Should You Use RV Dump Gloves?
There are basically two types of gloves for handling the dirty work of dumping RV holding tanks. RV dump gloves seem to be either flimsy disposable gloves or more durable sanitation gloves that are meant to be washed and reused.
Of course, disposable gloves can be washed and reused as well, but they have a tendency to tear and/or get small holes in them after several uses. There is a surprising amount of controversy among the RV community about whether you really need to wear gloves for dumping your RV.
The health danger from RV sewage comes from E.coli and other bacteria that inhabit the digestive system. If you’re only handling plastic hoses, can’t you just wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after you dump? In this article, we’ll try to sort out what the facts are, and we’ll look for the truth in this ongoing debate.
Dumping RV tanks without gloves
Advocates of glove-free, bare-handed dumping argue that using dump gloves is wasteful and bad for the environment. They make the point that they are only handling the exterior of plastic hoses used exclusively for their own family’s black tank matter. No sewage gets onto the hoses. As long as they wash or sanitize their hands afterward, they are just as safe from becoming ill as they would be wearing gloves for dumping their tanks. Here is a sampling of what the bare-handers are saying:
“I don’t use them and have never gotten wet or contaminated. My hoses have always been clean and dry externally. Nothing has ever escaped on gotten on anything it shouldn’t.” – TN Chuck100
“Always. Even if I dont have any issues, Who knows what accident the previous person had and what they touched.” – clubhouse
“I always use gloves. Many people do not wash their hands after visiting public restrooms to do their business (both #1 and #2). I think that most of us have observed this fact no matter what public restroom is used. I assume that some of these are the same folks who do not wear gloves nor wash their hands after visiting the RV dump station. Even if there is no spillage, an RV owner still has to handle the sewerage hose, unscrew it, wash it out, and then work to stuff it back into the bumper or other holder.
As clean as someone may personally be at the dump station, who knows what a previous person has done or touched? Many state parks have potable water stations located at the dump station—usually about 25 feet away. I never use those fresh water sources because as both clubhouse and cm1159ps mention, who knows what a previous user may have done with not only the non-potable water source, but the (allegedly) potable one nearby?” – dewey02
The argument for gloveless, bare-handed dumping seems to make sense (on the surface). However, there are some very strong arguments for using dump gloves whenever you dump your waste tanks.
The case for wearing RV dump gloves
It goes without saying that RV sewage is as smelly and gross as any sewage in your house sewage system. But it’s not only smelly and gross. RV sewage is a health hazard because it contains fecal matter. Fecal matter contains E.coli bacteria.
For the most part, E. Coli bacteria lives unnoticed in your digestive system. However, in large enough concentrations, certain strains can wreak real havoc on your health. Droplets of sewage can contain a high enough amount of E. coli to cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, or even death within three or four days of handling it.
On top of that, numerous intestinal parasites, norovirus, Hepatitis A, and Rotavirus are spread through contact with trace amounts of feces, including microscopic droplets that may be present at the dump station.
Our hands might not be in direct contact with sewage when we are dumping our tanks. However, we can’t say that about all the RVers who hit the dump station before us. Maybe they got splashed and then rinsed their hands and sewer hose, using the hose and tap handle at the dump station. Now our hands will be contaminated with someone else’s sewage if we use that hose or tap. Gross.
“Over Labor Day weekend, we witnessed a guy who got splashed real good with his black tank contents. I felt so bad for the guy because he had it all over him. My 6-year-old daughter asked out of the blue if I thought that man was married. I said, ‘Probably, why?’ She replied, ‘Because he probably has her poo all over him too!’ I couldn’t argue that logic!” – CruizinKim
Yes, you can wash your hands and/or use sanitizer after dumping your tanks without dump gloves. However, this isn’t as effective for disease prevention as using disposable dump gloves and then washing your hands afterward.
You can get ill from contact with trace amounts of sewage. RV dump gloves will completely block contact with sewage, drastically reducing the chance you’ll get sick. It just makes sense to use them.
Take your dump gloves off properly
After you dump, it’s important to use a good sterile technique for taking your dump gloves off. This way, any sewage or droplets that land on your gloves won’t wind up on your skin. Here’s a video about how to do that.
Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.
Lynne lives, travels, and works full-time in a Forest-River R-Pod 180 with her 2-pointers, Jolene and Annabelle. Lynne has been an enthusiastic RVer for over 35 years. And then one day in 2019, she began full-time RVing as a lifestyle experiment. She quickly fell in love with the convenience, freedom and minimalist lifestyle offered by full-time RV living. Lynne is a professional writer and has been a professional dog trainer since 1995. You can read about her travel adventures on her R-Pod Adventure blog, R-podyssey at: http://www.rpodaventure.com
I have never used gloves…but I am a solo RVer and it’s just my stuff. I also have a water bid w/ hot/cold water at my tank controls and immediately was my hands….and maybe more than once… 😉
Stayed at a reasonably nice KOA last weekend. Their dump stations all had hoses already attached and they asked guests to use the attached hose rather than their own hose. Since most of the sites didn’t have sewer hookups, every morning there were a lot of folks lining up to dump. Having the hose already hooked up properly to the hole and only having to twist it onto your rig, dump and twist off, tossing the hose back into the dumpsite area did speed up dumping… a lot. This makes the case for using gloves as you are using a communal hose. But even when I use my own hose, I use disposable gloves. Accidents can happen and I don’t want to touch raw sewage. On top of that, I always wash up immediately after dumping before taking off so that I don’t bring any contaminants into my rig or on my steering wheel.
