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Old 08-31-2012, 03:46 AM   #1
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Cleaning the Waste Tanks / Fixing Sensor Issues

I originally began this post as Systems and Fixtures because I thought my monitor panel was malfunctioning and it was sort of, but that was just a switch. My bigger problem, the reason my waste tank sensors were malfunctioning was because the inside of my tanks were gunked up and if you are having sensor problems yours may be as well. I've been able to get my black tank sensors working again, and here is how I did it. I'm still working on my gray sensors, but I'm hopeful they will all be working well soon also.

As I mentioned in my monitor related thread, I tried cleaning both waste tanks by filling them with clean water treated with enzymes and soaking them for over 48 hours. This did not fix the sensor problem. It's probably a fine way to maintain healthy tanks during use, but I don't think it's aggressive enough, especially for neglected tanks.

Here is how I've managed to get at least my Black Water Sensors back online.

I purchased the Camco Holding Tank Rinser at Walmart for just $6.50, and used it today on my black tank. It's a very simple and straight forward tool. It's approximately 3' long, 1/2 inch dia. pvc pipe, with a 4 hole spray tip on the business end and a threaded quarter turn shutoff valve where you connect a water hose.

I tested it before I actually took it into my camper and if you buy one, you probably should as well. Become familiar with how it operates. I learned that after I closed the shutoff valve water continued to drip from the tip as water already inside barrel of the Rinser dripped out through the spray holes. I therefore took a bucket in with me and stored it inside the bucket after I closed it and removed it from the toilet, thus containing the dribble from the wand inside the bucket and giving me a safe place to keep it until I had it back outside. I did use a bleach/water solution to soak it in after I'd finished with it.

I'm sure everyone knows this, but just as a reminder, remember to use a different hose than your potable water hose for this procedure. Also make sure you have your sewer hose connected and draining into a proper sewage disposal drain, and your gate valve to the black tank in the open position.

I was very impressed with the pressure emitted from the spray head. The Rinser went onto my water hose tightly and it did not leak around the connection at all. The Rinser's pressure can be easily controlled by the quarter turn shutoff valve. It sprays out evenly through the four holes at the tip, hitting all four sides of your tank at once. Swirling, tipping and rotating your wrist back and forth while lifting and lowering the Rinser inside the tank allows you to do a pretty thorough job. I was correcting a problem so I did it redundantly for at least 30 minutes.

I say this because although I could not see the results inside the tank for obvious reasons, I knew it was working when one by one the lights on my sensors went out, telling me I had flushed off the gunk that was keeping them lit.

When I had all of the sensor lights in the black tank cleared, I closed the gate valve and used the Rinser wand to fill the tank swirling the wand and stirring the water in the tank as it filled. I checked to make sure my lights were lighting as I filled it. When it was full I turned off the Rinser and opened the gate valve. Then quickly turned back on the Rinser and continued flushing as the water rushed onto the sewer. I did this twice. BTW I use a clear 45 degree dump connector so I could see that I was getting pretty clear water running out of my black tank.

Be careful as it will back spray on you if the you lift the sprayer to high and into the toilet throat. I learned this the hard way and found myself wishing I owned a face shield, yuck! Based on that experience, I found that I could use the Rinser to help clean the toilet throat by placing the Rinser in first and then using a round toilet brush to cover the top of the throat above it. This allowed me to spray the throat at full pressure while blocking all back spray. Since I could see into the toilet throat, I was able to clean it thoroughly scrubbing with the brush and rinsing with the Rinser wand.

Since this device can only effectively clean black tanks where there is a straight shot down through the toilet it will not work for everyone, but if this is your situation I highly recommend it. It is very inexpensive and it works.

How I'm hoping to get my Gray Tank Sensors working.

