RV Safe Cleaning, Simple Products

RV Safe, Potent, Ride-or-Die Materials for Cleaning Tanks, Clogged Drains and More

Living in an RV or any small home, any sort of chemical vapors linger around and it’s hard to get away from. So being someone who lives in my RV full time, I’m really keen on using safe chemicals and minerals while reducing not only cost

for spendy name brand products but also toxic chemicals and fumes. I’ve also reduced the amount of different items to stock and store in my limited space on board Rhea Rada.

Safe, Potent RV Cleaners

So here are my ride-or-die chemicals and minerals that I completely rely on for the toughest of jobs around the RV and home. Including:

  • Stubborn clogged drains
  • Holding tank cleaners and flusher outers
  • Soap scum, grease stains and general surface cleaners
  • Streak-free glass cleaners
  • Floor cleaners


I’ve bought a variety of holding tank cleaners that are purportedly supposed to also reduce odor. They don’t seem to work well. They’ll initially smell like a strong gross port-o-potty chemical and then the natural holding tank odor will be back in less than a week. Here is my favorite concoction to dump down my RV tank:

A couple things to note: If you have a WinCo in your area, you can pick up all these items there. I like Foca compared to a couple other cheap, basic, stripped-down laundry detergents because it includes enzymes in the ingredients. Some of the other cheaper ones do not.

Borax can be used along with the water softener and washing soda or to replace one or both of them. However, the Borax has a lower pH than the White King and washing soda, so it’s not my preference. The higher pH of the initial two have a tougher grease and grime removing power. If anything, I’ll add the Borax in with the other ingredients. Borax will dissolve better in water therefore giving it a better chance to react and bind with the calcium and magnesium particles but it tends to be a little weaker of a water softener than the White King and washing soda.

It’s best to empty the tanks before putting this down and make sure they’re all closed up so this mixture can sit for a while. Dissolve the powders in a bucket and then dump down the hatch. Fill with more hot water and let it sit until it cools, like a few hours. Don’t let this sit for too long, it’s caustic and makes precipitates which may or may not have a tendency to rebind to surfaces. So these need to be washed out once the water cools down. Since I live in my RV, my shower hose reaches out of the shower and over the toilet so I get hot water down the tank that way.

The quantities of each ingredient will vary depending on how often you do this. If you wash more frequently you don’t need to use as much. Or if you have softer water in your area, you don’t need as much water softener. Also, how often you’re driving your RV around will determine needs. Driving the RV around will naturally slosh the tank contents around helping to clean off the sides of the walls. Consider these circumstances and then think in terms of cups. Start out with a cup of each and test what works best for you.

This procedure and these chemicals don’t disinfect. They just flush and clean. If you want to disinfect which is a good idea once or twice a year, then fill the tank with fresh water, pour in some bleach (2 cups max for a big 50 gallon tank), then rinse. Bleach doesn’t need to sit more than a couple minutes, it immediately reacts and it’s not good to leave it in your tank. After you’ve filled your tank with bleach water and dumped it out, then rinse again with only fresh water. NEVER pour bleach in your tanks unless there’s ONLY fresh water in there. Bleach is a chemical that creates toxic vapors when mixed with ammonia. Guess what’s highly concentrated with ammonia that hangs out in your tank…PEE. Don’t ever put bleach in your tank unless it’s with fresh water only and the make sure to rinse so you don’t let the bleach eat away at the seals and gaskets. It only needs a couple minutes to do it’s disinfecting.


Another thing that I’ve bought a lot of is drain uncloggers like Drano and such. Surprisingly, these don’t always seem to work for me. I’ve had some work previously but I can’t recall the brand and I’ve had other that don’t seem to do anything at all! But you know what has really blown my mind and is my go-to for unclogging drains is:
washing soda and water softener!

