A simple question with a few simple answers.
We prefer the macerator approach, but there is also the bucket method or the septic tank method.
The septic tank method is by far the easiest, but it only works it you have a septic tank. (Do you?)
Where To Dump RV Waste
Most of the time, you’ll likely empty your tanks on the road. We have a complete guide to finding and using RV dump sites. First, check to see if there’s a local dump site.
Unless you have a septic tank or plan to regularly dump waste at home, the easiest and fastest solution is to make a quick trip to the dump station.
It is legal to dump your RV black tanks at home in most places (google to double check).
If you have a septic tank you can dump waste directly into it.
Please be aware of harmful chemicals or detergents that may have gotten into your black tank. It is possible they can damage the bacteria in your septic system. If you think there is a chance this could be a problem, play it safe and use the macerator method.
You can use the macerator method to dump waste into your toilets. This works because the waste makes it way to your municipal sewer line. This is different than street-side storm drains (see the note below).
Your town may or may not have combined sewage and rainwater drains (read the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy). In either case, don’t ever dump your black or gray tank contents into a storm drain.
And yes, curbside systems are definitely storm drains, not sewage drains. It is illegal to dump RV black tank waste into storm drains.
RV Black & Grey Tanks: Septic System
A septic system is a great thing to have when you’re an RVer.
If you know where your septic cleanout pipe is, you can likely drain it straight into your tank.
However septic systems are very situational. A few points:
- You can dump both black and grey tanks into septic systems
- Often there is an access port if you can’t find the cleanout PVC pipe
Be aware of what’s in your RV tanks and if it is allowed into your septic system (harmful chemicals may kill beneficial bacteria [i.e. ‘good’ bacteria in your septic tank]).
RV Waste: Bucket Method
Say it’s early in the spring. You’re just taken your RV out for the first time this season, for only one night. The black and grey tanks were empty when you started. Now there’s some, but little, waste.
Instead of going to a dump station, you can quickly empty your tanks at home.
This method puts you in the forefront of danger.
- Park your RV as near to the house as possible (within reason).
- Designate a bucket and put on some disposable gloves.
- Set the bucket under the waste output of your RV.
- Fill the bucket only 2/3rds full. You don’t want to accidentally spill.
- Carefully carry it into the bathroom.
- Dump into your toilet (while flushing).
- Repeat as necessary.
Human waste is can carry disease.
There are many notes throughout this post about the steps you can take to prevent potentially illegal and dangerous consequences of dumping your black and grey tanks.
Human waste is considered a biowaste, as it is a vector for both viral and bacterial diseases. It can be a serious health hazard if it gets into sources of drinking water. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that nearly 2.2 million people die annually from diseases caused by contaminated water. A major accomplishment of human civilization has been the reduction of disease transmission via human waste through the practice of hygiene and sanitation, which can employ a variety of different technologies.Wikipedia
How To Empty Your Tanks: Macerator Method
We will cover our top method: the macerator method. We find it the most straightforward, effective for all amounts of waste.
What You Will Need
Even if you aren’t visiting a dump site, you will want similar supplies. The main difference is that you will use a macerator to grind through the waste. Then it goes into the toilet.
Flojet is our preferred macerator for dumping your RV waste. We like them because it is an easy system to set up and straightforward to operate.
It is designed to work with garden hoses. If you dump your waste only at home instead of stations, you don’t need a sewage hose kit.
A few useful points to know about this Flojet model…
- This system will automatically deactivate if it starts to overheat.
- It comes with an on/off switch on a six foot wire.
- Do not use it for “hard, solid objects, sanitary napkins or rags”.
If you run into technical difficulties, try calling 978-281-0573.
SewerFlo: A Great Alternative
If you have an RV sewage hose already, SewerFlo makes a cheaper model. It is a great product—it just doesn’t work with a garden hose output.
SewerFlo has a powerful pump and macerator with easy twisting connections. It is a great choice for experienced RVers who already have the equipment for regular dump stations.
Say you’re new to RVing and don’t have a sewage hose yet. If you plan to dump waste at home and at dump stations (when you’re on the road), get SewerFlo’s model and an RV waste hose. You can read our full guide to RV sewage hoses or go straight to Amazon.
Both SewerFlo and Flojet come highly rated by the RVing community at large. Whichever you pick, you can’t go wrong.
Important sidenote: both Flojet and SewerFlo make models than can take garden hose inlets to rinse the macerator. The difference is Flojet outputs the macerated waste to a garden hose and SewerFlo outputs it to a larger, RV waste hose.
For repair and maintenance of your RV macerators, check out this guide.
Besides the macerator, we recommend the following equipment (which you probably already have).
|Item (Our Top Choice)||Purpose|
|Gloves||Stay clean and stay healthy|
|Wipes||Clean valves, handles, and connection ports|
|Black/Gray Tank Flush Hose||Used to flush out tanks during/after draining them**|
|Sewage Hose||Garden hose / RV sewage kit hose |
(see notes on macerators for which you should use)
|Tank Treatment||Used to prevent odors in your tanks (especially your black tank)|
**The flush hose is separate from the sewage hose. It’s simply a garden hose. You will connect it to the macerator to rinse it and move the waste. Never use any hose connected to your RV septic system for portable water.
Time needed: 30 minutes.
How to empty your RV black and gray waste tanks at home.
- Get the Right Macerator
If you have an RV sewage hose, use SewerFlo’s pump macerator. If you prefer to use garden hoses, get Flojet’s macerator.
- Connect Your Macerator to Your RV
Connect the macerator input to the RV waste output by screwing or twisting it into place. Plug in the power cable as well.
- Connect Flush Hoses to Macerator
There are three ports on your macerator. One is the waste input (connected in step 2). The second is the rinse water inlet (for both types of macerators, this can be a garden hose).
You can go ahead and connect it. This hose connects to the side port jutting out the side. The purpose of this ‘flush’ is to help rinse the waste through the macerator and all the way to your disposal place.
- Connect Waste Output Hose to Macerator
The business end of the macerator gets either a garden hose if you went with Flojet or an RV sewage hose if you went with SewerFlo. Twist or screw it into place.
Make sure the other end of the hose is where you want it to be. A toilet is the most common spot.
- Open the RV Waste Outlets
There should be two values; the black tank and the grey tank. Open one at a time. Dump the black tank first. That way when you drain the grey water tank, it cleans out the hoses and flushes any detritus fully out of the system.
- Turn On the Macerator
This is self-explanatory.
If the macerator has to push the waste uphill, there is the potential it will overheat before you completely empty your tanks. Don’t worry. Flojet will automatically turn off. Then wait a few minutes until it cools, and you can get right back to it.
- Clean Up
After it finishes, disassemble your RV septic system and clean everything with the wipes. You can read more about disconnecting with our longer guide.
Now you’re an expert!
RV septic tank is another term for the black waste tank and gray waste tank combined. Together, they make up the sewage system of your RV.
The short answer: yes. The long answer: you have to do it correctly to avoid serious consequences. If you have a home septic tank, it’s really straightforward. If you have little waste, there’s a technique for that. Otherwise, you’ll need a macerator—but then it becomes easy to empty you tanks at any time. Read the full guide above.
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