Sometimes being an RV owner stinks—literally. Knowing how, when, and where to dump RV waste is necessary for owning a camper. One of the hardest parts of this task is finding a place to dump your tanks. However, there are some places you can depend on when you don’t know where to dump your waste.
Today, we’re sharing a handful of the best places for you to get rid of your waste and get back to enjoying your adventures. Let’s get started!
Where Does Your RV Waste Go?
Unlike residential plumbing, when you flush a toilet in most RVs, the waste goes into a black tank located in the belly of the rig. These tanks can range in size from five to one hundred gallons or more. The tanks are often directly below the toilet and use assistance from gravity to send waste from the toilet into the black tank.
Once these tanks are full, you’ll need to empty them safely and as hygienically as possible. This can mean emptying your tanks into a portable waste tote, hiring a sewer service to dump your tanks, or finding the nearest RV dump station. Failure to dispose of your RV waste as sanitarily as possible could result in stiff fines or punishments for improperly disposing of raw sewage.
Types of RV Waste Water
RVs have two types of wastewater—black and gray water. Black water contains raw human sewage and gets stored in a black tank. Anything that gets flushed down the toilet will go into this tank. This is typically the tank that intimidates new RV owners and causes them the most panic when dumping their tanks.
While many fear the black tank, water in the gray tank can be disgusting too. Gray tank water is any water that goes down a drain, typically from faucets and showers. While some of this water contains soap from dishes and showers, it can still be nasty. Oils from food and your skin can mix with food particles and water while sitting in your gray tank. It can be somewhat nauseating when dumping your gray water, depending on how long it’s been since you last dumped your tanks.
Where to Dump RV Waste When Camping With Hookups
Campgrounds often offer two types of sites for camping with hookups. There will be partial hookup sites and full hookup sites. A partial hookup site will have water and electricity but no sewer dump. Many campgrounds with partial hookup sites will have a dump station available for guests to use when they need to empty their tanks. Since most guests are weekenders, lines at dump stations can be rather lengthy at check-out time on Sundays.
On the other hand, full hookup sites have everything an RVer needs to dump their tanks at the campsite. There will be water, electricity, and a sewer dump connection. Many RVers will connect their sewer hose to their RVs and the site’s sewer connection, so they don’t have to worry about water usage while camping. When their tanks are starting to get full, they simply pull the handle to empty their tanks. This is incredibly convenient and helps avoid waiting in a long line at the dump station.
However, it shouldn’t be surprising that full hookup sites are more expensive than partial ones. They’re typically not substantially more expensive, but RV parks and campgrounds often do charge premium prices for these sites. Depending on how long you’re staying or your situation, it can be worth paying the premium price in some instances.
What Is Dry Camping? (Camping Without Hookups)
Many campgrounds also offer guests opportunities to dry camp. This means camping with no hookups for water, electricity, or sewer. At some campgrounds, these sites could be nothing more than an open field where campers can park their RVs during their stay. However, some campgrounds offer established dry camping sites with no connections. No matter the type of site, you’ll need to be self-sufficient in having water, disposing of your waste, and powering your RV.
Dry camping can be a great option for RVers who can be self-sufficient. These sites are often relatively inexpensive. Campgrounds have the opportunity to increase revenue while minimizing expenses for power, water, and sewage disposal. However, some dry camping locations near popular tourist locations like Yellowstone National Park are more expensive than full or partial hookup sites in other parts of the country. If you can be self-sufficient, we recommend considering this type of camping.
Pro Tip: One way to go dry camping is by boondocking. Before you give boondocking a go, check out these Important Things To Know Before You Go.
Our 5 Favorite Places to Dump RV Waste
If you RV for long, you’ll likely find yourself dumping your tanks in some unique places. Here are a few places you might consider when you don’t know where to dump RV waste during your adventures.
Gas Stations or Truck Stops
Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that many gas stations and truck stops are beginning to make modifications to accommodate RVers. Some are installing dump stations at RV-specific fuel islands. Gas stations and truck stops with dump stations are becoming more common, especially in areas with high RV traffic.
