Use bleach spray bottle for campground tap

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  • #747

    Reposted by Ray

    Steve and Dianne Colibaba posted an update 


    One tip I found useful was to carry a spray bottle full of bleach. Before connecting to the campground tap I give it a quick spray to sterilize it. If the tap is low enough it may of been used by a dog to relieve himself. And you never know if a previous user has rinsed the inside of his sewer hose with it. I have seen people do strange things during our 39 months of full timing…like not wearing gloves when dealing with the sewer hose then touching everything that you will have to touch.


    Excellent idea for the water tap! Should I have a spray bottle with straight bleach, or diluted?

    No gloves…..disgusting!  Why do so many dump stations not have a trashcan to toss the gloves in when done?The entire AREA around dump stations is GROSS, even if you can’t see it!!  I keep hand sanitizer in my truck door before touching anything inside my truck.  $1 at Dollar Tree


    I hear ya on the lack of  trashcans.  It’s amazing how many people will still leave used gloves, broken  sewer hoses etc. anyway.

    I use straight bleach. My understanding is once you dilute bleach it degrades rapidly.


    Both, excellent tips.  I use gloves but had not thought of using disposable ones.  That would be a lot easier than gloves that I have to wash off.

    Just to reinforce what you both have said — I owned and operated water testing laboratories for most of my career and tested water from campground taps for bacteria hundreds of times.  Virtually all of them are contaminated simply because of bugs, spiders, frogs, and other critters.  I have frequently seen birds drinking from taps.  And worst of all, filthy hands.  Since, I was testing the water, not the tap, the standard routine required by all testing labs is to douse the tap with alcohol and put a torch to it to burn off the alcohol then to run the water before taking the sample.  Very seldom would a campground sample be positive for indicator bacteria.  You do not want to use a flame on a tap with rubber/plastic gaskets.  Bleach will work pretty well also – full strength.  Iodine works better.

    You should also disinfect you intake fitting.  And at least once a year shock chlorinate your freshwater tank and supply lines and taps.  If there is any bacteria in your system, it will likely build up over time.

    I have never tested RV water but that would be interesting.


    CBreaze is right, hand sanitizer is a good idea, I keep a bottle in the truck and the storage compartment beside the sewer hookups.

    Want to hear something gross? In the RV park we spent the summer there is a dump station just off the main roadway, which has a bit of a grade to it.

    More then once I’ve seen people pull up and dump WITHOUT A HOSE! They pull tight to the drain hole area and let it go. Of course it overflows and starts heading down the main street. Lucky our site was well away from this.

    I think most were the summer rental crowd and just didn’t know any better.

    The other one I see quite often is people filling their drinking water tank with the dump station hose that everyone else is jamming inside the poo hose to rinse it out. 😀



    The other one I see quite often is people filling their drinking water tank with the dump station hose that everyone else is jamming inside the poo hose to rinse it out. :D

    ICK!!!!!!! Quit it, you guys!

    I’ve heard that Simple Green is a good antibacterial spray for the water spigot too.  Is that true, George?



    Hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, bleach or iodine.  Thanks guys – had not really thought about that end of the RV business.  Once did a rehab project on a small sewage treatment station – had to have several immunization shots before going on site, we had a disinfectant shower station, exposure suits, face shields, step off mats, etc.  Almost a full hazmat set-up!  And you are telling me people just dump and hope it goes into the dump tank?


    Norma,  Regarding Simple Green.  We might be over thinking this a bit.  First, just being aware and some common sense is going to be adequate for most situations.

    There are three ways to deal with pathogens: Disinfectants, antibiotics, and surfactants.  Common soap is a surfactant the causes the little critters just slide off the surface they are on.  Disinfectants include bleach and alcohol or other aggressive chemicals.  These can be too harsh of use on human skin but kill pathogens by destroying cell walls; pathogens don’t tend to build an immunity to them.  And antibiotics that you might commonly use come in those hand wipe and dispensers.  They work through a variety of means but usually by biotic means especially through proteins.  These are generally pretty gentle to the skin.  As we know, pathogens can adapt and evolve to become immune to antibiotics.

    It is generally considered good form not to use antibiotics when something else is available.  Soap works fine on hands, clothing, etc.  But might require a brush to get into hard to reach places like threads on a tap — but will generally work for our purposes.  Also, if it gets into your freshwater tank may foam and have an objectionable taste.

    Here is what Wikipedia has to say about bleach:”Positives are that it kills the widest range of pathogens of any inexpensive disinfectant, is extremely powerful against viruses and bacteria at room temperature, is commonly available and inexpensive, and breaks down quickly into harmless components (primarily table salt and oxygen).

    Negatives are that …it is not effective against Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium…”  (in cyst form) Which might be a concern at well or spring supplied water at campgrounds.

    To answer Norma’s question, while Simple Green is not identified as any of these, looking at the ingredients it appears it would function as combined surfactant and disinfectant.  I doubt it is a good as a bleach/soap solution but should work just fine.  (I wish I still had my lab as it would be fun to check out).

    I should mention that all public water supplies must (under the requirements of the Federal (and states’) Clean Water Act) must test their water (for Total Coliform Bacteria (the bacterial equivalent of a lab rat)) on a regular basis, must post a notice of a positive result (ie. bacteria were detected), and make results available to the public. If you are concerned you can ask a campground supervisor for the results (also most are documented by the local health departments).  City water is also required to have a Chlorine Residual.  I mention this because if you have filled your tank with city water, there is probably enough chlorine still present to keep your system clean.

    Like I said, this is all probably overkill for our purposes (but I hope of some interest).  Just use common sense, you will be fine.

