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How To Sanitize An RV Fresh Water Tank Without Bleach

This post was updated on March 15th, 2024

sink from above - how to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach
Learn how to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach

Sanitize An RV Water Tank Without Bleach

RV maintenance is an important part of the gig. You rely on the fresh water in your camper for cooking, cleaning, drinking, and a lot of other purposes. Your reserves of fresh water need to be clean and safe to drink at all times. That’s why it’s important to know how to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach.

It’s possible to use bleach for this job, but many people prefer not to. This is because bleach can be harmful to the plumbing in your RV if you’re not careful. Plus, it can stain your clothing and damage your skin, hair, and eyes if it gets on you. Overall, many people prefer to just avoid this cleaning substance entirely and look for substitutes. 

Fortunately, there are some well-established ways to clean your RV tanks without using bleach at all. Some of these are more effective than others, but all of them will get the job done at the end of the day. Below we have 4 alternative solutions for you to explore!

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How To Sanitize An RV Fresh Water Tank Without Bleach

Use a non-bleach-based cleaner

First of all, you can use a commercial product to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach. There are plenty of products on the market that are designed for this exact purpose. The Camco TastePURE Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner and Deodorizer is a great example.

This liquid cleaner is designed for use in RVs and boats. A single gallon can be used to clean a 100-gallon tank, so it’s quite effective as well. This product is great for breaking down buildups in your water lines. Cleaners such as this work to disinfect the water in your fresh water tank and make it safe to drink. The Camco option also prevents bad smells and tastes from forming in your water, so that’s an added bonus!

There are several other non-bleach-based cleaners on the market as well, so be sure to explore other options such as:

You can trust these cleaners to do their job because they were created specifically for the purpose of sanitizing your fresh water tanks. 

White vinegar

If you’re unsatisfied with the performance of commercial products, you can also turn to some home remedies. If you run out of cleaner while you’re on the road and need to treat your drinking water, it’s important to know how to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach. 

Thankfully, you can do this job with some everyday products and cleaners that you probably keep on hand anyway! The first (and most popular) alternative is distilled white vinegar. This is a great substance that is commonly used for cooking and cleaning. It’s a great idea to travel with a large container in your RV because you can use it to clean just about anything. 

Vinegar has a high acid content and it’s great at killing harmful bacteria. It’s also great at dissolving buildup and clearing your water lines, so it can pull double duty. 

It’s easy to clean your fresh water tank with vinegar. To begin, empty your fresh water tank and fill it half full with a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. Next, take a short drive in your RV and make several turns along the way. This will help the water in the tank slosh around and coat the entire thing. 

Park your vehicle, and open all the doors and windows so you can let the fumes out. Now, go around your RV and turn on all the taps and faucets. Let the water run until you begin to smell the vinegar. Shut off the faucets and let the water and vinegar mixture sit in the system for at least 3 hours. Once enough time has passed, open the faucets again and let the tank empty itself. 

Once everything is done, you can refill your tank half full of water and run the taps again. This final cleanse will help clear out any residual vinegar and help disperse the smell.

Overall, this is an easy and effective cleaning method, but it may sometimes leave a bit of an aftertaste in the water. Just be prepared for that possibility. It will fade over time as you continue to refill the tank with fresh water. 

Baking soda

Baking soda is another popular choice for those who want to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach. This substance is great at breaking through grease and blockages, plus it doesn’t smell as strongly as vinegar does. It can also neutralize bad smells, so it’s great to use if your water has started to stink. 

On the downside, baking soda doesn’t kill bacteria as easily as bleach or vinegar. You may want to use the vinegar method above for better sanitization, then finish up with a round of baking soda. You can also just use baking soda if you prefer, but it’s good to keep the other options in mind. 

To make the cleaning solution, mix 8 ounces of baking soda into a 1-gallon container of water. Stir them up so the powder has time to dissolve before moving on. Empty your fresh water tank, then add the baking soda mixture and fill it back up. You’ll want to take a short drive again so the mixture has time to mix around inside the tank.

Now you can open all the taps and faucets and let the water run out. You don’t need to turn them off and let the mixture sit in the lines this time. Just let the tank empty out, then refill it with fresh water. Turn on the taps for a few more minutes just to make sure there’s no baking soda still trapped in the plumbing. 

This is an easy method that takes less time compared to the vinegar one. It’s also less likely to leave a strange smell or taste behind, so your water quality won’t be affected after the cleaning process. 

Highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide

Finally, you can use hydrogen peroxide to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach. This method is not always guaranteed to work though.

The typical hydrogen peroxide mixtures that you can buy at the store are diluted and only have a 3% content of hydrogen peroxide. This works well for most jobs, but 3% is often not strong enough to completely sanitize an RV fresh water tank.

In order for this method to be effective, you usually need a bottle with a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide. These can be hard to get a hold of though, and they are dangerous in their own right. If you want to use the commercially-available 3% product, it’s best if you heat it up to 130 degrees Farenheight first. The extra heat will help it kill even more bacteria. 

You can then add 1 pint of hydrogen peroxide to every 40 gallons of water if you want to use it as your disinfectant. Once again, drive around and let the mixture coat the inside of the tank. Then follow the steps listed above and run the taps until the tank is empty. You may want to refill it and empty it a few more times so it has time to completely flush the peroxide out of the system. 

This method should probably be your last resort because the ones listed above are easier and more effective. But if you only have hydrogen peroxide on hand, this one should still get the job done. 

Now you know how to sanitize an RV fresh water tank without bleach. Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance from RV LIFE. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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