Also, this combo will clean the metal around and on the inside of your drain and make it super shiny! This combo seriously blows my mind. I will never buy drain cleaner or a metal cleaner again. Pour some on the drain, let it sit for the length of time to heat a kettle of water and then rinse! Scrubbing will help clean the drains surface but I’ve found it’s not always necessary.

Oh and I’ve tried the baking soda and vinegar farse. It doesn’t work. I don’t know how this gets so popular on the internet but it doesn’t work. Unclogging a drain with vinegar and baking soda is like saying, hey the drains clogged lets try putting water down to unclog it. Their pH’s cancel each other out and the cool foaming reaction releases carbon dioxide and all you’re left with is water.


I’m really weary of buying surface cleaners because I don’t like to ever have ammonia in my RV, because it’s so toxic and I do store bleach so I’d rather not have ammonia around. I also think that so many surface cleaners available are way overkill on the amount of chemicals and cleaning potency. I’ve used vinegar to clean surfaces and it doesn’t do a good job. It leaves muddy streaks on my epoxy counter top. What’s totally under rated but I find to work incredible is soapy water and a little elbow grease, elbow grease that’s needed for store bought cleaners often as well. So for all my surfaces I use castille soap and distilled water.

It works fabulous and doesn’t leave streaks on my clear, shiny epoxy surfaces that get a lot of grease and grime on them. It works amazing on tough spills and stains too and it’s biodegradable and smells good.

Why distilled water? Tap water and even bottled water has minerals, especially calcium, that build up and leave streaks and mineral deposits. A culprit in clogged drains. So don’t add those into your cleaners. Boiling your water does not make it better, in fact is concentrates the hard minerals.

Side note about boiling water and hard water: I distill all my drinking water. I have a distiller and use it daily. In one chamber it heats the tap water provided creating steam and the steam is distilled into a tube, cooled off and drips out distilled water. So, the initial chamber with the heating element gets a lot of hard water build up. It’s a concentration of the minerals and chemicals present in hard water. This is what that stuff looks like. This is what’s in tap water. I highly recommend deep research into drinking distilled water. Unless I go to a restaurants or friends house, I drink distilled water only and sometimes I even bring my own water when I go out.

If you boil water in a tea kettle you’ll see a white build up in there. That’s hard water, calcium deposits. You can remove that by boiling white distilled vinegar in it, or by using distilled water. So only use distilled water in all your home made cleaners, never boiled water.

It should be noted that this surface cleaner does not disinfect. If you feel the need to disinfect you can use my glass cleaner.


Glass cleaning products often products will come with ammonia. Again, I try to stay away from this chemical. And honestly, I’m again mind blown at how well simple homemade glass cleaner works. I use vinegar and distilled water. That’s it. I like to add in a handful of drops of essential oils to reduce the vinegary smell. Grapefruit is my favorite but any will do. To create me streak-free homemade glass cleaner, I mix one part of vinegar and five parts of distilled water and a dozen drops of essential oil. If you get too much essential oil it it may leave tiny streaks of little dots.

This works great as glass cleaner and also as a disinfecting spray. Compared to bleach, it’s a tiny bit less effective on certain things. It won’t kill all strains of E Coli, or staph infection nor some molds. But otherwise it’s very comparable to bleach in its disinfecting potency. Personally, I don’t feel the need to disinfect my counter surfaces very often. Scrubbing with soapy water can remove a lot of contaminants.

If you want to disinfect cutting boards exposed to raw meats, you should use bleach, not just vinegar.


To clean anything else really difficult like soap scum in the shower or baked on stains, I use the same surface cleaner as above and throw some washing soda on. It’s like using Comet as a powder. It’s super high pH to dig deep into grease and gunk and helps wash away hard mineral deposits. Add in the water softener as well in the shower or toilet to even further tackle hard water stains and built up mineral deposits. The mixture also works great on oily seat belts that are stained from touching skin, stove tops, carpets, shower curtains and more…

  • Washing Soda, Arm & Hammer
  • My homemade general surface cleaner from above

You might wondering why not put the washing soda into the general surface cleaner? Well, it would make it a stronger cleaner but you’d need to make sure to wipe food exposed surfaces after cleaning and the washing soda isn’t good to get on your hands. So you’d need to wear gloves. The castille soap is fine in both these instances.


