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  • Writer's pictureR&A Cleansing

A Guide to Holding Tank Cleaning for Your Boat or Vehicle

If you own a boat or large goods vehicle, you will have a holding tank sewage system for internal liquid waste management. Holding tank cleaning is an essential measure to take for a variety of reasons, from preventing odours to protecting the environment. Whilst it is possible to personally undertake holding tank cleaning yourself, it can be a good idea to find a professional holding tank service to comprehensively clean your boat or vehicle’s liquid waste management system.

Read on to learn more about holding tank sewage systems, why they need cleaning, and where you can find the best holding tank services.

moored boat

What Is A Holding Tank?

A holding tank is a waste management system for boats or vehicles which stores waste materials, such as sewage and greywater. The holding tanks are designed specifically as a waste management system that prevents waste from being released directly into the environment - these can be incredibly harmful to the water or land.

Constructed with durable materials such as plastic or metal, they are also fitted with pumps and bespoke gauges to ensure waste materials are disposed of effectively and safely. Holding tanks require regular maintenance to ensure that it operates correctly. If it isn’t maintained, waste will not be properly disposed of and the contents of the holding tank will harm the surrounding environment.

It is worth knowing that on boats, holding tanks are typically used to store sewage waste with greywater tanks holding wastewater from sinks, showers, and other sources. The holding tanks for vehicles such as RVs or camper vans may store both sewage and greywater together.

The Importance Of Holding Tank Cleaning

As a liquid waste management solution, a holding tank will require cleaning and other steps of maintenance throughout its lifespan. You can clean your holding tank sewage system or have a holding tank service perform this process, in order to comprehensively ensure all is working as it should be. There are countless reasons why holding tank cleaning is so important.

Health and Safety

A holding tank without cleaning can make for a harmful liquid waste management system. If it is seriously dirty, harmful bacteria and pathogens can develop, causing illness and infections. As a sewage system, this process doesn’t take long, necessitating a regular cleaning service that can help stop any nasty microorganisms from thriving or spreading.

Odour Control

As a waste management system, holding tanks store a large amount of sewage and greywater. This can create unpleasant and noxious odours which can be unpleasant for those inside the boat or vehicle. This can be a rather problematic issue for you and your boat or vehicle, making it a place of discomfort rather than pleasure and harming the impression you might want to make on friends or guests. Using a holding tank cleaning service can prevent odours and keep everything smelling fresh!

Environmental Impact

If you release untreated waste from your holding tank sewage system into the environment, this can cause pollution and harm aquatic life. A holding tank’s contents contain toxic chemicals, harmful bacteria, viruses, and nitrogen, all of which can be transmitted to the environment. This not only causes environmental damage but the laws and regulations governing the disposal of waste mean that incorrectly disposing of holding tank waste can result in various legal problems.

Prevents Blockages

Over time, your holding tank sewage system will become full of solid waste material. This can accumulate at such a rate that creates blockages in the plumbing system. With blockages in the holding tank, cleaning is essential to prevent backups and malfunctions. A malfunctioning holding tank can lead to costly repairs and downtime for your boat or vehicle.

If you suspect a blockage, it is important to contact a holding tank service to inspect the situation, as this can cause a system failure. The tank's sensors may not accurately indicate when the tank is full, and this can cause sewage to overflow into the boat or vehicle, causing a hazardous and unpleasant situation.


If you’re looking to ever sell your boat or vehicle, a well-maintained and cleaned holding tank can significantly increase its value. Prospective buyers will be more likely to consider purchasing a vessel that has a clean holding tank system, as less maintenance will be required in the future.

What Does Holding Tank Cleaning Involve?

  1. When cleaning holding tank sewage systems, the cleaning service will begin by inspecting the tank and plumbing system to determine the location and condition of the tank, the type of waste material present, and any potential issues that may need to be addressed.

  2. The holding tank cleaning service will then use a powerful vacuum pump to pump out the waste material from the holding tank. The pump will be connected to a hose that is inserted into the tank through a small access port. The waste material is then pumped into a holding tank on the cleaning service's truck or boat for transport and disposal.

  3. After the waste material has been removed, the cleaning service will flush the tank with fresh water to remove any remaining solids or debris. This is typically done using a high-pressure water hose that is inserted into the tank through the same access port used for pumping.

  4. A cleaning agent may be added to the tank to kill bacteria and neutralize any remaining odours. The cleaning agent is typically added through the access port and allowed to sit for a period of time to ensure proper cleaning.

  5. After cleaning and sanitizing the tank, the cleaning service will inspect the tank and plumbing system to ensure that everything is functioning properly. They may also test the tank for leaks and check the level sensors to ensure accurate monitoring of the tank's contents.

  6. The waste material removed from the holding tank is transported to a licensed disposal facility for proper disposal.

Why Use A Holding Tank Cleaning Service

Professional Equipment and Expertise

Holding tank cleaning services have access to specialised equipment and techniques that are not readily available to the average boat or vehicle owner. They have powerful vacuum pumps, high-pressure water hoses, and cleaning agents that can effectively and safely clean holding tanks.

They also have the expertise to identify and address any issues with the tank and plumbing system. This can help prevent any further issues, such as blockages or backups. Ultimately, this will save you both time and money in costly repairs.

Safe and Environmentally Friendly Disposal

Holding tank cleaning services know how to properly dispose of the waste material removed from the tank. They transport the waste material to licensed disposal facilities for proper treatment and disposal, ensuring that no harm is done to the environment.

Peace of Mind

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your holding tank can give you peace of mind knowing that your waste management system is functioning properly, protecting your health and the environment, whilst also complying with regulations. You won't have to worry about unpleasant odours, health hazards, or plumbing issues that can spoil your boating or travelling experience.

Hiring a holding tank cleaning service can be a convenient option for busy boat and vehicle owners. They can come to your location at a time that's convenient for you, saving you the hassle of transporting your boat or vehicle, an easy step to provide peace of mind while out on the water or road.

Where To Find Holding Tank Cleaning Services

Does your holding tank require cleaning? Enjoy your boat or vehicle with rest assured that its liquid waste management system is entirely functional and well-maintained. Based in Cornwall, R & A Cleansing offers holding tank cleaning services to both domestic and commercial clients, emptying and ensuring that they are safe and fully operational.

Cleaning a holding tank by yourself is an arduous and logistically-complex process. Let the experts manage the maintenance of your liquid waste management system, with R & A Cleansing providing an efficient and time-efficient service which causes minimal disruption to you. We also provide septic tank emptying, cesspit emptying, and Klargester emptying services if you don’t have a septic tank fitted on your boat or vehicle.

Get in touch with R & A Cleansing today for holding tank cleaning services. Call us at 01566 782 852 to speak to a friendly member of our team and learn more about our liquid waste management solutions.

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