Matt Johnson

How to Unclog an RV Toilet: A Step-by-Step Guide

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Aug 5, 2023Updated: Dec 13, 2023

So, you’re out on the road in your trusty RV, exploring new destinations and creating unforgettable memories. Life on the open road is exhilarating, but it’s not without its challenges. One of those challenges is when the RV toilet clogs. It’s bad enough dealing with a clogged toilet in the comfort of your own home, but when you’re on the go, it can quickly turn into a messy and inconvenient situation. Fortunately, we’re going to tackle this problem head-on. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to unclog an RV toilet like a pro.

From assessing the severity of the clog to utilizing handy tools and even preventive measures, we’ve got you covered.

What causes RV toilets to clog?

RV toilets can clog due to a variety of reasons. Here are five of the most common causes we’ve seen an RV toilet clog.

  1. Insufficient water use. Unlike residential toilets, RV toilets require a good amount of water to ensure waste is properly flushed and does not stick to the sides of the holding tank.
  2. Incorrect toilet paper. Using regular household toilet paper can cause clogs in an RV toilet. It’s recommended to use RV-specific or septic-safe toilet paper that breaks down easily.
  3. Buildup of solids. If the toilet is used frequently for solid waste without sufficient flushing and water, it can lead to a buildup of solids, causing a blockage. Typically we don’t see problems with liquid waste. This also happens frequently when RV’ers leave the black tank valve open.
  4. Not regularly emptying the black water tank. The black water tank holds waste from the toilet. If your RV holding tank not emptied regularly, waste can build up and cause a clog.
  5. Dumping non-biodegradable items. Non-biodegradable items like feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, diapers, or even heavy-duty paper towels do not break down and can cause severe clogs in the RV toilet system.

As a preventative measure, regular maintenance of the RV’s plumbing system, using the right products, and proper usage can help avoid these issues.

Assess the severity of the clog.

When faced with a clogged RV toilet, it’s essential to break it down into smaller steps. As seasoned adventurers on the road, we know a thing or two about handling these pesky situations. The severity of the clog can vary, so let’s start by assessing the problem and gauging the situation.

First, take a look at the water level in the toilet bowl. If it’s nearly overflowing or not draining at all, you’re dealing with a severe clog. But if the water level is low and draining slowly, the clog might not be as severe.

Let’s think about what could be causing the clog. Is it because of excessive toilet paper usage or the disposal of non-flushable items? Solid waste, toilet paper, or even foreign objects can sometimes accumulate in the black tank, leading to a clogged toilet. Understanding the root cause can help us choose the best method for unclogging.

It’s important to remember that prevention is key, but accidents happen. Being proactive in unclogging an RV toilet can save you from a messy situation later on.

Gather the necessary supplies.

Now that we’ve assessed the severity of the clog in our RV toilet, it’s time to gather the necessary supplies to tackle the job head-on. Trust me, having the right tools and materials at your fingertips saves you from unnecessary trips back and forth.

First and foremost, grab a sturdy pair of rubber gloves. Dealing with clogs can get messy, so protecting your hands is essential.

Next up, get yourself a plunger. A plunger is a classic tool for unclogging toilets and should be a staple in every RV owner’s arsenal. Ensure it has a flange or bell-shaped rubber end, ensuring a better seal around the drain.

Additionally, have a toilet snake or auger on hand. These handy tools come in different lengths and have a flexible, coiled wire that can effectively break up stubborn clogs. A plumbing snake is especially useful when the plunger fails to do the job.

Lastly, having some hot water available is always a good idea. Boiling water can sometimes work wonders in dislodging clogs. Just be cautious with the temperature. Water that’s too hot can cause damage to your plumbing, so use warm but not scalding water.

You need these supplies to unclog your RV toilet like a pro. With gloves, a plunger, a toilet snake, and some hot water at your disposal, you’ll be well-equipped to handle any clog that comes your way.

Use a plunger to unclog the toilet.

