RV Toilet Paper, Do You Really Need To Use It?
One of the first things you will hear after getting in to the RV Lifestyle is that you HAVE to use RV Toilet Paper. What would happen if you used regular toilet paper instead of RV Toilet Paper?
RV Toilet Paper
Why exactly does everyone say you absolutely have to use it? The short answer is because most people aren’t using their black tank properly. The RV Industry came up with a single ply RV Toilet Paper that breaks down faster with less water because of it. Admittedly we were in that group when we got our first RV and ended up having the dreaded poop pyramid on our trip to the Redwood National Forest.
What is a poop pyramid? I will explain this one as delicately as I can. It is basically the result of not using enough water when you flush your toilet. In your RV, the black tank (where the stuff from the toilet goes) is directly under your toilet.
When you flush the toilet the flapper opens and the Stuff falls down like it would in a porta-potty. In the RV Toilet when you flush, it all hits the bottom of the tank. If you don’t have enough water, all of the solids will actually pile up in a pyramid fashion which leads to a really crappy situation. Pun intended.
This WILL happen to you one day. Even if you are a Certified RV Black Tank Super Camper, it’s going to happen at some point. It could be the result of a bad seal on your dump valve, or due to water evaporating out of the vent pipe, butt make no mistake, it’ll happen. We have a few solutions for when it does that I will go over later.
RV Black Tank
This is where all of your trouble, or lack there of, starts. There are a few things you can do to avoid having to deal with a plugged sewer line that will make every trip more enjoyable, and even allow you to use regular toilet paper.
Surely I can’t be serious about using regular toilet paper? Everyone I know says you have to use the RV Toilet paper or pay the consequences. Well I can tell you, we went Full Time in the RV over a year ago. Since then we used RV Toilet paper for about a week before I had enough of my finger poking through it.
We have been doing the things I’m about to share with you ever since. Using quilted Two Ply without incident makes me happier than the Charmin Bears after my first cup of coffee. The key to this Pro Tip is so simple anyone can do it. Really, Everyone needs to do it in order for it to work.
How To Use Your RV Black Tank
The RV dealership you bought yours from went over this with you at length right? Weird, mine either. Let’s go over some of the things you can do to make every camping trip a little less of a headache. The first thing you want to do, even on a site with Full Hook Ups, is leave your Black Tank Valve CLOSED.
Just like a porta-potty you want that tank to collect everything until it is time to be emptied. If you leave your black valve open, when you flush the RV Toilet everything will hit the bottom of the tank, and the water will run out leaving the solids where they landed.
The moisture content of those solids will continue to fall as the residual water runs down your sewer pipe. Solids in the tank will actually become more Solid and start the base of your poop pyramid. By leaving your black valve closed it keeps the water in the tank which helps to dilute the solids making them easier to dump.
Think of it this way. Take two 5 Gallon buckets and throw a shovel of wet beach sand in each. Take one bucket and fill it the rest of the way with water. Now flip each bucket over. Which pile can you make a sand castle with, and which one just dissipated?
Use More Water
I know, this sounds counter intuitive in todays day and age of save every drop you can. When using the toilet in your RV you think to yourself just use a little water. In reality what you want to do is fill the bowl, then send it down.
“How do you fill the bowl? It just flushes and rinses at the same time.” With an RV Toilet, when you step on the foot lever, just step on it lightly. The foot pedal is dual action. The first action opens the water valve, and on the second action it opens the flush valve.
Step on the pedal just enough to open the water valve and let it stay that way until the water level rises enough to call the bowl full. After the water level has reached the height you are comfortable with, press the pedal the rest of the way down to open the flush valve.
My Family Won’t Do It That Way
I have a solution for that too. Some people are just NOT going to look at the bowl to make sure it is full enough to make soup instead of brownie mix. Sorry if you’re eating while reading this but it was about toilet paper, what did you expect.
If you can’t get the family to cooperate with flushing the RV toilet this way, you can always prefill your black tank. There is a risky way to do it and a less risky way to do it. Either way you can put some extra water in your black tank to negate the waterless flushes.
The risky fix
If your RV has an exterior black tank flush connection like ours does, you can use it to prefill your RV Black Tank. You don’t need to FILL your black tank, in fact you do NOT want to fill it. When we get to a campsite I get everything all hooked up first.
I make sure my Black Tank Valve is closed. Then I hook a hose to my Black Tank Flush connection. Next I pull out my phone and open my Timer App. Turn the garden hose on, hit start on the timer. Twenty seconds later I turn the hose off and disconnect it. Leave the black tank valve closed. For most weekend trips this will be more than enough water in the bottom of the tank.
Why is this the risky fix? Two reasons. The first being it is possible, although unlikely, that you can damage the black tank seals.
The other being that the camper next to you can strike up a conversation, and you can forget to shut off the garden hose. If that happens you completely fill the black tank and then it starts to bubble up the into the toilet.
Go ahead, ask me how I know about Number 2… No pun intended.
The less risky fix
After you are done setting your RV up at your new campsite, and have left your black tank closed, head into the RV bathroom. Step on the flush lever enough to fill the bowl, then flush it. Repeat this 15 or 20 times.
