RV Tank Sensors &The GEO Method
Almost every RVer I know complains about their tank sensors. It’s almost a given that after a few months the sensors start acting up and giving false readings showing tanks that are full when they are really empty. For anyone who dry-camps alot this is kinda annoying, and most end up just “living with it”. But there is hope! We’re not tank wizards by any means, but in 2 years of RVing we’ve managed to keep our black tank sensors working perfectly with our grey sensors OK most of the time. And most of it is thanks to the GEO method.
Now to understand why tank sensors go bad it’s worth understanding a little about how they work. Most RV tank sensors are basically just 4 screw probes that stick into the tank. When liquid hits the screw it makes contact & completes a circuit that turns the LED light on your panel on. Over time crud and slime covers the screws causing connectivity when there really is none (so sensors “think” the tank is full even if it’s not). It’s a really poor system, but it’s a cheap one which is why it’s so widely used. So, the key to making these things work again is simply to clean off that grime. Easier said than done, right?
There are a ton of cleaners, tank chemicals and what-not out there each of which have their passionate supporters. Also there are much better sensors such as Horst Miracle Probe and SeeLevel, both of which get excellent reviews. But for those of us with old sensors and a cheap pocket, this is the method that’s worked best for us:
1/ Never Dump Until Tanks Are At Least 2/3 Full
Waiting until your tanks are full before dumping helps keep things liquid and pressure high so that when you finally pull the plug “stuff” comes out rather than drying out and building up as pyramids in the tanks. So, even when we’re fully hooked-up we keep our tank valves closed until we’re ready to dump.
2/ Dump Black First, Then Grey
Always dump your dirtiest (black) tank first before dumping your grey. For those of you not in the know, the black tank contains run-off from your toilet, while the grey is run-off from your shower and sinks.
3/ Use Lots of Water & Back-Flush
Using lots of water (when you can) really helps to keep things flowing in the tanks. We’ve got a factory-installed back-flush system in our black tank and after we dump we’ll usually back-flush and re-dump before heading out again. There are after-market back-flush systems that are super-easy to install and work very well too.
4/ Clean With The GEO Method
The GEO method is a home-made cleaning technique that’s been around in the RV community since (at least) the early 80’s. Where the name came from no-body seems to know, but the original method is HERE. The original formula uses chlorine, but that can ruin your valves so these days most RVers use a slightly modified method with just 2 common items, both of which you can get at any big department store:
- Calgon Water Softener -> This stuff helps to break down water surface tension, clean scum and prevent hard mineral deposits. I’ve used Borax on occasion when I can’t find Calgon and find it works just as well.
- Dawn Dishwasher Detergent -> The “original formula” blue detergent is excellent at cutting grime. Laundry detergent works too.
After you dump pour 1 cup of Calgon and 1 cup detergent into the tanks. Leave them in until your next dump. Before driving some RVers will also throw a bag of ice-cubes down the tank to “scour” their walls (we’ve never done this, but others swear by it).
And that’s really it! We don’t use the GEO method each time we dump, but just whenever our sensors need an extra cleaning. Either way it’s a simple, easy and environmentally-friendly method to keep sensors mostly clean. And in a moving house on wheels that’s really as good as it gets.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
The only ‘trick’ I use is keeping track ! LOL I found the readings when I had the Class C were fairly accurate based on my usage and the last time I emptied. But with the Class A they are way out. Even after I dump they show full.
I have used the ice cube trick but only because I’ve read online that it is a good thing to do. No idea if it really helps.
So I keep a record of when the tanks are done and how many days I can go without having to dump again.
I’ve recently purchased “Happy Camper” as it’s supposed to be great for liquefying everything.
Happy Camper is a good additive. We’ve used it over the past few years in the addition to the GEO method. Not sure how much it helps (or whether it’s any better than other additives), but they seem to offer a good product and we’ve always been happy w/ the results.
When you decide it is time to use the GEO method… do you ALSO add in the Happy Camper additive or skip it when you do the GEO? Thanks!
I skip it when I do the GEO. I don’t like mixing systems just in case the ingredients don’t do well together, so I either use one or the other. May not make a difference, but that’s how I prefer to do it.
Judy Skelton says
Do you put water in the tank with the ice, etc?
YES, there should be water in the tank so it can slosh around.
Kathy Holden says
We are picking up a new trailer soon and were thinking it would be a good idea to start off with the Geo method. We didn’t really use anything consistently with our previous trailer and the only issue was the sensors. Problem is we are in Ontario, Canada – and Calgon (or other brands) of water softener are no longer available. Do any other Canadians have any suggestions. We were hoping that by starting off with a surfactant – the sensors might work longer. Would Dishwasher Rinse Aid work?
Dan and Pat says
If you want an eye opener, opt for one of the clear plastic connector elbows for dumping your black water tank. This simply connects to the discharge for your tank with your waste hose connecting to the other end of the elbow. I know, not what you wanted to see but you will find that even that first back flush doesn’t run clear. This is telling you that more back flushing is needed. This would be a great way to see what results you are getting from the GEO method.
The clear plastic elbow is a FABULOUS addition and one I forgot to mention in the post. YES, definitely a simple, cheap and very useful add-on.
I call that clear elbow “poop TV”!!!
Love that – poop tv❣️
Crappy show but you do want a clear channel!
Corinne Garrett says
I see what you did there! ;0)
My Paul understands the first part of the blog. I understand the steps of dumping. We do exactly as you suggest. It really is very simple but some RVers get in a hurry and don’t follow the steps which leads to trouble. Good job explaining how to keep the tanks working properly. ~wheresweaver
Glad the post was useful…and you both got something out of it 🙂
Bill Montgomery says
I followed your suggestions to the letter and the GEO method did not work. I then realized that there may be a few letters missing after you add the Calgon and Dawn – A-D-D-W-A-T-E-R. Tried it again with water and hope it works this time. Thanks for the info.
Bill from Castle Rock, CO
Yes, water is critical. That’s why I recommended you pour in the calgon & detergent and leave them in there until your next dump (i.e. until the tanks are full again). But appreciate making it clear for others who might have missed that detail 🙂
how much water should I add after adding the calgon & detergent?
Add a couple of gallons I’d say. That’s usually what we do and seems to provide enough liquid to slosh the cleaning stuff around in the tank.
Joe Valuable says
You should add water first otherwise the cleaning agent will sit in the drain tube and not in the tank.
How much water should you put in first?
If I have good access to water I usually put around 1/4 tank in there (for us, that’s around 10 gallons). Otherwise I’ll just put a couple of gallons in there.
Doesn’t the Dawn make too many bubbles in the tank? Also I normally flush two full bowl fulls of water when I add water before a trip.
Haven’t had that experience, but I’m sure it does bubble a bit “down there”. It’s all contained in the tank and doesn’t over-bubble or anything like that.
We are getting ready to be owners very soon. I’m saving this for future use. My question is, is yhis poured into the sink and toilet or what. Sorry dumb question I know. I’m just reading all I can!
Not a silly question at all! If you’re cleaning the toilet sensors (which are the ones that tend to gunk up the most for us), then you pour the ingredients into the toilet and flush them down. That way they’ll end up in the blank tank where they can work their magic. You’ll want to ensure the black tank release valve (the one you use to dump) is shut before you put anything into the toilet so that the stuff stays in the tank and doesn’t immediately flush out down the sewer line the other end. You won’t dump again until you’ve done your drive and let the stuff slosh around the tank to clean.