Did you put gloves on to change your baby’s diaper and do you do it to wipe your butt?
Tom Miller says
I hauled and unloaded hazardous chemicals in bulk tankers for 35 years. The waste coming out of the RV tanks is just as hazardous. I use black chemical gloves when dumping the waste tanks.
GR Johnson, MD says
As a surgeon and highly tuned in to sterile technique and contamination issues, I see FAR MORE problems WITH gloves than without gloves (outside of the operating room, that is). When a glove gets contaminated on the outside, so many start TOUCHING other things and then whatever they touch becomes contaminated by the gloves. They take off the gloves and think they have been “sterile.” Gloves or no gloves, after handling black tank anything, one MUST SCRUB with soap and water while you sing happy birthday to yourself twice…..as a minimum. Alcohol gel can be used if you cannot scrub. PLEASE SCRUB. I do not use gloves when doing black tank chores. Why? It makes one “extra careful” how you handle things and you can feel any contamination and know you have to scrub it off well.
I see a lot of cross contamination going on when people where gloves! Those that don’t seam to be more careful! I had 7 kids do you know how many diapers I’ve changed? Never used gloves for that!
Jack Hall says
I agree with the surgeon. I also work in health care and took multiple bacteriology courses, although I am not a surgeon. Reusable gloves are a joke and a SOLID guarantee of contamination if you do not wash them AND your hands thoroughly. The problem with disposable gloves is that you have to take them off, and, unless you have been lucky during the dump process and careful removing them, you now have contaminated hands ANYWAY, and need to wash them thoroughly. I think disposable gloves give people a false sense of security, I dump bare handed, am careful when I do, and IMMEDIATELY wash my hands thoroughly inside the rig with soap and hot water. I am germophobic enough that I ask my wife to open the door for me so that I do not touch (contaminate) the door handle. Sorry, but if you are behind me in line when I dump, you will just have to wait for me to wash my hands before I pull out. On rare occaisions, when the line is three deep or more, I DO drive out of the way before washing my hands, followed by a full wipedown of the door handle, the keys, and the steering wheel with a bleach soaked wipe. I keep bleach in a small bottle in both the bathroom and the kitchen, and I use a regular wet wipe and add my own bleach. Now that I think about it, I think I will get a dollar store bottle of bleach and put it in my storeage compartmen filled with a 50/50 solution, and just splash some on my hands for when I need to leave quickly.
people useally get immune to each others bacteria
in a household. but if someone is ill you really should use pp . medical lab courier we had nitrile
gloves and hand gell or foam in all cars. even though the tubes were in bio hazard bags
better safe than sick. and you do need to remove them properly not like you see on Hollywood medical shows in fact most medical shows would kill half or more patients
Gary Broyles says
I keep a bottle of bleach/water in the rear compartment of the Airstream to use on the sewer hose connectors and to sanitize my hands. I then wash my hands. I also keep a soap/water spray bottle in the same bucket to check for propane leaks.
Mike B. says
Good article. Thank you. I have used gloves most of the time and plan to always use them in the future. I also keep a push dispenser bottle of hand sanitizer in the wet bay & use it after I’m done & have removed the gloves.
Some information on types & sizes of gloves would be helpful. All the gloves I have tried are a hassle to get on & off. I’ve ripped more than one trying to get them on. Currently I have one size fits most powderless vinyl gloves, but they are too small and hard to get on.
My hands are pretty average size. I see XL gloves with powder on Amazon and wonder if they would be better.
I use disposable gloves to initially connect the hoses together but if we are staying in a park long term I don’t use gloves to pull the valves.
Bill Jones says
I volunteer in an ER. I wear gloves for everything and change them after every task. I also wear them when I set up and tear down for dumping. the secret is to remove the gloves withiut touching your skin with the outside of the gloves.
Pinch the outside of the first glove with your gloved hand and remove it. Them slide your index finger under the second glove and remove it. At this point, only the inside of the gloves should be exposed, then wad up the gloved and dispose them.
Instead of sliding your index finger into the remaining glove. Use the first glove, which should be inside out after you removed it, to remove the second glove.
You are a medical professional and know how to use the gloves. Too many people put the gloves on, do the dump, and then go and handle the potable water before removing the contaminated gloves. They don’t know they should remove and replace the gloves whenever they handle a new system so they don’t transfer the contamination. That or they are just too cheap to use that many gloves since they have to buy them, unlike medical facilities where they are supplied.
I’m with the no glove folks. I make sure everything flows through the hoses. I don’t touch anything until I clean and sanitize.
I’ve seen too many people wearing gloves use the dump stations and then move over and handle the potable water while wearing the same gloves they used to dump with. Gross!
Soap and water will clean your hands if you use it, but when you expect everything to stay clean because your hands are clean and you handle the potable water with your sewage gloves on, you are part of the problem.
Bacteria doesn’t travel through your skin. You don’t need gloves if you’re any good.
Just wash your hands when you are done. Problem solved.
I ALWAYS wear gloves. Either medical surgical gloves or heavy duty water proof ones. I also use antibacterial wipes on the water faucet hose outlet at our site. We’re probably over doing it but you do what you feel is best for your situation. We love RVing so we’re just going to take extra steps to be safe and healthy. Seen far too many disasters when it comes to sewer/draining your sewer.
The photo at the start of this blog cracks me up. The individual is all gloved-up, but yet is wearing sandals/flip-flops at the dump station. I see this all the time. I’ve seen folks take off the gloves an apply hand sanitizer to their hands, but no one ever bothers with their feet.