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Odor from my toilet / holding tank

Discussion in 'Technical Discussion' started by bernmee, Sep 26, 2009.

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  1. bernmee

    bernmee New Member

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    So myself and my boyfriend are in the process of doing up a 1967 Chris Craft Constellation.We are new to boats and have our copy of Nigel Calder's bible on boats and a couple of boating people who are giving us tips as we go along.

    Our question is about the toilet. The toilet is getting very little, if any, use, we mostly just rinse water through it but it does smell, at times very bad. Sometimes its not too bad, other times we can't go below. We can't seem to find a pattern though.

    The toilet that is there right now is a manual pump on. We are trying to work out what level of smell, if any, we should be expecting. The holding tank and the toilet are beside each other but if I was to put money on it I would say that the room above the holding tank smells more then the toilet itself.

    We spoke to soem people in West Marine who said it was probably the pipes that need to be replaced. But my boyfriend would kill me if I made him change the pipes only to discover the smell is still there. We have discoverd from looking at books that our Chris Craft was orignal in every way, and I'm serioulsy beginning to wonder if the pipes are also original.

    So....what level of odor should we expect.

    Thanks for your help.

    Bernadette
  2. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    First the bad news: the best way to find the source of the odor is to get down there with your nose and start sniffing. 1) it sounds like you've got a salt water toilet. These tend to smell. Does it smell like waste or low tide? If low tide it's time for thorough cleaning and flushing with clean fresh water and deodorant. 2) If it smells like waste is there an inline filter such as you have with a vacuflush toilet? If so that may be your culprit. One time overfilling before pump out can do it. 3) it may well be the piping if it's plastic and changing that out is not that big a deal although not pleasant. 4) check the vent hose and all connections for leaks or disconnection. It could be venting or leaking inside the boat. 5) Is your holding tank plastic? If not there may be a leak or, if it is, it could be coming through old plastic. So now the big question: Do you love your boyfriend enough to sniff it out?:rolleyes:
  3. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    you need to find where the smell is coming from.

    here are some possibilities.

    with a raw water head (which takes water from outside the boat), you will always have a smell when you flush (get water in) when in salt water. there isn't much you can do about that, besides flushing often (it gets worst when the head is unused for a few days.) it comes from organic material which decomposes... algea, larvaes, wathever.

    Next is the smell you get after you flush. that's coming from the air inside the tank which is forced outside the vent when "stuff" comes in. that should be smelled outside only, unless you have a broken vent line inside the boat. You can try various chemicals in teh tank and stuff like odorloss. you can also put a charcoal filter on teh vent line. but again, that smell will be outside, after a flush, and quickly dissipate with the breeze.

    finally, hose permeation. it's a different smell, from inside. one test is to rub a rag on teh hoses and smell the rag. if it smells, the hose need replacing... now that said, hoses usually smell, so i often think this is a test suggested by hose vendors!

    my guess is most likely option nr 1... or nr 2 if the smell is outside.
  4. bernmee

    bernmee New Member

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    Oh dear...I really am a beginner. The toilet is not connected to any outside "source" to create the flush, so I have no idea if it is a sea water or fresh water "flush"...silly question here, how do I find out?

    Right now we are flushing it through with fresh water taken from a tap and poured in with a botle, it really is getting no other use.

    Am I correct in understanding that the smell that goes "outside" is taken up along the side of the boat and goes outside through a vent that is connected to the outside fresh air. If that is the case then we have that problem under control. When we bought it the boat stank inside and out, I was embarrassed, what would the neighbors say! Is there a possibilty that the vent could be broken and instead of the smell going outside it is staying inside. I did notice once when I poured water down it air bubbles started to come up in the toilet. They were huge and I was terrified that the whoe thing was going to start bubbling over.

    The smell is not one of sea water, but waste....and it hums, if you know what I mean. I will get out my handy manual and see if I can see which tubes are which.

    So another question...I didn't think you could put deoderant in the toilet...does it go directly in the holding tank rather then the toilet.

    Yes our holding tank is plastic, and probably as old as the boat itself, along with our vintage fridge, oven and very very yellow headliner!

    Also if it is a sea water intake, should I be putting vinegar and then a lubricant down the toilet, and how often.

    Thanks for all your help, I am a boat newbie, but a determined one. And yes I do love my boyfriend enough to find out what the problem is...online that is, the rest is up to him :)
  5. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    There should be a hatch in or just outside the head, but close. When you look in you'll see a valve and sea cock with a hose leading toward the head. If you have it; it's salt water. When you mention using water from the tap instead of pumping it in that hints to me that you could have a bad diaphragm (keeping you from pumping water in. If that's the case it could also be letting gas back up from the holding tank into the head. Again, the nose knows. Sorry, there is no substitute except changing out everything. If the diaphragm is shot it has to be replaced. Get out the manual or have the service dept. at your marina do it. Once it is changed I have heard of people using a few drops of vegetable oil periodically to help keep it lubricated although I haven't done it myself.
    Just like your house has a toilet vent pipe on the roof so too your boat has a vent on it's side to allow air to exit as waste takes up the space in the holding tank and yes smells will escape there, but if you keep your tank pumped regularly and don't eat chili your neighbors shouldn't be offended any more than you are of theirs. Sealand has a very good holding tank deodorant. After each pumpout pour 4 ounces straight down your toilet. Also, when you pump out, pump out, take a hose and pour in a couple of gallons of fresh water down the pumpout and then pump that out.
    Finally, If anybody needs a bathroom point to the one on shore. You'll never have nastier problems than you will from a marine head. Oh, and don't use Charmine. 4 or 5 sheets of single ply biodegradable toilet paper per flush only.
    Welcome to boating. Are you having fun yet?:) (and welcome to YF).
  6. 'RoundTheHorn

