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Cleaning The RV Water system

The following should be accomplished before initially installing the RVF-1 system and prior to changing the filter cartridges. This procedure should also be accomplished anytime the water quality in the RV water supply tank or on-board systems is questionable. This procedure requires approximately 3 hours. Of course, it should be performed at a time when the water can be turned off in the RV.

We have found that using a siphon for injection of soap and bleach makes the job of cleaning the RV water system much easier than any other method.  A siphon is included with a new RVF-1 filter system. The siphon may also be ordered from us, if needed.

List of required items:

  • Clean, drinking water safe hoses
  • Pliers
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic bag for disposal of old filters
  • Siphon mixer
  • Clean 1 gallon water container or plastic water jug
  • Safety glasses
  • Liquid soap – dish or laundry
  • Bleach of 5.25 to 6.0% Sodium Hypochlorite
  • New filters and O-rings as required

Because we are going to fill and dump water for this procedure, your RV should be hooked up to sewer and water. Before starting, review the RV manufacturers instruction manual for tank and water system cleaning information. If at any time there is a conflict between this procedure and manufacturers instructions, the manufacturer instructions take precedence.

Extreme care should be taken when performing the following procedure. Wear rubber gloves when handling used filters and wash your hands between each step. When the old filters are removed from the filter housings, immediately place them in a sealable plastic bag and dispose of them. Handle used filters as if they were hazardous material. Used filters can contain or hold some nasty contaminants. People with compromised immune systems, women who are pregnant and young children should not handle used filters or dirty housings. Wear safety glasses at all times during the cleaning process. Bleach can be damaging to your skin and especially eyes. Follow manufacturers instructions regarding handling and precautions.

For this procedure you will need liquid dish or laundry soap and household bleach in a concentration of 5.25% or better. Clorox bleach is recommended, not more than 3 months old. The newer “Clorox Ultra” is a little stronger than straight Clorox, but works fine. Do not use bleach that has any additives, such as fragrance or cleaning agents. Use plain bleach.

First, remove all filters currently in use. That may include the main water entry filter, icemaker filter, the point of use filter at the kitchen sink and shower filter if installed. Make sure all water lines are reconnected once the filters are removed or you will have a mess in the RV.

If you are going to replace the RVF-1 filters, remove the cartridges and wash the empty filter housings with water and soap. Rinse well. Fill the housings with water and add a teaspoon of bleach. Carefully reassemble the empty housings, shake to mix the bleach and allow to soak during the tank cleaning process. Our filter system is shipped clean and ready to install, so skip this step if you are installing a new Cove Systems, Inc. filtration system.

Drain all the water in the fresh water tank and system. All RV’s have a way to do this. Refer to your owner’s manual for the correct procedure. The owner’s manual should also show you where the low point drains are located. Drain the hot water tank and replace the drain plug. Make sure the hot water heater is turned off.

To inject soap and bleach into the fresh water tank, attach the siphon to the RV water inlet fitting as shown in picture 1. Attach a hose from the water supply bib to the inlet of the siphon. Use hose that is certified as safe for drinking water, normally white in color. The siphon mixer has a mix ratio of 16:1 and will be used to inject soap and bleach into the RV fresh water holding tank. Attach the small black siphon hose to the hose barb on the siphon.

Prepare a soap solution by filling a one gallon jug or container about half full of water. Then add 2 tablespoons of liquid soap for every 10 gallons of water tank capacity. Gently shake the container to mix the soap. Dish soap or good liquid laundry soap may be used. Our preference is dish soap with lemon.

Now turn the water on and start filling the fresh water tank.  While filling, place the end of the black siphon hose in the water/soap mixture. Make sure the end of the siphon hose goes all the way to the bottom of the container. Fill the fresh water tank completely. When water flows from the overflow, turn off the water.

