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Keeping the Holding Tank Clean


Here are some great tips submitted to JD facebook from Capt. Tom Kenny. He sheds light on a nether region of responsible boating- the dreaded holding tank. His pointers show responsibly maintaining a clean holding tank doesn't have to ever become that nastiest of dreaded jobs. In fact, simple regular maintenance will help your boat smell and feel livable at all times. The consequences of not doing it... well they just plain stink! Thanks Capt. for the following great advice:




Everyone who owns a boat should be concerned with maintaining their black water tank. Problems with black water tank that can be avoided should be avoided. Black water tank repair is expensive. Common sense dictates that the tank should be kept relatively clean at all times. Additionally, improper use of the black water tank can lead to a buildup of solid wastes, which in itself may cause the system to fail. Therefore, you should sanitize your black water tank after each pump-out.

There are very simple, effective, and inexpensive methods of maintaining your black water tank in a relatively clean condition at all times. Most boaters are not full time boaters; they use their boat about one weekend a month. Many never use public bathing and toilet facilities. In other words, their black water tank is heavily used. Most boaters do not seem to know how to maintain their black water tank. If you have not been maintaining your tank then you may be pleasantly surprised the first time you employ these tips.



To keep the black water tank clean it is useful to add water softener and a cup of laundry detergent. It helps removes waste odor, helps quickly break down waste and toilet paper and prevent scum from forming on the sides of the tanks and the sensors.

The water softener makes the solid waste let go from the sides of the tanks. If you have ever taken a shower in softened water you know that after rinsing the soap from your body your skin will feel slick. That is because all the soap rinses away with soft water. Softened water also prevents soap scum from sticking in the tub. With softened water gunk washes away instead of sticking.

It takes a scoop of laundry detergent in a washing machine to wash clothes. It takes a half cup of Calgon water softener to wash clothes. It takes a cup of bleach to wash clothes. A boat's holding tanks hold much more water than a washing machine. A boat's holding tanks hold much more dirt than a load of laundry. You have to use enough water softener, detergent, and chlorine bleach, to clean a boat's holding tank because it holds more water and dirt than a typical load of laundry.

Liquid or Powder, it does not matter. You can buy Calgon Water Softener at the grocery store. You will find it located with or near the laundry detergent products. Some people prefer Calgon Water Softener because it dissolves quickly in water. Cheaper water softeners such as, White Rain, Blue Raindrops, and Spring Rain work just as well but dissolve more slowly.


To clean the holding tank and kill bacteria do the following:


  • Rinse and flush the holding tank after each pump out. This will help to dilute any residual sewage and thereby reduce odors.
  • Use one cup of liquid Calgon Water Softener or 2 cups of powder Calgon Water Softener to two gallons of hot water. Then, pour the solution down the drain into the empty tank. Then use the tank normally until it is full and then pump it out normally. You should add the water softener and the laundry detergent to the black-water tank after each pump-out and after you have rinsed the black-water tank.
  • Occasionally, pour a gallon of liquid bleach into the tank to sanitize and disinfect it will kill odor and germs in the tank.

  • Some other thoughts


  • Traveling with partially filled black water tank that contain softened water promotes cleaning by agitating the water. The same goes for chlorine bleach.
  • This process works faster and more efficiently during warm weather. However, it works well even during colder weather.
  • The process works best the longer the water softener remains in the tank. Therefore, do not add water softener during periods of heavy black water generation. Wait until you know you will not be generating black water quickly so that the softened water remains in the tank for several days before dumping.
  • Do not be afraid to use your tank. Just use common sense about their care and maintenance.
  • These tips are inexpensive to do. You have nothing to lose in trying them. You will actually feel a certain amount of pride in the condition and cleanliness of your waste system.
  • Naturally, these tips make dumping a much more pleasant and sanitary procedure.
  • If you have odors in of your waste water systems these procedures should eliminate them. Odors indicate a sanitary problem and degrade the enjoyment you derive from your boat.


  • Contributed by Capt. Tom Kenny. More can be found on his Chris Craft Constellation website.

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