Help on Head/Holding Tank Odor - SailNet Community

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Old 06-27-2011
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Help on Head/Holding Tank Odor

I need help getting rid of holding tank/toilet odor. When I bought my boat I didn't notice any odor problem in the head. (But admittedly, it was winter.) As the weather warmed up, I noticed a problem with odor. I added West Extermin-odor and then pumped the tank, without any noticeable difference. Even now, with the tank emptied, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better. (I mostly daysail, and don't use the head much.) I don't see any evidence of a spill or leak from the head or the plumbing. This is my first boat big enough to have a head and holding tank, but I am pretty sure this problem is beyond the normal smell. I have seen some posts that suggest putting vinegar in the head, but the chemicals I got at West Marine say they are caustic (which I assume means alkalai), and I am afraid of the interaction if I mix the two. Should I pump raw water into the head to dilute and empty the tank again? How many times? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 06-27-2011
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Your problem is most likely the hoses. Sewage sits in them and permeates the rubber material. I just changed what looked like my original rubber hoses (1987 CS 30) with the new style white plastic hose from WM. The smell went away immediately.

This job can be a bear from reports I have heard from others. It was only a one hour job in my boat. A friend loaned me a heat gun to soften ends and make sharp bends. I really only needed it for one bend. Be careful with the heat. Low setting and only enough heat to accomplish the goal.

Double clamp all ends.....you knew that

Best of luck solving the problem.
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Old 06-27-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkSailor View Post
I need help getting rid of holding tank/toilet odor. ......
This needs clarification.. is the odor that of sewage or is it a rotten-egg H2S type of odor that is strongest when you first flush the head after a week or so?

If the latter it doesn't matter how clean your tank is or isn't.. this odor is coming from stagnant water in the intake line. Organisms in the water die there due to lack of circulation and decompose causing the smell.

It's unpleasant, to be sure, but once flushed through it rarely returns until there's an extended idle time. Not sure what you can really do about it other than to replumb and flush with fresh water (hard on supply) or arrange to somehow inject a bit of bleach into the suction line between uses.

If it is persistent 'sewer' smell then dmurray is likely on the mark.
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Old 06-27-2011
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Get hold of whats her names book. Peggy somebody or other. Headmistress. Getting rid of odours etc. She is on the money.

That said, before you leave boat pump a capful of white vinegar through the system and let some stand in the pipes and bowl. Even if you get some smell after a period of time it will disappear after a couple of flushes.

As DMurray says, the you beaut no odour hose really does work but not when dem widdle bugs die in the pipe.


edit - Peggy Hall ... Sanitation
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Last edited by tdw; 06-27-2011 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 06-27-2011
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Peggie Hall, headmistress...

One note, check to make sure your holding tank vent isn't clogged. Other than bad hoses, the number one culprit is a clogged vent fitting.
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Old 06-28-2011
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Hoses...hoses...by the good ones..they are worth it. If you dont want decomposing organisms smell from bay/ seawater...only use fresh waterin your head.

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Old 06-28-2011
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GREETINGS EARTHLINGS I agee with TDW but I use some cooking oil as well as the vinigar it helps keep everything well lubbed. If that doen'nt get shut of the pong try and use babby's bottle steriliser (Milton is a British brand) it is very good indeed gor killing whiffs or pongs . GO SAFE.
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Old 06-28-2011
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The basics:

clogged vent

seawater in inlet line - cure: connect head sink outlet to head intake and use fresh water on just the last flush of the day
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Was the holding tank retrofitted or did it come with the boat? In my retrofitted boat a PO installed the tank so that only pump out the top half of the tank. After one season I removed the tank (very carefully as it was half full). I drained and cleaned it with every chemical I could think of and, after a winter in my garage it still stank. I replaced the tank, head and hoses. no smell 3 years later.
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Old 06-28-2011
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Peggy Hall has it right on. You may already have permeated hoses. If so, you will only fix this by replacing them. She has a test: wrap them in hot wet towels and let stand. Remove the towel and smell them. If you sense the odor you have in the boat, its swap out time.

That said, I'm a devout follower of her methods. Never ever put chemicals, oils or anything other the toilet paper in the head. EVER.

Flush with substantially more water than seems necessary. You must move everything to the holding tank, so nothing but water sits in the lines. Check the lines to be sure they are routed without low spots that collect stuff.

Here's a tip I found brilliant. If you use a macerator to pump overboard (outside 3nm of course), you should flush 5 gallons of water as soon as it empties, which is roughly 5 full bowls, then pump that overboard as well so that sewage doesn't sit in the outlet line.

She describes that adding oil to lubricate your head will float on top of your holding tank and prevent aerobic bacteria from growing. You need aerobic bacteria, which does not smell, to break down contents. Without healthy aerobic bacteria, the anaerobic bacteria flourish and they are what stink.

Flushing a couple of bowls of fresh water before you leave for extended periods will prevent the sulphur smell from building in the lines between your head and holding tank. Its also flushes anything that may be lying in the lines. However, the line from the thru hull to your pump will still be loaded with seawater and will stink on your first flush. I push it through as a matter of opening the boat and it goes away.

We only clean with Raritan CP, which is safe for proper bacterial growth. It also has a pleasant smell that will overcome the sulphur smell on that first pump. A few drops, fill with stale water and flush. Its over.
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