What Is an RV Dump Station and How to Use One

Within your RV’s graywater and blackwater holding tanks accumulates waste. You don’t want these tanks full of gunk forever, which is where RV dump stations come in handy. What is an RV dump station and how do you use one?

An RV dump station is a designated place to empty the contents of your gray and black holding tanks. To use a dump station, you take the sewer hose from the station rig, attach the hose to your RV, and drain the wastewater tanks. 

If you have more questions about RV dump stations, then you’ve come to the right place. In today’s post, we’ll define RV dump stations in more detail as well as discuss what you can dump. We’ll even tell you where to find RV dump stations so your holding tanks never stay full for long. Keep reading!

What Is an RV Dump Station?

Let’s begin by talking more about RV dump stations. These stations are places made for you to dump waste from your RV’s holding tanks. When you release your RV-related waste at a dump station, it filters into a septic system or a sewer, so it’s not like you’re just dumping tank content into the grass or on concrete or something. 

(As a caveat, that’s allowable in some places for graywater tank contents, but we still wouldn’t recommend it.)

What are holding tanks, you ask?  In your RV are three types of holding tanks. One of these is the freshwater tank. Each time you shower in your RV, wash your hands, or take a drink, the water comes from this tank. As the name indicates, H2O from your freshwater tank is potable.

The blackwater tank is the second type of holding tank in your vehicle. This tank holds water too, but it’s toilet water. You definitely don’t want to drink anything from the blackwater tank, as it’s considered waste. 

The third type of tank is the graywater tank. Admittedly, not all RVs have this tank. If your vehicle does, then the graywater tank keeps the used water from your RV’s kitchen sink and your shower. This water is typically soapy, sudsy, and kind of dingy. 

What if you don’t have a graywater holding tank? That’s no biggie. All your sink and shower water would be directed to the blackwater tank instead. This does mean the blackwater tank fills up much faster than it does if you have two waste tanks, so you’ll dump it a lot more often. 

What Can You Dump at an RV Dump Station?

Now that you’re more familiar with RV dump stations, what exactly can you release at these facilities? Only graywater and blackwater tank waste, including raw sewage. Even if one of your tanks is especially backed up and gross, it’s okay to dump your waste here.

As for anything else? That’s not what dump stations are for. That goes for your RV trash and old food. To safely dispose of these items, you want to look for any garbage and recycling bins you spot on your adventures, especially those at campsites. 

How Do You Use an RV Dump Station?

You just pulled up to an RV dump station for the first time. You’re new to holding tanks too, so you’re a little nervous about using the dump station. Don’t be. Admittedly, the whole process is a bit unrefined (c’mon, you’re dumping waste), but it’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it. 

Here’s what to do.

Have the Right Supplies

Purchase a big sealed container for all your dumping supplies to go into and place in your RV storage away from other items.

Supplies include…

  • Disposable gloves
  • RV Sewer hose
  • Non-potable water hose
  • Proper attachments (clear elbow)
  • Baby wipes to clean your hands afterwards

You definitely, definitely don’t want to dump your RV waste without some gloves on. Rubber gloves are okay, but gardening gloves or another type of thick glove might be better here. Also, you’ll need a sewer hose if the dump station doesn’t happen to provide one (they often do). For a full list of everything you need including dumping, check out this post here.

Find Your Gray Water and Black Water Holding Tanks

We’re assuming going forward that your RV has separate blackwater and graywater holding tanks. If that happens to not be the case for you, then disregard the instructions regarding the graywater tank. 

The good news is that locating these tanks typically isn’t too hard. Each tank is clearly labeled on most RVs. The label won’t be some symbol or a series of numbers either. Instead, it will clearly say “graywater holding tank” or “blackwater holding tank.” That’s super convenient for you.

Connect Your Sewer Hose to the Tank

Okay, so you’ve located your graywater and blackwater tanks. Great. Now it’s time to start dumping. Before you can do that, you need to connect the sewer hose to the tanks. 

Underneath the label indicating which holding tank it is, you should see a valve. You want to attach the sewer hose to this valve. The other end of the sewer hose should connect to the dump station’s sewer. 

Check Your Connection and Dump Black Water

Triple-check that the connections of the sewer hose are secure on each side. Trust us when we say you do not want the hose to come loose while dumping or you’ll have a not-so-fun fudgy surprise. 

When you’re ready to proceed, grab the valve and pull. You should hear the tank begin to empty out as fluid rushes through the hose. You might even be able to see what’s coming out of the hose depending on whether the hose is translucent or semi-translucent.

