The phrase ‘self-contained’ has always been a buzzword when it comes to RVs and motorhomes. And why wouldn’t it be? The ultimate travelling luxury is the ability to be parked up in nature with all the modern conveniences like running water, a shower, and a toilet.
Being self-contained simply means having the ability to retain your waste (including grey water, black water and rubbish) to then dispose of it in an environmentally friendly and hygienic way. If you’re looking to stay predominantly in campsites or holiday parks, there are plenty of benefits of owning a self-contained vehicle.
However, there are also plenty of unknowns for the new motorhome owner when it comes to handling these onboard motorhome facilities. Questions of ‘how do you dispose of RV waste?’ and ‘how often should you empty a black water tank?’ are common concerns when learning how to take care of your motorhome.
That is why we have put together this comprehensive guide to handling your wastewater. That way, you can have a detailed understanding of the ins and outs of your RV wastewater holding tanks and everything else that goes along with owning a self-contained vehicle.
Wastewater can sometimes refer to both grey water and black water, but what is the difference between the two? Grey water covers everything that goes down your bathroom and kitchen sinks, along with your shower. Black water is waste from your toilet.
Both grey and black water need to be handled (not literally) with caution to avoid attracting nasty bugs and bacteria.
Your RV’s grey water tank will normally be situated under the chassis and is designed to store water from your shower and sink. After the water has funnelled down the pipes to this tank, it can stay there until the tank becomes full. These tanks have a tap or hose attachment that allows you to empty them at your closest dump point.
Many modern RVs come with a built-in toilet (or two if you are lucky!). These toilets typically lead to a cassette holding tank (also known as a black water tank) which is usually 17-19 litres and can be removed via an external door. The cassette will often have a handle and wheels for easy transportation. Larger RVs may come with their own black water tank fitted under the chassis.
It’s vitally important (and a legal requirement) to dispose of your RV waste correctly. The location of where you can legally dump your wastewater depends on the type of wastewater you are dealing with and where you are located.
Due to the fact that these tanks hold human waste, your black RV wastewater holding tanks must always be disposed of at a dump point. With so many campervan friendly towns throughout Australia, dump points can be found at most caravan parks as well as designated council stations.
You can find your nearest dump point with the thl Roadtrip app. This app also allows you to search ahead to destinations you may be travelling to and even save these on your customisable itinerary, so you are never caught with a full wastewater tank and nowhere to dump it! This is an invaluable tool for self-contained vehicles on an Australian road trip.
The Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) are currently working on an initiative to get local councils to install dump points in more publicly accessible locations in more places across Australia. KEA is a proud sponsor of CMCA and the CMCA Dump Point Subsidy Scheme to help build a green environment. We hope to see more of these on the road in the future.
When it comes to grey water, there are a few considerations before deciding where to dump your wastewater. When setting up your motorhome at a caravan park, there are often draining pipes near the site that you can simply attach your hose and let your wastewater go directly down the drain. But if you are free camping or making use of more remote campsites, there are a few more considerations.
If you are using harsh chemicals or soaps that could be harmful to the environment, then you must dump this water in a dump station.
There are also many locations, such as national parks, near waterways, where grey water should be contained and treated in the same way as black water.
If you are using biodegradable and eco-friendly soaps and travelling in areas that aren’t in national parks or near waterways, then there are a few places it can be disposed of. This can be as simple as draining onto the ground but it is a good idea to use a ‘sock’ or waste rag to catch any solids while letting the water through.
If you are staying near other motorhomes, it can be unpleasant to have wastewater running across your front step. In these cases, you can store it to get rid of at a dump point. Alternatively, if the water is safe from any harsh chemicals, you can capture it in a bucket to be dumped in a public toilet sink or garden, as you would do with wastewater in a house.
Most public dump stations are free, but this will depend on the location. Some privately managed dump points may ask for a donation, and if you are trying to access dump points in holiday parks, they may also charge if you’re not already paying to stay at the park.
Dumping your RV wastewater holding tanks is really quite simple but can feel a little alien at first. That’s why we have broken it down into a step-by-step guide. That way, you can just follow the steps until it becomes a seamless part of your routine on the road.
For a step by step on how to empty your black water, read our guide on how to operate the toilet in your motorhome. Emptying your grey water tank is arguably even easier than emptying your black water.
Find your closest approved dump point using the thl Roadtrip app and locate the water outlet (usually looks a little like an exhaust) under your vehicle. Ensure it is close to the deposit point (usually an underground tank with a lid on top for access).
You will have been given an RV wastewater hose when you purchased the vehicle, and this should be kept with your tools or other equipment so it can be easily accessed. Connect it to the wastewater outlet under your vehicle. This should slide over the connection very easily, after which you can secure it by pulling back the clips on either side of the hose.
Place the other end of the hose into the dump station’s grey water or wastewater deposit point.
Pull the lever open to release the contents of your tank.
Once it has finished draining, close the lever, detach the hose and put the hose away.
And there you have it, an empty tank ready to hit the open road again! With a little practice, this will soon be a natural part of your routine.
This will depend on a number of factors, such as how many people are staying in the RV and the size of your tanks. Most RVs and motorhomes are equipped with sensors that will light up when your holding tanks are reaching their full capacity. However, if you are caught without a working sensor, sound can be a good indicator of how full your tanks are in a pinch.
To prevent odours, both grey and black water tanks should be cleaned (not just drained) regularly as part of your regular motorhome maintenance. After it's emptied and you have filled up your RV tank with water to clean them out, add your choice of motorhome toilet chemicals to your black water tank. These come in liquid and tablet form and a variety of scents. There are also chemical treatments available for grey water tanks which can be used as required.
The drains in the vehicle are very narrow compared to drains you would find in a house, so you need to ensure they stay free from grime buildup and blockages. To avoid water backing up in your pipes, never tip cooking fat from your bacon and egg breakfasts or food particles such as rice or coffee grounds down the drain. Empty them into a bin instead and dispose of them in the trash at your holiday park. Similarly, make sure nothing goes down the shower drain or vanity sink that could clog the pipes. This will help prevent any unnecessary RV maintenance from popping up during your Australia road trip.
There are so many beautiful places to see and experience in Australia. Travelling in a self-contained motorhome is one of the best ways to help keep these natural environments beautiful and wild. The growing number of dump points is making disposing of grey and black water responsibly increasingly easier.
If you are still searching for the perfect self-contained motorhome, be that a pop-top campervan or a full-sized RV, be sure to check out our range of RVs today. KEA has a range of self-contained vehicles to suit your Australian road trip dreams. If you want to learn more about different RV wastewater holding tank options and are debating between an RV wastewater hose system over a portable RV wastewater tank, then speak with one of our KEA motorhome specialists online or in-store.