Family RVing and Sanitation

If you’ve just purchased your first RV, new or used, you may not realize that you do have to keep your fresh water tank and the associated lines  sanitized. A good rule of thumb is to sanitize every 6 months. You can have this done as part of the maintenance at your dealership, or you can do the process yourself, although it can be time consuming.

You’ll to need between six and twelve hours to complete the job. Also, if you use internal or external water filters, changing them after the sanitation is complete is a great guideline to follow. It gives you a benchmark to remember when the filters were last changed. Another good idea is to flush out your hot water tank at this time as well.

If you’re going to sanitize the fresh water tank and lines yourself, here is what you’ll need:


  • 1 external water filter (available from Walmart’s RV section)
  • 1 internal water filter – I use a Hydro life C-2063/#5 filter
  • Clorox® Regular-Bleach (unscented and non-gel). Compute how much Clorox® you will need. Use 1 oz of Clorox® for every 8 gallons of water capacity in the fresh water tank.
  • 1 funnel with a flexible clear hose and stopper (available from Walmart’s auto supply section)
  • 1 water filter wrench (for the internal filter)
  • 1 dab of petroleum jelly (for the O-ring on the water filter body)
  • 1 Anode if you need it, and the tools to remove it



You’ll need to Partially drain the fresh water tank to about ½ its capacity.  Then, prior to use, sanitize the funnel and hose with pure bleach. Let stand for 15 minutes, then discard the bleach in the funnel. Pour the Clorox® into the fresh water fill using the funnel with the flexible clear hose.
You’ll then refill the fresh water tank until water starts coming out of the overflow hose or until you know it is full. Next, turn off the fresh water supply to the RV. Turn on your water pump so you will draw water from the fresh water tank.

Open every faucet in the RV, including the hot water faucet, until you can smell Clorox®. When you can smell Clorox®, turn the faucets off. You might want to turn the power off to your hot water heater tank before you open the hot water faucets.
Turn on the fresh water supply to the RV and add a few more gallons of fresh water to your freshwater tank.
Now the waiting begins. For best results, wait a minimum of 3 to 4 hours to sanitize RV water system. Some recommend waiting  6 hours. The important thing is to make sure you do wait long enough to make sure sanitation has indeed taken place.

After the proper waiting interval, drain the fresh water tank until empty and refill with fresh water until full.
Turn off the fresh water supply to the RV and turn on your water pump. Start flushing the water lines by opening all the faucets. Leave them open until the smell of Clorox® has diminished. If after a few minutes, the Clorox® smell is still too strong, then drain the fresh water tank again and repeat draining, refilling, and flushing.

If the Clorox® smell still persists then you will have to get more aggressive. One option is to remove the old internal filter and repeat the draining, refilling, and flushing process.  A second option is to flush the system with a vinegar solution of 1 quart vinegar to 5 gallons of water then repeat the draining, refilling, and flushing.

For more great tips on how to care for your RV, visit the Johnson RV Blog. Special thanks to Your RV Lifestyle for the great information on how to sanitize a freshwater tank and lines.
Until next time, stay sanitized!  

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