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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to test for RV-safe toilet paper

By the RV Geeks
When we started full-timing more than nine years ago, we had never even been in an RV before, and didn't know much about them. When we heard that RVs required special "RV-safe" toilet paper. We didn't know exactly what that meant, but we assumed it must be listed on the package for some important reason. On our very first trip to stock up on RV supplies, we made sure to buy a few packs of this magical stuff.

It turns out that buying bathroom tissue manufactured and/or packaged specifically for use in an RV won't do much more than increase costs, and limit your choices to very few products, none of which you might be happy with.

At the time, we'd been using Costco's Kirkland brand toilet paper for years. We love Costco, and generally find that anything they sell to be both high quality and competitively priced. Without going into the gory details about what makes toilet paper good or bad, suffice it to say that many of us have a favorite brand. We like Kirkland, and wanted to know if we could safely use it in our rig, instead of the expensive, low-quality "RV-safe" stuff from the camping aisle.

The only consideration you need to worry about is whether or not your bathroom tissue will break down in your black tank. If not, too much of it could gum up the works.

Watch the video to learn a simple test to find out if the brand you prefer using in your stick house can also be used in your RV. This test works with any type or brand, both single-ply and two-ply, regardless of whether the packaging specifies "RV-safe" or not.

Be sure to confirm that all methods and materials used are compatible with your particular recreational vehicle. Every type of motorhome, motorcoach, fifth wheel, travel trailer, bus conversion, camper and toy hauler is different, so your systems may not be the same as ours.

RV Geeks offers basic DIY (do it yourself) RV service, repair and maintenance tips based on their experience as full-time RVers who have been handling most of their own maintenance since hitting the road in 2003.

While not RV technicians, they're mechanically inclined and have learned a lot about RV systems over the years. They handle most of their own minor service, maintenance and repair work on their 2005 43' Newmar Mountain Aire diesel pusher. They also maintained their 2002 39' Fleetwood Bounder Diesel during their first two years on the road.

They do not pretend to be experts on any particular RV topic, and mostly know about maintaining their own rig. But lots of things are the same on RVs in general, and diesel pushers in particular.


  1. The problem is if you are sitting in one spot for a couple of weeks and the tank is not being shook up as it is when travelling. Then the paper just sits there in the tank without agitation. To test for that situation you should test the paper by just putting it in the jar and letting it set for a day or two without shaking it. Start with the jar only 1/4 full and add water to the jar a few times over the test period to mimic the action of flushing the toilet and additional water coming into the tank. Then see if it disintegrates when you pour it out or if comes out in one piece.

  2. Here's a tip if your black tank does plug up. First of all it's counter-intuitive, especially for boondockers who want to consreve water, to use lots of water in the black tank but it is neccessary to get good drain flow. When you black tank does plug up try this procedure which has worked for me many times. First, you should be using a clear 6" extension at the drain outlet in front of the drain hose so you can see the flow rate and color of the water. Also always have your grey tank full or near full when you drain the black tank. When the black drain plugs up, leave the black tank open and then also open the grey drain valve for only 5 seconds, then close the grey valve. You'll see clear water for a few seconds but then the pressure of the sudden surge of grey water creating back pressure into the black tank opening will usually dislodge the plug and after the accumulated grey water drains out, the water should turn brown again and continue to flow from the black tank. You can do this procedure more than once if neccessary as long as you have enough grey water to create the temporary back pressure.
    We, as fulltimers, use both types of toilet paper. When we will be sitting for a few weeks we use the RV toilet paper but when we are on the move we use regular toilet paper that has passed the shake test.

  3. We've been full-timing for over 9 years, we're very frugal with water (especially when boondocking), and we sometimes park in one spot for many months at a time.

    Despite that, we have never once had our black tank get plugged up or had our tank sensors fail. Even though it does use more water to empty the black tank, we follow the same procedure every time: after draining the tank, we re-fill it by closing the black valve while the tank rinse is running. Pulling the valve then allows 40 or so gallons of fresh water to surge out of the tank, which totally cleans it every time we dump. Check out our video on the subject for details.

    We accept some criticism for using an extra 40 gallons of water when dumping the tank, but we mitigate that by only dumping when it's nearly full, generally about every two weeks or so. We'd welcome other ideas for ensuring an always-clean black tank, but we've yet to find a better technique.

    After 7 years in our current motorhome, we're confident that our black tank is about as clean today as the day we picked it up from Newmar. We absolutely hate the cheap "RV" toilet paper from the camping aisle, and view its high price as a rip-off of RVers.

  4. I do a lot of boondocking which means the RV isn't moving ,so here is my solution. I use a plastic tub to wash dishes in and then pour the soapy dishwater into the toilet. The agitation of the water stirs things up and I've never had a problem. Also, if there is enough fresh water available I pour a couple of tubs of water into the toilet after the tank is empty to push out any remaining material. So far so good after 5 years of this practice.


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