Can I Clean the Water Tank in My RV Without Bleach?

It seems like more and more individuals are seeking for environmentally friendly solutions to help safeguard the environment.

And I fully support that! So I saw quite a few inquiries from individuals asking whether they could disinfect their RV water tank and lines using vinegar instead of bleach lately while I was going through various RV forums.

Naturally, there were a ton of queries and viewpoints on the matter.

We thus conducted some independent study, and the results are shown below.

Is Vinegar Safe and Effective for Water System Sanitation?

Yes, using white vinegar to sanitize your fresh water system is secure and reliable.

The graph below compares Listeria, E. Coli, and Salmonella-killing capabilities of chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, and baking soda.

As you can see, all three forms of bacteria are destroyed by vinegar, peroxide, and bleach.

The chart below demonstrates that in order to be successful, hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar must be heated to at least 130 degrees in order to kill all three germs.

For the majority of us, this is a BIG BUT.

They are useless at room temperature.

How Do I Get Hot Vinegar, The Heck?

You clearly care about preserving the environment if you are asking this question! And for that, I applaud you.

The hot water heater in your RV may be used to heat the vinegar solution to a temperature of over 130 degrees, which is a fantastic solution to this problem.

And the best part about doing this is that you can really murder two people at once.

The mineral deposits that accumulate in your hot water tank and on its anode rod may be easily removed by using hot white vinegar, in addition to cleaning your freshwater system.

Take your coffee maker as an illustration of this.

Your coffee machine may sometimes contain white mineral deposits.

The manufacturer advises cleaning the coffee maker when this occurs by pouring white vinegar through it.

Here, the same basic idea applies.

Your coffee maker cleans the mineral deposits from your coffee maker after heating the vinegar solution.

What Is The Procedure For Sanitizing The Water System And Tank?

You’re probably wondering how to transfer the vinegar and hot water mixture from the hot water heater into the cold water pipes in your RV.

Simply follow these instructions to warm the vinegar solution before running it through your hot and cold lines:

  1. A thread adaptor is necessary before you can join a garden hose to your RV’s kitchen faucet. One may be purchased on Amazon or picked up at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
  2. Be careful to turn off your water heater.
  3. While it is off, raise the temperature on your water heater to at least 130 degrees.
  4. Your hot water tank and water system should both be completely dried up.
  5. At least 15 gallons of a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar should be added to your fresh water tank.
  6. Once water starts to stream out of your kitchen faucet and you can smell vinegar, turn on your water pump.
  7. Shut off the water and start the water heater. The water won’t hit 130 degrees until at least 20 minutes have passed.
  8. Attach a thread adapter to your RV’s kitchen faucet while the water is heated.
  9. Garden hoses may be connected to thread adapters and routed to fresh water fill points outside of RVs.
  10. In order to fill the fresh water holding tank with the hot white vinegar solution, switch on your water pump after the water is heated up and run water via the hot side of the kitchen faucet.
  11. Once the water in your fresh water tank is hot, you should run each fixture individually until you smell vinegar, at which point you should turn it off and continue on to the next. Both the hot and cold sides of each fixture should be able to provide you with hot water. NOTE: In this operation, you should run the cold side of the kitchen faucet last.
  12. Don’t forget to run the mixture through your instant hot, ice maker, or drinking water dispenser in the refrigerator door.
  13. You may unhook the garden hose and let the hot solution rest for the night after running it through each hot and cold line to each fixture.
  14. Make sure your hot water heater is off the next morning. The water heater should be properly drained and rinsed after removing the anode rod. When you clean the water heater, you’ll undoubtedly see a lot of debris. After reinstalling the anode rod, lower the hot water heater’s temperature setting to 120 degrees. Please be aware that scorching may occur at temperatures higher than 120 degrees.
  15. Once the vinegar smell has gone, connect to a fresh water source and run fresh water through all of your fixtures’ hot and cold sides.

Your complete fresh water system is now clean and functional!

How Frequently Must I Sanitize?

If your RV has been idle for a while, you should absolutely cleanse the water system.

Every spring when you de-winterize your RV, you should obviously sanitize.

Other recommendations regarding when to sanitize your fresh water system include:

If you use water and detect a rancid smell

If your RV’s water system has not been utilized while it has been parked for at least two weeks

It is absolutely time to sterilize the whole water system if you have been advised that a boil water warning is in effect.

It is essential to clean the whole water system if your water tank has algae or slime.

You must sterilize your system even when you don’t consume water from your freshwater tank.

You don’t want to take a shower in water that is contaminated with germs since bacteria will continue grow in the water system.

Additionally, although filters will eliminate impurities and enhance flavor and odor, they do not function as a purifier and do not eradicate microorganisms.


Contrary to popular belief, cleaning your water tank and system without bleach is impossible.

However, utilizing a hot vinegar solution is a terrific option if you want to go green and be environmentally friendly.

Even though it requires a little more effort, if you have the thread adaptor for the kitchen sink, the procedure is really rather simple.

How To Put Vinegar In RV Hot Water Heater? Videos Suggestions From Youtube

RV Water Heater Maintenance w/ Custom Vinegar Fill Pipe (RV Living Full Time) 4K – Downsizing Makes Cents
RV Water Heater Cleaning Tip – Give It A Vinegar Soak – Love Your RV
Cleaning Flushing and Descaling an RV Water Heater – How to Clean and Maintain Atwood / Suburban – RV Habit

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Written by Bob Matsuoka
Bob Matsuoka is a blogger and founder of RVing Beginner blog. He has been blogging for over five years, writing about his own family’s RV adventures, tips for people who are interested in buying an RV or taking their family on an adventure by RV.