This week we asked Truck Camper Magazine readers what holding tank treatments they use, and why. What surprised us was the sheer variety of treatments people are using, and the concerns folks have about the use of formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde prevents the bacteria in a septic system from breaking down waste. In turn, this causes dump stations to clog. Fixing these clogs can be very expensive, and thus a number of county, state and even private dump stations are shut down every year. It’s an economic, not just environmental, problem.
Fortunately, awareness of formaldehyde is well known and there are many formaldehyde-free and bio-degradable tank holding treatments available. We double-checked our two favorite holding tank treatments (TST Max Orange Drop-Ins and Happy Campers Organic RV Holding Tank Treatment) and both are labeled formaldehyde-free and bio-degradable.
That aside, we were also amazed at the folks who don’t use holding tank treatment or use alternatives like Dawn Ultra Antibacterial Hand Soap and Dishwashing Liquid. We are going to stick with our tried-and-true treatments, but it’s certainly interesting to see what everyone else is using.
This week’s Question of the Week was, “What brand of black tank treatment do you use, and why?”
“No paper goes into our camper toilet. It goes into a small lined trash can. Paper can be a problem in black tanks when it gets stuck to the tank and hardens.
We also flush well, keeping lots of liquid in the black tank. Eighteen-years of RVs and we have never had any holding tank problems or smell.” – John and Cathy Strasser, 2012 Chevy 2500, 2013 Eagle Cap 850
“We started using Happy Camper several years ago while in South Dakota. It was the beginning of our RVing adventures and the summertime heat really smelled things up. A campground we were staying at had Happy Camper for sale. We started using it and have never looked back. I now order it on Amazon when needed.” – Jason Brazeal, 2014 Ram 3500, 2001 Lance 1140
“I use Odorlos or Aqua Kem holding tank treatment and find that they both work fairly well. The Aqua Kem has an odor that helps cover any smell while the Odorlos seems to eliminate odor without a cover smell.
What seems to work best though is to add 1/8-cup of Dawn dish detergent in the tanks. I can’t see the inside of the grey tank, but the black tank is always clean when empty and looking down through the toilet.” – Dave Miller, 2015 Ford F-350, 2002 Bigfoot 10.6E
“Happy camper. It’s the best that I have used in the last 45-years of camping.” – Dan Woollard, 2013 Ford F350, 2018 Arctic Fox 1163
“Just like TCM, I use the Camco TST Ultra-Concentrated. I order the 15-pack for $10 from Amazon Prime, and they are on an auto deliver/order system through Prime every six-months. I use the same holding tank chemicals in my fifth-wheel that I full-time in.
I recommend Amazon Prime and the, “Subscribe & Save” function. I also get my toilet paper, toothpaste, and dog food the same way. I don’t even have to remember to order them!” – Jordan Pawley, 2004 Chevy 2500, 2007 Outfitter Apex 8
“We use the orange foil packs that were in there from the previous owner. After they are gone we will use fabric softener and dish soap.” – George Lovely, 2018 Chevy Silverado, 2005 Lance 845
“After trying several different products that all failed our expectations, we checked with a number of big motorhome users. A large number of them are using Dawn Ultra Antibacterial Hand Soap and Dishwashing Liquid in their holding tanks.
We have not been disappointed! It is readily available in most grocery stores, is anti-bacterial, and lubricates the valves.
