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How to Sanitize Camper Water Tank Systems (6 Easy Steps)

| Updated Jun 21, 2023

Here's how to sanitize camper water tank systems in 6 easy steps!

Having access to clean water is a human necessity. We often take it for granted until we're out RVing or camping.

When spending time in an RV, you may come to rely on your RV's fresh water system for days at a time. In fact, it may become your only water source for the entire length of your trip.

That is especially true for camping at an RV park that does not offer hookups. Or when truly going off-grid to boondock.

Before any trip, you want to be sure you have enough clean water to last for however long you will be gone. And part of that preparation is keeping your RV's fresh water system clean and sanitized.

The great news is that keeping your RV water system sanitized is not hard to do! The following is my simple guide on how to sanitize a camper water tank.

How Often Should You Sanitize Your RV Tanks?

how to sanitize camper water tank
How often do you sanitize your water system?

Sanitizing your freshwater tank every six months is the best way to ensure that you have potable water on every trip. You will want to sanitize more often for any of the following reasons:

  • Lend or rent out he RV
  • You notice foul odors from the water
  • The water has a bad taste
  • Purchasing a used RV

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How to Sanitize Camper Water Tank Systems

The last thing you want on your next camping trip is to lose your access to freshwater. Keeping your RV water tank sanitized is very important in keeping you happy and healthy.

Sanitizing prevents your water from tasting or smelling “funny” and it keeps your water potable and safe for consumption.

Instead of lugging gallons of water on your trip, there is a simple way to sanitize your RV's water system.

The best part? You can do it yourself! Just follow my simple steps to a clean camper water tank!

Before You Begin

Best Drinking Water Hose for Your RV
And don't forget about having the best hose for drinking water after you've gone through this process.

The first thing you want to do is give yourself about 12-hours to complete the sanitation process. I recommend starting in the morning. That way, you can let the bleach solution sit during the day and complete the process in the evening.

You will also want to choose a location away from plants. That way you will not cause any damage when draining the bleach solution.

Turn off your RV's hot water tank and let it cool. It may damage the water heater if you leave it on while draining.

Next, turn off the water pump or ice maker if your RV has them. If you have an external water filter, you will want to bypass it. You do not want your bleach solution to travel through those when you start the sanitizing process.

1. Gather Your Supplies

The next step is to gather some basic household supplies. You will want:

  • chlorine bleach
  • 1-gallon pitcher or bucket
  • 1-cup measuring cup
  • a clean funnel
  • hose from clean water source

You may also want to wear clothing that you do not mind bleaching if any of the solution should splash on you.

2. Drain the Tank

If your fresh water tank is still holding unsafe water, you will want to be sure to drain the entire fresh water tank holds. In this case, it would be helpful to keep on the water pump until it is fully drained. Then turn it off.

If the water is still clean, you can choose to drain the tank until it is one-quarter to halfway full.

To drain your tank, you will want to open the drain valve. Once the water runs out, tighten to stop it again.

3. Using Bleach to Sanitize

how to sanitize camper water tank
Make a solution first.

You will not want to pour bleach directly into your water system. Instead, you will want to dilute the bleach and make a bleach solution to use for your cleaning.

To make your bleach solution, dilute one cup of bleach in four gallons of water. That is enough bleach solution to sanitize forty-gallon holding tanks. If you do not know the size of your tank, look at the owner's manual to find out.

If you are using a one-gallon container, add a quarter cup of bleach and fill the rest with water. If cleaning a forty-gallon tank, you will repeat this process four times.

Then, using the funnel, pour the bleach mixture into your freshwater tank.

Next, using the hose connected to a clean water source, fill the remainder of the tank with fresh water. You will want the entire tank to be completely full. Look for overflowing water beneath the tank to know when it is full.

By filling your tank all the way, the bleach water can come into contact with every surface of your water tank. That is the only way to ensure that you are sanitizing the entire water tank.

4. Clean the Pipes

how to sanitize camper water tank
Do you smell the bleach?

Next, turn on your water pump so that the water can pass through the faucets and run through the pipes. That way the bleach solution can run through the entire water system.

You will want to turn on each faucet in the RV one at a time to circulate the water. Once you can smell bleach, you know it has reached the faucet.

Some people do not think you should clean your hot water faucets. You can do those, and if you wish to, turn them on until you smell bleached water coming from the hot water pipes.

Fill the water tank again with your freshwater hose until it is overflowing.

Allow this water to sit in the water tank for at least four hours. But do not let it sit for more than twelve.

While this is an easy step of the sanitation process, some find it hard to wait patiently. I recommend walking away from your RV and setting a timer. Then come back to it later.

That is also why I suggest that you begin this process in the morning. That way you can finish in the evening and be done.

5. Drain Again (and Again…)

After the solution has sat for the recommended amount of time, turn on the faucets and open the drain valve to allow the tank to empty completely. Do not forget to turn off the water heater if you had turned it back on!

Refill the water tank with clean water. Then run the faucets until you can no longer detect a bleach smell.

If you continue to smell bleach, then repeat the refilling and draining process. That way you can flush the entire system.

6. Final Step

Once your system has been flushed, you will want to turn on your water heater.

If you have an external water filter, then I recommend changing this every time you sanitize your system. TO replace it, turn off the water supply, and install.

If you cleaned your water heater, be sure to refill it according to the owner's manual.

If you completed these steps, you are now the proud owner of a sanitized RV fresh water system! Enjoy your next camping trip with safe, potable water!

More Tips on How to Sanitize Camper Water Tank

YouTube video

If you have any more tips on how to sanitize your RV water tank, please share them in the comments below!

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-11-19

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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