You’ve just finished your first RV camping trip – so where do you dump out your RV tanks before driving home? This task can certainly be daunting for anyone who is not familiar with the procedure. That’s why I have written this detailed article describing how to find RV dump stations and what to expect at the various types you are likely to encounter.
There are a few different kinds of RV dump stations you will find, located at –
- RV Campgrounds
- Rest Stops
- Gas Stations
- State and National Parks
- Sewage Treatment Facilities
Some dump stations are free, while others require a (usually) small fee before you are allowed to dump out.
Of course, the specific details can vary by site. Further down, we will discuss the details of all of the common types of RV dump stations.
What is Dumping Out?
First, let’s cover some basics. When you camp in your RV, the black tank will fill up a little bit every time you use the toilet, while the various shower and sink drains lead to the grey tank. If you do not have full hookups where a hose is constantly draining these tanks, they will eventually get full and need to be drained.
“Dumping out” refers to the process of emptying out the black and grey tanks. Most RVers try to do this unpleasant deed after camping, prior to driving home. This way, the RV will be lighter, plus you won’t have to worry about leaks and/or nasty smells greeting you when you get home.
How to Find a Dump Station
You will not always know where the nearest dump station is after you leave camp. That means you will have to keep your eyes peeled for the tell-tale signs of a dump station. The easiest way to spot one of these facilities is by a road sign. Many RV dump sites will be identified by this sign:
Seeing this symbol on the side of the road can be a huge relief anytime you are having trouble finding a dump station, so get to know it well! However, not every dump station will have a prominent dump sign like this, so it is also important to know other ways to identify these sites. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to spot sometimes, even when you know what you are looking for.
That’s because the only thing these sites all have in common is a small hole in the ground that you can place your sewer hose into. A metal lid covers this hole – you know, to keep all those lovely fumes from seeping out and stinking up the site. These lids are rather small and not always easy to see from the road.
So, what else should you look for? Well, most sites will also a curbed area with an information sign posted near that hole. Oftentimes, concrete posts will be stationed on either side of the hole to prevent RVs from driving over the metal lid. You can also look for a tall, thin pole with a hose extending down from the top. These hoses are used for spraying out the RV sewer hose after use. Sometimes another water hose or spigot is located several yards away and can be used for filling up your freshwater tank. Just make sure the water source is marked as potable before doing this.
Common RV Dump Sites
Knowing the common places you can find RV dump stations can also help in your quest to empty those tanks. Even if you didn’t see a sign or the presence of a dump station, they can sometimes be hiding out back or somewhere else out of site. In truly desperate times, try to find an employee at one of these facilities and ask if they have a dump station or know where one is.
Without further ado, here is a list of the places you can commonly find RV dump stations:
- Rest Stops
- Gas Stations
- State and National Parks
- Sewage Treatment Facilities
While these facilities commonly allow RV dumping, this list is by no means comprehensive. You can find thorough lists of RV dump sites online, of course. Websites like rvdumps.com, rvdumpsites.net, and sanidumps.com will show you the location of just about every RV dump station in the country. Bookmark one or more of these sites on your phone so that you will have a good reference while you are out and about in your RV.
Types of RV Dump Stations
As you gain more experience dumping out, you will become familiar with the various types of RV dump stations out there. They are all very similar in function but are run in different ways. There are two main categories of sites: public vs private and paid vs free.
Public vs Private RV Dump Stations
Various public sites feature RV dump stations. These stations are located in various sites such as fairgrounds, city parks, state parks, visitor’s centers, and campgrounds. For example, head over to rvidaho.org to see the listings for Idaho’s public dump sites. Many other states have similar sites that show where their public stations are.
In contrast to the public stations, private dump sites are often located at RV parks or gas stations. If there is not a dump station in or near the place where you set up camp, look for one at any of these types of facilities on your way home.
Paid vs Free
While some facilities offer free RV dumping, others charge a fee for the convenience. Always check with the facility before using the dump station if you are unsure whether a fee is required.
Public dump stations are more likely to be offered without a fee, while private dump stations are much more likely to charge a fee for use. It is also common for paid sites to offer a discount if other goods or services are also being purchased at the same time (usually either propane, gas, or nights at the campground).
When to Start Worrying about Finding the Next Station
It is important to keep tabs on your tanks so you know when it is time to think about finding a dump station. Some RV tanks are fairly small and can fill up quickly. Luckily, most trailers and motorhomes have a monitor that shows exactly how full the tanks are at any given moment. Staying on the ball and proactively dumping can save your behind when you have family and friends counting on being able to use your RV facilities. Don’t get over-eager to dump out, however, as that can cause problems as well.
According to coltonrv.com’s great resource, it can be harmful to dump out before your tank fills up. It is better to wait until the tank is at least 2/3 full before dumping. That’s because when you dump out while the black tank is not very full, the waste doesn’t clean itself out thoroughly.
What to Do When You Can’t Find a Dump Station?
First things first – if your tanks are full and you still haven’t found a dump site, you will have to stop using your toilets and drains. You can still use the trailer for everything else, of course, but finding a way to get the tanks emptied should be on your list of immediate priorities.
One quick note: Whatever you do, DO NOT dump out in an unauthorized location. This is not only a danger to the environment, but it is illegal and you can find yourself facing some serious criminal charges as well as hefty fines.
Okay, so you really can’t find a dump station and you need to get those tanks emptied. The good news is, you aren’t totally out of luck. The bad news? The solution can be expensive and difficult to come by.
Portable dump stations are available for times like these. For example, RV tote tanks like this one are made for just this purpose. Simply dump your tanks into the tote, and then pull the tote to a dump site. Depending on the size of the tote, these can become extremely heavy, so they are also made to be towed by a vehicle.
Can you Dump RV into Septic?
Many people who use a septic tank at home wonder if it is possible to wait until you get home and dump out into the septic tank. The simple answer is: Yes, you can dump both black and grey water into your septic tank. However, it’s not really all that simple.
As the folks over at camperreport.com point out in this article, there are many factors to consider. For one thing, you have to be careful not to use any chemicals in your RV black tank as this can kill off the beneficial bacteria in your home septic tank.
Once you are ready to dump, the best way to empty into the septic tank is through the cleanout. Otherwise, you will need to use the access port. In this case, be sure that you are dumping on the side of the baffle that collects solids. There is much more detailed information in the article that is great to know if you are going to go this route.
Dumping out your RV is a necessary evil. But knowing what to expect and how to find a dump site that works for you can take a lot of the headache out of the process. Hopefully, this article provided you with all of the information you need to find a site that works for you before you head out there. Be prepared and don’t forget the gloves!