How to Sanitize an RV Fresh Water Tank

Could the water in your RV be making you sick? And, did you know you NEED to sanitize the freshwater system on occasion?  We’re going to walk you through how to sanitize the fresh water tank step-by-step!

Keeping the freshwater tank clean is important to stay healthy – we use our fresh water in the RV for many purposes. Daily tasks like making coffee, brushing teeth, filling water bottles, and more are all things that require the use of fresh water. Making sure your water is CLEAN and uncontaminated is SUPER important to staying healthy on the road.

rv sink

Why Sanitize?

First, we tend to fill our water from non-municipal sources, such as a well, therefore, issues with contaminants can develop.

Additionally, since water tanks are made from plastics, and if your RV is in a warm weather state, chances are the water can become contaminated with algae, mold, or bacteria.

Furthermore, sanitizing the fresh water tank from time to time is a “best practice” RV maintenance item. The process of how to sanitize the fresh water tank is pretty easy, so let’s go over the steps!

Shut off the hot water heater valves

The chemical name for bleach is Sodium hypochlorite. As you know metal and salt = rust. To prevent rust, we want to keep the bleach OUT of our hot water heater. And because many parts are made from metal, we don’t want anything in the system causing the potential for rust to develop in the future.

Make sure the fresh water tank is about ½ full. – Mix Bleach & Water.

The supplies you will need for this process are:

  • Bleach
  • 1/2 gallon or larger pitcher
  • Funnel 
  • You will want extra water for later (since you will not have your water for 8-12 hours)  
  • Additionally, extra filters if you have an inline water filter so you can change them – especially if you cannot shut off the water supply to them. 

To start, you will want to have your freshwater tank 1/2 full. Then, adjust as needed until your tank level shows 1/2.

Rv Water Sanitize

You will be using 1 cup of bleach for every 50 gallons of water. In our rig, we have an 86-gallon freshwater tank, so we use approximately 1 ¾ cups of bleach.

Todd Henson from the NRVTA (National RV Training Academy) recommends 1 cup per 50 gallons – so we are going to go with the recommendation from the pro! 

Mix bleach in a pitcher with water and pour into the city water fill on the side (not using the city water hook-up spot). Fill the fresh water tank level to full.

How to Sanitize the Fresh Water Tank

Run all the faucets in the to put the bleach/water mix in the water lines of the RV.

Some tips for this process are listed below. You want to make sure you give this bleach solution time to disinfect everything properly.

  • Let it sit for 8-12 hours
  • Ensure to sanitize on a travel day so the water can slosh around, then you can dump it on the other end of the trip
  • Sanitize the system overnight
  • Remember to have other water available for drinking, washing hands, etc. 
  • Flushing the toilet is ok! (Hey might even clean the toilet)!
RV Water Faucet

Flush the RV water lines and refill the fresh water tank

Run all the faucets again and fill the freshwater tank. Then, you will continue running water through the lines until you no longer smell any bleach.

Don’t forget to set the hot water heater valves back to open for everyday use!

You’re all set and sanitized with a clean freshwater tank ready for your next camping trip! Speaking of that next trip out, you can download our FREE trip planning template.

Leave us a comment and let us know if you’ve ever sanitized your tank or if this is a newer concept for you. We love hearing from you!

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  1. Using bleach is an inexpensive option as you only need to use one cup of bleach for every 40 gallons

  2. Using bleach to disinfect water tanks is not new to every RV, but how much bleach is needed to disinfect an RV water tank. We need to know the exact amount to kill pathogens and keep them at a safe level. In general, we will need one cup of bleach for every 50 gallons of water. Therefore, if your water tank has a capacity of 25 gallons, use ½ cup bleach. If your water tank can hold 12-13 gallons of water, use 1/4 cup.

  3. To effectively sanitize your RV tank requires a bleach solution. You must add ¼ cup of bleach for every 16 gallons of water in your RV’s fresh water tank. This measure is equivalent to one ounce of bleach per eight gallons.