Granted that you have a standard self-sufficient RV, this holds three different types of water in it: grey water, black water, and freshwater, the last one being the most important. Freshwater is vital for your everyday survival, even more so when you are traveling in the middle of the desert for an indefinite period. If all else fails, you might be unknowingly drinking untreated water, which could cause unpleasant and costly health issues later on.

There are many ways to sanitize your freshwater, depending on the city or well water source. Sterilization methods include regularly sanitizing your water tank, filtering the water via faucet filters or filtration systems, boiling before drinking, and disinfecting groundwater with chlorine tablets.

1. The Effects of Drinking Unsafe Water and Its Effects on the Body

As you might know, the human body is 45-75% water. An average adult has 50-65% water in its body, which gives an average of 57-60% among adults all over the world. Water is extremely important for the human body, whether you are an infant or an adult. A person can survive for three weeks without food, but it takes as short as three days to become dehydrated, and this still depends on the person’s physiology, how much water the person needs, and how their body uses the water. 

When you are not careful with what you put inside your body, this can cost you your health, or worse, your life. Untreated or dirty drinking water typically presents an unpleasant smell and bad taste. They can be contaminated by different causes such as bacteria, parasites, lead, and viruses and display gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting, leading to illnesses including diarrhea, hepatitis, and meningitis.

Part-time RVers should be extra keen on sanitizing their water tanks, especially with their RVs left in the garage for months. Stagnant water attracts bacteria and molds faster and, when left untreated, could lead to serious health damage.

2. Know What Is the Water Source of Your Rig and When to Sanitize It

Keeping your freshwater tank clean and safe makes it challenging when you are out in the boonies, but this is not entirely impossible. For you to know the best treatment for your drinking water, you need to know the source first. The two common water sources you would encounter in your RV travels are municipal water, which is usually chlorinated. The second water source is the well water (which requires regular testing.

There are three types of drinking water: distilled, purified, and filtered. However, this article will focus more on filtered water. It is important that you sanitize your RV water tanks at least twice a year so that the water you use is safe. If your freshwater tastes strange or has a weird smell, you may want to sanitize it as soon as possible.

If you are taking your rig out of storage after a long period of time, it is best to sanitize your water tank before hitting the road. You never know what type of bacteria might grow while your rig is stored for an extended period.

3. How You Can Keep Your Freshwater Clean: Important to Know!

There are different ways you can treat water before drinking it. This includes fixing a water filter on your kitchen faucets, boiling the water first, dropping chlorine tables on unsafe groundwater, and installing a filtration system in your RV. However, the best preventative measure you can take is sanitizing your tank. This is one of my most important pieces of equipment in your RV and would be the main storage of your freshwater once you set out to travel.

As I have mentioned above, it is important to sanitize your water tanks twice a year, but it is best to sanitize them every six months if you travel frequently. The concept is to clean your tank with a combination of bleach and freshwater and flush everything out through the faucets with fresh water until you get rid of the bleach smell.

The following table will include the right amount of bleach solution for the tank. All you need to do is to open all the sinks and faucets one at a time to flush out the solution until the tank runs empty. Once that’s done, fill the tank, this time only with fresh water, then leave it overnight. Drain the tank the following day through all the faucets. Do this three more times or repeat as necessary until you get rid of the smell of bleach.

BLEACH MIXTANK SIZE
One cup of bleach and four gallons of water40 gallons
1.5 cups of bleach and six gallons of water60 gallons
Two cups of bleach and eight gallons of water100 gallons

4. Dealing With Your Sink Water: Make Sure to Remove the Stink

There are times that your kitchen or bathroom sinks in your rig may have odd odors, and to get rid of these odors, you should try pouring half a can of orange soda down the drain. Once that is done, rinse the sink with some water from the tap. It will then fizz, which will help clean off some of the sludge, and the orange scent is best for covering up any less than savory smells that are present on the sink.

To maintain a good smelling sink, be sure not to let the food fall down the drain. Use a mesh strainer basket for your kitchen sink so that it can catch bits of food before you wash them down the drain, which will lead into the grey water tank. Also, be sure to put about two spoonfuls of baking soda every time you empty your grey water tank, then rinse it with some hot water.

Now, you can also drink tap water, but you need to make sure they are properly treated. When you are done restoring your tanks to good condition, it is best to keep your water supply clean for drinking. You can do this by fixing a water filter on your kitchen faucet, which I mentioned above.