    'RoundTheHorn Senior Member

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    Resource

    For future reference, Peggy Hall is an authority on boat odors especially relating to head and MSD issues. She has written several articles for magazines and she has a book titled "Get Rid of Boat Odors: A Boat Owners Guide to Marine Sanitation Systems and Other Sources of Aggravation and Odor" from Seaworthy Press. It is available on Amazon. Here is the ISBN: 1-892399-15-6.
  7. bernmee

    bernmee New Member

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    Thank you for your replies

    Thanks for all this info. and the tip on the boat. It's so easy to get stuck by something when you just don't know what to be doing!

    While I have to admit it is all new to me I have printed this out and this combined with my Nigel Caldel's book and one of my friends who is a plumber I think we should be able to work it out...or maybe I should ask that question, is this something a house plumber would be able to work his way around?

    And yes I am having fun. We are about two weeks away from having it ready, and my boyfriend, an out of work carpenter, has done an amazing job with the wood, it's always been a dream of his to do up a wooden boat and move in, so here we are!

    I on the other hand am amazed at the wildlife that is in the water. Having lived in San Francisco for 8 years I just don't know why we didn't make this move before. I can't wait to get it fixed up and then take a trip up the delta.

    One thing we are still stuck on is counter tops...just can't seem to get that one down. We are a bit worried about weight and I had no idea how pricey they can be. Any suggestions?

    Bernadette
  8. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    Hi Bernie,

    Corian is a great counter top matieral, easy to router and bleach clean but very expensive.

    Good old Formica will do but after a while will delaminate in a steamy galley.

    Thin stainless steel works, easy to form over sealed marine plywood, easy to weld and easy to clean.
  9. Henning

    Henning Senior Member

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    You can have "no odor", but you have to work for it. First off, on a vessel that vintage, you may as well change out the hoses, and if you can, replace as much hose as possible with copper nickel or 316 stainless pipe and use as short of sections of Trident brand hose. If you can't afford to pipe it, get all Trident hose (no vested interest, do a bit of homework and you'll see why I say that). The hose itself gets permeated with the stank and makes the boat stink regardless. You also need to get rid of the sediment in the holding tank and start with clean. A metal tank is much much much more preferable to a plastic one. Disassemble the pump for the head as well and clear out the sediment there. You also have to provide adequate ventilation to your blackwater tank as the decomposition process needs oxygen to happen cleanly. Sometimes you need a forced air in system, some people even run bubblers.
  10. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    metal tank for a holdting tank? yeah... cheap taiwan trawler buidlers have were doing this in the 70s and 80s and we know how that turned out. It will corrode and after a few years you'll have leaks in your bilge.

    fiberglass is best but plastic is fine as long as the walls are thick enough.

    same with using metals on the piping... quality hose is fine... or if you have long section, heavy duty PVC.

    any metal in teh black water system is a lousy idea
  11. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Yes you household plumber friend can do the job. As for counter tops look around your local store. Corian is a great choice, and considering the small amount you'll be using, may not break the bank. Lots of other choices. Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2009
  12. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I agree totally. Most holding tanks, the smell comes from a blocked vent line. Second largest source of smell would be leaking or permeating smells from the sewage lines. I like the white holding tank hose if you're replacing it.

    Corian works really well. You can also use granite and can use it thin if you bond it to wood or divynicell. Merritt is using really thin Granite 3/8" and bonding it to divynicell.
  13. bernmee

    bernmee New Member

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    Thanks for all the help here, I now feel fully prepared, to pass on the info to my plumber friend!

    Bernadette
  14. dennismc

    dennismc Senior Member

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    Corian stains easily, specially from tea or cofee, diluted belach can clean it easily, if really bad, use 220 grit sandpaper.

    Toilet odors, get Peggy Halls book, remember, neve, never put any chemicals down the toilet, can easily destroy the rubber seals, again, read the book and thoroughly understand the installation before making changes.
    Good luck and pleasant odors.
  15. boblucas

    boblucas New Member

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    If your heads are salt water flushes, there is a good chance that, especially if they're not used enough, that the micro organisms in the salt water may be creating the problem. It seems that the newer boats have defeated the smelly head problem since they've been using fresh water to flush.
  16. Henning

    Henning Senior Member

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    <sigh> I guess you've never heard of 90/10 copper nickel or Monel then right? Neither will corrode in your lifetime. Any plastic (and fiberglass is just a reinforcement material that lives in a plastic matrix) will eventually be permeated with stink and make the whole boat stink.
  17. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    and the cost of a monel holding tank?

    jsut like there are different type of SS and various alloys, there are different type of "plastics.... fiberglass tanks don't permeate.
  18. Henning

    Henning Senior Member

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    Cheaper and lighter than an equivalent sized fiberglass on built thick enough not to permeate through after 10 years.
  19. K1W1

    K1W1 Senior Member

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    Hi,

    Henning- What are the tanks and drain lines made of on your Kingship?
  20. Henning

    Henning Senior Member

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    Steel and stainless steel, no hoses at all.