Does searching for RV dump stations and emptying your black tanks sound like fun? It’s definitely not the glamorous side of RV life, but it is a part of the adventure. Understanding the process will make it easy, stress free, and keep you smelling like a rose.
That’s why this guide is designed to teach you how to empty and clean your black tank as fast and easily as possible.
We’ll also cover the best resources for finding the nearest RV dump sites.
Where To Find Dump Stations
We’ll cover what to do when you get there later. First we have to find the nearest dump site.
Where To Start Looking
Common sense tells us to look where there is demand. You will find dump stations where you find RVs. Expect dump sites near…
- RV Parks
- National Parks
- State Parks
- Rest Stops
For those of you that like to wonder off the beaten path, you have to search a little harder. Less people = less dump stations, but there are still ways to locate them if you plan ahead.
Check out our complete guide to bookdocking (camping for free—often in the wild) to find great off-road destinations.
RV Parks / Campgrounds
If you are staying at any of these locations, find one of these big signs and keep an eye out for the dump site icons.
The dump site icon is an RV trailer with an arrow pointing into the ground. You can see one above.
If you’re staying at a national park, it may be a drive, but you will find one not too far away. It may require a call to management or a look at the website, but there’s sure to be one outside the park.
The Ultimate Dump Station Map
We refer you to a website called RV Dumps—guess what they do? They have compiled a massive map of almost every dump station in the United States.
Note: Not all interstate rest areas have dump sites, but those that do are shown on the map. They are free to use.
Click the icon on the left side of the map’s title to display the key. It is also copied below for convenience.
- Light Green: Free
- Dark Green: $10 or less
- Dark Blue: $20 or less
- Orange: $30 or less
- Red: $31 or more
- Pink/Purple: Cost is unknown
- Yellow: Donation requested
- Light Blue: Interstate highway rest area with a dump station
Much thanks to RV Dumps for making this information accessible!
If you can’t find anything nearby above, Recreation.gov also has a useful index of places to clean you waste tanks.
Do You Have To Dump Your Black Tanks At Dump Stations?
The short answer: No. You can do it at home. We’re working on an article to cover this in depth.
But there are certain requirements – you can’t dump it just anywhere.
Can You Dump Your Waste Tanks in the Wild?
Here’s a common question. When I leave a campsite, can I dump my tanks in a random spot by the side of the road or way off in the wilderness?
You should never do this.
“It is illegal to dump [black and grey tank waste] on Forest Service lands at any location other than in a specifically identified dump facility, and tickets will be issued to violators.”United States Department of Agriculture
It is often illegal, horrible for the environment, and unhealthy for whoever drew the short straw and has to empty the tank itself (probably you). Practice Leave No Trace.
How Much Do RV Dump Stations Cost?
Most dump sites are individual private businesses, which means they set their own prices. Also, many double as campgrounds, rest stops, etc, which means, they may offer this service for free as an add-on with any service. So, it can vary?
That said, there is some consistency, at least. Let’s take a look…
We conducted on study of 1166 RV Dump Stations (sourced primarily from RV Dumps map). The chart below shows what price range most dump sites charge.
The average price of using an RV Dump Station is about $6.23
We counted <=$10 as $5, <=$20 as $15, etc. Calculated March 24, 2020.
It is rare to shell out more than $20. Most of time—52.5%—it will be less than or equal to $10 ($5 is included in that range—and extremely common, in my experience). And 25% of the time, it will be free to empty your waste tanks.
RV Dump Sites
Once you have found a dump station, well…you still have to empty your waste tanks. Not to worry! We’ve got you covered.
For those of you with no experience emptying your black and gray tanks, watching someone else do it and talk through the process can be extremely helpful. (We’ll still give you all the best products, tips, and secrets to get the job done fast and clean).
John Marucci talks through his process for emptying at dump stations. He is not in any way associated with RV SUPPLY Co—he just made a great guide.
What You Need
|Item (Our Top Choice)||Purpose|
|Gloves||Protect yourself, stay clean, and stay healthy|
|Wipes||Clean valves, rinse water spigot, handles, and connection ports|
|Black/Gray Tank Flush Hose||Used to flush out tanks during/after draining them|
|Sewage Hose||Used to connect your RV to the dump station port|
|Tank Treatment||Used to prevent odors in your tanks (especially your black tank)|
The links are affiliate links, we are not directly associated with the products, but may we earn a small commission (at no cost to you) from qualifying purchases.
You need gloves. Two choices: reusable gloves or disposable gloves. We prefer disposable so you don’t have to worry about cleaning, storing, or remembering where you put them. Reusable gloves do offer advantages too (environmental). Your choice, but we highly recommend wearing gloves.
