Plumbing Issues

Looking down the rabbit hole…err…toilet drain.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I haven’t really published much on Tiny Living, mainly because I really don’t feel like I have a lot to contribute to the subject. I’m not an expert. I’m just somebody who lives in a tiny space. And, I haven’t been living in one very long–only about nine months so far. Moreover, I don’t really live in a “Tiny House”; I live in a “tiny house”–a travel trailer. It’s more like a redneck version of a “Tiny House.”

I mentioned this to a popular travel blogger at the Seattle WordCamp conference last week and asked him if he ever had to struggle with imposter syndrome. And, if so, how did he overcome it? He stopped me and said, “but you ARE the expert at YOUR tiny living. No one else is doing exactly what you’re doing. And, someone out there might be facing the same issues and looking for ways to overcome that. You can share those struggles and in return, it might help someone else. Besides, it’s part of your story. Your tiny living is the lifestyle you chose so that you could pursue your dreams with kayaking and traveling.”

He had a point. There are some issues with which I’ve struggled as I adapt to tiny living, so I am going to attempt to increase my blog posts to document these. And, in doing so, perhaps I can help someone else. Or, at least, hopefully, entertain a few readers along the way, LOL. Plus, it is part of my story. I made a conscious decision to cut costs by downsizing so that I could move to the Puget Sound area to pursue kayaking and hiking.

So anyway, I noticed this morning my toilet was clogged. I was a little puzzled because there are certain bodily functions which I choose to do in the park’s bathroom, rather than in my tiny, enclosed space. However, it looked like someone had shoved a giant wad of toilet paper in the pipe. I try to be very careful and cognizant about what I put down my drains because I don’t want to have to deal with nasty. But, there it was. Something to deal with after work! I headed off and forgot all about it as I got caught up in the work drama of the day.

I forgot to pick up a snake at Sprawlmart on my way home, so I thought I’d try driving the wad of paper down into the tank by dumping a bucket of water in the toilet. No joy! That only succeeded in filling the toilet with water. Next option…I searched my shed for an appropriate tool and found a really long drill bit. Normally, I wouldn’t shove an expensive drill bit down a toilet drain, but 1) I knew the wad was only toilet paper (see the above paragraph), and 2) I would rather chew off my own right arm than go to the store once I get home.

The drill bit managed to poke the wad of paper down into the tank (I think), where it sat. I could still see it, sitting right below the drain. Now, the thing to note is when I moved here, park rules require us to keep our black water tank valves open all the time. Using the holding tanks and then emptying them when filled overwhelms the park’s septic system.

I was hesitant to do this at first because it occurred to me if one were to do that, bodily waste is not enough liquid to flush paper down the drain, through the tank, through the sewer hose, and into the septic system. RV toilets are designed to use as little water as possible during flushing. Primarily, they use gravity to dispose of waste, dropping it straight down into the tank. The tiny bit of water used during flushing is simply to rinse out the bowl. It’s not enough to actually flush solid waste through the sewer system as a standard household toilet does. Therefore, while fluids might drain out, solid waste would accumulate. (Another reason why I choose to use the park’s facilities for certain bodily functions. I don’t want a big pile of s**t sitting under my house, even if it is enclosed in a plastic tank.)

I believe this is exactly what happened.

So, what to do now? That big wad of paper was sitting in the tank, just below the toilet. Further use would just increase the size of the wad, exacerbating the problem. I had to get enough water into the tank to flush out the solids. Moreover, the water would probably have to sit for a while to loosen anything that had solidified.

I closed the black water tank valve and checked the sewer hose. The hose was fine. I could hear water running through it unobstructed, so I knew the hose wasn’t an issue. I checked the levels of both the black water and gray water tanks. According to the sensors, the black water tank was about 3/4 full, and the gray water tank was empty. That’s partly good news because it means the problem was with the black water tank only.

I’m not sure how big the tank is, so I started pouring in buckets of water, a gallon at a time. After five gallons, I couldn’t see any change in the wad of paper at the bottom of the tank. But, I also didn’t want to overflow the tank, and I don’t know what that looks like when looking through the toilet. I checked the tank level again, and curiously, the sensor now read 1/2 full.

I’m not sure what that means. I’m hesitant to do much more at this point because I’m leaving for a conference in the morning and won’t be around to keep an eye on things. At this point, the tank is not full, so I don’t have to worry about it overflowing and leaking while I’m gone. It is closed now and does have water in it, so that will give solids a good chance to soften over the next few days.

And, I think I need to make that trip to Sprawlmart, but for some RV toilet treatment, instead of a snake.

But, tomorrow, not tonight.


Commando black water tank cleanerI couldn’t stand not seeing this through, so I made a quick trip to Sprawlmart and picked up some “Commando Black Holding Tank Cleaner.” There were a number of choices, all much less expensive than this one, but this is the only one that specified it was for black water holding tanks. It’s made to deal with the tough s**t! And, according to the package, it can clean a tank in only 12 hours, including the tank sensors. I’m not sure whether mine need cleaning, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt! And, unlike the other products, Commando describes itself as a treatment to be used quarterly, instead of continuously.

Cleaning my tank quarterly sounds like a good plan.

I dropped in a blue pod, added another four or five gallons of water, and I’ll let it ferment for a few days while I’m at the conference. Blue Commando podAs soon as I’m back, I’ll flush the tank and see how things go.