How to Keep Your RV Drains Clean, Fresh, and Functioning Properly

What is the best RV drain cleaner?

Generally speaking, all aspects of your RV were designed to work properly as long as you follow a few basic maintenance steps. Unfortunately, over time, it’s easy to become complacent and allow those steps to fall by the wayside. This is how easily-avoided problems can become a day-long trouble-shooting adventure.

Like all plumbing systems, RV drains need some care and attention. When the shower starts to drain slowly or the kitchen sink takes on a weird smell, it’s time to find the best RV drain cleaner.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV drains can be cleaned with a mix of vinegar and baking soda which is then washed down with boiling water. RV owners can also use enzyme cleaning fluids from brands such as Drainbo or Green Gobbler. Many household drain cleaners won’t work well in an RV. Avoid using caustic drain cleaners like regular Drano as they may damage the rubber seals on the dump valves or even the holding tanks themselves.

If the drains in your RV have started to plug up or smell bad, there are numerous options available to you. I’ll explore a few good drain cleaners below as well as some tips for how to prevent clogs in the future.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Complications of RV drains

First of all, it’s important to understand why RV drains are different from the ones in a regular house or apartment. It might be tempting to just grab your go-to drain cleaner and get to work but this could cause more harm than good.

Home drains and RV drains function in different ways and have different requirements. For one thing, the pipes in RVs are smaller. They need to be more compact and light so they can easily fit into a limited amount of space. However, this makes it easier for debris and bacteria to build up inside. They also can’t handle the same level of pressure as household drains which limits your cleaning options somewhat.

Most RVs also don’t have a built-in garbage disposal which means that it’s much easier for chunks of food to get caught in the system. Finally, RV water goes into a series of holding tanks once it has been used. These are often regulated by helpful bacteria so you can’t use a cleaner that is too harsh. Because of this delicate balance, enzyme cleaners and natural soaps are usually your best bet.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV drain cleaners

As mentioned above, there are a few different solutions that can be used to clean your drains. The best ones are fairly gentle and won’t kill helpful bacteria in the plumbing system. Obviously, you’ll want to find something that can cut through the grime, remove blockages, and get rid of bad odors. Each of the options below will work well and you just might find your personal favorite RV drain cleaner on the list.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vinegar and baking soda

No list of cleaning solutions would be complete without a shout-out to vinegar and baking soda. This miraculous duo can be used to clean almost anything so you should definitely have some on-hand.

If your drains smell bad or you just want to give them a bit of TLC pull out some vinegar and baking soda. Sprinkle about ½ cup of baking soda down your drain and then add ½ cup vinegar. This will need a bit of time to sit and fizz so cover the drain and leave it alone for at least 1 hour. Boil 1 gallon of water in the meantime.

After the time is up uncover the drain and pour in the boiling water. This will wash away the cleaning mixture as well as anything it was able to pull up from the sides of the drain.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drainbo Drain Treatment and Cleaner

If you’d prefer a quicker and simpler solution, you can always turn to the wide lineup of Drainbo products. Each of their products is designed to be a gentle and effective RV drain cleaner.

Their cleaners are advertised as all-natural and RV owners have been happily using them for years. This brand also holds the honor of being the only drain cleaner that the Natural Products Association has labeled as safe and all-natural. If this is a priority for you, make sure you explore Drainbo as a possible new cleaner.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Green Gobbler Enzyme Drain Cleaner

This enzyme-based cleaner from Green Gobbler is another fantastic RV drain cleaner. As mentioned above, RV plumbing systems rely on a healthy batch of bacteria to break down waste in the holding tanks. Because of this system, you don’t want to completely kill everything with harsh soaps.

An enzyme cleaner is a perfect solution because it breaks through grime and bad smells but allows the natural processes to continue. This product from Green Gobbler is especially good at cutting through grease and food waste, so it can be ideal for treating kitchen sinks.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to treat drain clogs

Cleaning your RV drains is all well and good but sometimes there are bigger issues that can’t be solved with a simple liquid fix. Drains can be sources of mold, fungus, and harmful bacteria growth. If they get clogged they can also become health hazards. Plus, it’s just not fun to deal with a backed-up drain.

Luckily, even physical clogs can be broken up with a drain snake then cleaned with one of the products above.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to prevent drain clogs

The key is preventing these issues from developing in the first place. You can prevent buildups (or at least reduce their severity) by carefully monitoring your drains and doing all that you can to prevent foreign objects from getting stuck. This might include wiping off plates over the garbage before washing them and/or using drain covers in the shower. Hair and food are major causes of clogs, so taking preventative measures like these can be very helpful.

To keep your plumbing system in good condition it’s also a good idea to clean your RV drains after every long trip. Staying ahead of the problem will give you peace of mind in the future.

Keeping your RV drains clean © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keeping RV drains clean

The steps for keeping your RV drains flowing freely are quite simple:

  • Don’t dump grease or oils down your RV drains
  • Using Dawn Dish Detergent helps prevent grease and oil from building up in the drains and causing clogs
  • Treating all the drains monthly with your enzyme-based drain opener will also help keep the drains in tip-top shape


Worth Pondering…

Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

—Charlie Brown, from Peanuts