I put a little down the kitchen sink too…won’t hurt it and does keep things smelling nicer. To the author…did you ever find out what the GEO was? First time I looked at it I thought it must mean ‘get everything out’
Good tip on the sink…and no I never did find out what GEO means but I LIKE your interpretation. Get Everything Out! Why not?
Jerry B. says
I’ve had probably 5 RV’s over the years and I don’t think any of them have had the sensors work properly, at least not consistantly. I do use the Geo method most of the time and it works well. One problem I’ve found it trying to get the Calgon liquid. Seems like it has to be a Walmart or similar and in a rural area where the water isn’t the greatest. I haven’t found it anywhere in my SF Bay area, had to order it on line from Drugstore.com. Maybe I’ll do the Borax next time.
You’re right about finding the Calgon. Seems to be real easy to pick-up some places and completely non-existent in others. That’s why I sometimes substitute with Borax. It’s the same basic principle…laundry booster & softener…and seems to work for us.
If you can’t find the Calgon liquid then use Calgon powder. Add a cupful to a gallon jug with a litle vot water to dissolve then fill rest of jug with water and pour in tank. I also use powdered laundry soap. Works great for me. Use every other dump, and don’t need to add other chemicals to control smell.
This is what I do also. I haven’t been able to find the liquid
I can’t find Calgon in our local stores so I order it from Walmart.com (Cheaper than Amazon) and have it mailed to me. You can get free delivery to a store near you. If you are traveling I would imagine you could order it and have it shipped to a Walmart near your destination.
Rick Riccardino says
You can get the Calgon either on Amazon or Walmart.com if you can’t find it in the store itself. Some Walmarts carry it some don’t.
I know it’s been years since you wrote this but if I do this when I empty do I flush it out at the beginning when I hook up at our next campsite? Or leave it in instead of all the expensive chemicals until time to dump again? Only one our second trip and those chemicals didn’t work for the smell but this geo has worked great on our new to us motorhome.
You can leave everything in until your next dump. That’s absolutely fine.
Myrl & Ray Barnes says
Is the borax also a liquid?
No, Borax is a powder. But it dissolves easily enough.
Luke Alexander says
I put in a SeeLevel system about 5 years ago and love it. Always accurate because the sensors are on the outside of the tank. Easy to install. It was pricey, but ammortized over the years, it is well worth the money. I duct taped the sensors on, so I can move the system to a new coach as needed.
I have heard SO many good things about the SeeLevel system. Every RVer I know that’s installed it loves it. It’s not really top of our list of potential mods, but may make it on there sometime over the next few years.
Victor Caceres says
Luke, what SeeLevel system/model did you get for ur RV? We’ve only had our RV since April 2013 and the sensors are already reading incorrectly. Nina, thanks for info on GEO method.
Robert Nuttmann says
I also added the SeaLevel system almost two years ago. Worth every penny. Works flawlessly and very accurate.
We use enzymes that are similar to the stuff you put in home septic tanks. Environmentally sound. I use in both the black and grey tanks. Got the solid tablets at Quartzite this year. Maybe a little more than the “GEO” system, but my guess would be more effective. With the enzymes they eat the smelly stuff in the black and grey tanks continuously so no smells.
I had never heard of the GEO system until I read this blog today.
I’ve talked to several RVers who go the enzyme route and swear by it. The enzymes are targeted more for septic tanks than holding tanks, but I could see them helping if you manage to leave them in there long enough (several weeks) before dumping. Might look into it someday if my GEO method stops working.
This is coming from someone who no longer owns an RV, so any rolling of the eyes is perfectly understandable.
Just the same, I think I must have read the Geo method years ago, and coincidently just came across it again the other day. I never had problems with our sensors (in the motorhome that we no longer own *sniff*) since I discovered early on that my grey water was filling up way too fast.. Had to come up with a way to divert liquid if at all possible.
So I started using those plastic dish pans that fit nicely into each of our sinks, which then turned out to serve two purposes. First of all the sinks were being protected from the inevitable scratching and bumping that occurs during the wash up, and then I would dump the soapy water into the toilet. The soap obviously was helping to keep the sensors well lubed, and I was keeping extra liquid out of my grey tank. Simple.
Only thing was though, it’s really important to make sure all the utensils are out of the soapy water. I’m pretty sure I lost a knife once down the poop chute. Didn’t see it go, but the count came up short not long after that. Your mileage may vary.
Re-using the grey water in the toilet is a great little tip (and one we’ve used ourselves on longer boondocking trips). A nice water-saving idea and another way to get soapy cleaner down the toilet. Appreciate the tip about making sure the utensils are out beforehand tho’…LOL 🙂
I love this idea. I am going to go get some small tubs today!
Leanne Herda says
I have several CATERING pans. They are stainless steel with a good lip to carry with. We’ve used them for washing dishes at our campsite for years. They fit and sit rigth over our sink. We’ve noticed our new rv yet, but was planning on doinv a little gray water privy dumping. Some of thw posts I wonder what we got ourselves into! Maybe its easier to pitch a tent and open the cots!
Debby & Bill says
Another great post – thanks!! Our black tanks are great but our gray need some help. To another of your comments – Happy Camper is great stuff, a guy who cleans tanks for a living did a seminar on it at a campground we were at and he loves that stuff. We have also used the organic tablets which are good too. Anyway, thanks!!
Yup, we’ve also used Happy Camper and like the product. Pretty much stick to that and the GEO method for our tanks.
Our gauges work well in the older Country Coach we have now, they never worked in any of the other RV’s we owned. I started using the Calgon and detergent about a year ago just to make sure the gauges kept working. Do you also use some type of holding tank chemical or just the Calgon and detergent?
Great to hear the GEO method is working for you! We’ve used Happy Camper in the toilet too, but I’m not sure it’s strictly necessary. At this point it’s probably more habit than anything else. Between the 2 methods our sensors keep clean so we haven’t messed with it.
Thanks for the great information.. it could not have come at a better time. Recently, I have been having difficulty with the sensors accuracy and I will definitely put your suggestions to work. Once damage occurs is it reversible over time with better tank care? We have enjoyed our winter of travels and sadly must head back North once again. We learned alot from following your blog and the old “trial and error” so hopefully next year will be a bit easier.
I do think it’s reversible, but it all depends how “solid” the crud is on the sensor screws. I’d try the GEO method several times for sure (never hurts). If that doesn’t work and you’re going to leave the RV sitting around for a while I’d dump some enzymes (the type used in septic tanks) to see if they can help digest things down there. The enzymes need time to work, so let them sit for several weeks or more in a full tank before you dump.
Joyce Samples says
We’ve been RVing about 5 years now and I never heard of the GEO system. I plan on trying it. We have a motorhome and the tanks always show full. Ours does sit most of the time in an RV park and has not been driven much in the last 2 years. I assume that maybe that has something to do with it. I feel like if your moving maybe that helps things get worked out better? Just wanted to say I enjoy your blog very much. Always look forward to it showing up in my email.
