Posted August 25, 2016 – Narrated by Jim
During our first month in the trailer, things were going so well.
Like ominous rumblings from below, the signs were there. Deep, deep down we sensed “it” forming, growing, creeping up our black water tank.
Yes. Once we were innocents – lacking respect and knowledge for the scatalogical results of our daily actions.
Little did we know, that only two days later we would be wizened warriors – victorious conquerors of our insidious monster of a Shitalactite!
So, why discharge this, our humble tale as we galavant among the beautiful lakes and valleys of California? Why can’t we simply shut the lid and walk away?
We certainly don’t intend to make a stink about it, but Poop is a topic all newbies should disseminate.
Ignore poop at your peril!
If you do (and everyone does) you could easily make a mountain out of a molehill in your black water tank. We know, because, we did.
More experienced RVers need not listen to our enthroned declarations regarding how to handle a potentially disastrous tank blockage. And we solicit all experts to pitch your favorite technique in the comment section below.
No, we are simply here to tell you what we did, what we’re currently doing; what we plan to do in the future, and, then give you the full scoop about what we do do.
First, some backstory.
If you live in a bricks and mortar home, how your ‘jobbie‘ journeys from your body, down the plumbing and into the sewer system is truly a marvel of human ingenuity.
In most homes, the toilet is about two square feet of white porcelain with a water tank measuring about another couple of square feet or smaller.
The idea is to keep it clean and tidy, and other than a handle which may occasionally need a jiggle to facilitate a proper flush – that’s about the end of it.
Just, pull the handle and, “Tada!” one’s marvelous Picasso is surrendered to higher authorities for process and disposal.
But for one who does a Picasso in an RV, the toilet is a mere prop for a 40-gallon tank into which the acquisition drops down to join the rest of the collection, and remains in one’s expert care for days – or even weeks when in a dry-camping situation.
Keeping a toilet and a 40-gallon tank clean and tidy is a demanding responsibility because not only is poop toxic, but it has been known to explode!
One of the saddest sounds an RVer may ever hear is silence when they pull the black water tank valve and nothing happens.
No pleasing “swoosh” sound of excrement and water and TP on it’s way down the stinky-slinky …
… and into the public sewer system where it will become someone else’s problem.
That no-swoosh silence means you have a blockage.
At this point, sewer mouth is in order – it won’t help the blockage but it should instantly wrap your head around the problem.
So, first, swear all you want, then, go into the bathroom, peer down the toilet with a flashlight into your dark, cavernous black tank and behold your creation: a giant, hardened, free-standing poopy papier-mâché and say, “My God… What have I done?”
Googling will render dozens of explanations and suggestions – ironic how poop draws crowds on the internet.
The most recommended solution involves pulling a hose into your trailer, shoving the hose down the toilet and then yelling to your partner who is outside manning the spigot, “Let’r rip!” as you proceed to water blast the blockage down to size.
Some said it’s even more effective if you attach a special, sharp nozzle onto your hose in order to pierce the blockage and then, let’r rip! … and it might be a good idea to wear a hazmat suit.
Psychologists should study why putting things down the toilet dominates all other solutions to RV blockages on the internet.
Like, for instance, to dump a seven pound bag of ice chips down the toilet and “take ‘er for a drive” … for hours … so the ice will rattle around and bang the crap out of the blockage and splash it with the chemical solvents pooled at the bottom of the tank.
That idea seemed plausible and clean.
Unleash the ice chips!!!
We hitched up Beauty and spent our free Saturday driving our poor, constipated trailer on the jammed-up weekend highways and byways.
We drove over railroad tracks, and cattle guards. “Take that, Shitalactite!” thinking how nice it would be to hear that happy “swoosh” sound later in the evening over a sparkly glass of champagne…
Day wasted. It didn’t work.
