It is highly recommended that you read this entire page and watch the videos before attempting to remove your own blockage. If you wish to throw caution to the wind and try it without the aid of all this information, at the very least watch this relatively brief instructional video.
CHECK THE VALVES
You are thinking this is a dumb step. Of course your valves are open! But you need to make sure you have ALL the valves open and the sewer line hooked to the tank and to the sewer. Some tanks have TWO valves, and often the galley has a separate tank and valve. When you have made ABSOLUTELY SURE all the valves are open, come back and read this…if you need to. (I’ll bet I just lost a fair percentage of readers.)
CALL A PRO
If at all possible, have your tank hydro-jet cleaned by a professional. A TankTechs.com trained technician has the equipment and experience to take care of the problem correctly, safely, and as quickly as it can be done. Many RV service centers can refer you to someone nearby who may even come to you. It’s worth it. If the service center knows of no one in your area, tell them about TankTechs.com, or contact us and we will offer them our free training manual, detailing exactly how to clean a tank.
KNOW WHAT NOT TO DO
Why not use a toilet “snake” or auger? Mostly because they are ineffective in a clogged tank. They were designed for use in pipes, not in open tanks. They can easily become twisted or tangled and be impossible to remove. They will at best poke a hole in the clog to allow some drainage, but that small hole will clog again.
Why not call a septic service/pumper truck? See the answer above regarding the auger, because that is what septic services generally use. As for the pumper truck, it will suck a little out, but as soon as it gets air, it will no longer be effective, so the heavy sludge will just sit in the tank. It is also possible to collapse a tank with suction.
Why not try to blow it out with pressurized air? This is a recipe for disaster. The pressure is going to force whatever it comes into contact with to go somewhere that you don’t want it to go, and once it has made an airway, nothing else will come out.
Why not pour in some RV holding tank treatment/drain clog dissolver/water softener/something I read about on the internet? Many tank treatments claim their product will unclog a plug in 24 hours or less. In some rare cases, that may work, especially when combined with the suggestion to drive the RV a short distance to agitate the contents of the tank. Actually, it is more likely the motion of driving that happens to break up the plug, not the chemical. TankTechs Rx will definitely unplug a tank or toilet, but it will take time. So if you have all the time in the world to let it sit and see what happens, by all means, do it. However, you must be aware that the main issue to overcome is getting TankTechs Rx into the tank when the toilet is plugged. Nothing is going to protect a tank from plugging if not enough water is used or if a valve is leaking and preventing liquid from staying in the tank, so even if you get it unplugged this way, it will most likely happen again…sooner rather than later.
Why not use my pressure washer to blow out the clog? Please don’t stick a pressure washer line in a toilet or tank like I do in my YouTube videos. IT IS NOT CONTROLLABLE, WILL PROBABLY BREAK THE TANK AND COULD INJURE YOU!! We use custom made parts that are not available to the public to make this equipment manageable.
The most common clog is the “pyramid” plug. Technically, it is in the tank, but it happens just below the toilet. In the case of a pyramid plug, your tank can be empty but you still can’t flush anything. This plug occurs when not enough water is added when flushing, or when a worn valve gasket allows the water to leak out of the toilet before flushing. To unplug this type of clog, it is prudent to bail out the standing water or shop vac out as much as possible. I don’t, but I’ve had lots of experience doing this.
Now, watch the video below, create the tool (or purchase TankTool Rx), and follow the instructions. It may take a little time for it to work, but it will work. People all over the country have successfully used this simple tool to unplug their tanks, so you can too.
Be sure to use a Johnny Chock to hold open the valve and protect the mechanism. They are purple and available at most RV supply stores. Turn on the water and use the hose pressure to blow away the bottom of the pyramid.
If you did not use one of the chemical tank treatments to try to clear the plug, this should work. Unfortunately, some of the chemicals in those tank treatments can cause the toilet paper to mineralize into struvite (What is struvite? Learn more by watching video below.), and it is not uncommon for a TankTechs.com technician to work for more than 30 minutes with custom made equipment to grind this substance out of a tank.
This process will not clean the tank out permanently, but may keep you going for a while. (Take that to mean what you want.) It will likely plug again unless you have it cleaned by a TankTech.com certified technician, switch immediately to TankTechs Rx, and correct the behavior or malfunction that caused the plug.
Tank clogs are most likely due to a valve being left open or leaking. Either way, it will be very difficult to unplug and will take time. For the foolhardy or the desperate, it is possible to unplug a tank on most motor homes and travel trailers, but exceptionally difficult on most 5th wheels. Why? The distance from the outlet to the tank in many 5th wheels is too great for a hose to reach.
If your RV has a straight run of pipe from the drain valve into the tank, you can build the simple tool referred to in this video (or purchase TankTool Rx) and follow the instructions to unplug a tank in the video below.
Alternatively, you can purchase a Dual Flush by Camco. If it is going to unplug at all, a Dual Flush just might do it. Follow the instructions to connect the Dual Flush very carefully. Do I need to tell you to be sure you are securely connected to a dump station while attempting this? I didn’t think so.
By using back pressure with the Dual Flush valve closed, and the plugged tank valve open, you may unclog a line and release some sludge. It will not clean the tank, but it may help clear a line or make a little room so you can use the tank.
If you try this, NEVER EVER try to check the results by depressing the toilet valve with the toilet lid up!
If you can get any flow at all from the toilet through the tank and out the valve, TankTechs Rx can be added to break the solids down to water and eventually clean the tank. Again, this process will not clean the tank out permanently, but may keep you going for a while. It will likely plug again unless you have it cleaned by a TankTechs.com certified technician, switch immediately to TankTechs Rx, and correct the behavior or malfunction that caused the plug.
USE ONLY TANKTECHS RX IN YOUR TANKS
You may have noticed that I suggest using our product, TankTechs Rx, throughout these instructions. This isn’t just because we want to sell this stuff, it’s because we have specifically designed it to be unlike anything else on the market.
Our probiotic tank treatment WILL liquefy the solids and allow the tank to completely empty, because the heavy sludge will be turned into water. How long it will take depends on how thick the sludge is, but with TankTechs Rx on board, the tanks are being continuously cleaned instead of getting harder.
It is the only product designed to clean during storage. I know you may doubt that is really true, but I have cleaned over 12,000 holding tanks, and I designed TankTechs Rx (with the help of the world’s leading probiotic microbiologists) based on my actual experience in the field. I have posted over 100 videos on YouTube to prove it. Have you seen anyone else do that? Me neither.
Here’s a video to help you understand the different
kinds of tank treatments on the market today
A FINAL WORD
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of these instructions, I’m impressed! You have had the opportunity to watch a couple videos that I created to help you unplug your tank, and I hope you have actually watched them. If a picture is worth a thousand words, those videos are the whole library! In fact, if you have the ability, I highly suggest that you watch the whole Unplugging a Toilet and/or Tank playlist on YouTube. Some of them are just me doing my job, but you can get a feel for how I do it, and it will help you as you attempt to do your own unclogging.
I wish you the very best of luck, and happy travels!