I have vinyl flooring in my RV and I could use my homemade general surface cleaner and sometimes do. It works great. But I love using PineSol just for the smell. I’ve got a huge supply of it but when I’m out, I think I’ll just stock my castille soap. It’s one less thing to keep in the RV. Also, it’s not safe use PineSol on surfaces that come into contact with food unless you wipe it after cleaning so the PineSol mixture could never be or replace my general surface cleaner. Plus, I read the company is reducing the amount of pine oil that is used in the product and replacing it with more chemicals. The reason I’m so fond of the product to begin with is the use of pine oil. So that’s another reason to switch over to my simpler homemade general surface cleaner when my PineSol runs out

Dangerous mixtures

Here’s a quick list of items to never mix.

  • Vinegar and baking soda: OK, this isn’t a dangerous mixture but it’s a waste of time and they basically combine to create water.
  • Vinegar and soap or lemon and soap: Soap is usually more alkaline and vinegar and lemon juice are acidic. Therefore they’ll cancel each other’s powers out.
  • Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide : You can use one after the other on a surface but combined they’re vapor is irritating to the eyes, skin, throat and lungs.
  • Vinegar and bleach or bleach with any weak acid: These can cause toxic chlorine vapors causing chemical burns.
  • Bleach and pee: Why? This is basically bleach and ammonia. Which brings us to…
  • Bleach and ammonia: Mixing these two causes chloramine and can cause respiratory damage.
  • Bleach and rubbing alcohol: The creat chloroform which are damaging to the nervous system, cause chemical burns, nausea and higher levels of the vapor could be fatal.

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20 thoughts on “RV Safe, Potent, Ride-or-Die Materials for Cleaning Tanks, Clogged Drains and More”

  1. Pipi,

    I’m so excited I realized you had a blog. We have been watching your YouTube videos for a while, well ever since we got our own Bounder! It is so informative to see how you’ve done things, the projects you’ve decided to take on as improvements and the results you’ve achieved.

    I recently saw your video on safe cleaning in your RV and I’m thrilled. I have been eliminating chemicals in our everyday life and I’m so happy you brought up cleaning of black tanks and your everyday solutions. We’ve tried many different solutions offered for black tank cleaning and I cringe every time we use them as I know they are chock-full of harsh chemicals. I almost had a heart attack when my husband used orange-glo on the floors, only to see our dogs licking it up behind him. Think these tips will come in handy in our home and luckily I already had most of these in the cabinet. Now to locate the water softener.

    Thank you so much for the help! Keep up the great work on your blogs and YouTube. It is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Laci, thanks so much and nice to hear from you. That story of the orange-glo makes me cringe too, yikes! If you have a WinCo near you, I bet you’ll find it there. Depending on your region or even country, you may also find the water softener at more Mexican focused grocery stores. Good luck with everything and I’m so happy to hear you got a lot out of the videos 😀 Thanks so much for tuning in!

      1. I saw this an since my Rv is permanent on the land I could never use it for mine. But if your on the road an want a cheap black water holding tank cleaner stop at the gas station grab about 3 or 4 20lb bags of ice pour them in the toilet an drive as you are going the ice is melting an sloshing around like just scrubbing off all then when you get to a spot dump the tank flush it agian an from what I was told it should be like brand new in there maybe even could free up dirty level sensors too. We’ll just thought I’d share an works well with larger boats with holding tanks too from what my friend had said. Take care an happy holidays.

  2. Don’t recommend drinking distilled water because of its kack of minerals, which can weaken your teeth. I was drinking distilled for a few months and had some filling loss.