Our Bigfoot is a four-season camper and, when running in cold weather, I add RV anti-freeze to the tanks with it. Using anti-freeze we are able to dump the tanks without issues with the valves.” – Keith Jurey, 2009 Dodge Ram 3500, 2006 Bigfoot
“We use Downey fabric softener in both the black and grey tanks. There is no objectionable odor and the cost is minimal. Does Downey decompose paper and solids? Probably not, but we tend to dump the tank regularly and have experienced no problems.” – Scott Goodrich, 2014 Ford F-350, 2011 Arctic Fox 811
“Coleman liquid tank deodorizer was in the camper when we bought the camper new. It seems to work fine in the cassette toilet. I’ve seen no reason to try anything else.” – Howard Bisco, 2015 Ford F250, 2014 Palomino HS-6601
“For the last 20 odd years, we have used Thetford Campa-Chem Natural Holding Tank Deodorant, which is Formaldehyde free. It comes in a box of eight 56.7-gram packs. They have been hard to find. I get them at Walmart now.” – Rick Jones, 2005 Chevrolet 2500HD, 2013 Wolf Creek
“Right now I’m using the Camco orange drop-ins. They seem to work well except if they tear or somehow fall apart in the tub. The tub ends up being a bucket of granules. I occasionally use a gallon jug of the blue stuff.” – Ron Williams, 1997 Ford F-250, 2003 Lance 1010
“I exclusively use Thetford Aqua-Kem Holding Tank Treatment. It is sold in a six-pack of 8-ounce jugs at Walmart for $11.94. Since my holding tank is 25-gallons, I use half a jug (4-ounces) per charge.
At $1.00 per charge, it is very reasonable. I also might dump more often, due to low cost per charge. I can only think of one time when I added to the 1/2-jug charge and that was when a dump station was not available when needed.
The product is easy to store, since storage in a truck camper must be maximized. It is all that I use, and it works.” – Dan Lucas, 2014 Chevy 2500 HD, 2015 Lance 855S
“In addition to my truck camper, I own a park model RV that’s permanently situated on a campground in New Hampshire in the summer. I use my Arctic Fox 865 on the truck in the winter. Both have black tanks. Like TCM, I’ve tried just about every brand of tank treatment over the years.
Any of them work well in the huge park model but, for the truck camper, bad experiences have me settled on Aqua-Kem Morning Sky from Thetford. It comes in single use 8-ounce bottles. There are no smells, even on warm days.
Best of all, when you dump, all that you see coming out is smooth brown liquid. There is no paper or solids. It dissolves everything.
This prevents dump station clogging that I see often at some locations. Our local Cabelas store closed its dump station because some dumps repeatedly clogged it with solids. I don’t want to be that guy!” – Reed Prior, 2017 Ram 3500, 2016 Arctic Fox 865
“Since we dump our black tank every 4 to 5 days, we have never used any black tank treatments. We have never had any bad orders. The tank is vented to roof just like any house. I do flush tank with rotating flexible wand, mostly to clean the sensors.” – Gary Goyette, 2016 GMC 3500, 2011 Northern Lite 8-11 SE
“We use TST Orange Liquid. It is easy to use the right amount for our 18-gallon happy tank. Seems to dump well and little to no oder.” – Paul Neumann, 2013 Ram 3500 diesel dually, 2019 Cirrus 920
“Over the last 25-years of truck camping, I have tried a number of different tank products. Frankly, most of them stink as bad or worse than what we are putting into the tank! For the last 10-years we have put nothing into our black water tank. It is rare that we notice any smell, and we have experienced no issues with opening or closing of the valve.
During the winter months, when we aren’t using the camper, I put a gallon of RV antifreeze into the tank for storage. If it’s real cold, and we don’t wish to put water in the tank after flushing, then it’s more RV antifreeze.
If you ever want to dump into a recreation-site outhouse, a number of them do not allow chemically treated sewage. And it really stinks when you dump that into an outhouse!” – Kevin Mooney, 2014 Ford F350, Okanagan 106UDB
“I use Camco TST MAX Strength Orange Scent RV Toilet Treatment (41192) liquid. It has always seemed to work well for me, has a pleasant scent, and is cheaper per dose. I buy the one gallon size ($0.27/2-ounce dose) and refill the quart take-a-long bottle ($0.35/dose).