Further using BillTex's (1189641) suggestion
, I'm cleaning my tanks using the GEO Method. I'm hoping it will solve my gray tank sensor problem, getting them clean as well. At this point I've decided not to use bleach, but I did add 1/2 cup of 20 Mule Team Borax powder to the solution for the gray tank, and I only filled it half way because just the 1/3 full sensor is malfunctioning, but I used hot water, hoping it will aid the process. For sure the GEO Method should help me maintain both my waste tanks and keep my sensors clean and trouble free. I intend to make "GEO" cleaning part of my regular tank maintenance. I did lots of research on this method. You definitely want to use Calgon Water Softener (do not substitute). I found it in the liquid form at a Walmart Superstore in the Detergent section of the grocery section. It will be located with the powdered Borax and the Arm and Hammer Baking Soda detergents. Not every store will have it, so check the internet if you can first.

For those that want a fancier tool check out the Camco 40094 RV Swivel Stik Holding Tank Rinser with Shutoff Valve or if your toilet does has a sloping access to your black tank here is a flexible version, the Camco 40074 RV Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve. I cannot comment on them, but the video on Amazon is impressive. That said I refer back to my initial comments, the Camco Holding Tank Rinser is both inexpensive and simple and in my case it worked great.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:17 AM   #2
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Oops, duplicated part of the previous post before I read it.
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Old 08-31-2012, 09:49 AM   #3
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Yeah, well my post was so damn long I can see how that happened. Hahaha
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:24 AM   #4
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I have heard of people filling he tank 3/4 of the way then topping it off with ice. Then go for a curvy ride. The ice cleans the tank and loosens anything stuck.
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:28 AM   #5
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I've heard of that also, and may give it a try if the GEO method does not do the trick. What ever happens will be posted here. The successful and unsuccessful.
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Old 08-31-2012, 01:34 PM   #6
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I am going to watch for your grey tank cleaning results with interest. My sensor also reads 2/3 full all the time even when empty. I'll have to throw some calgon and detergent in it also before my next trip and cross my fingers.

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Old 08-31-2012, 01:50 PM   #7
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I bought the same tank rinser at Walmart, and have the same good results. I, too, had problems with the tank sensors. One thing I did diferently this time: Since I was busy sanitizing the fresh water tank at the same time, After I finished with the wand and a complete fill and flush again, I filled the black tank again with the bleach mixture water of the fresh tank (via a very long flush, haha), and let that sit for a couple of hours before the final dump. I knew the tank was completely full, because I allowed water to begin up the toilet throat. By the time I was ready to dump, the black tank sensors finally showed 'full' on the monitor! It was the first time it has worked correctly since I've owned her.

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Old 08-31-2012, 10:25 PM   #8
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Tomorrow I'll empty the gray tank and see if the sensor goes out. My problem has been that something conductive had gotten on the sensors in both waste tanks prior to my ownership. So in my black tank it was reading 2/3 full when empty and the gray tank was reading 1/3 full when empty. When full they both read full. The fresh water tank sensors work fine.

As for cleaning with the Holding Tank Rinser, the black tank sensors all worked again after using it. Naturally the gray tank was still a problem. We'll see if soaking the gray tank with the GEO method solution did the trick. If not Then I'll try it again in a couple of weeks when we take it up to Highland Haven in the Blue Ridge for a small unofficial weekend rally.

I'll fill the waste tanks with the Calgon and detergent solution before we leave home. It seems reasonable that sloshing the solution around in the tanks would achieve better results.

Concerning chlorine bleach, I know that some people don't like to use it because it is pretty corrosive, but frankly I can't think of much in our plumbing systems it can hurt, especially because you're really talking about a fairly diluted solution when done properly. It's a very good sanitizer. After buying our AS I soaked our fresh tank with a mild Clorox solution and rinsed well. Fully filling and emptying the fresh tank afterward twice to rinse it. After the soak / rinse we did not have even a whiff let alone a taste of chlorine in our water. So I'm satisfied we rinsed it well.

