11 Easy Steps To Keep Your RV Smelling Fresh and Clean
Like our homes, RVs can get stinky and make your stay unbearable. Between the blank tank “sewage” odors and musty mold smell to exhaustive emissions, RV smells can make your outdoor adventure miserable.
However, there’s no real reason why your RV should get smellier; there’re several tips you can employ to beat the RV smells and keep your coach smelling fresh and clean. And in the guide below, I’ll share some deodorizing tips I use to keep my RV smelling fresh.
11 Best Tips to Keep your RV Smelling Fresh
1) Cleaning and Vacuuming
A deep, thorough clean with your favorite cleaning detergent will do a lot to keep your RV smelling fresh and clean. But if you think it’s too much work to deep clean your items, you could even consider replacing them.
The perfect way to perform a deep clean on your RV is by removing the upholstery, bedding, and any curtains. Clean everything and let it dry thoroughly in the sun. I recommend a carpet shampooer for them.
Lots of vacuuming and steam cleaning are also helpful in keeping the odors in your truck at bay.
2) Dealing with Musty Smell
If your RV has a musty or mildew smell, you’re likely to have water damage somewhere in the coach. So, rather than masking the odor, I recommend eliminating it.
It won’t be an easy fix; you must tear out all the wall panels and identify any rotted wood in the frame and walls. Also, consider examining the corners. Cabover is another spot that can be moldy and rotten.
And once you identify the rotted materials, replace them with new ones, and your musty smell should disappear.
3) Sanitize your Freshwater Tanks/Lines
If you often leave your RV water lines unused for long periods, especially during storage, your water may have a funky smell and strange taste. Stagnant water allows the growth of microbes and other contaminants on the water lines.
I recommend treating your fresh water lines with chlorine, especially if you’ll store water for longer than a few days. If you do the chlorine dosing right, it dissolves quickly, cuts down on the number of bacteria, and still leaves your water potable. It’s the same thing done in municipal water supplies.
Alternatively, you could run diluted bleach and water through the water lines. Ensure you flush it with lots of clean water, and your water will look, taste and smell pristine.
But my go-to method is flushing your water lines with vinegar. Vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits and kills most organic growths like mold and bacteria. I suggest you do vinegar after flushing your water lines with bleach to neutralize the pH in your system.
You must also consider long-term solutions for keeping your water lines free of odorous contaminants. For example, you could swap the plastic water lines for copper. Copper can withstand bio growth and lets you pawn it for crack if you’re so inclined ????.
I also suggest incorporating a drinking water filter on your water lines to your sink. It’s a huge quality-of-life improvement and doesn’t cost as much. A filter is also handy if you’re boondocking in an area where the water isn’t so great-tasting.
4) Use Vinegar
To continue on the vinegar thread, I find it super helpful for odor removal. I put this shit on everything, and it works!
Seriously though, add vinegar to glasses and put them in different spaces in your RV, and you’ll love how quickly and efficiently they eliminate the odors.
It’s a great cleaner and odor remover and will work on almost anything. It may smell strong for a bit, but it quickly dissipates. It’s also cheap.
Also, try mixing the vinegar solution with essential oils. It’s a potent combination, especially for most musty smells from mold or mildew.
5) Sewage Smell
The sewage smell in your RV blank tank is tough and probably one of the most irritating smells you could put up with.
But remember, the sewage or rotten eggs smell in your RV could also come from the gray tank, so you need to deal with that as well. Even soap from washing or toothpaste can get rancid if it sits in your bathroom j-pipe with hairs that fall onto the drain.
With that said, let’s look at some of the important tips to consider if your RV has a sewage smell and how to address the issue:
Inspect the Seals
The first step to beating the sewage smell on your RV is inspecting the toilet seal. Is it holding water on top?
See, if the seal holds water on top, it acts as a scent barrier, and therefore if it’s dysfunctional, you’ll lose water in the bowl and allow the vapors to come up.
Inspect the vents
If the seal is good, the vents may be blocked. Remember, a working vent system draws air from the coach into the vault and exhausts it, keeping odors out of the living space. Clogged vents may interfere with the exhaust.
If you’ve the habit of turning your bathroom fan, or the one close to the bathroom, you might draw the smells out of the tanks and into your RV.
So, you might consider turning it off or lowering the fan speed; if you’ve a fan with a reversible setting, it will work great to draw more air from the window rather than up from the plumbing.
Detach from Sewer Hookup
If you’re camping in a site with a sewer hookup, I suggest you detach the sewer line from your RV draining tanks. Sewer inlets have vents that make dumping much easier, but when the wind blows, it may force the odor into your RV, especially if the valves are open.
