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Sanitizing Water And Holding Tank With Vinegar

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A friend of mine told me that he sanitizes his fresh water tank by using Vinegar instead of Chlorine. He uses the same 1/4 cup to 15 gallon ratio but with vinegar instead of chlorine....Has anyone got any info on this process?

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Chlorine or bleach is used to disinfect/sanitize the freshwater tanks/lines. Vinegar is used to minimize the buildup of calcium and mineral deposts in the tank and water lines. I use 1/4-1/2 c of bleach per 15gal of water 1-2 times per year, let sit 2-4 hrs then flush and 1/2-1 gal of generic white vinegar per gal of water, let sit 4 hrs then flush, 1-2 times per year. You can also use 1/2-1 cup of baking powder mixed with 1 gal of warm/hot water pored into your freshwater tank and run through all lines. Helps neutralize the bleach or vinegar smell if present. On occasion I've done both the bleach and vinegar procedure at the same time but have flushed everything with fresh water between procedures.

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Guest BillAdams

1 Tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water will provide 200 ppm of chlorine. Add this to the fresh water holding tank and slosh around by driving around the block or pulling forward and back with a sudden stop. Now, run water through all of your water lines including the hot water (more water will be required here if your hot tank already has water in it). You should get a noticeable chlorine smell when the lines are full of this chlorinated mixture. Leave this water stand for a 1/2 hour or more and all lines in your coach will be fully sanitized. You will now need to drain all of the tanks, flush all of the lines, run fresh water everywhere and then drain it all again. The next time you fill the tank everything should be fine.

I have done this exactly once in our current RV and that was immediately after we bought the coach. Without knowing the coach history I wanted to ensure we started from a good starting point. In the last 12 years of ownership we have not ever found it necessary to repeat the process.

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In our area of the country we are having a severe drought. I have set up an older Surflo pump to pump the water from my tank and run it in the flower beds. My wife like it for her flowers and it speed up flushing to water from the 95 gallon tank.

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F463736.  Welcome to the Forum! :) You do realize  that the last comment on this Post was over 7 years ago?

Would be helpful to know, what type, size, year & model Rig you have.  Also, class of coach or trailer, DP or Gas .

I use HP 3% to sanitize my fresh water...52 years now!

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F463736 - Another welcome to the forum. Glad you're here!

The topic of sanitizing a water system on an RV is fraught with lots of controversy and DIY recipes. The tried-and-true method is by way of bleach. The chart you posted a link to shows that at room temperature, only bleach is fully effective.

According to the chart, the vinegar method appears to be effective only if heated to 130 degrees. They spell out a method for using the water heater to heat the vinegar, as well as how to re-route it to the fresh water tank with a hose. Problem is practicality. The method spelled out would be painfully difficult for most to do since water heaters are typically only 6 to 10 gallons and fresh water tanks can often hold 80+ gallons. That's a lot of vinegar to heat and run through a little water heater, and by the time the last batch of vinegar was heated the stuff sitting in the fresh water tank would be cooled off enough to negate any benefit from the incoming hot vinegar. It has to be hot while making contact with the sides of the tank to effectively sanitize it. Perhaps it would work with a small tank. The other problem with this method is that nearly all RV water heaters are non-adjustable. There would be no way to push the temp up to 130 degrees manually.

If someone is concerned about the safety of drinking from their freshwater tank/system, then a simple water test for about $25 will definitively tell you whether or not there is a problem. Most county health departments can run the test, and most have the test kit available. There are also mail-in options available. Doesn't need to be done often - once at the beginning of the season will let you know where things stand.

If the test comes back showing the presence of anything worrisome, then remedial action can be taken based on the specific pathogen or contaminant you're trying to remove. The testing agency can provide specifics on how to do that. After the system and tank has been sanitized and flushed, a re-test should be done to confirm that the sanitizing was effective.