I do think moving around helps to slosh things in the tanks and mix ’em up. We usually try to leave the tanks partially full for our drives so we can get that cleaning action going on the road. Also, if you’re leaving your valves open while hooked-up that could be another reason for sensor build-up. Closing the valves and only dumping when you’re full really helps IMHO.
Jerry B. says
One more comment, our tanks are NOT septic tanks which need to “digest” and they usually only hold the contents for maybe a week at the most and more often just 3-4 days, so I don’t see the advantage of digester/enzyme types of additives. The soap and water softener work well for us and are environmentally friendly and we don’t have any odor issues. Part of the key is using enough water to keep everything liquified and just dump a little more often. Just my opinion…
I do think water and keeping things moving is KEY! I could see enzymes potentially helping if you’re leaving the RV sitting around for a while (several weeks or more), but I’m pretty much with you on the water, soap and calgon approach.
I’m totally new to rving….. Do you add GEO mixture to BOTH tanks and then add water to each tank? If so, How much much water? Thanks in advance!
Yes, you can use it in both tanks. I typically add the GEO, allow the tanks to fill, drive to the next site (to allow it to slosh around) and then dump. If you don’t want to wait for it to fill you could simply add several gallons (say 5-10?) of water and do the same.
When u get to the next camp and empty the Geo out then do u put GEO IN BOTH OF THEM AND A FEW GALLONS OF WATER?
Thank you for the info on the tanks. I printed your post, and it’s going in our “truck book” along on our next road trip. While we’re on the subject of tanks, do you have any advice on the propane tanks? Is there any way to know how much gas is left in the tank?
We’ve been struggling w/ the propane issue ourselves and haven’t found a solution yet. We kinda know how far we can go on a tank, but we’ve gotten darn close to zero several times without knowing it and our propane sensors are useless. I’m going to try Linda’s idea w/ the water. If it works that’s a keeper!
Ron Peterson says
I Pour a pint of hot water over the tanks. This will show a frost llne on your tank which then show you the propane level in each tank. And where out camping I leave both of my tanks turned on. This will help you determine that you have plenty of propane flowing if one tank runs out the other tank will switch automatically so your refrigerator and water heater will keep running without your appliances pilot lights going out. You will have plenty of Hot Water when you need it, you won’t have warm a spoiled food.
The hot water trick is a sound one. We only have one large propane tank in our class A, but for those with two tanks the other tip is a good one too. Cheers for sharing!
Debbie Daymond says
We picked up some propane level gage at Costco really like feel they are quite accurate
With our propane tank on our BBQ we boil the teakettle and pour it over the side and feel down the tank with your hand and the cold part is where your propane is, I don’t know why that wouldn’t work with the big tank on your RV.
Yup, that’s a great tip and it works! Since I wrote this post we’ve used the “hot water” method many times for our big tanks. It’s not perfect, but it gets pretty close.
Sheila, we wrote about how we measure our propane usage for our 5th wheel in this blog post.
As far as what tricks do we use to tell when our tanks are full? None, we just wait until we smell it! Hahah. Well sorta. After 5 years of fulltiming we know how long we can go with our current setup. Still, it’s annoying to see those worthless sensors read “full” when they’re not.
We need to try the Geo method. I’ve read about it so many times but have been too lazy to try it. Thanks for the reassurance that it actually works.
Rene, Can you re-post the link to your blog post on propane (it didn’t come out)? I’m interested too!
Debra Herbig says
To monitor our propane, we purchased a gadget called Truma Level Check. It’s an electronic sensor and is very accurate. We never run out of propane. Website
http://Www.levelcheck.com Check it out.
Nice. Cheers for the tip!
GEO – Get Everything Out
FINALLY!!! Thanks for that. I never could figure out the acronym!
Linda Sand says
If your propane tank is external–you can see it–just pour a cup of hot water down the side. You will get condensation where there is still propane so that line will tell you how full it is.
What a NIFTY idea!!! I’m gonna HAVE to try that!
This works perfectly. We do this all the time. Is pretty accurate
I’ve given up trying to keep sensors working and havn’t had much success with commercial cleaners or the geo method. I have been full timing for 6 years and generally I’m hooked to a sewer or septic. My “sensor” is watching for a bubble of air to come up through the liquid going down the toilet. This indicates the liquid level is above the vent pipe in the top of the holding tank. i leave the gray tank valves open or would be dumping gray water every other day. When i see the bubble i close the gray valve for a couple showers to flush the black water dump. For the two of us i usually have 2 or 3 days before the black tank starts to backup into the toilet. I can usually go a couple weeks between black water dumps.
We’ll usually hear the toilet “burp” too when it’s full. If I’ve been lax on checking the sensors I’ll know by the noise that we’re getting close and need to dump.
We were thinking of using the bag of ice idea to clean our tanks and were told by an RV repair tech. that there is the possibility that when the ice is sloshing around it could knock the sensors off of the tank.
Unless you have nicer/longer probes in your rig (e.g. something like the Horst Probes), the regular ones are just short, thick screws which I can’t see being affected by ice-cubes. I guess it would be possible to damage them or knock them out, but I’d think it low probability. Still…it’s good to share the warning. You never know…
Being long time boondockers, we like to dump at the free (used to be free) sites at Flying J. We buy a small bag of ice right before we leave and dump it in the head. Going down the road it knocks any “chunks” out of the corners and keeps the probes clean. We can go 14-20 days between black dumps.
We usually go around 2-3 weeks between dumps too. When we’re hooked-up we’re more liberal with our water, but when boondocking we stretch it to the max 🙂
AS we never trust the probes we didn’t worry about the ice damaging them. After years they are still doing as good as the first year.
This isn’t a comment on your “black tank” tricks, although we find them very helpful! We’re about to embark on a year’s adventure in our motorhome with our two large dogs (standard poodle and lab). My question is what do you use for Polly’s tick protection. Our dogs are black and I find it very difficult to simply pick them off, or find them for that matter! Do you use a tick collar? thanks for any information.
Polly is sensitive to just about any chemical so we don’t usually use any tick prevention unless it’s absolutely necessary. We carry around some Frontline that we’ll use if we’re going into a particularly bad area. Otherwise I just search her fur (which takes time!). If you need to use it I’d advise using a monthly topical application like either Frontline or Advantage rather than the tick collars. There are also natural alternatives (e.g. essential oils) which can work.
I do use a topical monthly, but the vet suggested adding a tick collar too and I wondered what you did. Its so difficult to see anything in that dark black fur that i’m concerned I’ll miss one and risk lyme disease for them, or us, for that matter! I guess we’ll just see what happens!
Yeah I’ve never liked the collars. Seen too many issues of toxicity with them. If you need it I think the monthly topical is more than enough.
Kay Leamon says
We bought our A class new in 2007. The dealer recommended “Unique”. We have always used Unique and our sensors have always worked. We met another RV’er who had sensor problems, told them about Unique, they have not had sensor problems since. We also are very careful about cleaning our dishes, utensils and pots and pans with paper towels so the food does not go into our gray tank.
I’ve heard good reviews on Unique (RV Digest It) products from others too. Wiping off pots and plates before cleaning is a good tip and one we use too. Better to keep the grease out of the tanks.
