How to Sanitize Your RV Water System

Enjoying the camping experience with an RV means that you must have all your tanks working properly, particularly the freshwater system.

Even if you may not be drinking directly from your RV water system, you should always endeavor to keep it clean, safe, and fresh by sanitizing the RV water tank. This post contains all you need to know about keeping your RV water tank sanitized and tips to make sure that it is properly done.

Is it Necessary to Sanitize Your RV Water System?

If you are one who does not drink the water from your RV tank especially, you may wonder if it is entirely necessary to sanitize the water tank at all. The fact is that, irrespective of how you are utilizing the water or how often you are using it, getting safe, clean water in your recreational vehicle is essential to you and your family’s health, thus properly maintaining it as such by frequently sanitizing shouldn’t be compromised.

If you have not used your RV for a while or it has been in storage for some time, your hot water tank, water lines and fresh water storage tank can easily provide a conducive place for bacteria to thrive and multiply. Sanitizing your water system is the surest way to avoid bacteria growth or to remove such issues that may be found in your RV.

When to Sanitize the RV Water System

  • One of the most obvious signs that indicate that you need to sanitize the entire water system is when you sense a stale odor while using the water in your RV. This often happens when the water in the system is left in storage for a while. Sensing such an odor should tell you that it is time to sanitize your system.
  • Finding slime or algae in your water tank is another indicator that you need to clean out the water system. No matter the purpose of the water in your system, you will need to sanitize the system if you begin having problems with slime and algae.
  • If after filling up your tank, you are notified of a ‘boil water’ advisory due to present contaminants, it is definitely the best time to sanitize the RV water system.
  • Your water system should be sanitized if the vehicle or the system itself has not been utilized for more than a month. At the least, the entire system should be sanitized every few months, if you do not use it regularly.
  • If you notice any issues whatsoever with quality of water coming out of your tank, it is time to embark on a system sanitation.
  • After using a filter, you still need to sanitize your entire RV water system periodically. This is because although filters can get rid of contaminants such as rust and sand and also improve on the odor and taste of the water, they cannot fully purify or kill the bacteria and microorganisms present. This is when you need to sanitize.

Factors to Consider before Sanitizing your RV Water Tank

Before we delve into the various steps you need to take in sanitizing your water tank, the tips outlined below will come in handy.

Time Needed

You need to ensure that you set aside enough time before beginning the sanitizing process. At least 12 hours should be dedicated to complete the entire process. Sanitizing the entire water tank in an RV can consume as little as five hours and up to about 12 hours in total.

Required Supplies and their Average Prices

  • Bleach: The amount you need to purchase varies based on the brand and sizes available. However, the average price begins at about $2.
  • An external water filter: This usually costs about $10.
  • An internal water filter: The average cost is around $20.
  • A water filter wrench for the internal filter: This may sometimes be included with the internal filter, but often costs just $5
  • Funnel with flexible hose: You can find this at any auto part store for about $3
  • You will also need other supplies such as measuring cups, a container for mixing the bleach and water, as well as rags to wipe away the spills.

Steps to Sanitize your RV Water System

The steps below reveal the approved method for the effective sanitizing process of an RV’s fresh water system. The process generally involves soaking the fresh water system in a bleach solution, running it through the entire system, letting it stand for some hours, then finally flushing the bleach out of the system.

Carefully follow the steps listed below to ensure the job is properly done:

Step 1: Ensure that all your supplies (check the list above) are available before you begin the process. This will ease the entire process and help you finish faster.

Step 2: Turn off the Water Heater. Before you drain the system, it is necessary to turn off the water heater so that you do not damage it in the process. Again, it is advisable to let the water cool off after turning the heater off before draining.

Step 3: Keep your hose and funnel sanitized by using bleach and allowing it to be soaked for at least 15 minutes.

Step 4: Drain out up to half or one-quarter of the water tank. If the water is no longer safe for use, however, drain out the whole tank and refill it with clean water to about half the level of the tank or three-quarters.

Step 5: Prepare the bleach and water solution in a separate container before you sanitize the tank. It is recommended that you calculate the cups of bleach you will use based on the size of the water tank and number of water gallons. See the table below for the appropriate measurements:

Size of Fresh Water Tank Amount of Bleach to Use Mixture with Water
100 gallons (380 liters) 2 cups (480 ml) 8 gallons (32 liters)
80 gallons (302 liters) 1 ¾ cup (420 ml) 7 gallons (28 liters)
60 gallons (227 liters) 1 ½ cup (360 ml) 6 gallons (24 liters)
50 gallons (190 liters) 1 ¼ cup (300 ml) 5 gallons (20 liters)
40 gallons (152 liters) 1 cup (240 ml) 4 gallons (16 liters)

NB: Never pour the bleach directly into the freshwater tank.

Step 6: With the help of the funnel and hose, pour the bleach-and-water mixture into your RV fresh water tank.

Step 7: Continue adding fresh clean water to the system till it seeps out of the overflow hose, then put on the water pump. Putting on all water pumps will ensure that the bleach water solution finds its way throughout the whole freshwater system.

Step 8: Leave the solution to sit for a good number of hours. The best time to allow the solution to properly sanitize the system is to let it sit overnight. A minimum of 4 to 12 hours should be enough to get your system as clean as possible.

Step 9: After allowing the bleach solution to sit in the fresh water tank for at least 5 hours, you will need to drain out all that water again. Then you refill the water tank with clean water, while circulating the water with a pump. The goal is to rinse the entire system out so that all the bleach smell and chemical residues are cleared.

Step 10: Once you are done with the above steps, turn off the faucets and replace your external and internal filters with new ones. The last step is to refill the water tank and turn your heater back on.