Our Poo Problem: Our Black Tank Learning Experience

Our Poo Problem: Our Black Tank Learning Experience

So this article may by a little Too Much Information for some BUT we promised that we’d be sharing our Airstream experience, both the ups and the downs. Well folks Airstream life is not always a bed of roses, in fact sometimes it just STINKS, literally. So let me tell you a little story about the poo problem we just worked through. Hopefully those who are thinking of trying out a full time RV lifestyle will learn from our mistakes, and the rest of you will get a laugh.

Tucson AZ, where we currently live, is slowly approaching the absolute worse part of the year. In the months of May and June the temperature hovers from the high 90s into the 100s. We even get days topping out at 107 degrees F. It’s a dry heat but it’s like living in an oven. A windy day doesn’t help, in fact it feels like a blow dryer. Once monsoon season hits in July, we get blasted with more humidity but the storms help keep the temperatures down in the high 90s at least. Anyway, for Tucsonians, summer is the time we hole up inside air conditioned buildings and only venture outside if we must (like winter in most other parts of the country, though at least we don’t have to shovel the heat πŸ˜‰ ). To say we’re not looking forward to spending these two months holed up in a 200 sqft Airstream would be an understatement, but we are prepared. Or so we thought.airstream-11-1024x576

This week we had a couple of days in the mid 90s. We got to test out the AC in Charlie and decided that moving to a shaded spot for the summer would probably be ideal. No big deal. Until we noticed that the bathroom kinda stunk a bit when we flushed the toilet. Not real bad and only during the heat of the day. O we reasoned, it’s hot out and the sun is hitting that side of the trailer. We can live with this. But that night the smell continued and drifted it’s way back into the bedroom. Let me tell you I did not have good dreams. I am a super taster and have pretty extreme sense of smell. So the next morning I was complaining to Steve about how the whole night it smelled like poo, and that the bathroom still smelt like poo. He told me he didn’t smell much but he’d look into when I went to work. πŸ™‚ Sometimes it’s good to still go to an office job. Well that morning the smell got worse, and worse. Even after Steve emptied the tank and flushed it with a lot of fresh water, the toilet reeked after flushing. So what’s a new Airstreamer to do? Google!

We decided to use try out the GYay Dawn Soap!eo Method after reading a lot of forum and blog posts. The general idea is that you never empty your black tank until it is at least 3/4 full. Then, once you empty it, you rinse it out (luckily we have a rinse so this is nice and easy). You then fill the black tank with a few gallons of water before adding in water softener and soap. Now use the toilet as normal, except if you have plenty of water use as much water as you can! (luckily we have plenty of water and it’s free so no worries there). When the tank is about 1/2 way full you add a little bleach to keep the odors down. If you happened to be moving (unlike us) the movement of the water in the tank would also help. It seems the problem is that *ahem* stuff gets stuck to the side of the tank and that stuff smells. You want to keep everything moving especially in high heat environments. The water softener, soap, and bleach can help.

I’m happy to report that so far the GEO method has solved our stinky problem. No smells even on a 95 degree day! Woohoo! We’ll continue using this method to clean out the tank well (especially since we don’t know how well it was cleaned before getting it and we’re stationary in high heat for the foreseeable future). Perhaps once we start moving and traveling we’ll be able to use less but to prevent the stink I’m willing to spend a couple of dollars a month. Meanwhile we’re seriously considering upgrading to a compostable toilet sometime down the road. This would eliminate the need for a black tank and give us twice as much gray water storage.

So no more poo problems! Hope it makes you appreciate indoor plumbing πŸ˜‰

For my readers who RV (full time or otherwise) have you ever had trouble with your blank tank? Do you have any suggestions?


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  • The Jolly Ledger on April 26, 2016

    I have a terrible time sleeping when there are any strong smells too! It’s not like earplugs where you can just mute out the stink! So glad your problem was solved. Gotta love the internet!

    • Courtney on April 27, 2016

      Exactly! I have earplugs next to the bed just in case too, but nothing for smells. Hopefully it’s not necessary…so far so good. When I lived in Seattle and rode the bus everyday I had a lavender stress ball which was my backup method for unpleasant odors. I could always look into getting one of those again πŸ˜‰

  • Brandon @ Nurse on Fire on April 29, 2016

    Thanks for sharing; I’ll keep this in mind for (potential, but let’s hope not) future use. πŸ™‚

    I love the idea of the composting toilet, as well. I don’t know if you’ve been on their site but, if not, you should check out Gone With the Wynns (http://www.gonewiththewynns.com) because they have a few videos about installing one.

    • Courtney on April 29, 2016

      We love Gone with the Wynns! We’re having fun following them on their Sailboat journey! Their experience with the composting toilet, along with some other full timer RV blogger’s experiences, have pretty much sold us. However it’s a renovation that’s going to happen a little later. Other renos have priority first!

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