If it’s in the heat of summer, you can just slosh in a little more. And, it’s also available at Walmart! Who’d a thought?” – Dave Williams, 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD, 2006 Lance 915
“We exclusively use the TST Max Orange drop-ins for both our RVs. They’re so easy to use, disintegrate practically immediately, have a pleasing fragrance, and they have never failed us in three black tanks.” – Leigh Bennett, 2003 Ford F-550, 2016 Eagle Cap 1160 truck camper and 2017 Forest River Sandpiper 257 fifth-wheel
“We dump in our own dump station connected to our own septic system. Because of this we are very careful not to put anything in our black tank that will inhibit the natural processes in our home system. All we use is the powdered Tide we keep for our laundry. We’ve started to also use Calgon water softener this past season.
We add these products after dumping in order to breakup the slurry and best allow nature to do with it what it does. And it does. We don’t have any odor issues, and nothing goes into the septic tank when we dump that doesn’t normally go in it.
Frankly, we wonder why everyone else uses chemicals beyond a little detergent, especially when some of the treatments contain some pretty nasty chemicals.” – Brett Binns, 2014 Ford F-350, 2014 Arctic Fox 1150
“I use TST Max Orange drop ins. We use two on hot days and it works pretty well!” – William Londry, 2011 Chevrolet 2500HD, 2017 Adventurer 86FB
“We use TankTechsRx. It is a 100-percent biodegradable and probiotic tank treatment. The recommended amount for a 40-gallon holding tank is 2 fluid ounces. Since we have a cassette toilet on the Alaskan, we just use a short capful. It contains microbes, anti-oxidants and enzymes. It does a great job of controlling odor, and pretty much liquifies the entire contents of the holding tank. For us, a one liter bottle will last pretty much forever!” – Pat Anderson, 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500, 2017 Alaskan 8.5
“Same as TCM, we use TST Max. It works. All I can say is that poo is poo. No stinky is fine with us. I dump at home because we camp off-road, and I have a dump station (dedicated leach field and tank) in the backyard.” – Daryl Davis, 1997 Ford F350, 2014 Palomino SS-1500
“We use Poo-Pourri with each use. It coats the surface of the stuff in the tank and really reduces the odor from the tank. Before this I couldn’t find anything to cover odors especially after an extended camping outing. After two or three trips I would also put a half-gallon of bleach, fill 3/4 with water, drive around and let it sit for an hour and then dump the solution. It seems to help clean the tank as well.” – Nick DeLuca, 2006 Dodge Ram 3500, 2012 Lance 1181
“I use Camco RV Toliet Treatment (green liquid stuff). I started with it and it is easily obtainable at Walmart. However I may switch over to what you’re using to eliminate any chances of spillage.” – Henry Nelsen, 2017 Toyota Tundra, 2012 Northstar Liberty
“I’ve used Thetford blue treatment for years. It’s okay and easily found. I don’t waste gas by hauling waste weight. I dump after driving around a bit while on the way out of campgrounds.” – Philip Tron, 2009 Chevy 3500, 2012 Lance 1050
“I don’t use anything. We usually dump every two days and haven’t had any odor problems.” – Bill Gage, 2015 Ram 3500, 2017 Wolf Creek 840
“I use the Walex Bio-Pak green drop-ins. I order the 50-pack from Amazon, which is much cheaper. I use two at a time because it really breaks things down well. I have never had any problems with smell.
In my Lance 1172, I have a long pipe before it gets to the sewer hose. It’s very important to put lots of water in the black tank before I empty. I had problems getting the tank to empty before I changed my tactics. Hope this helps with somebody with the same camper.” – Greg Gaser, 2014 Ford F350, 2017 Lance 1172
“I always use one packet of Walex Porta-Pak Lavender Breeze for every two days. The organic alternatives never worked as well. Then quarterly, I do a Walex Commando Black Holding Tank deep clean. I also only use Scott’s RV toilet paper.
