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How We Roll: Budgeting for a Long Trip and Odor Control

| Updated Oct 1, 2014

In this edition of “How We Roll,” Jennifer answers a question about budgeting and how much it costs us to take a typical week to 10 day trip. In these days of $4+ fuel, that's the killer to any budget that involves mileage. Jennifer shares our actual costs and ways we try to save money.

calgonThen I tackle a stinky question…. about odor control and how we're trying something called the “Geo Method” that mixes water softener and household detergent in a gallon of water that is poured down the toilet.

We heard about it through our Facebook group and decided to try it out. So far, so good, though Jennifer had me cut back on the amount of detergent because we use concentrated soap and she didn't want a bunch of bubbles coming out of the toilet every time we flushed.

Here's our video:

Got questions? Send them to us by clicking here. We try to roll out a new How We Roll every week.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2014-10-01

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.

39 Responses to “How We Roll: Budgeting for a Long Trip and Odor Control”

December 03, 2014at4:53 am, Gary Casteel said:

Leave a couple of ounces of Pine Sol in the toilet after each use. Nice aroma in the bathroom and controls odors in the tanks. Large bottles available at Walmart.

December 02, 2014at11:45 pm, Tom Upchurch said:

As many ice cubes as you can get,couple of trays, put them into toilet, and drive. They bounce around knocking Stuff off inside walls of tank and melt. Drain out tank after a hour or two of driving. I used this and also a couple gallons of soapy water in tank. Works great.

December 02, 2014at10:31 am, Lori J Potts said:

Cheryl Hayes Howard

December 02, 2014at4:22 am, John Kelly said:

2 cups calgon water softener each tank.. plus 1 cup laundry powder in black

November 23, 2014at6:23 pm, Sandy Wilfinger said:

I use this also..trouble is calgon is hard to come by, don’t know why the stores don’t carry it anymore. anyone know why?

November 22, 2014at9:10 pm, Jamie Rinehart said:

Calgon take me away!

November 22, 2014at8:55 am, Joe Price said:

Julie Roberts Price

November 20, 2014at6:24 pm, Rhonda Richway Phipps said:

Tang!!! In your black water tank?

November 20, 2014at6:12 pm, Susan Swalius said:

What’s the call on for?

November 20, 2014at12:09 pm, Linda Maisey said:

Great tip. Thanks for sharing!

November 20, 2014at11:31 am, Roy Porter said:

I never use any chemicals at all . I just make sure the black tank has water in it before we use it.

November 20, 2014at9:41 am, Melissa Bachelor Smith said:

Scott Karol Bachelor do you do this?

November 20, 2014at8:27 am, Jim Pavlinik said:

I also use this in the grey water tank, but without the detergent since there’s always dish soap etc in the sinks.

November 19, 2014at6:37 pm, Linda Blount said:

How much do you add?

November 19, 2014at3:32 pm, Jim Kirkwood said:

It is called the Geo Method. My trailer has a 38 gallon black tank. I use 3/4 cup each of Calgon and cheap liquid dish soap. Have never used any chemicals. Never had any oder problem.

November 19, 2014at1:34 pm, Shawna Hanley said:

Do you totally eliminate the other chemicals you normally buy at Camping World? Is this the only thing you put in your tank??

November 19, 2014at1:02 pm, Dorothy Short Inglis said:

I started adding Calgon to my black water tank after reading the suggestion a month or so ago and am pleased with the results. It really does eliminate any telltale odors.

November 19, 2014at11:14 am, Joyce Fowler said:

Calgon is water softener not a bleach. Makes it so nothing sticks to sides

November 19, 2014at9:58 am, Tracy Bell said:

Thanks for sharing that I have been looking for a better way to handle the black water tank.

November 19, 2014at9:48 am, Ron Williams said:

That works I use liquid Calgon I use

November 19, 2014at9:08 am, Lorraine Payton Salzman said:

Good idea for the toilet but she didn’t give any budget ideas.

November 19, 2014at8:31 am, Charles Parker said:

That’s a good idea. Bleach mixed with methane is how mustard gas is made

October 05, 2014at11:23 pm, Gary Egbert said:

I use liquid calgon with some chemical and a little coconut oil the latter two I get at Camping World. I would rather go GEO, so Mike will you share the proportions of each you use in the gallon of water?

October 02, 2014at1:41 am, Donald Womble said:

Talking about the black tank I think the worst job in an RV is the dump tank hose. You want to put on a haze mate suite and 3 sets of gloves. I did some research on the internet to find a cheep product to kill germs and bacteria. the best product I found was mouth wash. I by a large bottle of the cheaper store brand and pour some into a spray bottle. I spray down the hose then install and dump. after I have dumped and rinsed the hose I pour about a half a cup of mouth wash in the hose making sure the inside of the hose is covered then drain the excess and put up the hose. the next time you use it will smell better. I even pour some in the black and gray tank.

March 07, 2014at9:24 am, John Benson said:

The black holding tank on a RoadTrek E-Trek is 10 gallons.

Based on your experience, if you avoid public restrooms and only use the E-trek, how many days can you travel before you have to dump the black tank?

July 24, 2013at11:11 am, Bill Sprague said:


The budgeting really pretty encouraging. We just drove a two week vacation in our Toyota 4Runner. The motel cost alone (No I don’t hunt for the cheapest ones anymore. I’ve learned that often isn’t a great idea.) was $1400+ by itself. Almost all had “free breakfast” but we were still buying fuel, food, laundry, tolls, etc. beyond that investment.

Purchase of a Roadtrek while not a big payback would certainly recoup some of that, since we could travel at a far more leisurely pace. That would make travel eversomuch more easy on DW and me for that matter. Having one’s own rest area and lunch room makes the drive far less stressful.



June 17, 2013at11:53 am, harry salit said:

Hi Mike,
I have been using bleach in my black tank, every couple of weeks, for about 8 years without any drain hardware issues. The RV is over 15 years old with the original dump valves & seals.
I have also used Kirkland tissue for years without any problems.
I like the Geo method and will give a try.

June 11, 2013at4:18 pm, Meryl and Me Hit the Road said:

It is often easier to find liquid Calgon than the powder. i have yet to see the powder in a store but have found the liquid in some Walmarts, KMarts, and supermarkets. It depends on the store an not the area. One Walmart may have it and another ten miles away doesn’t.

June 11, 2013at10:20 am, Ray said:

I like the GEO method, has worked well for me, like you I sometimes have a hard time finding the Calgon Water Softener. Many times I forgo it. The detergent I find that works great is good old Borax. It has natural deodorizing properties. Been around for ever, Tried and true.

October 01, 2014at5:55 pm, Diane said:

I also use Borax. I use a combination of ERA laundry detergent (because ERA has enzymes in it, as most detergents don’t), Calgon water softener and Borax. I rarely smell the tank unless it is nearly full. If it does smell, I just pour more ERA into the tank.

June 11, 2013at8:35 am, Kristi said:

I’ve been using Happy Camper in my black tank and have been a happy camper with it in regard to odor control. I’ve heard that the GEO method is particularly good for keeping the sensors functioning properly. Since my sensors have not been reliable, I’ll give the GEO method a try. Thanks for sharing!

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