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How to Properly Use an RV Dump Station (And Avoid A Mess!)

How to Properly Use an RV Dump Station (And Avoid A Mess!)

If you RV, inevitably, you’ll have to empty your wastewater tanks at an RV dump station. Knowing how to use an RV dump station is essential for quickly and efficiently clearing your RV tanks. Let’s learn how to use an RV dump station properly. 

What Is An RV Dump Station? 

An RV dump station is a sewer drain connection that allows RVers to empty their black and gray tanks. It often has non-potable water to help flush the system and rinse out hoses when finished.

You’ll most often see an RV dump station at the exit of a campground, truck stops, or even some highway rest stops. Signs advertising a dump station are usually brown. They’ll often have a picture of an RV with an arrow pointing down into the ground.

Many campgrounds offer free use of their dump station for guests and charge nominal fees for non-guests. If there’s a fee, expect to pay $5-$25 per dump. Depending on the price of the campground, it might be worth staying overnight to get the best bang for your buck.

What You Need to Use an RV Dump Station

There are a few items you’ll want to have on hand before pulling up to an RV dump station. Let’s take a look at those items and why you need them.

Sewer Hose and Attachments

An RV sewer hose connects the RV’s drain valve to a dump station sewer connection. You’ll find a variety of sewer hose lengths and types on the market. However, they all serve the same purpose: Getting the liquids from your tanks into the sewer drain.

Having a hose isn’t enough, though. You’ll also need a couple of attachments to connect the sewer hose to the dump station. Two essential attachments are a clear elbow and a 4-in-1 adapter to secure the connection to the sewer drain. Otherwise, the pressure from opening your valves can cause the hose to pop out of the sewer drain, which results in black or gray water spilling.

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While you can purchase a hose and attachments separately, we highly recommend a sewer hose kit. There are several options available that provide you with everything you need to dump your tanks. 

Utility Hose

Black tanks can contain some pretty funky smells. If left unchecked, the smells will find their way into the living space of an RV. If your RV has a black tank flush connection, you’ll want a designated utility hose for flushing your tanks.

Connect one end of the utility hose to the non-potable water supply and the other end to your black tank flush connection. Once your black tanks are empty, keep your RV sewer system connected to the dump station and turn on the non-potable water. Closing your black tank valve will allow the non-potable water to fill up your black tank.

You’ll want to invest in a water flow meter to ensure you don’t overfill your tank. Once an adequate amount of water has filled your tank, open the valve and repeat until no solids are present when dumping. 

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Gloves

While there are ways to prevent contact with raw sewage while using an RV dump station, you should wear gloves. There will likely be germs on your sewer hoses, hose attachments, handles, and items around the dump station.

We recommend disposable gloves so you can toss them afterward, and definitely have hand sanitizer in an easily accessible place for this job.

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Sanitizing Cleaner or Wipes

To keep your hoses, accessories, and connections as clean and sanitary as possible, invest in cleaner or wipes. While you can’t prevent contact with germs while using an RV dump station, you can avoid creating an ideal place for them to live.

Regularly cleaning your RV hoses and accessories with sanitizing cleaner and wipes will keep smells and germs away. Any multi-purpose cleaner that kills bacteria will suffice for this task.

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How to Properly Use an RV Dump Station

Now that you have all the equipment you need let’s look at the proper steps for using an RV dump station.

Line Up Your RV

You want to position your RV close enough to connect your sewer valve to the dump station sewer connection. The more hose you have, the more flexibility you have in your positioning. If you have more than one black tank valve connection, make sure you can reach both connections.

When lining up your RV, it’s essential to keep your exit in mind. Make sure you’re leaving yourself room to maneuver. Account for any possible swing in the rear of your trailer. You don’t want to end your trip by scraping the side of your RV on a pole at the dump station.

Connecting Your Sewer Hose

After connecting the 4-in-1 attachment to your sewer hose, connect the attachment to the RV dump station. With one end in the dump station, stretch out the hose to connect it to your RV sewer valve.

Place the sewer hose under the sewer valve as you twist off the cap. There are often bits of liquid that can seep through closed valves, and this method helps avoid them dripping on you or the ground.

It’s always wise to double-check all of your connections at this time. Make sure you have a tight fit on your attachment and your RV’s sewer valve. Any loose connections will result in leaks while dumping.

Which Tank to Dump First

Once you’ve checked that your hose and attachments are secure, you can open the black tank. Dumping your black tank first is important because it contains raw sewage. Once you finish your black tank, you can open your gray tank. If you have a separate gray tank for your kitchen sink and shower, you should open your kitchen sink first and then the shower.

This process allows the dirtiest liquids to pass through your attachments and hoses first. While your kitchen sink is gray water, it often contains food particles and oils that have been sitting stagnant for days or weeks. Doing your shower gray tank at the end flushes out unwanted particles as it’s mostly just soap and water.

Once your tanks are empty, verify all of your valves are closed. You can then disconnect your sewer hose from the RV. Again, make sure when disconnecting the sewer hose, you immediately place it below your RV’s drain valve to catch any liquids that might be dripping out. Keep your sewer hose lifted to allow any excess liquids to drain from the hose and into the dump station.

Cleaning Your Sewer Hose

Using the non-potable hose to flush water down your hose and attachments helps flush out any liquids left behind. You can then use a sanitizing cleaner or wipe. Doing so will keep bacteria and germs from causing rank smells in storage.

Dump Station for RV - 5 RV Dumping Station Tips for Beginners

Cleaning Up After Yourself

Don’t speed off after storing away your hoses and attachments. It’s customary to look around and spray any drips or leaks that occurred while dumping. You don’t want to leave an RV Skid Mark!

rv comic cartoon rv skid mark at dump station

Using the non-potable water hose to spray the liquids into the dump station provides the next RVer with a fresh site. Leaving a mess at the RV dump station is rude and could cause stations to charge a fee to offset cleaning costs.

Should You Flush Your Tanks at an RV Dump Station?

Flushing your tanks is an integral part of keeping smells under control. However, there’s an appropriate time and place for this to be done. This process can take a while. It’s not acceptable when there’s a line at the RV dump station.

The best way to use a dump station is quickly and efficiently. Be speedy if you’re staying in a campground and checking out on a Sunday. The dump station will likely be busier during this time as other guests are checking out too. If you need to flush your tanks, it’s best to plan to do so during non-peak times.

RV Dump Station Etiquette

There are a few written and unwritten rules in terms of RV dump station etiquette. They’re mostly common sense, like cleaning up the sewer area after yourself. 

You should also sanitize the water spigot handle before use. You never know who or what touched the spigot before you arrived. Using sanitizing sprays and wipes can reduce the risk of picking up germs and bacteria.

Lastly, don’t flush if there’s a line waiting. Dumping your tanks can take a decent amount of time, so you want to make sure you quickly and efficiently empty your RV’s tanks. Don’t waste another RVer’s afternoon by taking 20-30 minutes to dump and flush your RV’s tanks. 

Using an RV dump station properly is an essential part of your RVing experience. You don’t want to leave a trail of enemies behind you by improperly using a dump station. You also don’t want to be the reason a free dump station becomes a pay-per-use site.

What RV dump station etiquette do you hate to see violated? Leave your comments below!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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