“Camping” at the dump station

By Wolfe Rose

This past holiday weekend I went camping at a dump station. At least, two hours into waiting in line for my trailer to do its business I felt like I had added an extra day to my stay. As we lurched forward, I was reminded of several reasons I usually use a macerator at home instead of waiting in line like this. This is the part of camping that I’ve never heard anyone say they enjoy because it’s gross, it stinks, it’s slow. Wait a minute, no it isn’t. At least, it shouldn’t be … and what was taking everyone so long?

I got to watch the last several rigs ahead of mine, and the owner of a very shiny one typified the problem as he carefully opened his storage compartment, changed his shoes for rubber ones, gloved up to the elbows, put on a welders apron, and finally laboratory goggles. Are you kidding me? I was waiting for him to add hip-waders and a snorkel.

Thus surgically prepared, he reached into storage again and retrieved the Stinky Slinky of The One True Dumpsite. It didn’t have a brass nameplate, but he carried it reverently at arms’ length and face level until he reached his connection, bowed before the valves and … stared as if he’d never seen this end of his rig before. Setting the Slinky on the ground (baptized in the “ick zone” — so much for reverence), he finally proceeded to uncap, reach for what seemed the gray valve, remembered to actually connect his Slinky first, and bumbled his way through, albeit a total of 25 minutes before he rolled forward again.

The rig right before mine had a Slinky that disconnected when the black valve was released. Yeah, I was wondering if I could still borrow the rubber shoes when it was my turn. This guy also wore elbow length gloves, and after pretty well covering them when his Slinky exploded, he wiped them off … on his pants … and then drove away.

And then it was finally my turn. Just for curiosity (since I wonder about really gross things), I timed myself from hopping out to hopping back in. I swear I couldn’t take that long. Here’s the procedure I followed:

1. Opened my driver side storage and removed my leak-proof tray containing my Slinky, setting it open on the grass away from the puddle of ick. This keeps the container uncontaminated outside; I occasionally wash the inside with bleach.

2. Grabbed the dump end of the Slinky and lodged it in the hole, right-handed. Only my right hand will get contaminated.

3. Removed the cap and connected the RV end of the Slinky, right-handed. Park close and only stretch the Slinky as far as needed, minimizing contamination and maximizing flow rate.

4. Pulled the black tank release left-handed. My left hand isn’t contaminated, so neither is the handle.

5. Opened the RV door left-handed, filled the toilet to the rim and then released it fast. I don’t have a tank rinser, so this final surge helps. I’m just waiting around anyway!

6. Returned to the Slinky. I have a clear section so I can enjoy the show, just winding down again and free of “traffic” on the river. Gravity won’t empty perfectly anyway, but no more black tank “boats” is enough.

7. Before the river dried up, I closed the black valve, left-handed. No, the tank is NOT empty. I don’t want it dry, so no reason to trickle for 10 minutes only to add more water.

8. Pulled the gray tank release, left-handed. Right is still contaminated, handles are still clean.

9. When the stream mostly slowed, I closed the gray valve. Again, I don’t want totally dry.

10. Right hand released the Slinky from the RV, and lifted that end to drain the Slinky. The inside of the Slinky may be damp, but it’s not dribbling. And it actually shouldn’t smell too much, either, because the soapy gray water washed out any black “ick.” Never dump only black, and never dump it last.

11. Right hand coiled Slinky back in it’s tray. This is the trickiest part, but my tray’s sides resist enough to accordion the Slinky one-handed. Left hand stowed tray.

12. Left hand replaced the cap, which hangs away from the pipe and was dry. I don’t touch the inside anyway, but this is the first time my left hand even COULD get contaminated.

13. Returned to RV, and washed my hands with good antibacterial soap. Unsettling that no one else I saw washed.

14, Drove away … all of 4 minutes later and up to 90 gallons lighter, and I wasn’t racing.

Now, you may have noticed several normally lauded things I did NOT do. I didn’t skip them because of rushing; I always skip them:

• I didn’t wear goggles and a Tyvek suit – because there shouldn’t be a reason to. I’m not splashing around in puddles, and my Slinky connects securely and doesn’t leak.