Great post Nina! I’ve never seen a poll done, but I wonder if most folks with tank sensor problems are those who always use hookups and leave their valves open, don’t backflush their tanks, and use every wiz-bang product CampingWorld sells to try and “fix” their problem! Glad I listened to some sage RVers when I first bought my coach who taught me your first 3 steps above, and also advised that if I always followed them, no extra deodorizers or tank enzyme cleaning products would be necessary. After 3 years, I’ve yet to have any problems! My coach didn’t come with a backflush system pre-installed, so I use a FlushKing adapter and created this step-by-step blog post of how I use it: http://bit.ly/GQv6gO
Excellent! Thanks for sharing the post!
TowTally Camping says
Great tips! In California some of the RV parks we have pulled into have their own required cleaners. To each their own, but the GEO system sounds about as simple as it can get. We rent towable travel trailers and are looking for the tried and true systems that work. Thanks for the advice! The only thing we can’t really comply with is not emptying the tank until it is about 2/3 full. We flush dump and clean after every rental.
Have to admit I haven’t come across the required cleaner deal anywhere we’ve stayed in CA. Interesting to know.
George and Brenda says
Great BLOG. My wife Brenda got me hooked on your site and I check it out about once a day. I may finally get thru all of your posts. LOL The GEO method is one of the items that I will add to my growing maintenance list. Does GEO stand for GET EVERYTHING OUT? Well maybe not.
Although we have camped through out the years from tents, to a small trailer and 5th wheel, we plan to start full timing in 2014 once our home sells. We plan to buy a MH and do some boondocking and the rest in some type of RV park.
Keep up the great postings and hope to see you out there down the road.
Yup, it stands for Get Everything Out…at least that’s what I’ve read as the “official” translation 🙂 Happy you like the blog and good luck with your up-coming fulltiming plans. We sure love the lifestyle, as you can see.
After you add the Dawn & Calgon, do you then use regular toilet chemicals for the next camping trip? Or add more soap and softener? I’m desperate for something that will get the stench out. Bleh!
Yup, after the Dawn and Calgon treatment (assuming it’s worked) we go back to regular toilet chemicals. Now, if you have a stench I wonder if there’s something going on with your vents? Have you checked to see if they are clogged? The toilet seal should keep everything “in the tank” and the vents should release everything “smelly” outside.
Thanks for the tip! Will check the vents. To be clear, we can leave this solution in the tank with waste until it is time to dump…in lieu of typical additives. Then we empty as usual and use other treatments?
Actually a better alternative, if tanks are very dirty, is to put in the GEO solution, fill with regular water and then drive around. Kinda like doing a washing cycle in your RV tank. Then dump and go back to your usual method. You can do this “washing cycle” several times until you’re happy with them results.
LP: we have used the GEO method for several years and find that it works well to reduce odors and keep the tanks clean. We use it every time we dump until we put her away for winter, when I dump and add rid-x instead of soap and calgon. We use the camper at Christmas when the kids visit so we don’t winterize per se. In the spring I dump, flush and reinsert the GEO ingredients and use it all summer after each dump.
BTW: I am not saying anything about the method libertatemamo suggests – sounds like it will also work well.
Good tips! Thanks for sharing your ideas on this. I’ve heard many folks use Rid-X or other septic tank treatments (e.g. RV Digest It) with good results.
John Eiden says
We’ve had oder issues after dumping and came to realize that the P-traps under the sinks were being sucked dry by the suction created in the drains when the grey tank was dumped. Adding a cup of water to each sink refilled the P-traps
That’s some serious suction, but it makes sense. We’ve heard of odor issues from P-traps due to evaporation too, especially from folks who live in hot/dry climates and don’t use their rig all the time. Those P-traps need water in them to block the grey tank smell.
My eyes are being opened wide to the world of keeping a toilet clean! THANK YOU! Jdubya, you never, ever use chemicals until you put it away? I checked the bathroom this morning and I have no smell. The tank is almost full of water and the Calgon/Dawn mixture. We have to move it in a week or so to get it inspected, so that sloshing should swish it around well. I am such a novice! In my head everyone is supposed to use the chemicals b/c that’s what “they” say to do. The GEO ingredients are closer to my house, too. I can always find those at our local Kroger! I feel so enlightened! :o) THANK YOU!
LP: not only that, but we just bought a used 2004 Fleetwood Flair 33R. We used it for a short time earlier this summer and put GEO in the tanks, but as we traveled this fall, the sensors went from working to not working in steps on mainly the black tank and we started to get odors in the camper. The sensors are the more expensive outside type that don’t get coated so I was mystified. I put twice the amount of GEO in as I normally used and as we left for home the tanks were quite full. By the second stop, the sensors started working again and no odors. I filled the tanks, ran the flusher, dumped and re-GEO ed it. When we got home it was still working and no odors. I think the GEO cleaned off the walls and fixed up the sensors in the process. BTW we use ALL and Calgon in the black, Calgon only in the grey.
pay attention to what you put in your holding tanks when they are capped off..as in..when you make a potatoe salad and drain the potatoe water..and egg water ,,then finding a curdled bottle of homemade irish cream and dumping it down..then deciding to keep that pretty bottle for a refill so you happen to add baking soda in the bottle to soak it and you dump that..you then notice a geyser of fumes and bubbles..you commence screaming and your husband about breaks a leg trying to forgo the steps to get to the valve to release before it blows up..the horror you feel when it blows just as he releases and you split your holding tank..in a rv that is less than a year old..after finding a plastic binder glue for the holding tank you precede to the next stop and realise you will be trading in sooner than later ….
Oh dear…sounds like you might be talking from experience here? That sounds like QUITE the little tank adventure…ouch!
I am still a little uncertain about the proper way to use the GEO method. We have empty tanks right at the moment as we dumped before coming home but I am sure we need to clean them as the sensors were not reading correctly. We live in Chicago and didn’t want to leave water in the tank while it was still going below freezing here but now that we’re (hopefully) past that, we are going to go out and fill up the tank and add a cup of Dawn and a cup of Calgon and let it sit for awhile. THEN, we will drain it and rinse it out and add more water and Calgon. Does this sound like the way we should do it?
I’d actually suggest adding Dawn, Calgon, WATER (very important) and then driving around for a while (e.g. to your next camping location). Ideally you want this stuff to be sloshing around in your tank. Then, dump when you’re ready. Make sense?
Thank you! That isn’t near as complicated as I was trying to make it! It will be interesting to see if this actually makes our sensors more accurate. Thanks again!!
libertatemamo, By “dump when you’re ready”, so you mean even when it’s mixed with waste?
Yup…you can put in the stuff, drive around with it, fill it with waste and then dump. Or just put in the stuff, drive with it and dump. We like to wait until our tanks are full before dumping so the first approach is the one we usually take. Doesn’t really matter if the calgon/dawn is in there by itself or with waste. The key is just give it time in the tank (preferably with a bit of sloshing around) to work it’s magic.
LP: That is exactly what you do – we never use anything but soap and softener. The softener keeps the solids from collecting on the walls and bottom of the tanks, and along with the soap keeps the stinky guys from growing.