Turn on the water pump, then turn on each faucet in the RV, one at a time, until you can smell the soap in the water. This includes the hot water faucets. The lemon scent will help in this step. Of course the hot water tank may take some time to refill. If possible, cycle the ice maker a couple of times to get the soap mixture through its plumbing.

When soap is evident at all the faucets, refill the water tank. We want it as full as possible. Allow the system to rest for at least 30 minutes. After the waiting period, turn on all faucets and drain the water tank into the waste holding tanks using the onboard water pump. A side benefit is the soapy water will help clean the waste holding tanks. Flush the toilet several times to get the soap solution into the black water tank.

If you have screen filters at the faucet outlets, you may find they will plug up from the debris and contaminants coming out of the water tank. If that happens, remove and clean the screens. Do not be surprised at what comes out of the taps. You may see some really ugly looking sludge and contaminants. If the tank was really dirty, or has not been cleaned in a long time, it may be wise to repeat the soap process.

After the soap/water has been drained from the supply tank, refill the tank with fresh water. Pump the rinse water through all the outlets in the same manner as above. Don’t forget to cycle the icemaker.

Now you are ready to sterilize the tank and water system. We want clean water for the rest of this procedure, so the first step is to install new filters in the clean housings. Rinse the housings thoroughly before installing new filters. Use new o-rings if available. Do not install any point of use filters yet, just the outside main filters. Be very careful to maintain cleanliness when installing the filter cartridges in the housings. Hook up the feed hoses to the filter system and the RV inlet. The siphon can remain attached to the RV water inlet or moved to the filter outlet as shown in picture 2.

Rinse the water container used for the soap application. For every 10 gallons of fresh water tank capacity, pour 2/3 cup of bleach into the container. Add water to make about one gallon, total.

Turn on the water and purge the air from the housings. On top of each housing assembly is a small stainless steel screw. Back this screw out to allow trapped air to escape from the housings.  Retighten the screws after purging the air from the housings. This is important so make sure all the air is expelled from the housings.  As before, place the black siphon hose in the bleach mixture. The siphon will draw the bleach mixture into the water tank. When all the bleach mixture has been evacuated from the container, remove the siphon and continue filling the water tank until water flows from the overflow. Shut off the water.

Draw water from each faucet until you can smell bleach. Make sure every faucet is operated and bleach is evident, including hot water faucets.  Cycle the icemaker. Refill the water tank and turn the water off at the hose bib.

Allow the system to rest for a minimum of 1 hour. Two hours is better. Overnight is excellent, if possible.

Now open all the faucets and pump all of the water in the fresh water tank into the waste holding tanks. Again, make sure the toilet is flushed several times. Fill the fresh water tank and flush all the outlets until all traces of bleach are gone. Dump the waste holding tanks and return the whole system to normal operation. It may be necessary to repeat this process if the system was exceptionally dirty.

If water is to be stored in the fresh water supply tank it needs to be chlorinated. We suggest that any water going into the fresh water tank be chlorinated, even municipal water. Of course, if you use well water it is essential the water be treated. Place one teaspoon of bleach in the tank for every 10 gallons of water. Use the siphon and the same procedure as before for this. Don’t forget to replace the filters inside the RV for the icemaker, etc.

Please remember that bleach should not be pumped through the RVF-1 filter system. Always inject bleach down-stream from the filters. Large amounts of bleach may harm the filter media. Also, the bleach may be filtered out, defeating the sterilizing process.

Use the treated water when not hooked up to a water source, such as while traveling between destinations or dry camping. A slight bleach odor should be evident at the RV faucets if the concentration is correct. If not, repeat the bleach process as described above until bleach is noted. This will protect the RV fresh water system from recontamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests a bleach concentration of 3 parts per million (ppm). This is easily checked using a test kit, if desired. We suggest you process and store drinking water as described in the section titled “Bottling And Storing Drinking Water”.

While hooked up to a water supply, feed water from the filter system directly into the RV, bypassing the fresh water tank. Now enjoy using nice, clean water.

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