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Keep Your RV Gray Tank Open? Closed? How About BOTH?!

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Published on Aug 11, 2014

Leaving your RV's gray valve open when fully hooked up allows you to take long showers without worrying about dumping or filling up the gray tank. But what about sewer smells that can come up from the campground sewer system? Here's how to get the best of both worlds!

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One of the luxuries of staying in a full-hook-up campground is the ability to use water freely for showers, cooking and washing dishes. The sewer connection allows you to leave your RV’s gray valve open, so water can run right out instead of filling up your gray tank.

Of course the black valve can NEVER be left open, since "solids" will build up in the black holding tank when the "liquids" run out. But there's a fair amount of discussion about the gray valve. Some people recommend that you should never leave the gray valve open either, as it can allow odors from the park’s sewer system up into your RV.

Of course leaving the valve closed means having to pay attention to the water level in the gray tank, and dumping it every few days. Seems like a shame to have to do that when your RV is connected to a sewer line, especially when you’re staying in a full hook-up site for an extended period of time.

Since the drains under every sink and shower in an RV are equipped with a p-trap, leaving the gray valve open shouldn't allow odors into the RV. The water in the traps blocks odors from entering the RV's living space. Long periods without use can allow the water in the traps to evaporate, and driving on twisty or bumpy roads can cause it to slosh out. But both of these situations are easily remedied by running a small amount of water down each drain.

There is, however, a pipe with a direct connection to the sewer hose…. connecting to the tank vents on the roof of the RV. This can allow air from the sewer system to come up through the roof vents. If you’ve ever smelled sewer odors in a full hook-up campground, it’s possible that someone’s RV is venting the park’s sewer system out through their roof.

In a recent RV Travel newsletter, we read about the simplest way imaginable to enjoy the luxury of a full hook-up RV park. You can leave your gray valve in the open position so water runs right down the drain. You don't have to pay any attention to how full your gray tank is and you don’t have to dump it every few days. But there's no chance for sewer odors to escape either. It's the best of both worlds.

Watch the video to see how we did it!

Please use your full hook-up powers responsibly and don't waste water!

The piano music is my own performance of Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag from 1899.

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