    1. There’s a lot of research on both sides. I’ve bee drinking distilled water for over a year now and don’t plan on switching back. I prefer to get those minerals from living organisms like fruits and veggies.

  3. Hi Pipi,

    I have become a fan of your YouTube page and look forward to reading your blogs. You should write a book about all of this however you are so busy you may need to wait till retirement. 🙂

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Hi Pippi, if you come to Memphis TN, be sure to park your RV on the far east side of Memphis where it is much safer. Memphis has much to see, but do so safely. The Walmart on Germantown Road and the Walmart near Wolfchase Mall are safer than other spots around Memphis. I am a former Orange County California resident and from my experience of living in both areas, Memphis is much more dangerous. Also, when you go to the Gatlinburg TN area to see fireflies, be sure to go to Cades Cove. You can walk or bike around the 11 mile loop in the National Forest. It is so scenic with lots of wild animals (bear, turkey, deer, etc.,). Such a super place to see the historic settlement and all the wild animals in nature that now inhabit the centuries old colony.

  5. Hi Pipi,
    I have really enjoyed your YouTube channel for about a week now and so far have only used the Reflectix insulation tips. Can’t wait to see how well it works. I have an Aerolite Cub Hybrid trailer and the canvases around the beds really don’t keep the heat in at night or out during the day.
    I have a question for you about cleaning the fresh water tanks as I did not see that mentioned in the blog or in the video. My 40 gallon tank has solids, looks like a grit from hard water, and I don’t know how to clean it out. I thought about using the water softener or washing soda but they may be too caustic for the fresh water tank. Your thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Hi Doug, remove all the water from the fresh tank and pour in as much distilled white vinegar as necessary to cover the bottom with the grit. Let it sit for a few hours then rinse out. Make sure it is distilled white vinegar. Other types won’t do the trick. Best of luck!

      1. Thank you for the fast response. I will certainly try that when I get to warmer weather.

        BTW, After using your Reflectix insulation tips, I went out to my trailer this morning and with a brisk 26 degrees in the trailer, started my furnace. Within 30 minutes, the temp in the trailer rose to 43 degrees. In one hour, the temp was a nice and balmy 60. I set the thermostat to 60 and after the temp got to 61, the furnace clicked off. It remained off for about 45 minutes then cycled again for just 10 minutes, to bring the temp back to 61. In comparison, it used to take hours to warm up to temperature, then the furnace would cycle on for an hour, off for 10 minutes, on for an hour, off for 10 minutes, just to maintain that temp.

        Thank You again!!!!


  6. Wowee! We spent 9 months out of 12 in our motorhome and our gray tank has been reading as much as 2/3 full when emptied. We’ve tried every product out there including the geo method, but nothing worked until Pippi’s chemistry above! Wow! We even started having black tank problems reading “F” and this also fixed it easily. One hour sitting with the chemicals and a good rinse down with the Camco flexible stick after a full dump. Thank you so much for this post and video. We used Borax, Washing Soda and Foca all purchased at a nearby Walmart, one cup of each per tank.

  7. Thanks for the tips. I am going to try cleaning out my black tank with the method above because no matter how much I clean and rinse, I am still struggling with odor in my bedroom.

    I was wondering… since you dump this out and only use for cleaning, what do use in your tank when its closed and in holding mode…while its in use, between the cleanings. Is there something you use in the tank to break down the waste and deodorizer while its in use?


    P.s. I adore your CD table!!

    1. Hi Tracy, that’s a great question. I don’t use anything while I’m sitting to break stuff down. As far as deoderizing, since I drive it enough it does not need to be deoderized. I have used those orange liquids that are made to break stuff down and deoderize but I really don’t like the smell they create. It reminds me of a porta-potty. If you can move your RV occasionally, the sloshing will help get anything stubborn off the bottom and you won’t have as many odors or maybe no odors. Also dumping before the tank fills will help with that. I find I can make my tank last longer than two weeks capacity-wise, but that’s about the max for odor-free use.

      Best of luck!

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