If you think that there is old material (solid waste) in the bottom of the tank, some have had success getting it out by dumping a sack or two of ice cubes into the tanks with only a few gallons of water and drove around, but there is no reason to do that otherwise. Rather than waste money on the expensive tank deodorizers, use the GEO method all of the time. And if you don’t use the coach all winter, consider dumping the tank, rinsing and putting a few gallons of water with rid-x in the tank through the toilet. You can still use the camper periodically if you wish, but rid-x won’t work with GEO in there, too. The rid-x will get hardened material that won’t soften otherwise.
If the tank is already really bad (stinky) put a quart of clorox into the tank and fill it to the top. Then after letting it sit for an hour or so, drain it and refill at least partially, dump again without adding anything, and then put the GEO ingredients into the tank and leave it there. Use the camper, dump and put the GEO in again according to the GEO process, etc, etc. No need to use any other tank chemicals unless you really love to throw money down the toilet.
I have mixed results with the GEO method (with regards to sensor cleaning), but I have to say that I really love the smell of liquid Tide and Calgon .. Whenever I step into the bathroom, it smells like that. I use no other tank cleaners and use the GEO method for both gray and black tanks each time I dump, and it always smells fresh.
I agree it’s definitely not a fool-proof method. Glad you like it.
I have to advocate for Happy Camper. One ounce per 40 gallons of black tank capacity is about 70 cents for each fill/dump black tank cycle in my rig. It is dissolved into two gallons of water and poured into an empty black water tank. That’s it. With normal use of the toilet and bathroom sink enough water is put into the system for it to work. Happy Camper contains minerals and micro nutrients that lubricate the tank so it empties easily and helps keep the sensor working. The micro nutrients include aerobic bacteria that liquefy waste and kill anaerobic bacteria, the cause of foul black tank odor. I have had zero problems with dumping and odor since using it. My black tank sensor still works as well as it did when new.
The GEO Method is more expensive, using more product and water, is harder on the environment, and when using the bleach component is actually counterproductive to a healthy black water tank system. If you want a happy black water tank system try Happy Camper, the name is apropos.
For a poorly maintained black water tank which has difficult build up, proper use of the Happy Camper Extreme Cleaner will get it back into shape so one can begin black tank bliss with regular use of Happy Camper.
Victor Caceres says
Jackfish, where do you get the Happy Camper treatment? Thanks!
You can get it on amazon.com or direct from Happy Camper. They’re both about the same price:
Happy Campers Organic RV Holding Tank Treatment 64 oz
Liane Goodrich says
Love this blog! I have ordered calgon. I bought the only water softening product I could find, which is made by arm and hammer. It has to dissolve in hot water and is a pain. As for the dawn dishwashing detergent, that is my go to soap for home and in the coach. I recall it was what they used to clean birds after oil spills. I put it in the bathroom in a pump dispenser (diluted first) so every dishwashing or hand washing adds some dawn to the grey tank.
Can sympathize with the folks with exploding tank. We went dry camping so I was really conservative with water and made a horrible smelly mess from vegetable residue on dishes and utensils. I even bought a little strainer basket (mesh, like a tea strainer) to catch all the solid residue. Eventually I discovered the anti siphon valve under my kitchen sink was bad. It’s supposed to equalize air pressure to allow the sink to drain. And then shut. My valve was stuck open. The smell was a combo of poop and rotten eggs. Horrible. That plus forest fire smell nearly drove us nuts driving home.
I am not having black odors but black sensor issues. So I am GEO methoding black. I just wonder if my pseudo GEO is cleaning my grey out.
Yuk on the blocked tank. We’ve had that happen once (before we figured out to wipe our dishes before washing them) and know what it’s like.
Hope the pseudo-GEO works out for you!
Thanks for all of the great information. We have been using Happy Camper but still having some sensor issues so will give the GEO method a try. Couple of questions:
1. What are your tips for making 2-3 weeks between dumps when dry camping? My husband and I are new full timers and plan to be doing quite a bit of dry camping. So far it seems like we make it ~10-12 day’s before needing to dump.
2. Have you ever considered a composting toilet?
Appreciate all the invaluable insight:)
Regarding how to last longer on your tanks I’d suggest this post which I wrote a while back on conserving water. It has all the tips and tricks we use for our longer boondocking stays:
Going “Water-Green” = Conserving Water on the Road
As for a composting toilet I’ve looked at them and I really like the way they break down the solids into a natural form, but I don’t want to have to deal with buckets of pee. The latter seems a big pain and it’s probably the main thing that keeps us from seriously considering them. If I have to dump pee on a regular basis I’d rather just use my tanks and dump from my sewer hose every 3 weeks instead of having to lug around a bucket (in/out of the RV) and find a spot to do dump that every few days.
My husband and I drove truck over the road for quite a few years before getting off the road. I love my little 18′ camper, it feels like home but with a kitchen and bathroom, and really spacious compared to a Peterbuilt 379 sleeper! We always delt with liquid waste in gallon sized Zip Lock freezer bags (it’s not worth it to get cheap and try and go generic or storage bag with this). We bought them in bulk at Costco, and disposed of them twice daily at fuel stops. I preferred to handle urine as little as possible. Any extra pouring, carrying, or handling is just an opportunity to spill. We would do our business directly into the bag (a little practice makes perfect), zip lock it, into the trash bag-lined 5 gallon bucket to await the next trash dump. I knew some women who used large cups or coffee cans and poured into sealed bottles but that just seemed messy to me. Too much rinsing, splashing, sloshing, spilling,etc. Another option is liquid absorbing gel or powder (like what is in diapers or clumping kitty litter), you should be able to find it at a janitorial supply store. It would convert your liquid waste to a solid waste for easier disposal.
Good tips for those looking to dispose of waste without using their tanks. We used similar methods (e.g. The gels) for backpacking in areas where you had to pack-it-out many years ago. We are happy using our tanks and our black stretches 3 weeks between dumps when we’re boondocking, so we probably won’t ever need to bag up our waste, but for those in smaller rigs and/or with smaller tanks and not near hookups these tips are great. Cheers for sharing your experience.
Ed Winn says
I have problems with my sensors, And all the solutions I have read about require some type of additives while traveling down the road to slosh things around. I am stationary until i find a truck for my 5ver . My black tank has the Flush kit installed. My Question is has anyone tried flushing the tank with HOT! water to clean the sensors??
I’ve never tried it, but we do have a back-flush on our tank and it works well when we’re sitting still for longer periods. You may need 3-4 good flushes before seeing results. Give it a go and let us know how it works!
Question, in live in my RV fulltime. Should I keep all tanks closed and then drain them as needed?
Yes, It’s good practice to keep them closed until they are at least 2/3 full before you drain. The black is more important then the grey. We’ll sometimes leave the grey open if we have hookups (especially if we’re using the washing machine and such), but we *never* leave the black open. Always let the black fill before dumping. This prevents buildup and ensures you have enough pressure to push the contents out cleanly hen you dump.
Never heard of the GEO method but I will be trying it after our next trip. My black tank says full after a dump. Going to look into the backwash also. Thank you for the article!
I have heard from many forums that an alternative method of doing this is just replacing the sensor. I have heard of many using a SeeLevel sensor, as it is positioned outside of the tank and because of this, the grime can not accumulate and alter the readings. The only complaint I have heard with this system is that it is not waterproof, so if water comes in contact the system breaks down. Another option that some might want to consider is this . It is considerably cheaper and is also watertight, although I don’t know whether or not the wire will corrode.
