Sticky and smelly

Writing this, I am a bit sticky and also rather smelly. I have just completed the most unpleasant task on the boat. I feel so good about myself that I have the urge to share it.

I have cleaned out the greywater tank.

“Greywater” is that euphemism covering everything from washing-up water to the mixture of seawater, mud and rust that dribbles out of chain locker.

The reason the tank needs to be cleaned is because it is emptied by means of a float switch and in time the grease, decomposing crustacea and nameless gloop from the shower tray collects in a jelly-like, putrid mass around the switch and stops it working.

When this happens, the pump does not run and the “greywater” oozes out of the top of the tank into the bilges where it slops around making everything else sticky and smelly.

Then the whole apparatus has to be disconnected from its four hoses (three pouring in, one pumping out) and also from the electrical connection which, of course, has rusted solid.

Just to add to the fun, since this relies on gravity, it has to be sited as low as possible in the bilge so you have to do all this upside down.

Which is the easy part.

Once you have it out and into the blessed fresh air of the cockpit, you have to put your hand inside the revolting receptacle and fumble for the nuts to remove the switch. Any satisfaction in discovering that indeed it has been immobilised by a deposit the consistency of blackcurrant jam but smelling strongly of drains is outweighed by the disgusting process of spooning the stuff out on the blade of a screwdriver.

I hope I haven’t put you off you tea but now that I have it sealed once again out of mind beneath the cabin sole and have washed my hands three times to remove some of the whiff of putrefaction, I have a request:

Can anyone suggest anything I can pour down the sink that might do the job for me?

A bouquet of violets for the first person to come up with a workable solution…

21 Responses to Sticky and smelly

  • I dont know about boats John but in the world of campervans everyone swears by throwing cheap coca cola down your drains and then driving around for a bit. Apparently that stuff destroys and removes all sorts of sticky smelly stuff!

  • Hello John. Filthy job but someone has to do it! How about a drain cleaner product that breaks down grease etc in a ‘u’ bend. I think it exists in a bio version if required. PS it’s an acid so be carefull.

  • It’s a complete waste but alcohol has santinising properties. Sorry have not got sensible solution. Your explanation of the task was enlightening. All the best…

  • Vinegar and boiling water

  • It sounds as though a requirement for most of the repairs and maintenance on your boat is require you being a contortionist as they appear to involve huge amounts of climbing stretching hanging upside down getting dirty and ideally having 3 hands. Have you investigated one built and designed by a woman ?

    I digress. Your smelly putrid greywater tank problem. Having no idea how often you have to empty it – is there anything on the market you could add via a plug hole that might aid decomposition along the lines of products used with a cess pit? You can or used to be able to buy little packs containing SShhh gobbling enzymes you just popped into the tank that were supposed to thrive on such a diet. Having said all that presumably many others have a similar problem so perhaps it has been already been looked into.

    How is your water maker experiment progressing ?

  • Hi john,
    Many moons ago when we did flotilla holidays we were asked to take vinegar for toilet and basin treatment to be used on a daily basis usually overnight to minimise the gunge build up. The boats appeared clean and unsmelly so maybe it worked.


    Barry Kadwill

  • Oh John you have just had us in tears whilst eating my poached egg on granary. As you know I am well acquainted with the below stairs services and I’m afraid to say that after some 65 years of studying the problem the best answer I have found is copious quantities of vick applied south of the nose, and think of something pleasant. You could always recite the story of the airport cat to distract yourself .keep well .

  • Hi John,
    Have you tried Dettol disinfectant, it should stop the gloop forming, but if it doesn’t it will smell better!

  • You reminded me of the recommendation NEVER to cook and merrily eat the contents of an Alderney crab inside the boat. One is reminded olefactorily of the event for ever…

  • Excellent work. Keep this for your CV in case you wish to apply for a toilet cleaner.

    Best wishes

  • I’m afraid I don’t have a solution (ha!) other than bicarb & vinegar which cleans a lot of domestic grime, not sure if suitable here.
    How often do you have to do this?
    (A bouquet of violets…what a charming image! Thank you just for the idea of such)

  • Just about to drink some tea and go to sleep – your post has reassured me that at least someone somewhere has had less fun than I have todaygood luck finding a solution!

  • My suggestion would be to have a complete spare ready to go, remove/replace, drop the old one in a bucket of bleach, clean and store for next time? I guess space/cost/weight is a problem, all part of the fun!

  • John, I have fitted float switches in many tanks from fresh to septic and quite few in between. They don’t require any maintenance and would be ideal for your application.
    Getting sticky and smelly isn’t how you should be passing your time.
    If I can help I will.

  • Soda crystals and white vinegar!!
    I had to clear my touring caravan kitchen sink drain pipes recently. It worked well and no too vicious to wreck yer pipes! Follow instructions on Soda packet.
    Best o luck

  • Toilet Duck. Miracle stuff for smelly bilges. Geoff

  • Don’t envy you that job.
    I put Blue liquid ( for caravan toilets) down my heads which seems to convert the solid matter by some magic into a liquid. I don’t have sink waste going into the holding tank so don’t know what effect detergent might have in the blue stuff. But I don’t emit solids so that’s an achievement!