By Mark S. Nemeth  #45776

This article originally ran in the May/June 2003 issue of
Escapees magazine
Reprinted by permission

I'm going to step WAAYYY out on that proverbial limb and talk about a very controversial subject. What to put down your toilet to help control 'Odors'. The reason that this is such a scary topic is that absolutely everyone has a favorite toilet chemical. They are also certain that the inferior substitute you are using is nowhere near as cheap, effective, safe or easy to use as their favorite. OK, I'm joking... a little... If you ever want to start a lively discussion around a campfire, ask what your neighbors are using in their tank!

Personally, until recently, I rarely put any kind of chemical in my black water tank. When it was hot, I simply dumped my tanks more often to avoid serious odor problems. In the winter, when cold weather reduced the odors anyway, I never bothered with chemicals at all. Most of the commercially available chemicals are bad for the environment, tough on sewer treatment plants, expensive and only marginally effective at best. I figured that it was 'Money down the drain" and just didn't use any of it. However, I have recently begun using some bacteria-based products that seem to work very well. Although they allow some slight odor, they really help a lot in hot Texas weather and also really break down and liquefy the wastes! I have been very happy with Crestline liquid bacteria, but unfortunately, they stopped selling it a couple of months ago. I have also used Eco-Save with good results.

There are a number of enzyme and bacterial tank treatments on the market. These products are designed to stimulate aerobic bacterial action and break down the waste and kill the odors... kind of like having a miniature sewage treatment plant onboard. They carry an added benefit in being completely biodegradable and highly beneficial to RV park septic tanks and sewer treatment plants as well. Please see the links below for some product information.

These products provide a sensible alternative to the toxic chemicals found in most RV tank treatments and deodorizers. Use of formaldehyde-containing tank products or homebrew remedies can and will disrupt the wastewater treatment system you dump into. It's important to understand that the term “Biodegradable” does not necessarily mean that the product is safe for humans or the environment! Consider using only enzyme-based or bacterial-based products in your tanks! Or, nothing at all, and simply dump more often when necessary. No matter what you use or do not use, one of the best things you can add to your black water tank is plenty of water. Unless you are boondocking, don't be stingy with the flush water!

If you are currently using some of that scary blue stuff with ingredients that only a scientist could pronounce, give one of these new products a try. Be aware that it may take some extended flushing and a couple of treatment cycles to get rid of the last traces of the deadly-to-bacteria chemicals before the new treatment can truly begin to work. You'll feel better, your toilet wont stink, and septic systems all over the country will be thankful!

Active ingredients you should avoid in any RV holding tank product.

Active Ingredient
Threats to Human and Environmental Health
(chemical name:bromo-nitropropane-diol)
Bacterial pesticide.
(chemical name: 1-(3-chlorallyl)-3,4,7-
triaza-1-azoniaadamantane chloride)
Bacterial pesticide. (EPA states “Do not discharge effluent containing this product to sewer systems without previously notifying the local sewage treatment plant authority.”)
(also known as Formalin; degradate of bronopol)
Kills or retards bacterial growth, recognized by EPA as probable carcinogen 1; moderately toxic to humans.2
(also known as embalming fluid)
Retards bacterial growth and covers sewage odor, eye/inhalation irritant.
(polymerized formaldehyde)
Very toxic to humans.3 (see formaldehyde)
(common ingredient in mothballs, urinal 
cakes, and toilet bowl fresheners)
Known carcinogen 1 and drinking water contaminant; moderately toxic to humans.2
1 A carcinogen: causes cancer
2 Lethal dose for 150 lb person is between 1 ounce to 1 pint
3 Lethal dose for 150 lb person is between 1 teaspoon to 1 ounce
The information on active ingredients was excerpted from Alert for RV, Boat and Mobile Home Owners and Park Operators about Safe Wastewater Disposal, EPA Publication 909-F-99-002, July 1999.

Here are some product/manufacturer links for safe biological tank treatments... there are a bunch more out there, with new ones coming to market all the time. Do your homework and pick the one that works best for you!

BIO-CLEAN  1-800-553-5573 www.bio-clean.com
ECO-SAVE    1-800-950-9666 www.eco-save.com
ODØRLØS  1-800-869-8764 www.odorlos.com
RM Tank Care 1-800-446-6076 www.trisyn.com/ret-rmtank.htm
Sea-Zyme   1-800-962-0942 www.sea-zyme.com
Zymo P  1-877-883-8226 www.lcminc.ca/wastedigester.html

This page last updated on July 6, 2003