Steps to Sanitize Your Freshwater System

As seen in our previous video, we were having some stinky issues which our fresh water at our kitchen sink faucet.  After doing a lot of troubleshooting, we found that bacteria must have been growing in our cold-water line leading to the kitchen sink.  Ed had previously flushed our system out but only using a small amount of chlorine bleach.  Just enough to ensure the water coming into our RV was drinkable.  Well…after we left our job site and were where we could hook to city water, Ed placed a large amount of chlorine bleach into our freshwater tank, ran it through our cold-water lines using our onboard pump.  Once the tank of water with bleach was run through, Ed once again filled our freshwater tank full of water but with just fresh water, no bleach.  He repeated the fresh water step a couple more times.  As I am typing this blog, we feel confident that we have effectively removed any bacteria in our RV water lines. 

Your RV’s tanks need to be in proper working order for you to be able to enjoy camping to its fullest, especially the freshwater system. The freshwater system on your RV not only needs to work right, but it needs to be clean, too. Without a clean freshwater system, you are asking for a trip filled with illness. Like any other part of your RV, your freshwater system needs to be cleaned.

So…we wanted to share with you how YOU can sanitize your water system BEFORE you experience issues like we did.  Below are the steps to complete regardless if you are weekend warriors or full-timers.

All you need to do is follow a few simple steps BEFORE you have issues like we had

Step 1: Turn Off Your Water Heater and Drain Your Freshwater System

You don’t want to drain the freshwater system with the water heater on. This will damage the water heater. You need to turn it off and let it cool before you drain the water. It’s not a bad idea to have the water pump on to ensure you can get all of the water out of the system before you start sanitizing.

Step 2: Calculate the Amount of Bleach You’ll Need and Add It to the Freshwater Tank

You’ll need 1/4 cup of bleach for every 16 gallons of water in your freshwater tank. This also equates to one ounce per eight gallons. Make the calculations based on those ratios. That means. If you have a 20-gallon freshwater tank on your RV, you’d need 2.5 ounces of bleach to sanitize your system.

Don’t add the bleach straight to your freshwater tank. You should dilute it first. Take that amount of bleach you’ve calculated for your specific RV and add it to at least a gallon of water. Then pour this water-bleach mixture into the freshwater tank with the help of a funnel.

Step 3: Fill the Freshwater Tank with Potable Water and Pump It Through The System

The next step is to fill the freshwater tank with clean, potable water. Make sure to fill it all the way. This will ensure that the tank and the rest of the system get fully sanitized.

You also need to make sure the water with the bleach solution gets all the way through the system. Turn on all the faucets to ensure the bleach water makes its way to every part of your freshwater system. Once the water is circulating through, you can turn them off again.

Step 4: Let The Water Sit For 12 Hours

The solution will take time to really sanitize your system well. You can’t just run some bleach-water through your freshwater system in a few minutes and call it good. I suggest letting the solution sit in your freshwater system overnight.   It’s a great way to make sure it gets the job done. 

Step 5: Drain the Tank and Then Flush the System

After at least 12 hours of letting the RV sit with the bleach solution in the freshwater system, you need to drain all the water out again. Then refill it with fresh water and start circulating that water through the system with your water pump. Open all the faucets and flush the system until you can no longer smell the bleach.

It may take a few times for you to get all of the bleach smell out. Don’t worry about doing this step multiple times. I’d suggest continuing to flush the system even after the bleach smell is gone. This will ensure you eliminate all of the sanitizing chemicals from the system.

Once that’s all done, I’d suggest replacing any water filters on your rig or inline filters you are using outside the RV. After you’ve replaced those filters and switched your water heater back on, you should be ready for another full year of camping!