Toilet Plunger in RV Toilet

Sometimes, you only need a trusty plunger to tackle a clogged RV toilet. This classic tool has been saving the day for generations and can work wonders in unclogging your toilet.

Here’s how to use a plunger effectively to unclog your RV toilet—

  1. Start by positioning the plunger over the toilet drain, making sure it creates a seal around the opening. This will ensure maximum pressure when you start plunging.
  2. Apply downward pressure and vigorously push and pull the plunger to create suction. The idea is to dislodge the blockage and get the water flowing again. Ensure to maintain a steady rhythm and use your upper body strength to generate enough force.
  3. Continue plunging for a few minutes, checking periodically to see if the water level in the toilet bowl is decreasing. If you notice any signs of progress, keep going until the clog clears completely.
  4. If the clog persists, you may need to repeat the plunging process several times. It’s not uncommon for stubborn clogs to require multiple attempts before they give in.

Using a plunger is often the go-to method for unclogging toilets, and it’s an effective tool to have on hand for any RV owner. Just remember, using the right technique and applying a little elbow grease can go a long way in resolving a clogged RV toilet.

Utilize a plumbing snake or auger for stubborn clogs.

When facing a stubborn clog in your RV toilet, sometimes a plunger just won’t do the trick. That’s where a plumbing snake or auger comes in handy. These tools are designed to go deep into the plumbing system, break the clog, and clear your toilet bowl.

To utilize a plumbing snake or auger, insert the tool into the toilet bowl and push it down until you feel resistance. Then, with a firm grip, start rotating the handle clockwise, which will help the snake or auger navigate through the clog. Keep applying pressure and rotate until the tool breaks through the obstruction.

Remember to be cautious and slow as you withdraw the snake or auger from the toilet to avoid splashing or mess. Once the tool is out, give the toilet a few test flushes to ensure the clog is completely cleared. If the problem persists, you may need to try another method or seek professional assistance.

Using a plumbing snake or auger is a powerful solution for stubborn clogs in your RV toilet. It allows you to break up the obstruction and restore proper flow physically. So, if you face a tough clog, don’t hesitate to grab a snake or auger and take charge of the situation.

Use a chemical drain cleaner as a last resort.

If you’ve tried the plunger and the plumbing snake, but your RV toilet is still stubbornly clogged, it might be time to bring out the big guns – a chemical drain cleaner. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t that stuff harmful?” Well, yes, it can be if not used properly. But when used as a last resort and following the instructions carefully, it can effectively unclog your RV toilet.

It’s important to note that using a chemical drain cleaner should always be a last resort. These cleaners contain potent chemicals that can harm you and the environment if used incorrectly. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and take appropriate safety precautions.

Additionally, avoid using chemical drain cleaners regularly, as they can cause damage to your RV’s plumbing system over time. Instead, focus on preventing future clogs by being mindful of what you flush down the toilet and practicing good toilet etiquette.

Remember, while chemical drain cleaners can effectively clear clogs, they should only be used as a last resort. Always prioritize safety and follow the instructions carefully.

Seek professional help if all else fails

If you’ve tried all the DIY methods and your RV toilet just won’t budge, it may be time to call in the professionals. Sometimes, a clogged RV toilet can go beyond a simple fix, and that’s when expert intervention is necessary to save the day. The problem might be with your RV black tank or even the toilet pipe.

A skilled plumber specializing in RV toilets and septic systems can provide the expertise and tools they have the know-how to navigate through the intricate network of pipes and valves, ensuring that the clog is wholly eliminated without causing further damage.

By entrusting the job to a professional, you can have peace of mind knowing that you won’t have to spend hours attempting to fix the problem yourself only to end up frustrated and defeated. Plus, they can offer valuable advice on preventing future clogs and maintaining your RV’s black tank in top condition.

Remember, having a reliable contact for professional help is important before you find yourself knee-deep in a clogged toilet emergency. Ask fellow RVers, check online reviews, and keep their contact information easily accessible for those “just in case” situations.

