How long can you go on your holding tanks?

After a season of camping with several long trips, most RVers get a good sense of how long they can go with their holding tanks.

For us, with the black tank, we can go 10 to 14 days.  Our range is likely a function of how much touring we’re doing.  If we’re out and about more, our black tank will last closer to 14 days.  Question might be, do you want to hold it that long?!  Depending on the weather, you may not want to hold your black tank contents for 2 weeks as the odor when you flush may be more than you want to bear 🙂

For our upper-deck gray tank (2 sinks and the shower), we can go several days, with showers using the most tankage.

For our lower-deck gray tank (kitchen sink, dishwasher and clothes washing machine), we can go several days, with clothes washing, followed by the dishwasher using the most tankage.

When does all this become important?  When you are boondock camping (no hookups at all) or are camping without a sewer connection.

Are there things you can do, steps you can take to increase the length of time your holding tanks will “hold out”?  Yes there are.  I have a short and far from comprehensive list.

Below are my ideas.

  • Water Conservation
  • Water Usage Location Shifting
  • Tank Transfer

Here’s what I mean by those ideas:

Water Conservation
Simply stated, use less water.

My wife will wash dishes in a dish tub, wash them all, then rinse them all at the end, using water sparingly.  Even though RV dishwashers use a small amount of water, with a careful hand dishwashing strategy, you can use even less water.

When showering, washing hands, shaving, brushing teeth etc., don’t leave the water running – turn it off between steps.

Wear outer clothing more than once.  Bring more clothing than normal.  Do laundry at a campground or city laundromat.  Wait and do laundry when you get home.

Wash up at night instead of showering daily.

Water Usage Location Shifting
As the title implies, when practical, use water at other places.

Similar to what was suggested above for washing clothes, use the restroom at a restaurant or store before you come home.

Use the restrooms and bathhouses at the campground for showering etc.

Some campgrounds offer a space for dishwashing – use that when available.

Tank Transfer
A couple of thoughts come to mind here.

Transfer the contents of your holding tanks to a portable tote tank made for such purposes.  Tote the tank to the sewer dump in the campground and dump the contents.  Rinse and repeat 🙂
Portable Sewer Tote TankTransfer some of your gray water to your black tank.  For us, since we can go a LOT longer on our black tank, if we can shift some of our gray tank water to the black tank, we can increase our time between tank dumps.

While one could use a bucket to empty gray contents into it, then dump it into the toilet and flush, there are other ways.

Wash your dishes in a dish tub, place the soapy, clean dishes in the sink and dump the wash tub into the toilet and flush.  Place the dishes back in the dish tub, quickly rinse the dishes one at a time, in the air, over the dish tub (to collect the water) and place them in a drying rack or drying towel/mat.  Then dump the dish tub into the toilet and flush.

This one’s a bit out there but I’ve done it successfully – take a shower standing in a large plastic tub and dump the tub into the toilet and flush.  Sounds crazy but it’s really doable.  I carry what I would call a bus tub used in restaurants for table dishes clearing.  I carry it to use for soaking and washing my grill grates.  For showering purposes, I place this large tub in the center of the shower, point the showerhead into the tub, turn on the water, adjust the water temperature, then turn the water off at the showerhead.  I then step into the tub, place the showerhead on my head and wet my body from the top down, then turn the water off at the showerhead.  I then soap up / wash from the bottom up, finishing with my head/face.  I then turn the water on at the showerhead and hold it against my head, rinsing and moving the head around and down my body to rinse and to promote the water to drip down my body and into the tub.  In this manner, I allow very little water to spray around the shower and 99% of the water used to be captured.  Then I carry what amounts to about 3 gallons of water to the toilet, dump it in and flush.  I ended up with a little more than 1 toilet bowl of gray shower water.  But that’s around 3 gallons of water that didn’t go into my upper-deck gray tank 🙂
Bus Tub used to Shower In

So do any of these ideas creep you out?  Do you have some ideas / techniques that you’d like to share?  Follow this link to discuss on the Heartland Owners Forum.