Stale RV Water Solutions

Take care of your RV water system and in return it will provide you with many years of reliable service. The potable water system in your house is pretty much maintenance free. The potable water system in your RV, on the other hand, requires some maintenance to keep it trouble free. Something I’ve run into quite often is the complaint that there is a stale odor coming from the RV water system. When you return from a trip and you’re not going to use the RV for a while you need to drain the entire water system to prevent it from getting stale and musty.

You can start by draining the water heater tank. Go to the outside compartment where the water heater is located. The drain plug, or petcock is normally located in the bottom left hand corner. Remove the plug and open the pressure relief valve on top of the water heater to assist in draining.

Caution: Never drain the water heater tank when it is hot or under pressure. Turn off any water source going to the RV(i.e., city water, water pump). Open a hot and cold water faucet to relieve the pressure. Allow the water in the tank sufficient time to cool before draining.

If you have a suburban water heater it will have an anode rod. The anode rod is designed to help prevent corrosion in a suburban steel water heater tank. Corrosive elements in the water will attack the rod rather than the tank. Inspect the anode rod every time you remove it to drain the tank and replace it when approximately ¾ of the rod is consumed. Atwood water tanks do not require an anode rod, and use a nylon drain plug because the tank is made of aluminum.

Next you need to locate the low point water line drains. It may take a while to find them, but I assure you they are there. There will be one for the hot and one for the cold water lines. This is the lowest point in the water system. Open these and let the water drain out. There’s one more thing left to do; find the drain for the fresh water holding tank and drain all of the water from it. At this point you can turn the water pump on for a moment to force any remaining water out. Do not let the pump continue to run once the water stops draining. Close all of the drains.

If by accident you forget to drain the water system and you get that notorious stale odor all is not lost. You just need to sanitize the water system.

Watch the video demonstration

* Start by draining all of the old water out of the system, and then close all of the drains.

* Take a quarter cup of house hold bleach for every fifteen gallons of water that your fresh water tank holds. Mix the bleach into a one-gallon container filled with water and pour it into the fresh water holding tank.

* Fill the fresh water tank completely full of water.

* Turn the water pump on, open all hot and cold faucets and run the water until you smell the bleach at each faucet.

* Close the faucets and let it sit for about 12 hours. Note: If it’s possible drive the RV or pull the trailer so the water can move around to assist in cleaning the entire tank.

* Drain the entire system and re-fill the fresh water tank with water.

* Open all of the faucets and run the water until you no longer smell any bleach. It may be necessary to repeat this process again to eliminate all signs of bleach from the water system.

Once this is done it is safe to use your water system. It’s also a good idea to use a water filter at campgrounds and to keep bottled water on hand for drinking.

To learn more about maintaining your RV check out our RV Care & Maintenance DVD

Happy RV Learning,

Mark Polk
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