So, if you plan to stay connected to the sewer constantly, always close all your valve after draining to avoid septic fumes from backing up your camper. Better yet, add a shutoff gate; it serves two purposes. Keeps away the fumes from backing up into your trailer and keeps the contents in the drain tank in case the drain valve leaks.
Fill your tank partially
Next time you drive, consider filling your drain tank with 25% water. The sloshing should loosen anything left in there.
Another tip is adding a bunch of ice. It knocks around in the tank and helps dislodge any solid sediment that may contribute to the horrible smell.
Be Generous with water
When starting, always ensure you’ve enough water in the toilet. If there’s an inadequate amount, your waste will just sit on the bottom, drying out and not flushing, regardless of the chemicals you use.
So, if your rig has a black tank flush, cycle and run the water until it becomes clear. Close everything up and add more clean water. And if your rig doesn’t have a flush feature, consider using a bucket to add water.
The point is you need more water in your tank than you think. More water equals more dilution and less odor. It also helps to liquefy the solids, so more of it goes to waste when you dump it.
Create a P Trap
If you must open your grey water valve, create a P trap in the drain. It’s easy; simply make a small dip in the route to hold some liquid and block fumes from backing up.
The P trap holds water, thus blocking the smells from coming back up in the coach. However, you must straighten everything before emptying the tanks.
Replace the One-Way Valve
There’s a one-way valve under each sink attached to the drain line. The valve usually comes off as a T, running straight up before caping under the sink.
These valves tend to break easily after a few months, so you must replace them often if you don’t need water and smell backing up into your trailer. They’re super cheap.
Use Borax and Dawn Soap
If you’re having a foul smell from your RV, consider using chemicals for treatment. I’ve had success with Dawn and Borax, but Happy Camper is a more popular option. Happy Camper is specifically suited for holding tank treatment.
Finally, just to combine what I’ve mentioned, here’re a few other pointers to consider if your RV is reeking of sewage smell:
-Look into tank sprayers; they shoot water multi-directionally and are great for cleaning out the last bits
-Always ensure there’s water in the toilet bowl after each flush. If it’s leaking, consider replacing the gaskets
-When dumping your holding tanks, fill and flush multiple times until the water looks clean
-Don’t leave the gray tank valve open. RV holding tanks aren’t designed to be left open/draining constantly
6) Inspect your RV
Sometimes, your RV may have a potent smell of oil, making your eyes teary during drives. In such cases, you must check your RV’s mechanical department.
In most cases, an oily smell comes from a leaky exhaust. Check your exhaust system from the manifold gasket and tailpipe to the headers coming out of the engines; chances are you’ll find the exhaust pipe is ruptured and cracking.
You could do some temporary repairs, but you cannot do much if the exhaust pipe is rusted. You need a replacement.
7) Ozone Generator
I’ve an ozone machine, and it’s great for getting smells out. I’ve used it to get mold out of my car and remove the smell of cat piss in your MR. It saved me from replacing my carpet.
You should be concerned about when using an ozone machine because it kills living things like mold, plants, insects, and pets. So, if you plan to use the machine, don’t enter the space until it’s fully aired. You must give it more time if it smells like lightning/electricity.
Also, don’t run it for too long. 15 minutes to an hour is enough.
8) Allow Air Circulation
Ventilation is also necessary to keep your RV smelling fresh and clean. Keep your doors open for a natural smell, run your roof vent, and open the window to allow a cross breeze.
Aeration allows fresh air, and if your rig doesn’t have a roof vent, seriously think about getting one.
9) Clean your Laundry Regularly
Dirty clothes can also be a source of odors in your RV. So, you must be diligent and stay on top of your laundry.
Consider putting the aromatic laundry, such as workout clothes, in a Ziplock plastic bag or use plastic box storage.
10) Burn Incense
You could also use natural or essential oil fresheners to cover up smells. Lighting a scented cone or candle could also help with the smell. The smell may last a couple of days, and you only need to burn it for 15 minutes.
Generally, there’re lots of different fragrances and chemicals available. I suggest trying different options and finding something that works for you. You must keep away from the horrid chemical stuff.
You could also hang a cedar strip over each door. They keep your van smelling like cedar and make me feel like I’m coming home to my cabin in the woods. Furthermore, they help to deter bugs when your RV door is left open.
11) Proper Food Storage
Improper food storage may also contribute to the stench in your RV. Most of the stench will come from leftover foods and food not properly stored.
So, ensure all the leftover foods are discarded properly in the bin, and your RV fried is wiped down regularly. The remaining food should be wrapped tightly to help with the smell.
Generally, odors build up if bacteria; have time to grow and multiply, so cleanliness is the only sure way to keep your RV smelling fresh and clean. Our above tips are handy and will keep your RV space more livable.