• I didn’t wear booties – I stood uphill from the dampness, so even if my soles got damp, that’s no worse than walking into the men’s room. I did scuff my shoes in the grass walking back to the truck.

• I didn’t even wear gloves – My Slinky is stored in a leak-proof container and is generally bone-dry on the outside. At no point was either hand wet until I washed them, and dumping shouldn’t be any worse than going to the bathroom yourself – which you usually wash after, right?!

• I didn’t wait for the very last trickles – Besides causing an absurd delay, you should never leave your tanks dry unless you’ve seriously cleaned them (e.g., with a pressure washer). This is because gravity (and most tank rinsers) actually cannot empty all the solids (black tank solids or gray food waste) from your tanks, and letting them dry out will glue those solids in place. This is a corollary of why you never, ever (!) leave your valves open when you have full connections (because almost none of your solids follow the water out of the tanks). The “official” procedure would have you immediately re-add water after dumping 99%, but that’s just adding insult over only draining the faster 95% in the first place.

• I didn’t rinse the Slinky with a rinse hose – If 40 gallons of soapy gray water hasn’t cleaned out the Slinky, I have little faith a couple gallons of plain water will. Meanwhile, you’re almost certainly contaminating yourself by touching the maltreated rinse spigot and hose.

• Some recommend wipes for questionable surfaces, but I’m towing a sink with hot water, so I use that for hands instead of wipes or gel sanitizer.

Do you think I’m Dumping Dangerously? In the hundreds of dumpings I’ve done as above, I’ve never had reason to believe I’ve contaminated myself. If you feel safer at least wearing gloves, go with them and remove them properly … but save your pants. That was just nasty.



20 Thoughts to ““Camping” at the dump station”

  1. Paul Goldberg

    We use a macerator with a 1″ hose and cap on the end. It stays connected. I seldom use gloves unless I need to open the connection for some reason. to flush the black tank, after it is empty I turn off the pump and open the grey valve which equalizes volume between the two tanks and close grey and reopen black and pump again. I apologize if you are behind me at the dump station. It will take me up to 15 minutes to clear my tank as the pump is slower than just 3″ hoses dump. OTOH my clean up is easy, cap the hose and put it in the utility bay ready for the next use.

  2. Snayte

    Maybe this has been done before but a survey of gloves vs no gloves might be interesting.

    1. RV Staff

      Here ya’ go, “Snayte” — the results of a poll we conducted recently on whether or not readers use gloves for dumping: http://rvtravel.com/do-you-wear-gloves-when-dumping-holding-tanks/ Thanks for writing. 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com


    I’m for sure in favor those disposable vinyl gloves & buy them at Home Depot in the paint department. Heck I think its more important to use them when i gas up. I now have a diesel & that stuff really reeks & stays on your hands, even after several hand washes! I have port & starboard filling & keep fresh gloves in both behind the fill door.

  4. Jillie

    I do not do the toilet. Everyone goes to the out house and that is it. I do not do black water tank. I only do the grey. Period. I remember one camping scenario that I had to empty the grey into a bucket and drain down a sewer because I realized that my small trailer does not hold much. I love the grey but not the black. Toilet in my camper is off limits.

  5. squeakytiki

    The no gloves thing is making me cringe a little to be honest. I know, in theory, everything is clean. But just seeing someone dump their tanks without wearing gloves is enough to make me side-eye them. Most people don’t seem to be as conscientious as the author.

  6. Pat Shaw

    We dumped our tanks for the first time after our stay at a campground. No problems, it went fast and easy. Out of there in just a few minutes. But I had the advantage of reading this newsletter for months before we started our travels. Thanks for all of the great info!!! Keep up the good work.

  7. Walt KAISER

    The only thing I do differently is after I am all hooked up and ready to dump I open the grey valve first and allow some grey water through, checking all the connections visually to make sure all is well and no pinholes etc. Then I close the gray, open the black, dump the black and then re-open the grey to flush the hose. I started doing this after I had an accident where the top of the hose came lose from it’s fitting and dumped about a gallon of poo on the ground. Now I don’t worry about it.

  8. Dennis

    The only extra step i take is i open and close the grey with the black open after the black is empty. Puts a shot of washout water in the black and i usually see more stuff in the clear connection. Then i close the black and empty the grey to clean the hose. I seldom bother with gloves.

