How To Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water Tank

Taking a shower, cleaning the dishes, and washing your hands are all activities that you do not think twice about when you are at home. But when you are living in an RV, the only source of water is the fresh water tank, which you have to keep full and clean.

Since the tank is the only thing sustaining your daily water needs, you should keep it in top condition at all times. In other words, the RV freshwater tank should be sanitized and cleaned to get rid of any bacteria, germs, or parasites.

In this way, you can protect yourself and your family from E.coli, Giardia, Naegleria, and plenty of other water-borne bacteria.

Here is how to sanitize your RV’s fresh water tank and make it germ-free.

The Preparation

Cleaning and sanitizing the RV water tank is as easy a job as any. But you have to be very careful and follow the right procedure. Otherwise, you would waste your time and get no results.

To begin, you need to find a place with readily available fresh water. Otherwise, refilling the tank and draining the excess could pose a problem.

Next, you should have all the necessary cleaning products on hand, before beginning the job. You don’t need anything special, just the usual chemicals to kill off unwanted bacteria, germs, and algae.

Once you have readied yourself, it is time to begin the sanitizing process.

How To Sanitize Your RV Fresh Water Tank

The following steps should outline everything for you:
Collect the Supplies 
A quick trip to the hardware store should help you gather all the necessary supplies to help sanitize your RV’s freshwater tank. The following items are necessary:

-A durable water hose to drain the tank and refill freshwater back after sanitization. But before you buy, make sure you are spending money on a drinking water-safe hose. It is usually mentioned on the packaging. If not, you can ask the hardware store attendant to help you out.

– A bucket or pail should also be kept nearby because you will need one to mix the cleaning solution.

Rubber gloves are also necessary to help protect your skin against harsh and abrasive chemicals.

-The cleaning agent is also necessary as without it you can’t sanitize the RV freshwater tank. You can use any product you like off the top of the shelf. If it is bleach you are using, ensure it is unscented.

-Buy a sponge or a lightly abrasive cloth to clean the tank’s surface.
Switch off the Water Heater
You don’t need hot water to sanitize the fresh water tank so it is better to switch the heater off just as a caution. While you are doing that, don’t forget to turn off the electrical and propane connections coming to the heater.  

Next, close the shutoff valves leading into and out of the freshwater tank. You don’t want water to enter the tank while you are doing the cleaning and you don’t want it to leak into the RV fixtures. The cleaning agent should stay in the tank and it should not have any exits. Otherwise, your hard work will go in waste.
Remove the Hoses
f the RV fresh water tank needs cleaning, the hoses supplying it with water also need the same treatment. Therefore, you should disconnect and remove all the hoses attached to the water tank and keep them aside to clean later.
Drain all the Tanks
Before you start mixing the cleaning agent into the freshwater tank, you should drain it to create some space for the chemicals to work their magic. If you don’t drain the tank and leave all the hoses attached, you won’t be able to sanitize the RV’s plumbing and the cleaning solution won’t mix properly. As a result, your labor and effort will go to waste.

So, before adding the chemicals to the tank, completely drain the freshwater tank and then move to the greywater tank.

Why should you drain the greywater tank? After all, it is quite unhygienic, to begin with and there is no point cleaning it!  

Well, the greywater tank will hold the sanitizing solution (bleach) and run it through the RV’s plumbing system. That’s why emptying the dirty water tank is a must before starting the cleaning process.
Add the Cleaning Agent
You can use any cleaning agent you like. It could be the bleach or something else entirely, but make sure it has the proper chemicals to treat and sanitize a water tank. For starters, the solution should have chlorine as it is the best chemical to kill bacteria and germs.

Chlorine bleach is the best way to sanitize your RV’s freshwater tanks. But you need to add it in the right amount, or you could risk harming the RV’s plumbing system.

As a standard, add one ounce of bleach into the tank for every eight gallons of freshwater. But mix the agent with water or else you will damage the plumbing.

Here you should use the bucket/pail you bought at the hardware store. Add the recommended amount of bleach into the pail and add wat to dilute the solution. Once the two have mixed evenly, pour the solution into the RV’s freshwater tank.

Once you have added the sanitizing agent to the tank, add some more water inside to allow the solution to work its magic. Then, open up the faucets, showers, and other fixtures briefly to run the bleach through the RV’s plumbing.
Allow the Solution to Set
Now you need the chlorine solution to set and do its job of killing the harmful bacteria. Usually, campers do this process overnight since the sanitizing solution requires at least 8 to 12 hours to work. You can do this as you like, but remember the longer the chlorine bleach stays in the tank the better job it will do at killing the germs.

Also, it helps if you slosh the cleaning agent around to allow it to reach every area inside the freshwater tank.
Drain the Tanks Again
You can drain the freshwater tank by opening up all the RV fixtures and letting the bleach solution drain into the greywater tank or you can open the freshwater drain valve to do this process quicker.

Once the tank is empty, run fresh water through it and repeat the draining process. Remember to run the water through all the faucets and showers to refresh the plumbing system.

If you can still sense the smell of chemicals in the freshwater tank, repeat the rinsing process again until the smell vanishes.

Next, drain the greywater tank and let all the cleaning solution exit the RV.
Reassemble all the Components
Once the cleaning is done, attach the hoses, switch on the heater and turn on all the valves.

That’s it! You have sanitized and cleaned your RV’s freshwater tank!


For every 5 gallons of water in your tank, you should add 1/3 cup of detergent.

You should let the water pump run for about 10 minutes after adding the detergent, and another 10 minutes after flushing out all of the detergents from your tank.

Yes, this is completely normal and will subside over time. Be sure to flush out all of the sanitizer from your tank before using it.

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Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by travel. I inherited this passion from my parents. Since my college years and to this day, I have had a passion for traveling in a motorhome. I am here to share my experiences with you.

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