    And don’t drink downstream from the herd…


    I had posted this as a tip on Love Your RV and someone had suggested using vinegar as an alternative to bleach and another person recommended stuff called Benefect.

    As part of what I do for a living I have to disinfect items, kill mold, staph, etc. If you read a bleach bottle you will find in addition to being able to blind you, it needs to stay wet on a surface to kill many bad things like staph, for 15 minuets. A good Microbial, (I prefer “Benefect” its food grade and kills almost everything on contact). Simple Green will do the same thing but he manufacturer prefers not to advertise that.

    They seemed to really be against bleach, personally I’ve used it diluted with water in a spray bottle for years to disinfect the cutting board and counter-tops in the kitchen. I can’t see a little on the water spigot being an environmental  catastrophe, but to each his own. I mean it can’t be as bad as cat pee, nothing is that bad. 🙂


    Ray, I wouldn’t rely on vinegar. While mildly acidic, it is organic. It might kill some things or prevent the growth of some in canned foods, it is not considered a disinfectant.

    Benefect, I am researching. But haven’t heard of Thyme as having powerful disinfectant properties — but I could be wrong. (In followup, Thyme oil extract does have significant antimicrobial properties according to reputable research. Contacted Benefect for independent research on their product)

    Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) does require longer contact time than alcohol or iodine (the two other common disinfectants). But stays in the hypochlorite state longer than one would think. If you can smell it, it is still working.

    In preforming the tests required for all public water supplies, I have always used 95% alcohol on spigots that samples were collected from. I have never had (or heard of any of my colleagues having a contaminated sample as tested for Coliform, Fecal Coliform, or EColi. I water supply meeting the zero detection limit is considerable safe by State and Fed requirements. But that standard may be too low…

    As I said earlier, aside from vinegar and antibiotics, use what you want (thought I am kind of leaning towards Simple Green myself), just clean taps and keep your hoses and house system clean (aseptic). If after all this discussion you are wondering about your house system, take a sample to a water testing lab and have them run a standard Total Coliform test ($15-$20).

    Just for the record, there are other way to disinfect a system, UV light (as in sunlight), desiccation (most bacteria die when exposed to air for extended time and dry out), heat (direct flame (the most effective way, it kills everything), filtration at micro levels (does’t kill them but keeps them out of your water and good for backpacking drinking water), AND last but not least, your own immune system.

    If, by this time, you may have become totally fanatical about insuring a clean hookup faucet, use alcohol and a propane torch. The campground owners may get pissed that you melted their back-syphon gasket but, hey, you will not have any contamination from the faucet. Ok, a little tongue and cheek there but true.

    Common sense guys, just common sense and you will be fine. … and don’t lick your fingers to turn a page in your book.

    (ps. Gee lets start one of these about fire safety)

    Ray Whyte

    Some more thoughts on sensitization:

    Vinegar Kills Bacteria, Mold and Germs

    Vinegar is a mainstay of the old folk recipes for cleaning, and with good reason.

    The vim of the vinegar is that it kills bacteria, mold and germs.

    Heinz company spokesperson references numerous studies to show that a straight

    5 percent solution of vinegar, the kind you can buy in the supermarket, kills 99

    percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses). He

    noted that Heinz can’t claim on their packaging that vinegar is a disinfectant since

    the company has not registered it as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection

    Agency. However, it seems to be common knowledge in the industry that vinegar

    is powerfully antibacterial. Even the CBS news show “48 Hours” had a special

    years ago with Heloise reporting on tests from The Good Housekeeping Institute

    that showed this.

    Just like antibiotics, common disinfectants found in sponges and household sprays

    may contribute to drug resistant bacteria, according to researchers of drug resistance

    at Tufts New England Medical Center. Furthermore, research at the Government

    Accounting Office shows that many commercial disinfectants are ineffective

    to begin with, just like antibiotics. Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5 percent vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board, and in your bathroom,

    and use them for cleaning. I often spray the vinegar on our cutting board before going to bed at night, and don’t even rinse,

    but let it set overnight. The smell of vinegar dissipates within a few hours. Straight vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet

    rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.

    I used chlorine bleach many years ago to sanitize the water system in the first trailer we owned. For that entire summer, we had to put up with the taste and smell of bleach in our fresh water. I did some research and since then have used vinegar to disinfect my water system. I add 1 litre (quart) to my empty fresh water tank, then fill it and run the pump to fill all the lines including the hot water tank. Let it sit overnight then drain the tank flush it once and add fresh water. No more taste or smell of bleach.

    One other concern with higher concentrations of chlorine bleach other than drinking water is the possible damage it can do to the PVC tanks and water lines. PVC is the type of plastic these components are made of, it stands for polyvinyl-chloride. The information I have gained over the years is…the chlorine in the bleach over time causes the stable chlorine in the PVC to react and DE-stabilize the PVC. Over time this degrades the plastic by leaching the plasticizers, which keeps the plastic flexible. Examples of chemicals that cause plastics to fail that we would all recognize. If you treat your car’s interior plastic surfaces and your tires, with products claiming to rejuvenate these surfaces and make them shine again, in a very short time you will see the treated areas begin to show cracks. This is the result of the plasticizers being released prematurely.

    IE. cracks in dashboards, vinyl seats and cracks on the side walls of tires that have been treated with certain products. Check out the products you use, short time gain can sometimes lead to longtime pain.


    Ok, I finished researching some of this. To spare you the details, this is a good list (based on laboratory research) of common disinfectants:

    Also researched Benefect, EPA has tested it for all label claims for Wide Spectrum use on hard, non-porus surfaces (that is the standard test along with 10 minute contact time). Bottom line it looks to be quite effective, safe for the environment and people. I can’t find a downside except price: ~$50/gal at Amazon

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