  9. Ray

    As usual, I dump the black tank first and then the gray tank. However, after the initial rush of gray water has flushed the hose, I temporarily and carefully lift a section of hose close to the rig. I watch the clear section at the connection. When I see the water column rise into the clear section I quickly lower the hose back to ground level. This quick slug if gray water thoroughly cleans the hose. I did this a couple of times and my stinky slinky never has any odor between uses. I also ALWAYS wear disposable lightweight nitrile gloves. I can dump quickly and be moved out of the way in 5 minutes or less.

  10. Ronald Payne

    For what some camps charge they should do it for you….but really I can see the day when this could be a reality, or added service, with an added cost, and some folk would be happy to pay someone else to do it.

    1. Wolfe

      Ron: It depends on the campsite, but I have seen “HoneyWagon” (pump out) service offered — for a fee, a guy in a pickup with a large tank in the bed pumps you out with a macerator and takes it away so you don’t have to move your rig from sites that don’t have septic hookup. I also saw one industrious teen with a BlueBoy offering the service “manually” (and I suspect less officially).

  11. David Ozanne

    Go to a hospital or health clinic and have them teach you how to remove the gloves without contaminating your hands. It actually is very easy to do.

    1. RV Staff

      Thanks, David. Even easier (and much quicker) — Watch this short video by Chuck Woodbury about the proper way to remove the gloves: https://youtu.be/IdHTh-daxeI 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

    2. Jillie

      You can also watch a you tube video as well. Also bus drivers are taught to put your right hand into the gloved left and grab. Then you pull out of the right glove and then touch the edge of the left and and slide out. This makes a ball if done right. Almost like the hokey pokey. Good luck.

  12. Tom

    I do the same process, I put my gloves on while waiting and after storing the hose closing up my wife drives forward so that the next person in line can pull forward while I wash up.

  13. Wolfe

    Brian: I can’t store my hose in my bumper because my (Rhino) fittings don’t fit. Disassembling the hose to store fittings elsewhere seems gross and counterproductive.

    I assume “Torpedo” was actually “Tornado” brand installed tank rinser. From the tests I’ve seen, NO installed rinser works very well, and valve-end backwash rinsers barely work at all. The hose pressure isn’t sufficient, the spray pattern doesn’t move (enough), etc. Contrary to your hopes, you DO still need the “rush” of appreciable water surging out of your tank to carry greasy solids instead of letting lower volumes of water pass them by. Make the “canoes” surf the “tidal wave,” eh?

    As far as tank rinsers helping your hose… Not at all…. Run a garden hose worth of water into your 4″ sewer hose, and you’ll see water runs in a 1/2″ deep stream, not even wetting the other 300* of the pipe’s “roof,” while the surge out of your tank DID splash that circumference. Sorry!

    Darrel: Nothing wrong with wearing DISPOSABLE gloves just as you say. The problem seems to be “how to remove dirty gloves” without contaminating yourself worse in the removal, and people reusing the same heavier gloves without sterilizing between uses. I find it easier to assume my hands ARE contaminated, wash them well, and be done.

    Thanks for your comments!

  14. john stahl

    Drives me crazy when it takes people forever to dump. I dump in less than 5 minutes every time. I do what you do and do not do what you do not do. I have done this for years and have had no problems. No clogs, no smells, no nothing. Dumping is easy. Why people take forever is beyond me. If they get dirty they can always wash their hands.

  15. Brian

    My RV has the hollow rear bumper for the hose. The first time I tried to dump my 10′ hose was lost in the bumper and I had nothing to get it out with. After trying a fiberglass pole I finally figured out that a 10′ hose and a 20′ hose both fit in the bumper. Now I don’t have to worry about my hose being to short..
    I installed a Torpedo tank rinser. With it you can ignore the old rule that you can dump only when your tank is at least 1/2 full. The real bonus is that when you put your hose away the inside of your hose has been rinsed clean

  16. Darrel

    No reason to not use disposable gloves. I buy them in boxes of 100 at Walmart in the pharmacy section.

    My new clean gloves are on while I wait my turn to dump – adds zero time to the process. Still wash my hands after removing the gloves.

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