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Old 10-07-2008
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In a fiberglass or plastic tank, you can add a teaspoon of bleach to each gallon of water put in the tank. It will keep mold and bacteria from forming, but may taste/smell bad. The undersink filter from Home Depot will take out the smell and deliver good water for drinking, coffee, etc. Leave the bleach in the hot water lines, it will sanitize your dishes and won't hurt when you wash your hands. DO NOT do this in an aluminum tank! An annual chlorox shock and cleaning, followed by thorough flushing, will not destroy the aluminum, but long term exposure to bleach (even in small concentration) will. Every few years you will want to do a mechanical scrub inside the tank, whether plastic or metal. A gasketed screw-in deck plate can be put into the tank easily. My tank is 100 gallons, aluminum, horizontally mounted in the bilge, with two baffles in it to cut down on sloshing. I had one access hole, and after I cleaned as much as I could reach, I cut in two more access ports between the baffles with a sabre saw. There was an inch of crud on the bottom of the tank between the baffles! Until I bought the boat, the tank had never been properly cleaned in 25 years! I do an annual inspection, chlorox shock and flush, then keep it pure with an iodine based sanitizer. This routine is probably not as critical for a live-aboard, due to the higher usage, but as a weekend warrior and laid up for 4-5 months in winter, the water tanks can get pretty gross.
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1980 Endeavour 37 sloop, currently in the Mississippi near St Louis
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