It will remove large contaminants and effectively takes out chlorine. Also, it makes the water taste better through aeration, the process of circulating air through and mixing it with or dissolving it in liquid. You can add water filters for you to achieve the best taste in water.

5. Your RV Black Water Tank: What to Do To Maintain It

If you are hooked to a sewer connection at an RV campground, make sure that your RV black water tank valve is closed. It may be a bit tempering just to leave the valve open, but it is a huge mistake that you can make. The water waste will drain from your tank when you leave the valve open, but the solid waste will not.

You will have a black water tank full of solid waste when you leave the valve open, and it will not only smell, but you will also need to clean it out. However, you would need to clean the tank at some point in time during your journey on the road.

Every once in a while, it is best to give your black water tank a clean, at least once a season. Here, you will remove any solid waste that might have built up on the inside of the tank. It is best to empty your tank at a dump station, then take an ordinary hose and push it down through the toilet.

Next, you would need to turn the water for the hose all the way and then move it around so that the spray hits as much of the inside of the tank as possible. Once the tank is full or close to full, you would need to empty it again. Lastly, you can repeat this for the second or third time if it has been a while since you last cleaned out your black water tank.

You would repeat this process as well when you have been having issues with the odors of backups. If you want to know how much it will cost for you to use an RV dump station, here is an article that I have written for you.

6. Boiling Water Method: The Best and Easiest Way for Water Treatment

Boiling water before drinking is the easiest water treatment method you can do. There are no fancy equipment or processes involved, just water and your kettle or pot. It will kill bacteria and microorganisms, so even tap water becomes safe enough to drink.

To make sure you are doing the right process, wait for the water to come to a rolling boil, but do not turn off the stove just yet. Wait it out for a minute first to make sure the water has fully boiled. Once this is done, turn off the stove and transfer the freshly boiled water to an insulated thermos to keep it hot.

7. Chlorine Tablet Method: When There Is No Access to Clean Drinking Water

Chlorine tablets are great for on-the-go water disinfection. They are portable, easy to consume, and readily available online. You can conveniently stash them in your pockets while you hike or camp out. They can keep water safe to drink for up to 24 hours without doing additional treatments. 

The only downside with chlorine tables is that they could be mistaken as vitamins, candy, or medication, especially if you have children around. Any inappropriate or excessive use could lead to mouth, throat, and stomach irritation resulting in a burning sensation, vomiting, nausea, and gastrointestinal pain.

To use chlorine tablets, filter the untreated water by transferring it to another cup using a cloth, and then add a tablet directly to the water to release chlorine. You can do this for up to 1.5 liters of water and wait for 30 minutes before consuming it.

8. Using Filtration Systems: Ultimate Clean and Safe Water

If you are keen on making your drinking water absolutely clean and safe for everyone, consider installing a filtration system in your RV. For part-time RVers, an inline unit with carbon filtration and sediment removal would suffice since you do not intend to travel for a long period. This works by connecting the inline unit directly to the water supply and your RV’s drinking water hose. This is a convenient and quick method to ensure all the water going to your RV is properly filtered. 

On the other hand, full-time RVers need something more powerful and long-lasting. A standard size canister system provides long shelf life, good flow, and customizable design. For better flow and less cartridge change, you should opt for jumbo canisters. Either way, you can install a filtration system yourself. Make sure to buy a filter that is specifically designed for RVs for compatibility, safety, and effectiveness.

There are plenty of water filters that you can purchase online and in physical stores. If you want a list of the best water filters for your rig, here is an article that I have written.

9. When All Else Fails: Take Your Rig For a Drive

Once you have done all the procedures above and you still have odor or waste stuck inside your tanks, try filling it up with the garden hose again. When you are done with that, take your rig for a drive before you drain your tank. It can create more agitation and will hopefully loosen any residue on your tanks.

When your tanks start to pick up bad odors, it is best to try one of the tips above to clean it up and keep your rig smelling good. If your tanks are very old, make sure that you consider replacing them since the bad odor is not enough to buy a new one.

Cleaning your tanks may not be the most glamorous job in the world, but it is the only way to keep your rig smelling fresh and for you to have fresh water at all times.

Conclusion

Safe drinking water is essential, especially in RV travel. It is important to know the freshwater source, especially as water from traveling poses quality and health concerns. Untreated or dirty water, when consumed, can lead to serious health issues. However, you can protect yourself and others around you by ensuring safe and clean water tanks, practicing simple preventative measures such as boiling and filtering, and being prepared with modern survival items for emergencies.