Indeed. I mentioned the See Level sensors in my blog post. I know many folks who use them and really like them. They’re a bit of an investment upfront and they can miss-read if your tanks are very gunked-up (happened to a friend of mine), but they suffer far fewer issues than the traditional in-tank sensor probes.
All the comments have been really helpful. I use my RV primarily for Dog Shows so I do 1-2 shows a month. Mostly I’m in it for three days sometimes five. How long is it OK to let the tanks sit between shows until they are full enough to dump? Or should I just fill with water after each trip and dump every time?
Dumping 1-2 times/month is perfectly fine. We typically boondock & leave the tanks for 2-3 weeks at a time before we dump. The key is just to make sure the tank is at least 2/3 full (so, if it hasn’t been filled by “use”, add water to fill it up) before you dump.
We just had the SeeLevel system installed and have only had 3 dumps since then. The grey tank worked great from day 1. I have always wiped everything off of dishes before washing them since we purchased the rig new in 2010.
The black tank sensoring did not work as well. It had somewhat erratic readings. After much research, I found suggestions that perhaps there might be some residue stuck to the sides of the tank causing false readings when it absorbed moisture.
We’ve always used a bacteria type treatment in the black tank and never had an odor problem. We’ve used the GEO method often along with the bacteria treatment, but the internal tank sensors never seemed to work.
We just purchased the Happy Camper Extreme Tank Cleaner, dissolved the full container into hot water, poured it into an empty black tank, added about 15 gallons of water and added 2 large bags of ice, per the “for best results” directions.
We then drove for 8 hours. After arriving at the campground, we filled the black tank up the rest of the way with water and let it set overnight.
We will dump it in a few hours and see if all of this worked magic.
I’ll post results afterwards.
One of our buddies had the same problem with the Seelevel when he first installed them. He got a “deep cleaning” of his tanks from a guy in Yuma and that solved he problem. Hope the Happy Camper Extreme works out for you.
I have a camper on a permanent site and use April thru October. I started using the GEO method due to an odor problem. After using this method for almost 2 seasons I continue to have the odor problem. I saw a post discussing checking the vent and was wondering what this entails and how to go about this. Thanks for any suggestions.
Land Yacht says
New to RVing. Great info from everyone. We’ll be trying the GEO Method.
Thanks again. Happy travels!
Bettina Arrigoni says
Hope you are enjoying Bend!
Do you guys have any experience with Drainmaster valves for Gray and Black tanks, specifically the need to clean the valves on a regular basis? We have been on the road for almost 2 years now and had our gray tank valve stick in the open position while dumping & cleaning our tanks. We have had no issues until now. We called the manufacturer and they said that we should be cleaning the valves every 3 months if we are full time. Just wondering if you have heard anything about this and/or have any recommendations.
Unfortunately I don’t. We have the old manual-pull valves which I’ve replaced while on the road (a very simple procedure actually), but we don’t have any experience with the Drainmaster. I did find this document on a Google search though:
And if you’re interesting in how we switched out our manual valves, the blog post is here:
Hope you get those valves fixed quickly and easily!
Bettina Arrigoni says
You rock! We will be researching how to convert to manual pull valves.
This is by far the best blog I have read! We just purchased our first travel trailer and love it. It’s brand new so everything is still under warranty. Our black tank keeps saying its 2/3 full when we know it’s not. Definitely going to use the GEO method. Even the comments from others on here have been very helpful.
We are Happy Campers!
I read almost all the posts…if I missed this trick, my apologies. We save space in our black water tank by NOT throwing our used toilet paper down the toilet. Even though it will degrade, consider the volume the paper adds.We keep a small step-lid trash can by the toilet, lined with dollar store brand trash liners (small size). Remove and tie shut daily and dispose with your kitchen garbage. We can tolerate a two-day cycle, even boondocking in southern AZ/CA. Alternative: ladies, put peepee paper in this trash and flush the other. This will save a considerable amount.
This is a great tip and one I’ve used before while boondocking. Cheers for adding it.
Barry M. says
I just added a 5″ marine deck plate to the back top side of my black tank. Have to give credit to Chief Dave for the idea. When campsite sewer is available we can open the black gate valve and water hose flush from the back side to of the tank and get a good tank cleaning. Wear your gloves when you cut the hole and fit the deck plate. Just saying!!
Louise Fulton says
Shared your site a ton of times with Facebook RV groups but eould you consider removing your info on black tanks and uce? Here’s proof ot doesn’t work https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://m.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DiH6acEmqvcw&ved=0CBsQtwIwAGoVChMI2amy2JmpyAIVio0NCh2VrAcG&usg=AFQjCNHJoRQkG39LyLdOt3JmsomjwJX5Fg
Hi Nina, with the Geo method is it still necessary to use enzymes to breakdown the waste? And do you put anything in the grey tank? What about sanitizing the freshwater tank? I understand bleach could harm the seals but worry about bacterial growth….I’m a nurse!!! Thanks for all your tips
We use both in the black tank (Happy Camper for day to day, with GEO when we want a deeper clean) although I know many RVers that just do GEO. Your fresh water tank is a total separate system so sanitizing that every now and then is a good idea. The RV Geeks have a good video on this if you want to check them out. For grey tank we don’t do anything. Have never needed to.
How do I know when my tanks are 2/3 full if my sensors don’t work?
In that case the easiest way is to wait until your blank tank is full and the “classic” way to tell that is your toilet will “burp”. And no, I’m not kidding on this -> your toilet will audibly make a “burp” when it’s getting full. Yet another way, although it’s slightly grosser, is to take a light and shine it down into your tank (through your toilet, with the flush open) to see where the level of the liquids are.
With time and use, as you get more used to your blank tank levels, you may not need either of these indicators since you’ll more or less know how many days it takes for your tanks to get full.
David H Bigelow Sr says
Hello, I’m not sure that I am actually expecting any advice with this, however, maybe this post might save someone else the aggravation. Obviously with all of the posts regarding sensor readings there will always be good information in a forum such as this. So…My name is David and I have been an R.V. owner for over 30 years. I have found that ownership time gives me no more advantage than most who are diligent and seek answers to their problems. With that said here is what happened to me recently. I was using a standard bleach type cleaner and disinfectant to clean my toilet and surrounding vinyl etc. After spraying the cleaner inside the toilet and letting it set for a while, I proceeded wiping and cleaning, all the while letting the water flow and dump…I’ve done this exact same thing for years. All of a sudden the water flow from the toilet pulled the cleaning rag out of my hand and down the hatch it went into the black tank ;( Unlike other R.V.’s that I’ve owned, the sewer pipe going from the toilet into the tank is not straight down into the tank. Instead this pipe is straight for about 6 inches and then elbows to the right towards the passenger side of the tank. With that, I was unable to shine a flashlight into the tank hoping the rag would still be right there so I could use a coat hanger or something to fish it out. As of yet the rag has not left the tank, even after filling and emptying many times, however luckily, it has not hung up and hindered the valve operation or stopped me from emptying the tanks. Well, I know there are ways to possibly fix this “sticky” problem, I just cannot force myself to start the task. I live full time in a campground in a 32′ 5th. wheel so I will have plenty of time to ponder my next move.