If the test comes back clean, then the RV owner can use which ever method he/she prefers to freshen the system - bleach, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, etc. Or, if the test comes back clean, you can do like we do and just fill 'er up and carry on. No need to fix something that isn't broken.

As a side note regarding hydrogen peroxide...The chart you linked to showed it effective if a 3% solution is used, but only UNDILUTED (not mixed further with water). And only when heated to 130 degrees. At room temperature it doesn't appear that hydrogen peroxide is fully effective as a sanitizing agent.

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Has not killed me, women and pets yet, Richard & please don't tell the medical profession, that it needs to be heated to 130  degrees.  Kay uses HP 10%, I can't buy it.

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42 minutes ago, manholt said:

Has not killed me, women and pets yet, Richard & please don't tell the medical profession, that it needs to be heated to 130  degrees.  Kay uses HP 10%, I can't buy it.

My guess is that there was no need to sanitize to and that there were no pathogens or contamination to harm you to begin with, as is probably the case with most fresh water systems on coaches which are cared for and used regularly. Possibly some stale taste or odor, but I don't know of anyone that's been harmed by either of those.

However, for those rare times when someone has to reason to question the status of the fresh water tank/system, knowing how to take appropriate measures would be important.

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My brother has a degree in Water Management and is a liscensed operator for a city water department. He tells me that unless you filled your tank with bad well water all city water is treated and you do not need to sanitize your tank unless the water in your tank is several months old. The city water has chlorine in it and will be good for many months. If you are going to store your RV for more than 6 months then I would empty it and refill it with fresh water. 

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txtiger offers good advice. In over 25 years of RVing, we have never found the need to sanitize the fresh water tank. Your mileage may very.

 

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Agree. One note though, I have seen water boil advisories posted on city water systems. One campground we stayed in had a boil water advisory posted - apparently the municipality had a main break which led to contamination. Always a good idea to check the status of the water supply before connecting your rig to it.

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When I lived full time on Galveston Island, TX.  I sanitized the City water that went into coach.  The water comes from a city on the mainland and then it's pumped to the island via pipe that was laid down, on bottom of the ship channel in 1882!!   I don't trust it, anymore than I trust the well water we have at the ranch...we treat it, but.  I would not trust it in Flint, MI, either!

It's amazing how fast some, backpedal, when txtiger came on!   What concerns me, is not the fresh water tank, but the water lines in coach and the inside of hose, that delivers the water! :P 

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19 hours ago, txtiger said:

My brother has a degree in Water Management and is a liscensed operator for a city water department. He tells me that unless you filled your tank with bad well water all city water is treated and you do not need to sanitize your tank unless the water in your tank is several months old. The city water has chlorine in it and will be good for many months. If you are going to store your RV for more than 6 months then I would empty it and refill it with fresh water. 

I've been saying that for years on a different RVing forum, however it doesn't seem to sink in for some people.  I used to hold a CL A water treatment license from my state before retirement. If I do think I should sanitize my MH plumbing system I use Sodium Dichlor instead of household bleach, but it's not for the average citizen.

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6 hours ago, manholt said:

..What concerns me, is not the fresh water tank, but the water lines in coach and the inside of hose, that delivers the water! :P 

The hose is easy - demote your fresh water hose to other uses every year or so and then get a new one. There are a few nice options out there now which are reasonably priced, with a food-grade certification.

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Not to be repetitive, but if anyone is concerned about the safety of their RV's fresh water system there is one simple gold standard. Take a sample and send it for testing. It's simple to do, doesn't cost very much, and will tell you if there is any need for further action.

In our county, this is the program: https://www.waukeshacounty.gov/watertest

Likely your county health department has a similar program. Ours only costs $30 for a bacteriological test, a slight bit more if you want a full spectrum test.

Do this at the beginning of the season and have peace of mind that your system is safe. If your test comes back positive for contamination, follow the directions from the health department to remedy, and then re-test to verify the problem is gone. If the test comes back negative, then fill 'er up and carry on and have a great season.

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