A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Monday, 16 June 2014

Noflex Digestor

A few (!!??!!) years ago there was a TV advertisement where a guy said that he was so impressed when he used a Remington Shaver that he bought the Company. This story is a bit like that.....but I'm getting ahead of myself.

It starts with the fact that everybody has to rid themselves of the waste that comes as a result of eating, including those that "go to sea in ships" and therefore boats are fitted with equipment to dispose of that waste in the form of toilets and, usually, holding tanks. It would appear that sometimes problems occur with this equipment and the result is an odour that permeates throughout the bilges of the boat. It is not a subject that is often discussed as nobody wants to think, let alone admit, that their boat emits an odour not unlike that of a sewage treatment plant - and if you have ever visited one of those, driven past one or lived near one, you will know what I am talking about. It can be disguised with perfumes and air fresheners but is still recognisable by those who know the smell.

When we first took possession of Loopy Kiwi, I did notice a faint whiff of that pervasive odour from time to time. I also noted that the previous owner had invested in a number of plug-in aerosoles which suggested the problem was a long standing one. As we began the great Loop, we found that when the boat was docked in a marina for a few days, particularly if it was closed up and unattended, and more particularly if it was hot weather (like when we went to Canada and left the boat in Muskegon for several days) the smell would be extremely noticeable. It was mainly evident in our stateroom and it didn't take too long to figure out it was coming from the holding tank, which is located under our bed. We also found that the waste gauge in the tank didn't work (always read empty) which made figuring out when to pump out very difficult. Despite using a variety of tank treatments, all of which claimed to eliminate holding tank odours but really just tried to disguise the smell, and many pumpouts and fresh water flushes, these problems haunted us all the way around the Great Loop. I also noticed the smell coming from other boats, particularly at pumpouts, and figured we probably weren't alone - but no-one really talked about it. If anyone ever smelled it on Loopy Kiwi, they never let on and I certainly never mentioned it on anyone else's boat.

When we brought LK to New Zealand the problem continued and at one time I seriously looked at trying to replace the tank and hoses. Unfortunately it is located underneath the water tanks that are underneath the bed and the hoses run throughout the boat, so that would be a major operation too scary to contemplate. One day I was perusing the Silverton Owners forum (of which I am a member) and found a posting by a Silverton owner who had a variety of issues but mentioned he had a holding tank odour problem and his waste gauge didn't work. I replied to his post and asked how he had overcome these problems and he responded that he hadn't been able to fix them. Then another member chimed in and suggested I try a product called Noflex Digestor as he had been using it for years after it solved his odour issue. He also said that a buddy had also tried it and "after a few pump outs his holding tank gauge (that never worked as long as he's had the boat) miraculously started working and has worked ever since". Thinking this all sounded too good to be true, I began to search the net for more referrals and found a few more, but the interesting thing was that everyone who had used it, swore by it and strongly recommended its use to others. I found zero detrimental comments about it! The research also uncovered a few more interesting facts about marine and RV (motorhome) sewage systems. The majority of them have holding tanks and piping systems made from plastic and, despite its seeming imperviousness, sewage odour is actually capable of permutating through it over time. It would appear that my odious (pun intended) issue with Loopy Kiwi is not an uncommon problem in both boats and RV's.

After a bit more digging I found the Canadian manufacturers details and noticed on their website that they were looking for Hawaiian, Australian and NEW ZEALAND distributors. I emailed them with my story and mentioned that, prior to retirement, I had owned an importing company that was still in existence, although not active. Provided that the product was as effective that it seemed to be, I suggested that it might be worthwhile reactivating the company to market Noflex in New Zealand. Two jars of the product were despatched by courier while the manufacturer worked out a procedure for treating LK's contaminated system. According to the info, it works by breaking down the residual sludge in the holding tank and pipework (you can never get rid of it all when you pump out) and converts it into inert odourless fluid. A big plus for the product is that, unlike other treatments which are added to an empty tank to treat the entire contents, Noflex is added as the tank fills. Thus an early pumpout does not lead to a waste of expensive treatment products when using Noflex. Another thing that caught my attention was their statement "you should see how it works in septic tanks". There are a lot of septic tanks in New Zealand!