When you don’t hear or see fluid traveling anymore, the tank is empty. You want to close the valve, ensuring you do so completely. If the valve is even partially open, your tank contents can come rushing out at the worst possible time, such as when you’re driving your RV. 

Repeat with the Second Tank – Grey Water

Once you’ve dumped one holding tank, you need to repeat the same steps with the second tank. This should be pretty easy once you’ve emptied the first tank. 

Remove the Sewer Hose

You’re done dumping your holding tanks, so now it’s time to disconnect the sewer hose from your tank valve. Remove the sewer tank from the sewer as well. If it’s your hose, then you can put it in a bucket so it’s not rattling around in your RV. If it’s the dump station’s hose, then you might be courteous and rinse it out before leaving it for the next person to use.  

Here’s a handy YouTube tutorial that illustrates the whole RV tank dumping process from start to finish. 

Where Do You Find an RV Dump Station?

As you drive around in your RV, where are you likely to come across a dump station? You can expect to spot dump stations in all sorts of places, such as gas stations, truck stops, marinas, RV dealerships, rest stops, RV parks, campgrounds, and national parks. 

Campendium created a list of all dump stations in the United States and some in Canada as well. The info is organized by state or city. You can click a state you’re living in or traveling to and then see all the dump stations on that state’s map.

We couldn’t find info on when the list was last updated, so we’d recommend calling or emailing the dump station manager/owner and asking if it’s still active before you arrive. You can also drive by if the dump station isn’t out of your way. 

Sometimes usage of the dump statin is free, but more often than not there are nominal fees attached.

Do You Have to Pay to Use an RV Dump Station?

You’ve tracked down a dump station and you pull in. Before you begin hooking up the hoses, are you allowed to use the RV dump station for free?

That can vary from one dump station to another. For campgrounds and park sites, as part of your overnight lodging, you might have free access to the dump station to use as you wish. However, if you’re only passing through and not staying, you might have to pay a fee to use the dump station.

How much does a dump station cost to use? It depends. At Love’s Travel Stop in Benson, Arizona, releasing waste at their dump station costs $10. Over in Colorado, the Crested Butte RV Dump Station is $15 to use. The prices don’t seem to get too much higher than that, maybe around $20 to $25 tops.  

If the dump station isn’t free, there should be signage indicating as much so you’re not surprised when you get there. 

Some dump stations allow you to sign up for a membership where you can regularly dump your blackwater and graywater waste all year long. This may cost $200 for annual membership to as much as $1,500 in some instances. We’d only recommend a membership if you stick to the same areas on your travels. 

What to do if your RV Black Tank is Clogged?

In the unfortunate event that your tank gets a blockage and is clogged, you’ll need to fix it right away. A couple of different options are available to you if you find yourself in this situation. 

  • Boiling Water
  • Chemical Cleaner
  • Flushing or Toilet Wand

To read more about using these methods to clear a blockage, click here.

RV Dump Site Usage Tips

Let’s wrap up by sharing some tips on using an RV dump station correctly. This will benefit both you and your fellow RVers who come to the dump station after you!

Dump Your Blackwater Tank First, Then the Graywater Tank

When dumping your graywater and blackwater holding tanks, begin with the latter. This allows the soapy, sudsy water from the graywater holding tank to clean out the sewer hose so you don’t have to use your precious freshwater to do it. 

Know When to Dump Your Tanks

If your blackwater holding tank is two-thirds of the way full, then it’s time to dump it. Doing so any earlier is just a waste of your time and effort, but waiting too long could lead to spillage, so tread carefully!

Use a Long Sewer Hose

If you have to buy your own sewer hose, one that’s at least eight feet long should be sufficient for all sorts of dumping. This Camco RhinoFLEX hose is a good pick. Not only is it an Amazon’s Choice product, but the RhinoFLEX is a generous 10 feet!

Leave Everything as You Found It 

Dump stations are popular spots. Even if you’re all alone when you dump your holding tanks, we can assure you that someone else will be on their way shortly after you. You don’t want them to arrive to a mess of bathroom waste, fluids, and filthy hoses. Clean up the dumping station and leave it as you found it, especially if you paid nothing to use it.

Expedite Your Process for Long Lines

If the opposite happens and the dump station is packed when you arrive, then everyone should be considerate and do their business quickly. You might want to pass on rinsing your own sewer hose for the time being until you can get somewhere a little less packed. 

Final Thoughts

RV dump stations are places for releasing the contents of your graywater and blackwater holding tanks. These tanks contain your bathroom, kitchen, and shower messes, including sewage and dirty water. 

With dump stations available all over the country, many of which you can dump at for free, you’re now ready to be a conscientious and kind dump station user! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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