For some of you avid campers, the time you spend on your RV might even exceed the time you spend at home. For many, it is a second home, and a place you would want to keep as comfortable as possible. After all, it is a place for you to relax and escape the tedium and craziness of life. Having a workable and well-functioning toilet is one of the comforts you want to enjoy as you take your RV on adventures outdoors with you.
Without it and stuck in the wilderness, the only option you have might very well be the traditional hole in the ground method when you feel the urge to use the bathroom. If you are not looking to add such an experience to your camping adventures, continue to read on!
How do you know that your toilet is clogged?
The easiest, most obvious sign of a clogged toilet is a noxious and pungent odour that seeps into every corner of your RV, making it even difficult to breathe. Usually, these smells will indicate a problem with the plumbing before you can see the problem by looking into the toilet. Such odours are hard to ignore and will drastically affect your RV experience, so you will definitely want to do everything you can to get rid of it.
First, check if the valve to your black water tank is working properly, and that it is not hard to open or close. A malfunctioning valve can be the reason to your toilet problems. If you have a clear sewer hose adapter, you will be able to see if anything is flowing out of the tank.
If you do not have that, find a quiet spot and listen to the sounds produced. An emptying tank will produce sounds so that you know that things are moving. If you can only hear very little movement, or there are no sounds produced at all, your black water tank is likely to be partially or completely clogged.
What do you do when your RV toilet is clogged?
There are a number of ways for you to unclog that jammed toilet on your RV. Depending on what you have with you, and analysing where the problem is, here are a few methods you can try:
1. Snaking the RV toilet
Snaking the clogged RV toilet is often regarded as the most effective way to clear a clogged toilet. There are two main ways to snake your RV toilet. One option is to use a toilet wand or plumber snake that can be purchased at your local hardware store or sourced online. To push the clogs out of the pipes, push the toilet wand deep into the toilet.
There are also wands that come with nozzles. These wands allow you to blast pressurized water bursts down the toilet to get rid of the clogs. Before you do any unclogging using this method, make sure to gear up in protective clothing. There is nothing such as too much protection from the clogged waste material, so put on everything you can find!
Clothing that you would not mind throwing away after this job, a sturdy pair of rubber boots, thick, durable rubber gloves and protective eyewear are recommended. A good tip is to get plumber snakes that are more flexible, as they would bend more easily and would be more effective in clearing the clog.
Using this method, it will be good if you can find someone to help you with it. After making sure that your protective clothing is on, get your helper to stand next to the black water tank valve. Place a bucket directly under the opening of the sewer tank. After opening the valve, get your helper to open the sewer tank. Push the plumber snake upwards until you can feel it hitting the clog.
Finding the clog is half the job done, and now, you will just have to move the snake up and down to get the clog moving. Once the clog is moving, quickly get out of the way of the waste, and let the waste pour into the bucket. Repeat this process until you are sure that the clog is no longer in the way.
Now, get your helper to close the valve of the sewer tank. Attach the sewer hose to the tank and connect it to the sewer outlet. Let all of the remaining waste flow into the sewer by opening the tank, and flush the waste down with some water.
Alternatively, if you are stuck in the wild and do not have a toilet wand stashed in your RV, search for a strong and bendable stick. Similar to how you would use a toilet wand, push the stick deep down the toilet to get the clog moving. Flush water down the toilet after that to aid the movement of the clog down the pipes.
2. Using unclogging chemicals
Unclogging chemicals can be purchased in the stores, but one disadvantage is that it can be detrimental to the environment, and can also damage the sewer tank. It might not be the best option if you want the tank to last and you are hoping to keep your RV in the best condition possible. However, if snaking the clogged toilet is really too much for your stomach to handle, there are environmentally safe and sewer tank friendly options in the market today.
While these options might not exist in the past, we are certainly spoilt with options today, and a quick online search for these unclogging chemicals will lead you to what you are looking for. The method of using such chemicals might vary with the type that you purchase, but generally, fill the toilet to the halfway mark with water before adding the chemicals and allowing it to sit for a few hours. Flush the toilet to move the chemicals down to the clog. It will also help if you take your RV on a short spin to mix up the chemicals in the tank.
3.Using ice cubes
The effectiveness of this method is one that generates much discussion in the RV community. This method claims to work by using the ice to cool down and scrape build up in the sewer pipes. Some also claim that making ice cubes with a mixture of vinegar and water increases the effectiveness of this method. It is effective for both toilet paper clogs and waste clogs.
This method requires you to fill the toilet bowl with water until it is a third full. Then, add a tray of ice cubes into the toilet bowl, and continue to fill up the entire toilet bowl with water. Flush the toilet a few times to move the ice down into the pipes. If possible, drive the RV around to mix the ice around.
4. Using hot water
Like the ice cube method discussed above, this method is a highly debatable one in the camping community, with some swearing by it, and others claiming that it is just a myth. Essentially, this method requires the pouring of copious amounts of hot water down the clogged toilet. Firstly, open the toilet valve. Put a kettle on the stove and start boiling as much water as you can.
You might want to put on protective gloves to prevent yourself from scalding yourself with the boiling hot water. This will save you from a lot of pain and a costly trip to the doctors if an accident happens, so glove on if you have them on hand! Now that you are all ready, pour a slow stream of boiling water into the toilet. Repeat this for a few times. Do not use the toilet for the rest of the day, and hope for the best when you give the toilet a check the next morning.
How to prevent a clogged toilet on your RV?
After having the messy job of clearing your clogged RV toilet, I am sure that you will not want to go through all of this again. After all, prevention is better than cure, so make sure to take preventative measures to ensure that you will not have to smell that stench again.
Do not flush everything down the toilet- Never flush down sanitary napkins, wet wipes or any thick paper down the toilet.
Use the right toilet paper- Using biodegradable, septic safe toilet paper is the safest option as they will break down faster compared to your conventional run off the mill toilet paper. They might be a tad bit pricier, but it will definitely bet better for your RV in the long run! Alternatively, source for cheaper 1-2 ply toilet paper in the supermarket. These will also do the trick, and are more affordable compared to special RV use toilet paper sold at specialty stores.
Use less toilet paper- Even if you are using the best septic safe toilet paper, using too much of it at once and throwing it all down the toilet bowl will also clog up the toilet. Try to use only what you need.
Flush twice- Flushing the toilet twice every single time you use it will keep the waste moving, preventing clogs from forming.
Chemical drop ins- Using store bought tissue digesters or probe cleaners before every use of your RV toilet will keep the clogs at bay. All these tools and gear can be purchased at specialty camping stores or sourced online at your convenience.
Stick to these tips, and your RV (and of course yourself!) will thank you in the future.
Be it the more natural hot water or ice cube methods, the messier but proven to be effective snaking method, or the more convenient unclogging chemical method, there is definitely a method that will best suit your needs! After all, if all else fails, you can always rely on a call to your trusty plumber.