how to keep your boat water tank clean

Date posted: 18 July 2013

What’s in your water tank!When you turn your boat taps on, is there a funny smell? Does your water have a ‘tang’ to it when sampled?
Is this your boat, then read on!
The biggest problem is frequently the PVC hose lines leading to the water tank. Your pipes should still be clear in the bilges, if they are opaque or black, you have a problem. These pipes are really hard to clean; I cleaned what I could of the shorter hoses with a long handled bottle brush. The longer hoses I removed and cleaned with a heavy solution of Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, three 200g containers of Bicarbonate of soda and several bottles of vinegar, purchased from a convenience store or online

 You should expect the combined ingredients to foam as you pour the solution in, using a bung and rolling the solution periodically over a twenty four hour period. Then I pulled the bottle brush through, this thoroughly cleaned the pipes, leading to the water tank.
Now moving to your water tank,  you could try filling your water tank with a weak bleach and water solution (4 oz household bleach to 5 gallon water) and recirculation the water through the lines by letting the taps run for a few minutes and then shutting them down, don’t leave the mixture in the water tank and lines; flush out the same day. If you leave the bleach solution, damage can be caused to the  water tank and fittings. Take extra special care with bleach if you have stainless steel or vinyl tanks. It has been noted on a number of forums that tanks of only a few years old have had their internal welds, re welded or seals split. Some experts reckon that bleach may have attacked the welds/seams.

You will then need to flush your water tank out three or four times through all the taps, to remove the chloride. On the last wash out, add a large quantity of white vinegar ( a few bottles) to remove the smell of the bleach. Wash this through the next day.

Be careful with vinyl  water tanks; make sure that you do not leave the bleach solution in for too long, otherwise you will get pin prick leak damage to the lining and damaged seals. Also you need to move the bag about when it is only half full to remove any algae from the lining, rinsing through thoroughly, otherwise the algae that has come away from the lining will continue to come through your pipes. ( I ruined our water tank by putting in a too strong solution of chemicals and leaving them in for the winter – foolish and expensive new boat owner error!)

I gained access to my vinyl water tank from the inlet hose fixings. But before I even undid the hoses we cleaned the top of the water tanks thoroughly then I pushed a clear hose into the tank and hovered/sucked up the small amount of debris in the bottom of my tank using a syphon. This debris can be flakes of paint, algae, or mud deposits, all adding that certain unwelcome flavor to your water supply.  This process involved holding a torch with my teeth, the vinyl  water tank with one hand and the hose with another hand, whilst my friend pumped the syphon…all very tricky! But very satisfying when you empty the container into the sink and see all the yuk!

 As an alternative to using a variety of environmentally harmful products, this product has been mentioned on a number of forums, Simple Green, this product is labeled non toxic. Simple Green All purpose formula is biodegradable and non-toxic, but is NOT a disinfectant, and approved for use in food service and health care and can go straight into water tanks. Use a 1:60 mixture as the label suggests, meaning a gallon makes 60 gallons dilute solution –
When filling your  water tank,

Make sure that the O-ring in your deck water fill cap is in good condition. You don’t want water leaking in from alternative sources.

Make sure the hose you fill your  water tanks is in good condition, let the water run through the hose for enough time to flush out the hose itself. A hose filled with water, sitting in the sun, can play host to all kinds of growth. Better still, bring your own hose and make sure it is emptied out after each use.

Water filters,

If you have a filter on your fill cap, be aware that if it contains carbon, this will remove the chloride from the water, which means your water will not stay ‘fresh’ very long in your  water tank. There are many different types of water filters for the main tank and your taps and also Ultra-violet water sterilizing systems, where the water is sterilized as it passes through the UV system. I haven’t tested any of these, so I am afraid I can’t comment or add much more to this, but if anyone reading this would like to make a comment about their own filtration system I would be pleased to hear from them.
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I hope you enjoyed reading the article on water tanks and that it has been of some assistance to you.

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