Toilet paper shaming is another obsession on the RV sites. The Supreme Masters of Paper Shunners and Conservers never have blockages. Some RV veterans whom we greatly respect, recommend never putting any toilet paper at all in your black water tank. They keep a special trash receptacle exclusively for TP and never experience blockage problems.
We admit to being squeamish about this solution. Our trailer is our home – we love to entertain. For us, TP is an institutional necessity for living In Beauty.
“Sounds like you’re up shit creek without a paddle. Call a pro!” was tempting advice. But, as determined TP users, we needed to learn to solve this ourselves. Nevertheless, we researched a reputable RV tank service, and we’d call Monday morning, should we need it.
With only a few hours of Sunday left, an Airstream friend suggested we drive over an hour away, to Camping World. The experienced staff considered our specific problem and suggested the Flush King Reverse RV Flush Valve.
Cheaper versions of this device were offered, but we decided to go with the best.
We attached the Flush King directly to the Airstream’s sewer pipe. Then, attached the sewer hose to the Flush King.
Next, we attached one end of a gray water input hose to the Flush King and the other end to the outdoor water faucet.
Before turning on the outside water source and utilizing the Flush King, we once again opened the black water tank … held our breath.
No luck. Blockage still there.
So, leaving the blocked black water valve on the trailer open, we closed the valve on the Flush King to create a closed system between the Flush King and the blocked black water tank.
That way, there would be no escape for the introduction of new water except against the blockage inside the black water tank.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Unless you have a sacrificial virgin handy, place a beautiful woman whom you dearly love inside the trailer. Stand her over the open toilet with a flash light in her hand so she can see movement deep within in the black water tank.
Instruct her to yell “STOP!!!” if the water (or, anything) from the toilet rises enough to reach the inside of the bowl due to the introduction of the outside water to the Flush King. (We used walkie-talkies so we didn’t have to yell.)
Open the Flush King water inlet (blue knob that directs water into the black water tank) and then turn on the water at the outside spigot. At first, it will fill the clear plastic coupler and then start building pressure as it forces its way on the blockage and into the black water tank.
Quickly the blockage will be forced back into the black water tank.
Using the walkie talkie, stay in communication with the person inside.
When you think the blockage is gone, open the valve on the Flush King to let water and the contents of the black water tank drain into the sewer hose, but leave the fresh water inlet running for now.
If anything has happened to the blockage, you will see something other than clear water coming out.
If yes, then you have successfully given your trailer an enema and broken the blockage. Repeat over and over until nothing but clear water comes out.
And that is how we defeated the Shitalactite, cleaned up our tank (and our potty-mouth) and got back to normal, living in Beauty.
Flush King is also great for blockage prevention. We now use it every time we empty the black water tank to keep it clean, fresh and blockage free.
Important Additional Points
We have discovered that a major cause of black water tank blockage is not putting enough water in the tank after emptying.
After the black water tank is emptied, hold the foot pedal down for one minute to fill the tank with several gallons of water, then fill the toilet bowl with water and put in a tank conditioner. We really like Unique RV Digest-IT Holding Tank Treatment for serval reasons. You only need 2 ounces per treatment, it is non-toxic, clear and not colored blue, and it uses bacteria to deodorize and breakdown solids.
Here are some best practices we have learned:
- Always keep the black water tank valve closed, except when dumping the tank.
- Always keep several inches of water in the toilet when the RV is stationary to keep tank gas from backing up into the RV. (Press slightly down on the foot flush pedal to fill the toilet and not open the bowl valve)
- Always flush the toilet with enough water to ensure the microbes that keep the tank odor free are well hydrated.
- Keep the tank temperature below 85 degrees so the bacteria will be able to do its job. Add water or ice if needed.
- Never put any chemical down the toilet because it will kill the good bacteria. Clean the toilet bowl using a bacteria-infused toilet bowl cleaner like Unique Toilet Cleaner.
- Use the Flush King to back flush the black water tank as often as possible to reduce waste collecting in the corners.