Popular locations like Pilot/Flying J have discounts for Good Sam RV Club members who need to dump their tanks. You can expect to pay $10 to $15 to dump your tanks at a gas station or truck stop. However, smaller mom-and-pop stations may allow you to dump your tanks for free if you’re filling up on fuel.
This can be rather hit or miss, but some states have dump stations at rest areas along the interstate. Rest areas make it extremely easy and convenient to pull off and dump your RV waste between adventures. In a matter of minutes, you can dump your tanks and get back on the highway without navigating tight city roads or worrying about the traffic too much. Look for the brown dump station sign under the rest area sign for clues.
We’ve seen several rest areas with dump stations during our adventures, and never once was there a fee to use them. We have even seen some locations that provided potable water for users to fill their freshwater tanks. When it comes to places to dump your tanks, rest areas can be a hidden gem.
Most campgrounds have places to dump your RV waste, and you might not have to be a guest to use them. Some campgrounds will charge a nominal fee for RVers to dump their tanks. However, it’s best to call ahead and inquire with the staff regarding availability and usage fees for dumping waste.
We have seen some campgrounds where the dumping fees aren’t that much different than paying for a campsite for the night. If that’s the case, it might be better just to book a campsite and dump your tanks on your way out at the end of your stay. This way, you get a place to stay for the night, and you can also dump your tanks.
Whether they advertise it or not, many RV dealerships have dump stations. If you’re in a pinch, it might be worth giving a nearby RV dealership a call and politely asking if you can dump your RV waste. They may or may not allow you, but we’ve come across many RV dealerships who are happy to let you. They may see it as an opportunity to serve a potential future customer.
One advantage of RV dealerships is that engineers designed them with RV traffic in mind. You won’t need to worry too much about low clearances and tight turns. They’re often not too far off major highways or roadways, which means getting in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible. You can also pick up any RV supplies or gear that you might need if the dealership has a store.
Approved Municipal Sewer Systems
Some cities and local municipalities have sewer dump stations available. These may not be nearly as easy to find or readily available, but they can be great options in a pinch. They’re often near sanitation departments and treatment centers. You may have to call the city officials to inquire about availability. However, they’ll get the job done if you find one available.
Pro Tip: Hook up your RV and empty your tanks with ease by investing in one of these 5 Top-Rated RV Sewer Hose Supports for Hassle-Free Dumping.
Can You Dump Gray Water on the Ground?
Dumping gray water on the ground is a hot-button topic in the RV community. Restrictions on dumping gray water vary from state to state and location to location. You’ll want to check the restrictions on the area you are camping in before you start dumping your gray water onto the ground. Some RV gray water tanks can be 100 gallons or more.
Dumping large amounts of water onto the ground will cause issues for the vegetation and surrounding environment. You could also attract animals to your campsite, which could be dangerous for you and them.
Apps to Find RV Dump Stations
Finding RV dump stations can be difficult. However, it doesn’t have to be if you have the right tools. There are several apps available for mobile devices that can make it incredibly easy to locate the nearest dump station. A few of our favorite apps and go-to resources include Campendium, iOverlander, and RV Dumps.
These are tremendous resources as they have massive databases for RV dump stations and other resources commonly used by RVers. You can read reviews left by other users and bypass any dump stations that may not work for your RV. Users will often provide essential information to help future users with navigating parking lots or accessing the dump station.
Can’t find a dump station? You might like to know how to use an RV portable waste tank to extend your waste tanks.
Follow Camping Etiquette: Know Where to Dump Your RV Waste
You must follow the proper etiquette when dumping your tanks. Know where to dump them and avoid causing any issues for you or other campers. We can’t repeat enough that you should never dump RV waste on the ground in an unsanitary manner. This is one reason we see many free camping options shut down as RVers freely dump their waste at the end of their stay. It’s illegal and can destroy the natural environment for plants and animals in the area. Please dump yours responsibly.
If you’re still feeling intimidated about dumping your waste, we’ve put together a guide to help you avoid disaster. Take a look: How to Properly Use an RV Dump Station (And Avoid A Mess!)
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