Oh my! Dropping things down into the black tank is one of my recurring RV nightmares. Sooo easy to do when that hatch is open. Wish I could give you some magic advice, but all I can really do is hope you get the rag out of there without too much trouble. The best of luck to you!
A trick I use to unclog the black tank when it won’t drain out: I fill the grey tank full – make sure it’s more full than the black tank. I make sure to close both the black and grey tank valves, remove the discharge hose and cap it. I then open both valves – the head pressure from the grey tank will overcome the lesser head pressure from the black tank and grey water will back flush into the black tank, thus unclogging the black tank. I close both valves, remove the cap and attach the hose. Open the black tank valve and voila! Works every time 🙂
We always dump at least one 20lb jug of water down our black before we leave the campsite so when we are driving it sloshes around and gets things moving.We had a sensor problem last year and tried the ice cube trick,worked like a charm.Aso once we dump we put another 20lb jug of water in just to make sure.
I installed Horst Miracle Probes in our 5th wheel. Don’t waste your money! The first year they worked most of the time. Now they work just like the buttons. Weren’t worth the money or the trouble of getting to the tanks. The Soft water powder has been no help either. Nor has the Borax or Dawn. The ice method won’t clean the Horst probes as they are protected with hoods over the probes.
An old timer told use to pour a couple gallons of Orange juice and fill 2 thirds with water. The citric acid will do the job. Well with doubts, I tried anyway. Now once a year when closing it up for the winter, I pour in a couple gallons, fill with water and drive it around to agitate the tanks. Works good!
Interesting. Never heard of the orange method in RV black tanks, but I can certainly see how citric acid (in citrus fruits) would help to degrease and clean. Glad it worked for you and cheers for sharing.
How do you know the tank is 2/3 full if the gauge doesn’t work?
After you’ve been RVing for a while, you’ll get a very good feel of how many days you can go before your tank gets to that stage. If you’re new and still trying to figure it out (AND your sensors don’t work) then I advise waiting for the infamous “burp” which will tell you when your tank is full. That’ll give you a gauge for the number of days it takes to fill your tank. Then, just plan to dump a few days before that and you’ll be pretty close to 2/3.
Pat and Linda says
Great thread. I decided to use cold water laundry detergent rather than dishwasher detergent. (as the dishwasher soap requires hot water). The water softener is a new idea. Gotta give it a try.
Doug McBee says
So after emptying and flushing the black tank add 1 cup of calgon and 1 cup of dawn and leave it. Then when you go to use it again just add water and your chemical of choice? We are fairly new. Used and flushed 3 times so far. We have a factory flush.
We put in the Calgon + dawn (plus water of course) before we drive to a new site. So, the Calgon/dawn/water can do it’s magic by getting sloshed around the tank during the drive. Then, we dump at the new location & put in whatever water or chemical we want to use (we use Happy Camper between GEO cleans).
New to RVing…..so many useful tips! thanks much!
How much water soften to use ?is it a cup full or a cap full
I use the plastic connector elbows hook-up with a shut off. then have a hose long enough to reach the toilet. shut the valve, fill with a lot of water, drain, do again, until it comes out semi-clean. haven’t had any problems yet, but why wait.
I’m going to try the Dawn and Calgon. I just reed use Borax & fabric softer.
David Robinson says
I use a flashlight and open the toilet, and look. Very low tech but it works!
Yup, we’ve done the same many times. As long as your toilet sits directly above the black tank (most RV’s have it installed that way), you can always just look down the hole.
Rockin EZ says
This is a bit bogus.
There is less detergent in a $3 bottle of Dawn Dishwashing detergent than there is in an ounce of Laundry Detergent which is what the real inventor of the GEO method calls for.
Here is the original GEO Method site
Well, several points here.
If you took the time to read my post (which I can tell you didn’t) you’ll see I linked to and accredited the original GEO method to the very same site you put in your comment.
Also, as I mentioned in the post, the original GEO method calls for chlorine which ruins rubber seals and is not something I’d recommend in an RV toilet.
Lastly, as for laundry detergent versus Dawn, I’ve always used Dawn as I feel it cuts through grease better (we’re washing a sewage tank here, not clothing). But you’re certainly welcome to try detergent instead and I even mentioned (in the post!) that laundry detergent was a viable alternative.
The method I’ve posted is the one that’s kept our black tank sensors working for the past 6 years of fulltime RV travel. All I can say is, it definitely works for us.
Wild Bill says
My Wife and I have camped for forty years. The amount of propane left in your bottles has always been the question. I have just come across any easy way to test the remaining propane in any tank. Watch the sale flyer at your local automotive / hardware store. I purchased a hand held lazer temperature detecter for $12.00. These handy gadgets detect cold as well. Simply point it at tank and move it from top to bottom. Works ever time.
Good tip. We have a laser gun, but for whatever reason I never thought to use it on our propane tank.
There’s lots of great information here. Such as the laser temp sensor used for propane tank level. I keep one of these in the truck to check wheel bearing temps after a long haul. As for maintenance of the black-water tank sensors- The ice idea can help, but it just doesn’t last in the tank long enough to perform a good scrub. Try using 1/4 bag of water softener salt pellets. They last a long time, grind the sides of the tank really well and eventually dissolve. They last so long that you’ll hear them rattle through the drain pipe after several days of camping. Use them with your favorite tank odor treatment and you’ll be good to go. -Ernest @ Escondido, CA
Hey there, I’m living here in good O’l Canada and we can’t get calgon, I saw a suggestion of using borax and possibly some type of arm and hammer. Do you have any other suggestions for other water softners?
Jim Brown says
I first read the suggestion for Calgon, Borax and Dawn and must admit I was sceptical, but gave it a try.
1/2 Cup of “Borax” granular, mixed with 1 cap full of “Calgon” liquid in the toilet bowl and then flush.
I also added about 1/2 cup of “Dawn” (original Blue $3.75 at Walmart) into the galley sink.
I’ve tried other dish liquids and, no success.
There is also a You-Tube video and detailed test for using ice cubes which clearly shows this is a waste of time, check it out.
We allowed time to do some driving before emptying the tanks and the next time we dumped I was very pleasantly surprised at how clean each tank was and that “all” tank sensors were clean and working after only one application!
The other thing is the fresh smell the Dawn liquid gives off while emptying and cleaning the sewer hose.
These 3 products are very inexpensive, readily available at Walmart, and perform better than the commercial RV tank sensor cleaners, of which I have never had any success with.
The commercial for Dawn, where they are cleaning the wildlife after an oil spill was also a key factor.
It is very important to keep your tanks clean, door free and know that your sensors are working properly.
I am not sure if these products are available in Canada, so I will stock up before crossing back in March.
So glad to hear this method worked out for you! Cheers for sharing your experience.
Nomadic RVers says
This is a huge comment section. Let’s add to it.
The RVgeeks did a video on using OxyClean to clean Corian sink. It worked beautifully.
We were having trouble with our black water tank sensors and exhausted all of our options to clean the tank including the GEO method to get them working properly again. It got me thinking, can we clean the black water tank the same way using OxiClean. Oxy clean does make product for RV tank treatment called OxyKem.
In their video they appear you use one small scoop of OxiClean for about a gallon of water.
So I proceed with the idea to clean the tank with OxiClean.