I completely fill with water before each dump, and then I fill with water and drain two more times. I call that the triple flush. I only dump at home, so the time and water usage isn’t a problem. With all that, my black tank always flows freely and smells like candy.” – Mike Nebgen, 2013 GMC Sierra 3500, 2017 Wolf Creek 840
“Happy Campers tank treatment is what we use. It works really well, it’s priced right, and very easy to obtain on Amazon.” – Dave Riddle, 2015 Chevrolet 3500 HD, 2017 Host Mammoth
“I’m pretty happy with Thetford Campa-Chem liquid in the single dose bottles. I’ve used it for many years, and in prior camping rigs. It’s biodegradable and has worked for 6 to 7-days at a stretch in my 30 to 35-gallon tanks. Some folks say that it’s too messy, but I haven’t had any issues when I add it.” – Larry Brennan, 2018 Ram 3500, 2017 Lance 995
“We tried the rest and had dump valve seal problems. When we went to Happy Camper, we had no problems.” – Dale Schmidtendorff, 2017 Silverado 3500, Palomino
“Unique RV Digest-It Holding Tank Treatment. I have used it for ten years or so. There is no odor and no stain. It’s easy to use and fairly priced.” – Brian Clark, 2018 Ram 4500, 2018 Eagle Cap 1200
“Blue Streak RV Toilet Chemical is the best on the market. It’s designed specifically to work with our automatic dispenser, but works well when used as a traditional toilet chemical as well.
This environmentally friendly, biodegradable tank chemical has the following major benefits; breaks down waste, has a pleasant baby powder aroma, cleans your system, is non-toxic, and is safe in all septic systems and campgrounds.
I love this stuff, and have been using it for several years now. I do not have one complaint. It is highly recommend by my wife!” – Bill Richcreek, 2013 Ford F-350, 2017 Lance 855S
“We started using Thetford Supreme Green. When we ran out we used some stuff from Farm and Fleet, which was pretty good. Now we are back to the Thetford Supreme Green.
We also have a black tank flush built in from Lance. It works well as long a dump stations have pressure. That’s the key.
Every time we get home from camping I take hose with a nozzle and spray water down our toilet, all our sinks, and shower. That really helps. Once in a while when filling up with diesel I run the slide out and dump a bag of 10-pound ice cubes in the toilet. Just a little maintenance goes along way.
Remember to wear gloves when dumping. I can’t tell you the people we see that don’t where gloves and then rinse there hands off with the same water hose they used to flush.” – Neil Steirer, 2017 Ford F-350, 2014 Lance 1172
“TankTechRX has all natural microbes. There are no poisons, no odor, and no need to completely empty the tank. It works great during storage.
The TankTechRX website says, “…these microbes will reduce and, with time, remove organic matter, odor, disease-carrying organisms, and liquefy the sludge and grease allowing the tank to empty faster and cleaner.”” – TJ Tracey, 2004 Chevrolet Silverado, custom shell
“I started using a product called Micro-Blaze Septic a couple years ago. It smells pleasant and works well in both our black and grey tanks.
There is a side benefit with continued use of this Micro-Blaze chemical. I have used Camco TST citrus liquid in the past (and still do sometimes) and noticed that a hard crusty layer builds up on the inside of the cassette toilet tank. After using this Micro-Blaze treatment for awhile, I noticed the crusty stuff started to break off inside the tank. A drawback to using Micro-Blaze is that it has to be mail ordered, so we keep some of the Camco TST treatment with us in case we run out of Micro-Blaze while traveling.” – Buzz and Sherri Merchlewitz, 2017 Ram 3500, 2015 Hallmark Ute
“The Thetford blue liquid Aqua Kem is my favorite destroyer of all things in the black tank. My holding tank is only 22 gallons and I never let it get that full. I fill the toilet with a half gallon of water, stir in 1/3 bottle of blue and flush, and then add another half gallon of water to get a good sloshing going in the tank. I carry six bottles in the dump station compartment and always have one in the bathroom medicine cabinet. It’s been a good product and l’m very satisfied with it.” – Roger and Elaine Odahl, 2008 Dodge Ram 3500, 2004 Eagle Cap 950
“I use Thetford pre-measured blue powder. It works well, and is readily available. I’ve tried the TST green liquid before and didn’t like it. The Camp Chem pre-measured blue liquid was also good for us.” – Pam Conner, 2015 Ford F350, 2015 Arctic Fox 1150