizer

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Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

How to Sanitize RV Freshwater System With Other Household Products

Now, let’s talk about sanitizing your freshwater system with common household products (not including bleach).

You’ll see many different articles on the internet about using various household products to clean your tank and lines.

Unfortunately, most use a certain product and assume it cleans the system. But a closer look would likely reveal that it didn’t do as well as they thought.

Luckily, Colorado State put together a nice little chart showing the effectiveness of household products in killing the big three common types of bacteria, including Listeria, E. Coli, and Salmonella. Here are the results:

Sanitizer effectiveness guide

We can take this information and apply it to sanitizing an RV freshwater system.

Sanitize RV Water Tank With Vinegar

Acetic acid (or vinegar) is effective for cleaning your freshwater tank. But that’s if the vinegar is at 130 degrees! And undiluted. White distilled vinegar, at room temperature, is only effective at killing Salmonella.

And there’s no guarantee that when you fill your RV water system with vinegar heated to 130 degrees, it will remain at that temp. It’s likely to lose a few degrees, if not much more, pretty quickly as it moves through the lines.

So, keep this in mind if you choose to go this route. And we recommend using a water test kit to ensure your water is safe to drink after using this method.

Coliform Bacteria Test Kit for Drinking Water

Coliform Bacteria Test Kit for Drinking Water

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Sanitize RV Water Tank With Hydrogen Peroxide

Slightly more effective than white vinegar is hydrogen peroxide. At room temperature, it effectively kills E. Coli and Salmonella but not Listeria. Heated to 130 degrees, it’s effective at killing all three.

Keep in mind, however, that the test was performed using undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Mixing it with water could potentially cause it to be far less effective.

Sanitize RV Water Tank With Baking Soda

Just don’t. Unfortunately, sanitizing your water system with baking soda is still common advice on blogs and forums, but it’s ineffective. And why put your health, and that of your family, in jeopardy using an inferior sanitizing technique?

If going green(er) is the main reason for ditching the bleach method, give Camco TastePure Spring Fresh a try.

Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner and Deodorizer

Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner and Deodorizer

Buy Now on Amazon

Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

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