By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Perusing the RV accessory shelves at Walmart, we ran across a bottle labeled “CAMCO Drinking Water Freshener.” Water freshener?
A squint at the fine print of the label reveals this bold promise: “Keeps stored water fresh tasting and odor free.” Simply pour one ounce into your fresh water tank for every 20 gallons of capacity. All this, and the price at your friendly Walmart store? $4.95 for a 16-ounce bottle — enough to treat 320 gallons of water.
Does your rig need this stuff? And what is it, anyway?
Get out your magnifying glass and you’ll quickly learn the active ingredient in this product is sodium hypochlorite. In other words, bleach, as in laundry bleach. Do you need to add bleach to your RV fresh water tank? Much depends on how you use your water. If you fill your tank with clean, fresh tap water and use it within a few weeks, you’ll likely find it works just fine without any additives. Water left in a tank unused for long periods of time can go “stale” and some fear that algae could grow. Yeah, maybe, but algae growth requires light and most RV fresh water tanks are locked away in a compartment, away from light, so the real chance of algae growth (which isn’t harmful, anyway) is pretty slim.
Still, if you’re concerned that your fresh water might not taste so fresh, you can simply drain your fresh water tank between RV trips. If you’re water conservation aware, gauge how much water you use and don’t fill the tank full before leaving. Water scales in at eight pounds per gallon, and if you don’t really need a full tank you’ll have less weight on board when traveling, which could reduce your fuel consumption.
Some people feel that chlorinated water is a health hazard; if hooked up to a city water tap they go to great pains to filter out the chlorine before drinking or showering in it. If you choose to add drinking water freshener, remember, it’s basically the same stuff that municipalities put in their water to chlorinate it.
In the end, if you really want to put a water freshener in your tank, here’s a money saving tip: Pass on the $4.95 a pint stuff, head out to the laundry detergent aisle and pick yourself up a bottle of laundry bleach. Get the straight bleach with no preservatives, fragrances or other added ingredients. Then, following public health official recommendations, use this formula: one teaspoon of bleach to five gallons of fresh water tank capacity. Use it by filling your tank up about one-fourth with water then adding the appropriate amount of bleach to a quart of water. Toss that mixture in the tank and top off the tank with tap water. Don’t drink this until after a half hour of treatment.
Not only will this “freshen” your tank water, keep down algae growth and make your fresh water tank smell like kitchen tap water after a long rainy spell, health authorities say it will also kill off a host of nasty organisms that might make you sick. Of course, if you’re taking your water from a municipal supply or safe well system, there probably aren’t any bugs to begin with.