No chance of forgetting to shut off a garden hose and over filling your black tank, and it also prefills the tank like we need it to. Which ever process you choose, this is going to make dumping the tank, and avoiding a paper clog in the line a thing of the past.
The higher Water to Solids Ratio, the better the flow. Throw a stick in a river, no one cares. Throw 20 trees in a river and now you created a dam. Same concept.
Black Tank Drop Ins
I go back and forth with their usefulness and even their effectiveness. I will say that the good ones DO actually get rid of the occasional smell, and Do seem to help break things down. That being said they ALL seem to say that they will clean your tank sensors. None of them have ever made mine work properly and the black tank Always reads 2/3 full.
Black Tank Tools
There are some useful products you can keep on hand, and preventative maintenance you can do to help keep things flowing smoothly. The benefit of doing a good flush of your RV Black Tank can not be understated.
When you are packing up and getting ready to leave your camp site, you should be flushing your black tank. After you open your black tank valve and send the contents down the sewer connection, connect a garden hose to your black tank flush connection.
Keep your black tank valve open, then turn on your garden hose. Let it run for a few minutes to flush out any residual waste that is still in the tank. If you listen closely you can hear solids splashing down from your black tank into the pipe on your RV. When you haven’t heard any for a minute you can go ahead and shut it all down.
Manual Tank Flush
If you do not have an exterior tank flush connection, you can always flush your tank manually. There are a couple ways to do this as well. The first is to close the black tank valve, and do the prefill flush process again, only this time when you are done, go outside and open the black valve.
The second option is to use a hose. You will NEED a “trash hose” for this. A trash hose is a garden hose that is ONLY used for this process, and NEVER used for fresh water supply.
Once your RV Black Tank is done draining, leave your black valve open, turn off the fresh water supply to your RV. Connect the hose to a water spigot and run the trash hose into the bathroom. Step on the flush valve to open the flapper, and put the male end of the hose into the hole. Have an assistant outside turn the hose one so you can keep hold of this end. You don’t want it popping out and spraying everywhere.
Clear Sewer Elbow
This is a product that we use, and I love it. I don’t love how I have to look at it when emptying the black tank, but it is helpful to know if you are done flushing the tank. This elbow twist locks onto your RV Sewer Pipe, then your sewer hose twist locks onto it.
Once you open your black tank valve, you can see what is flowing down your sewer hose. Gross I know, but WAY less gross than having to work on the sewer pipes when they are full of Stuff.
The black tank flush will send the residual sludge down the line, and you can keep an eye on the elbow to see when the water starts to run clear. Once it does you know you are done flushing your tank.
An added benefit is that is has a trash hose connection on it you can use to bust up a plugged sewer line. Just be careful to make sure it is closed when not using it for this purpose.
Black Tank Cleaning Wand
If you want to get a real good cleaning on the inside of your black tank, this thing is great. It is honestly the only thing that has ever gotten our sensors to read properly as well. You are going to also need your trash hose, and a bucket or garbage bag to put it in when you are done. It will come out really nasty and need a thorough cleaning before storage.
It screws on to the male end of the trash hose, and the process is the similar to the manual tank flush with the hose above. You put the tank cleaning wand down the hole, and turn on the water. The water flow activates the spinning sprinkler head at the down side of the wand.
The wand sprays with a high pressure, and has a sprinkler head that rotates and sprays all the walls of the black tank. It will wash down the inside walls of the tank, and even pressure wash your sensors so that maybe, just maybe, they will read accurately.
Poop Pyramid Solutions
If you are reading this because it has already happened, here is what to do.
HOT Water. I’m not talking about warm, I’m talking about HOT. Use the hot water only with the RV shower head to fill the bowl, then flush when it’s full.
The More Effective way, is to find the biggest pot you have and fill it with water. If you can find something a gallon or larger that’s ideal. Put it on your stove and get it HOT. CAREFULLY Bring it into the bathroom and step on the flush valve as you pour the water atop the pyramid.
Pro Tip: Hold your breath while you do it.
The theory here is that hot water cleans better, and helps to melt the solids, making it possible to flow out when you open the black tank valve. It Can take some time however. When you make mac and cheese the pot is easier to scrub if you let it sit in the hot water right?
We got the poop pyramid on Christmas Day in the middle of nowhere and this was our only option. So 5 or 6 pots of boiling water went down the toilet. After sitting for an hour, it all finally flowed out the sewer line.
This is messy, and gross, so skip to the next article if you’re squeamish.
First get a good garbage bag. Next take the broom handle out of the broom head. Next open the ceiling vent and turn on the exhaust fan in the bathroom. Finally, get ready to see something you can’t UNsee…
Open the garbage bag and have it at the ready next to you on the floor. Take your broom handle, thank it for what it is about to do, step on the flush lever to open the flush valve and send it in to do battle.
If you can get it to Break Apart you may get things flowing down the sewer pipe again.
When the battle is over and you’ve collected your thoughts, pick the broom handle up and put it right into the garbage bag, then immediately walk it to the campground dumpster.
I really hope you never have to do option 2.