So, when all hope is lost, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. They’ll come to the rescue, freeing you from the clutches of a stubborn clog and ensuring that your RV toilet is back in working order in no time.

Seeking professional help should always be the last resort, but sometimes it’s the only way to truly unclog an RV toilet that refuses to cooperate. Don’t hesitate to make that call and get the assistance you need.

Prevent future clogs by following proper toilet etiquette.

Proper toilet etiquette is key to preventing future clogs in your RV toilet. By implementing a few simple practices, you can keep your toilet running smoothly and avoid the frustration of dealing with a clogged toilet.

Use only biodegradable toilet paper.

Septic Safe RV Toilet Paper

It’s essential to be mindful of the amount and type of toilet paper you use. Due to the smaller pipe diameter in RV toilets, too much toilet paper can easily lead to clogs. To prevent buildup in the pipes and keep things flowing smoothly, opt for RV-specific toilet paper designed to dissolve quickly in water.

Don’t flush non-biodegradable items.

In addition to using the right toilet paper, remember to only flush down what is meant to go down the toilet. It’s crucial to avoid flushing items such as baby wipes, paper towels, sanitary products, or excessive amounts of solid waste. These can cause major clogs in your RV’s black tank and lead to a messy situation.

Use plenty of water.

Unlike home toilets, RV toilets need a good amount of water to ensure waste moves smoothly into the holding tank. When you flush your RV toilets, continue to hold the flapper open for a few additional seconds to allow the bowl to be rinsed and the black tank to receive a bit of extra water.

Empty your septic tank regularly.

Regularly empty and clean your black water tank to prevent the buildup of solids, which can lead to clogs. Consider using a tank treatment product that helps break down waste and tissue. We’re big fans of TST Max drop-in tablets. You simply drop in a treatment tab into your toilet and it’ll help break down waste and keep your blank tank smelling good.

Maintain a regular RV toilet maintenance schedule.

TST Max Banner

Maintaining a regular RV toilet maintenance schedule is crucial to ensure the proper functioning and longevity of your RV’s sanitation system. Here are some critical steps that you should include in your routine—

  • Use tank treatments regularly. Tank treatments are essential for maintaining an RV bathroom. These treatments help break down waste and prevent odors, making them a must for regular use, especially if you live in an RV full-time. As we mentioned, we like the TST Max treatments.
  • Proper operation. Using the RV toilet correctly can prevent many problems. Always add at least a third to half a water bowl when flushing solids. This helps in moving the waste into the holding tank effectively.
  • Regular cleaning. Cleaning your RV bathroom before and after each trip is highly recommended. This not only keeps your bathroom fresh but also helps in identifying any potential issues early.
  • Seal maintenance. Pay attention to the toilet seal as well. Taking a few minutes to care for it when putting away your RV can save you from an unpleasant seal failure and replacement.
  • Regular inspection. Regular inspection is part of a good maintenance schedule. Check out all components, including seals, valves, and the holding tank, to ensure they are in good condition.

By adhering to a regular maintenance schedule, you can prevent unpleasant smells and expensive damage and ensure a smooth journey on your RV trips.

You’re ready to deal with a clogged RV toilet.

Dealing with a clogged RV toilet can be a frustrating experience, but with the right approach and ingenuity, you can tackle the problem head-on.

Remember to assess the severity of the clog, gather the necessary supplies, and try using a plunger to unclog the toilet. If that doesn’t do the trick, don’t hesitate to employ a plumbing snake or auger for those stubborn clogs. And if all else fails, a chemical drain cleaner can be used as a last resort.

But perhaps the key takeaway here is the importance of prevention. By following proper toilet etiquette, such as using the right amount of RV toilet paper and disposing of solid waste properly, you can significantly decrease the likelihood of future clogs.

Maintenance is also crucial, so make sure to schedule regular inspections and cleanings for your RV toilet.

Remember, you’re not alone in this RV toilet unclogging battle. Many fellow RV enthusiasts have faced similar challenges and found success in unclogging their toilets.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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