Black/Gray Tank Flush Hose
Most RVs don’t include an extra hose to flush out your tanks after you drain them. Not to worry: a simple under $15 hose will do (as of writing, on Amazon, March 24th, 2020 the price is $12).
Sometimes dump stations will have a flush hose, sometimes they don’t. We always recommend bringing your own just in case.
Though flush hoses often look similar to garden hoses, they should not be mixed with your fresh water hose.
Your RV may have come with a sewage hose. It is normally stored in the rear bumper or in the back.
If you don’t a have sewer hose, Camco makes the RhinoExtreme Sewer Hose Kit. We love it. It’s the best out there. It comes with everything you need. No more needs to be said.
Gray and Black Tank Treatment
We have found Porta-Pak by Walex to be the best holding tank deodorizer. We have a full review coming soon, but in short: drop it in your toilet, watch it dissolve, and enjoy odor free – up to 40 gallons of waste. It works! This is how you come out smelling like a rose.
You will need an odor treatment for your black tank, and we recommend Porta-Pak.
First timers – watch the video above for a general walkthrough first.
And even for more experienced campers, here are some helpful tips and even secrets that will improve your RV dump station experience.
1. Empty Your Black Tank, Then Gray Tank
It is essential to empty your black tank first because it has solid waste, but your gray tank does not. By emptying your black tank first, the solids run through the hose. Even if some does not fully go through, the gray tank is there to flush it all out.
Because your gray tank is connected to sinks, there is often soap in this tank. It helps clean the sewage hose from the black tank’s residue.
Open the slide valve for the black tank first, then after it is completely empty and you have flushed it, close it and open the gray tank. Some RVs have individual outlets.
2. Keep Your Hoses Secure
When you pull up to the dump site and get your hoses out, there will likely be a paver or brick holding down the cover where your hose will go.
Use that brick to help hold your hose in place. The water and solid waste coming out of your RV will have a lot of force behind it—best to make sure it all ends up in the sewer.
We also recommend clear connection ports. They give you a sense of what’s going on, which, trust me, is much better than listening. (We’re working on a full guide to sewage hoses.)
2. Use Your Flush Hose While You Empty
To save time, get your dump hose going like you regularly would, then, while you wait, set up your flush hose and turn it on.
This will speed up the process, freeing up the station for the next user, and your tank will be cleaner. Great!
3. Don’t Mix Hoses
It is (hopefully) obvious not to use your sewage hose for anything other than dumping sewage, but it is also important not to use your flushing hose for fresh water either. Most rinsing water (used for flush hose) at dump stations is non-potable (drinkable).
Further, you don’t want to store your clean water hose with either your sewage hose or fresh water hose. This is simply to protect your health. It is good sanitary practice.
4. Guide to Disconnecting
For both black tank and gray tank, before you disconnect your hose, double check that the valve is closed. Disconnect the hose and immediately lift it up. That way any contents left in the tube washes down into the dump site-end of the hose.
Still keeping the RV-end above the draining-end, use your flush hose to run water through the hose. You can flush out the hose itself.
Connect the ends of you black tank hose together for storage (doesn’t work for some designs).
There are just a few points to hit on. Common sense, but it never hurts to repeat.
- Leave the dump station area cleaner than you found it.
- Don’t dawdle if there’s a line behind you. Start your flush hose while your tanks drain.
- The only thing that should go in the dump station port is the contents of your black and gray tanks. Nothing else.
Yes they are. That said, there are a decreasing number of them, because of what is called dump station abuse. RVers who refuse to clean up after they empty their tanks or dump things that shouldn’t be dumped. It creates a hassle to clean and maintain.
Read the full article to learn how to prevent abuse of dump stations and keep more open!
We calculated in this article is costs on average $6.23. However, more than 75% of waste dumping stations are under $10 and about 25% are free.
The standard answer is anything more than about 2/3rds full. Anything less is unnecessary, though before a long day of driving, it isn’t a bad idea—especially if you don’t know where the next dump station is. You should check, but emptying 30+ gallons at 8.43 pounds per gall would certainly help your gas mileage.
Check this nationwide map, plus a collection of great resources for finding the nearest station. Once you know where to look, the process becomes one hundred times less stressful (bookmark it).
Thanks for reading! We hope you find this helpful. If you have suggestions, content ideas, feedback or want to contribute send us a quick email at [email protected].
RV SUPPLY Co is not affiliated in any way with any location, site, campground, park, etc. described in this article. Dump station fees are subject to change. Prices can and do change.
Some links above are affiliate links, we are not directly associated with the products, but may we earn a small commission (at no cost to you) from qualifying purchases.