how to sanitize your fresh water system

Sanitizing the fresh water system of your RV is a simple, but often overlooked operation. I’m surprised when talking to other RV’ers that most of them limit their maintenance to periodically flushing the fresh water tank. Follow these simple steps to get your system in tip-top condition.

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Before starting maintenance, analyze the components of the fresh water system:

  • Water filter (if used)
  • Supply hose
  • Interior water lines
  • Faucets/shower heads
  • Water heater
  • Water pump
  • Fresh water holding tank

1. Begin at the beginning

The most overlooked part of the fresh water system is the supply hose. This is where the city water meets your rig, so make sure it’s is clean.

Mix a pint of regular household chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Have an assistant hold one end of the hose about a foot above ground while you do the same on the opposite end. Use a small funnel to pour the bleach mixture into the hose and then carefully screw the two ends together. Let the hose sit for about an hour. At the thirty minute mark I usually turn the hose over so that all parts of the hose interior comes in contact with the bleach mixture.

2. Interior water lines

Unscrew the the hose connectors and connect to a hose bib. Be careful to keep as much of the bleach solution inside the hose as possible. If necessary, add a bit more solution before connecting the hose to the city water supply of your rig. Turn on the water supply.

Slowly open the cold side of a faucet until you can smell the bleach, then turn it off. Repeat for the hot side of the faucet. Follow this step for each faucet in your RV, including the shower head. Don’t forget the outside shower head if your rig is equipped with one.

Let the bleach solution sit in the lines for an hour, then flush with fresh water.

3. Fresh water holding tank

Fill the fresh water holding tank approximately half full. Add a quart of chlorine bleach to the tank and then tow/drive the rig for a few miles. This will insure that the bleach mixture is splashed onto all areas of the tank. If you are unable to do this step, fill the tank to capacity. Turn on the water pump and open a faucet until you smell the chlorine. Remember that it takes about an hour of contact time for the solution to provide maximum sanitizing effect.

Drain the tank while adding fresh water. You can also run the water into the gray water holding tank. This has the added benefit of holding down unpleasant odors caused food particles, etc.

4. Conclusion

I’m fortunate to live in a part of the country where I use my rig year round. I perform this maintenance at least twice a year and more often if I’ve encountered a campground that has especially yukky water or if there has been a “boil water” notice posted.

While the process is time intensive, we all know that there are a thousand other little things that we can attend to while the bleach works its magic.

Happy trails.


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