To clean our black water tank I flushed it until it ran clear. Next I started filling up the black water tank via the sprayers. While that was going on I mixed up 30 small scoops of OxiClean (or 1/3 of a big scoop) in hot water and flush them down the toilet.
(I don’t think it really matters but 15 small scoops mix thoroughly in a 2 gallon bucket, 2x)
I actually filled the tank until the full marker (F) came on and let it sit there for 4 hours.
So that would be approximately 30 small Scoops to 40 gallons of water?
Next I drained the black water tank and observed brown water rushing out.
My empty (E) is now working.
I re-flushed my black water tank after this experiment.
This may be a write up or video for you guys to do or tell folks why they shouldn’t do it.
What do you think?
Hey I’m all for finding new ways to do stuff so if this works I’m all for it! Can’t think of any reason it wouldn’t be appropriate unless there’s bleach in Oxiclean (I have no idea?) since that would damage gaskets and such. But as long as it doesn’t damage anything it’s an awesome solution. Cheers so much for sharing!
Most of the posts regarding the GEO method seem to be geared toward camping with full hook up. Can someone please tell me when I would put the solution into my tank without a full hook up? I would assume I put the mixture into our black tank at the beginning of our trip. I always flush the remaining water in our fresh water tank into the black tank at the end of our trip before dumping. My question is, would I put MORE solution into the black tank and leave it in there until our next trip? Or just repeat the process at the beginning of our next trip.
I think you could do it either way. I’d certainly put it in at the beginning of the trip, and i don’t see any downside to putting some extra in at the end (after dumping).
Creigh Gordon says
My sensors don’t work, and the drain below the toilet is not straight. I use the “watermelon thump” method on my waste tanks. Also, I’ve found that the gray water smells as bad as the black, so using a treatment there really helps.
I know that sound! We call it the toilet “burp”. When we hear it we know it’s time to dump, no matter what our sensors tell us. It’s a fool-proof way to know what’s going on down there.
We use a modified version of the Geo method. When we moved out of stick n brix we had about 50 dishwasher tablets. I saved them to take with even though we don’t have a dishwasher in our coach. We ran low on the traditional treatment pacs and I decided after reading the packaging to throw one in our black water tank.
It worked brilliantly. I had never been able to rinse enough to get the tank clean (always some tp or other debris going through the clear elbow). These tablets have a water softener ball attached to them and the cleanser/soap is designed to get tough food off of dishes. Plus they are cheap at a dollar store. I use one tablet and one half cup of bleach after each dump. Tank stays clean and one rinse after dumping is all that is needed to have the clear elbow running with nothing but water.
Excellent idea. Any method that works is a good method IMO 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
LISa Hammond says
Just an additional tip for using the GEO method. I always add the Dawn dish soap AFTER the Calgon. I have heard from several people that have had troubles with foaming/bubbles if added in the opposite sequence (though I haven’t experienced it myself).
We use GEO and Happy Camper together without a problem, and have no odors. Black tank sensors still not 100% accurate, but far better than before we started this system.
Wishing everyone safe travels and happy camping!
We use dishwasher tablets. But, the kind with the little ball stuck to them. The ball is water softener and anti spot chemical to keep spots off glasses.
When we’ve emptied the tank we put two tablets, one cup of bleach and about two gallons of water in the tank. Our coach is thirteen years old and the sensors read perfectly.
Regarding ice in tank. We have vacuflush in both of our toilets and I have heard ice is a big NO NO in the vacuflush system.
VERY good info. Thanks for making that comment.
We use a dish pan in the sink when dry camping because the gray tank fills up much faster than the black tank, my wife started pouring the dish water in the toilet to save space in the gray tank, come to find out this help keep the black tank clean and the sensors working great
Bloggin Brandi says
Always good practice to leave some water in the tank. I had a travel trailer that got debris on one of the tank sensors. They had to do a full blast and tank cleaning to help extract the problem. I still think it was because of the service center not properly draining the tanks when I took in for service. Either way it is costly to deal with and had to be fixed. The sensors never read empty which lead me to believe there was a problem. So many things to remember and deal with. Ohhhh the RV life.
We now are parked in one spot for 6 years so does this product still work to remove grim off of the sensors?
It’ll still help, even if you’re stationary. But you may also want to buy one of those cleaning wands (the type that you stick through your toilet into the tank) or install a good back-flush system. That’ll help you get a much better clean in your tanks while stationary.
Berniece Cronquist says
Thanks. I will give it a try. My daughter has issues with her sensors. I will pass this on to her.
So my camper sits at a local RV club. Don’t drive it anywhere…yet! How important is it that the water sloshes around after applying the GEO?? My tank never reads empty, always says1/3 even after a dump. I do use one of those hose wands that spins with water pressure to help clean the gunk off the walls.
Feeling stupid!! I just saw the post and answer from back in August from Louise….answered my question!! Thanks!
No worries…and don’t feel bad at all! No question about RVing is ever stupid. It’s just an unknown…until you know it 🙂 We all start as newbies. Good continued RVing to you.
We just moved from Seattle last year. Wonderful water, no minerals or anything. But, water softener easy to find everywhere?!
Now, in Hard Water Land (everywhere but Baton Rouge LA.) No water softener. None. Splain that. I don’t know what to do about Geo Method.
I know what you mean. Being able to find softener in the store is a hit and miss thing, cross country. Worst case you can pick it up online (e.g. Amazon). It’ll cost a tad more, but you should be able to procure it easily enough.
New to full RVing. After seeing everyone on sites saying “Calgon” we thought we has the correct kind. Apparently there is a big difference in them! The one we had was for bathing vs the actual water softener! Suddently our sensors were covered and showing 2/3-full! Using the actual softener one now and hoping to correct what our mistake caused! If it says TAKE ME AWAY…it is the WRONG kind!
Thank you for that detail!!! Didn’t actually realize there was more than one kind of Calgon as I’ve only bought the same bottle. Thanks again.
We didn’t find the bottle until later. We had read that using the powdered one was lighter for traveling. One of the blogs said, “Take me a way is the wrong one” and I leapt up to check! My husband was sure GEO was out the door. I have another chance to do it correctly! BTW, the bottled softener we found, is the correct one. Liquid it will be! Thanks for all of your help!
Danny boy says
I use dawn and borax .. water softener is on board with filters designed for tankless hot water heater.
Barb Willis says
After you put the calgon & dawn in the black tank do I still add the chemical that dissolves the poo & tp?
No need. TP will dissolve on it’s own, and poo will too (with just water).
Dalton Bourne says
A dirty gray or black water tank sensor can produce a smelly problem that makes RV less enjoyable. So, the steps to clean RV holding tank sensors is: First, Drain your gray holding tank and close the tank’s valve. Then, fill your holding tank, add cleaning agent. Open the tank valve and drain the contents, use a pressure washer to spray a powerful water stream through kitchen sink or bathroom drain. Continue dumping holding tank’s content and refilling it with water by opening all RV faucets and showerheads. Ensure to close the valve every time you top up the tank and open the valve when draining.
Dalton Bourne says
You do not have to live with faulty sensor readings and leave you at the mercy of a smelly holding tank. Learning how to clean RV holding tank sensors will help you regain control of your delightful RVing adventures, freeing you of foul-smelling tanks and ensuring well-functioning sensors.