Solving the RV Odor Puzzle


RV’s are great at a lot of things, but preventing odors is not one of them. Since living in an RV means conducting most of your daily life in a confined space, odors that might not be noticeable in your traditional home can become overpowering inside the RV. If you plan to life in the RV for any significant length of time, it is important that you have a plan for dealing with the many odors that you can encounter.

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Air Fresheners Can Help Your RV Smell Great!
Air Fresheners Can Help Your RV Smell Great!

There are a number of possible causes of unpleasant odors inside your RV. Some of the most common are the following –

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  • Waste from your black and grey water tanks
  • Pet odor
  • Mildew
  • Food that has gone bad
  • Smoke
  • Body odor

 

Some of the best solutions to an odor problem within your RV are good old fashioned common sense. For example, if you keep your pantry free of any foods have have gone bad, you won’t have to worry about that becoming a source of unpleasant odor. Likewise, if you make sure that yourself and everyone in the RV showers regularly throughout the trip, body odor will not become a problem.

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However, even when you take simple actions like those above, you could still find that unpleasant odors develop simply due to the limited space available in the RV. When that happens, you should take action quickly. Below are three methods for dealing with unwanted odor in your trailer or motorhome.

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  1. Get Air Moving. This is perhaps the best way to deal with an odor problem. By opening up your RV roof vents, and even the doors and windows, as often as possible, you can promote circulation and move the odors out of the RV. Most odor problems develop due to stagnant air, so take every opportunity to get fresh air into your rig.
  2. Use a Quality Air Freshener. Periodic use of a quality air freshening product is a great way to kill off some of the unwanted odors within the living space. Keep a can or two handy in the RV so you can put it to use when needed.
  3. Treat Your Tanks. Another helpful product in the battle against odor is tank treatment. There are a number of different brands and styles of tank treatments available on the market, so shop around until you find one well-suited to your needs. The tanks contained in your RV hold the potential to create a serious odor problem in your rig, so stay ahead of the game by treating the tanks properly on a regular basis.

You don’t have to live with unwanted odors in your RV. Remember to ventilate the rig as frequently as possible, and use products like tank treatment and air fresheners to eliminate the remaining odors. In doing a good job of preventing your odor problems from getting out of control, you will also be protecting the long term value of the RV. Despite being a confined space, you should be able to keep your RV smelling great on even the longest of trips.

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Comments 26

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  1. I use Enzyme Magic – Grease & Waste Digester. It contains a multi-enzyme blend that naturally eliminates odors, lets us use 2-ply toilet paper, and cleans my holding tank sensors so they always read correctly. It is a panacea for RV cleaning issues.

  2. Turn the vent fan off when flushing. And I installed 360 Siphon Vent Caps on all of my roof vents. So far so good.

  3. We had a very bad smell and kept thinking it was a sewer smeel, but it turned out to be one of the batteries. Once found and replaced, the smeel was gone. We had a week or two looking for the trouble.

  4. Leave all sink drains covered some how so water smell will not come back up through drain ,including bath tubs ,I use some type of liquid freshner I pour in drains when r v is sitting up

  5. Probably not the correct forum for this question, but I am in the process of looking into RV’s, its about the awnings, they all seem to be able to do an adequate job of the sun glare, but everyone I have seen dose not have any noticeable angle to drain water when it rains, is it just as simple as not opening it 100 percent, its just a kind of question I would feel stupid asking a sales person if that is the simple answer, and also are most Rv sales people knowledgeable, because I asked one at a RV show that I would want to add a generator, I know in the sides there are storage spaces that would accommodate one, I could build a slide out so it comes all or part way out of that storage area and just put a small canopy over it using PVP pipes and a tarp, so it breaks down as well, and I would like a propane run generator, that way It could be hooked up to the Rv directly, so a can just start it or so it will come on automatically if power is lost, there must be a way to hook it up so it comes on and off automatically in case you are away from the Rv and need to keep the a/c on or maybe come on and off when the A/C comes on. can some one answer this or direct me to someone that can, Thanks, more info I have means the better I am prepared. This my main thing or option I would be interested in, I know motor homes and 5vers have installed . Thanks For This site I really enjoy reading all and every informative ideas that everyone has.

    1. Usually one or the other arms for electric awnings bends so that you can drain off rain runoff. I only discovered it when I leaned on the arm while doing maintenance . When you want the awning straight you simply push the arm back up. I have had old RV’s and have a new one and they both had a way to drain.

    2. I would just look for a model that already has generator installed. Lots of problems can occur when you jerry rig one in. Disadvantage to a propane run gen. is that it will suck down your propane pretty fast. It could be done though. Most of them have a gas gen. with an adequate tank. Look around. Most of your RV’s have an automatic for the refrigerator to kick over to propane or battery power if you lose power. A/C units just shut off and that’s it.

  6. As to the awning you can lower one side to accommodate runoff. In the event of a storm with high winds it’s necessary to retract it. Upon purchasing your RV, the salesman will refer you to the service department where they will go over all the workings of your particular RV, and answer any questions. Also, if other campers know you’re inexperienced most will be happy to assist you, and offer advice. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  7. I need to know how to get RID of mildew odor, not mask it with deodorizer. Cannot find any leaks or signs of prior leakage, just the horrible odor of mildew. I have tried charcoal in the storage bins underneath, baking soda everywhere, and those things that are supposed to absorb moisture. Nothing seems to help. Any suggestions???

    1. We bought a 2006 fifth wheel and it had some musty stagnant odors. I wiped everything down with Clorox citrus wipes, shampooed the carpets twice and aired her out and haven’t had an issue since. I also place damp rid in it whenever it sits, it has a pleasant smell and helps to absorb moisture.

    2. Hi Claudi? Did you ever find an answer to your question? I do not have any answers for I myself am looking for any and all help in the mildew question. We have repaired our leaks, ripped out the carpet and cleaned the upholstery. Still the odor continues. It is the WORST smell in the world to me. Hope there is help out there for both of us!
      Cheri

  8. Never run the fan while using the restroom. It pulls smell up out of the tank.

    Keep your outlet closed for the black water dump while you are on a full-hookup site. Open it only when you need to dump.

    Keep an inch or so of clean water in the toilet bowl to block smell.

  9. My odor appears to be coming from my kitchen sink. We gave aired out camper and I put dissolved oder packet down drain just like black tank. Need help. Jim.

  10. Try the OdoBan brand of products at Walmart or Home Depot. They have several that will freshen the air disinfect help with the mildew and work in the black tanks. Great stuff!

  11. Under your sinks there are vent traps which are designed to allow air in but prevent air from going out. These are used in lieu of running a vent stack all the way up thru the ceiling. The rubber Flapper seal eventually dries out and allows odor from the grey water tank to enter. They are easy to replace and are available at any hardware store.

  12. My buisness is called the Rv Proctologist: we get the odor question all the time. We jet out the the holding tanks. Make sure the vents are clean. Make sure the breathers under the sinks are clean. Use enzymes once every 6 months. Every time you flush out your tanks always put 5 gallons of water back in your black tank and minimal on the chemical.

  13. I had a blackwater odor in my 40 ft fifth Wheel. Finally figured out that the vent pipe had settled deep into the black tank and now the other end was in the attic. every time we used the fantastic fan or opened a window the odor was sucked into the trailer through the light fixtures, speakers and so on.

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