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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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How to Sanitize the Water System in a Camper

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Spring is in the air, and that means one thing – getting your camper ready for the summer season.

If you’re like me and have had a camper for years and years, you already know how to sanitize the water system in a camper. But for all you newbies out there, this guide will help you ensure that you’re ready to rock for the summer.

Flush the Water System

Port for a water system on a camper

Photo by Joe_Potato via iStock

Step one in the process is to flush the water system in the camper.

When I sanitize the water system in my camper, I use RV antifreeze to keep the pipes from freezing. Flushing the water system helps rid the pipes of the antifreeze and prepares me for the next step in the process, which is to sanitize the water system.

Many folks add antifreeze to the fresh water tank. To flush it out, you’ll need to drain the tank, fill it up with fresh water, and then cycle the water through the system by opening all the taps, ensuring that the hot water heater bypass is on. Don’t forget to flush the toilet several times. Turn on the outdoor shower and outdoor sink, too, if your camper is equipped with them. Let the water run until it runs clear and there is no sign of antifreeze.

In my case, I use an air compressor to blow the water out of the pipes and the hot water heater in preparation for the winter. This means that the only antifreeze in the system is in the drains to prevent any water that has collected there from freezing. So when I flush the system, I don’t have to worry about getting any antifreeze out of the fresh water tank or bypassing the hot water tank. I simply turn on the hot and cold taps and let ‘er rip!

Man Flushing a camper sink to sanitize the water system

Photo by JeffKontur via iStock

I let the faucets run for several minutes to ensure plenty of water has gone through the pipes. While the water is running, I check the pipes under the sinks and the tub. I also check the pump to ensure there are no leaks. Same goes for the hot water tank.

I then open the low point drain on the fresh water tank and let the water completely drain. I do the same for the hot water tank. Bear in mind that if you’ve bypassed the hot water tank, you won’t need to drain yours.

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Sanitize the Water System in a Camper

bottle of bleach used o Sanitize the Water System in a Camper

Photo by Richard Villalon via iStock

Now that the water system is flushed out, you need to sanitize it. This is a critical step because it ensures that any mold or bacteria that might have grown inside the fresh water tank or pipes is neutralized.

To sanitize the water system in a camper, simply measure a quarter cup of household bleach for every 15 gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds. So, if you have a 30 gallon tank, you need a half a cup of bleach.

Then mix the bleach with water in a one-gallon container. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into the fresh water inlet to add it to the fresh water tank. Then fill the tank completely full with fresh water.

Close-up of water going down a drain

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Next, turn on the pump and open all the faucets. Let the water run until you can smell bleach. At that point, turn off all the faucets and the pump. Let the bleach solution stay in the pipes and water tank for 6-12 hours. Don’t leave the bleach in the system any longer than that – it can actually cause seals in the water lines to deteriorate and could lead to leaks.

After letting the bleach do its thing, drain all of the water from the water lines and the fresh water tank. Refill the tank with fresh water and flush the system just like you did earlier, opening all the taps, flushing the toilet, and turning on the outdoor shower and sink. Again, let the water run for several minutes until you no longer smell bleach.

Man preparing to open the water system after sanitizing his camper

Photo by Onfokus via iStock

At this point, drain the system and refill and drain two or three more times – including the hot water heater. Once this cycle is complete, you can drain your black and gray tanks at an RV dump. If you’re preparing for a trip, fill up the water tank. If not, leave the tank empty until your first trip of the season.

Sanitizing is Required a Couple of Times a Year

person washing dishes in a camper sink

Photo by MarioGuti via iStock

Don’t think that sanitizing the water system in your camper is a one-and-done task. Instead, it’s a good idea to sanitize it again in the middle of the season and a third time before you put your camper in storage for the winter.

Obviously, if you do a lot of camping or live in a climate that allows you to camp year-round, you’ll need to sanitize the system even more frequently.

Getting the water system in your camper ready to go isn’t the most fun task in the world, but it’s a necessary step to ensure you have clean, fresh water on board.

We’ll have more tips for getting your camper ready to go for the season in future articles, so stay tuned!

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