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Bob Livingston's Secrets to Keeping Your RV Water Clean and Flowing

January 11, 2023

Author: Bob Livingston/Wednesday, January 11, 2023/Categories: Travel News

Water is the lifeblood of any RV and self-containment would not be possible without water for taking showers, washing dishes, and flushing the toilet. While we’ve become rather cavalier about water service in our daily lives, RV owners tend to sideline maintenance – and the influence of water depending on quality, source, and region.

The simplistic nature of having water onboard or fed via an RV park hookup makes it hard to believe how damaging the impact can be on our systems – human and mechanical.

Hard water is the nemesis of any RV. Left untreated, hard water can plug up fittings and faucet aerators, restricting flow at the sinks and showerhead. Aerators can be replaced and, fortunately are relatively inexpensive, but restricting the water flow in the toilet can be much more problematic and costly to repair.


Hard water can damage shower-stall glass or plastic, painted surfaces, and left unattended, white streaking can become an eyesore in the kitchen and bathroom – and almost impossible to remove. There are chemicals on the market that can mitigate some of the cleanup problems associated with hard water, but the best solution is to employ an RV water softener between the faucet and city inlet. Snowbirds who frequent southern desert locations in Arizona and California, for example, are acutely away of the damage caused by ultra hard water. Water softeners are available at RV parts stores and are relatively easy to use, sans the need to recharge frequently.

Normally, water entering the RV is drinkable, but sediment and other foul tasting elements can be controlled with the use of a two-part filtration system. A common set-up is to use two 10-inch canisters with hose fittings between the hookup utility and city water inlet. It’s best to treat the whole house with a sediment filter cartridge followed immediately by a carbon block cartridge.

A good source for canisters and filters is the RV Water Filter Store. This online company ( has a complete selection of filters for just about any purpose. I’ve had good success with using a spun polypropylene filter in front of a carbon block filter. The polypropylene filter removes sediment and has a 1-micron nominal rating. With a nominal rating of 0.5 micron, the carbon block filter reduces the chlorine odor, improves the taste of city water and also removes some sediment. The combination has proven to be valuable while hooked to RV park water and filling the onboard freshwater tank. In many cases, the need to carry bottled water is eliminated.

Sediment and carbon filters improve taste but cannot purify tainted water, nor remove dissolved solids (calcium and minerals) that create hard water. Purification requires a more robust system that may not be practical for whole-house service. If you travel to areas with suspect water (Mexico, for example) or have a hyper sensitivity to tap water, it’s best to invest in a purification system that will take all the elements out of the water that can cause health problems.

Purification filters are best connected to a separate faucet at the kitchen sink. More sensitive people should consider a second spigot at the bathroom sink for use while brushing teeth. These filters come in a number of configurations, including simple inline throwaway filters to more sophisticated Doulton candle filters housed inside reusable canisters. The Doulton ceramic candle filters are designed for years of use and are superior for removing bacteria and cysts—and they can be cleaned for prolonged longevity.

Freshwater tank maintenance is another area frequently overlooked by RV owners. Those who hookup for long periods of time often leave some water in their tank. Untreated, stagnant water can create problems for the entire system. Obviously, standing water is not drinkable. It’s best to flush and drain the tank once a month if water is left in the tank while hooked up to an RV park faucet for long periods of time, such as the case when snowbirds stay in one location all season. Water left unattended in a tank for long periods time can plug up the system when pulled through the demand pump for the first time. Best practice is to fill the tank through the filters and run the demand pump to service the system at least once a month, even if full hookups are available.

Freshwater tanks should also be cleaned and sanitized periodically by using one of the commercial products like those from Thetford and Camco, or a bleach and water mixture (approximately a ¼ cup of bleach to every 15 gallons of tank capacity), followed by draining of the full tank and filling/draining again with dose of baking soda to remove the odor. Common procedures can be found online.

Keeping water flowing freely inside your RV is not difficult; following simple maintenance procedures and proper filtration will keep the good times rolling and health issues at bay.


Bob Livingston recently retired as the group publisher and senior VP for GS Media and Events, publishers of Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines and their respective websites. Bob has written technical and lifestyle articles and books for 45 years, and penned the popular technical question and answer monthly column, Tech Topics, in Highways magazine, the 1.5-million-member Good Sam Club’s official publication, for more than 20 years.

He created and appeared on the weekly television show, RVtoday, and directed the programing and production during its five-year run on cable TV. Bob was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 2014. He keeps his hand in the RV industry as a consultant to a number of companies working on product development and marketing projects. Bob and his wife, Lynne, live full time in their fifth wheel.



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