Concerning waste tanks, if someone's personal preference is to avoid chlorine bleach they may want to consider Borax. Borax when mixed with water chemically forms hydrogen peroxide, which is also a very good sanitizer. I'm speaking about waste tanks here, I don't know that I'd flush my fresh water tank with Borax. I'd have to read more about it first before making that decision. Properly rinsed it's probably fine, but until I read more about it I'd be uncomfortable using it for that.

I post the results tomorrow, I've got my fingers crossed as well.

Pete
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Old 09-04-2012, 03:41 PM   #9
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tank cleaning

The best way to clean tanks and I have been doing this for 30 years, is a bag or 2 of ice and half a box of Borax! Dump into greay or black tank, before your next trip and simple dump when you get there, if they have a flush hose for refilling go for it but don't go cutting holes in any tank to ad flush valves, I fix a lot of those and usually end up patching the tank after removing the valve.
Just my experience?
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Old 09-04-2012, 05:37 PM   #10
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Sorry I didn't exactly get back to this on Saturday as I'd intended. Instead I got caught up with a different project. Sunday I did finally dump the tanks. The results were the gray tank had no change and still reads 1/3 full when it's empty. The black tank went from reading empty when empty to reading 1/3 full also. grrrr I used the Tank Rinser and fixed the problem with the black tank. So Still batting zero with the gray tank.
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Originally Posted by NorthWind
The best way to clean tanks and I have been doing this for 30 years, is a bag or 2 of ice and half a box of Borax! Dump into greay or black tank, before your next trip and simple dump when you get there, if they have a flush hose for refilling go for it but don't go cutting holes in any tank to ad flush valves, I fix a lot of those and usually end up patching the tank after removing the valve.
Just my experience?
Steve
Sounds like Steve has been doing this successfully for a long while, so that's worth a try.

Steve, a couple of questions (sorry if they sound a bit dumb),
  • How much ice is a couple of bags? I only ask because in the States a bag of ice can be anywhere from 5lbs to 20lbs.
  • How do you get the half box of Borax and a couple bags of ice into the gray tank? I have to admit I have no idea how to do this without melting the ice.
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Old 09-04-2012, 07:07 PM   #11
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cleanning tanks

Black tank, depends on size, 35 gallons and over a couple or three lb bags, tank should be half full at least with black water and ice.
Grey tank, don't worry about the ice just go with the Borax and at least half a tank. It would be kinda hard to get the ice in wouldn't it!
Sorry
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Old 09-05-2012, 04:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthernWind View Post
Grey tank, don't worry about the ice just go with the Borax and at least half a tank. It would be kinda hard to get the ice in wouldn't it!
Sorry
Hey Steve, I thought maybe you knew about a secret entrance.

Thanks for the input. I've got the Borax and Thursday the 13th we're taking the AS up to the Blue Ridge. I'll give it a try.

Pete
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:08 PM   #13
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tank cleaning

I was going to tell you that you had to but crushed ice and feed each little ice cube down throung the strainer in the sink and then flush into the gray tank, but I figured that was just cruel!
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Old 09-28-2012, 10:27 PM   #14
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So, we went to VA Highland Haven and had a terrific time. It's a beautiful AS only RV park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Well worth the visit if you are ever nearby. It's open from May through Mid October.

Anyway, I completely forgot to get back to this thread. Getting back to the topic at hand, before I left a miracle occurred. My gray tank sensors started working correctly.

So, I decided to see what would happen if I left well enough alone. Everything worked well during our stay at highland Haven. I did not open my tank drain gates until the lights reached full on my gray tank. They were only 1/3 full on my black tank and because my pump wanted to keep running for some reason I did connect to shore water after the first day. Still need to investigate that problem and see if it's fixable. If not I guess there's a new pump in my future.

Once I drained both the black and the gray tank the sensor lights did act up on both of them. Black and gray both showing 1/3 full when empty. DOH!

I think it's just going to be that way unless I change the sensors. My theory is mineral deposits on the sensors. Nothing I can do about it short of changing them or constantly full with them. They do read well when the tanks hit the other fill points and the fresh water tank sensors work in both directions. So for now I'm satisfied.
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