When  it arrived I was still a little sceptical, but applied Noflex in accordance with the instructions I was given, which involved heavily dosing the empty tank and hoses over 2 days to clean out the pipework then using the tank as normal and dosing at the usual rate. At the time we were living aboard as we shifted into our new apartment, and our son was visiting from Australia to celebrate his 40th birthday. As a result we had up to 9 people staying aboard at times and the sewage system got a real workout. Within a couple of weeks the smell had retreated to where it was barely discernible, even after the boat had been closed up, and I was becoming quite convinced of its effectiveness. I was asuured that if I kept using it, ultimately even the residual smell would go away. The clincher came when, after about 6 weeks of using it, the waste gauge "miraculously started working and has worked ever since".

Now totally convinced, I contacted the manufacturer to start making arrangements to import Noflex into NZ so others could benefit from this magic product. By this time it was close to Christmas and we were scheduled to go away to the Bay of Islands for 6 weeks or so (read earlier posts), so it was getting too late to do anything until we returned in February. By this time we had run out of Noflex but I figured that, since the problem was "fixed", I could go back to using other treatments. Over the holiday we had no issues, although I was acutely aware that when we were actually moving on the Great Loop the smell  had also temporarily disappeared, which I figured was due to a constant airflow in the bilges for the engine consumption (ie the engines were burning up the pong). On our return I made further contact with the manufacturer to begin arrangements for a shipment and found we had run into a few hiccups which were going to make it quite expensive to import. I must admit that I had second thoughts about coming out of retirement and getting re-involved in business, but a couple of things happened. First, the smell started coming back in LK. Gradual at first but getting worse all the time, despite using copious amounts of  RV holding tank treatment costing around $10 per dose (which wouldn't be so bad if it worked). The second was feedback from discussions I was having with other boaties, RV owners and a few rural landowners with septic tanks that made me think there were more issues out there than I had thought. Although it seems that it is almost taboo to talk about, it is remarkable how many people either have, or know of someone who has a problem when the subject is raised. So we broke through the pain barrier and got a shipment underway that arrived last week. I have reactivated my old company and, deciding that its old name had little meaning for the new venture, I have changed it to Loopykiwi Products Ltd.

So, there it is. Not quite the Remington story (I didn't buy the company) but along similar lines.

And if you have a holding tank or septic tank sludge or odour problem, follow this link to the world map of Noflex dealers and get yourself some of this stuff - it really works!  https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zv1cWR0Y0HiA.keqkyj3uzKDQ&authuser=0&hl=en%20%20

If you're in New Zealand and have a problem, you will find me there. Give me a buzz and I'll fix it for you.

Oh and BTW. As soon as I got the shipment last Thursday I added Noflex to LK's holding tank. On Friday I left the boat closed up for the day and when I returned to it in the evening all I could smell were the faint traces of the bacon I had cooked for breakfast!

1 comment:

  1. Surprised the gauge revived itself, Phil. Several of us in the Owners Club (not the one you referenced) have had to replace the original WEMA plastic tank sensors with their newer stainless products. Those seem to usually work well unless clogged due to tank contents, most often in conjunction with sitting at rest at the bottom of an empty tank (as in just after a pump-out) and then not used for a while. The latter situation often responds to a hefty THWACK on the tank with a rubber mallet. It also seems that immediately adding enough fresh water just after a pump out to float the sensor will head off that "sticking" issue. (In our case, that's 4 full-bowl flushes; 3 might work, don't know yet.)

    We've also had recent conversations about NOFLEX on our forums, lots of good reviews. I've started trying it, but we've never had any head odor to deal with, so I haven't noticed any improvement in the atmosphere. I have noticed a slight whitening of the elbow at the bottom of the bowl, though.

    Some of the reviews I've seen have been hard to follow. One claim is that all the sludge in the holding tank is gone and all the pipes are clean... yet the reporters don't often describe how they know that. Most seem to not be able to visually verify it at all... so I think maybe they're just using the apparent odor reduction as a gauge. (And in our case, that hasn't been a useful test.) Nifty stuff, if it continues to show good promise, though.

    We have price issues with NOFLEX, even here. It's not uncommon to learn it costs more to ship than to buy it... so some of the members have bought several bottles at a time in order to cut the per-bottle delivery charges.

    I wonder if it might be better to manufacture the stuff locally under license, versus importing product? Thinking out loud...

    Speaking of odor on boats... I think we've got a thread on the forum with about 27 different sources mentioned :)

    Cheers, -Chris