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When you’re spending, days, weeks, months or even years in a space that’s smaller than many compact apartments, making sure the air you’re breathing is fresh and clean is a top priority. This is when you need an RV odor eliminator.

Hanging an air freshener from the rearview mirror might temporarily mask the unpleasant odors, but it’s not going to do a thing about fixing the underlying issue.

If you want to continue using your RV in relative ‘unpleasant odor’ free comfort, then it’s far better to tackle the source of the smell and eliminate it once and for all.

The following list of common RV smells and ways of combating them are sure to keep your nose happy, ensuring you can enjoy your next trip with clean fresh air to breath.

1. RV Sewer Smell

We’re not going to lie, this can be a tough nut to crack.

If you take a look online, you’ll find that there are a ton of chemicals available to buy ton of chemicals available to buy that claim to be able to eliminate the sewer smell from your RV. Some should be used when waste is deposited into the septic system, others are to be used once the septic tank has been emptied. We’ve used a few and had some success with these. However, they don’t always do the job.

We’ve found that sorting out your black water tanks ventilation is a far more effective method. Most tanks are vented out of RV roof, the theory goes that when you’re driving along the smelly air is pulled out of the roof vent by the wind. In actual fact, many roof vents actually push air down the vent pipe while you’re driving, this then causes some of that smelly air to be pushed into the RV itself.

An easy and inexpensive way to fix this issue is to fit a Cyclone Sewer Vent. These are designed to create a powerful suction that pulls the foul black tank air when even a slight breeze is blowing. There are a few types available, and we can personally testify that this one this one works well.

Pro Tip: Always remember to drain and clean your black water tank after every trip.

2. RV Drain Odors

When you’re RV is not in use, stagnant water trapped within the p-traps located under sinks and showers will become an excellent breeding ground for growing bacteria. With enough time you’ll begin to notice the smell produced by the bacteria permeating all parts of your RV.

If you know you’re not going to be using your RV for a while, then it’s dead easy to avoid this issue. Simply mix a gallon of water with a cup of baking soda. Pour this mixture down every drain and into your sinks. This concoction will go a long way to stopping the breeding of bacteria and the production of RV smells.

3. Rodent Odors in RVs

One of the most unpleasant smells you might come across in an RV is the stench produced by a dead mouse rotting in the hot sun. It’s not a fun experience! There’s really only one solution to this problem, find the carcass, remove it and thoroughly clean the affected area.

If you’re not going to be using your RV for a while, you can help prevent a rodent infestation in your RV by putting on a good offense. We recommend some of these options.

4. Smelly RV Potable Water

If you’ve owned your RV long enough this is bound to happen to you. You’ve just filled your freshwater tanks up but when you go to take a drink you discover that the seemingly fresh water has a bad smell and taste. You can’t even use the water for tea or coffee.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are still plenty of areas around the country that have water that smells badly.

The best way to rectify this is to clean on your water system with diluted mixture of water and bleach. Use approximately one cup of bleach in 4 gallons of water, pour it into your freshwater tank and top it up with fresh water. Run all taps to run the water-bleach mixture through all the pipes. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 4 hours and then thoroughly empty and rinse the water tank and pipes several times.

If bad water is a reoccurring problem then consider fitting a filter.

5. Musty RV Stale Smell

If you’ve taken a look at used RVs and stepped inside some of the motorhomes located right at the back of the lot, then you’ll know what we mean. The smell is anything but fresh.

These models have been sitting out in the sun for months or even years with next to no ventilation. Every smell and odor has nowhere to go and just builds up. Once you enter you want nothing more than to leave and breath easily.

If you want to avoid this issue with your own RV then you need to let it breathe.

An easy and inexpensive solution is to install vent covers over the existing roof vents, this will allow you to keep your vents open and keep a stream of fresh air percolating.

An even better solution would be to install solar-powered vents to draw out the stale air.They don't need to cost a lot either.

if the musty smell has permeated the surfaces and soft furnishings of the RV, then you’ll need to get your hands dirty and give the RV a thorough cleaning. Some products claim to soak up the musty odor but I’ve found a determined and thorough clean is really the only thing that will fix the issue long term.

6. Smelly RV Carpet

If you have a smelly, soiled or pet stained carpet then the easiest solution is to remove it and replace it with something better, such as laminate. Wall to wall carpeting might be cheap, but it’s not the best option for an RV. We much prefer hard wearing options that are essentially impervious to dirt, staining or smells.

If you’d rather not replace your flooring, then professional carpet cleaning is a solid option and should remove most odors. Once the carpet cleaners are finished invest in some rugs or runners in order to keep the actual floor clean.

While you’re at it, you might want to look into having your upholstery steam cleaned. If you have pets, this is a great way to get rid of that stubborn wet dog smell.

7. RV Refrigerator Odor

It’s really easy to avoid the smell of mildew inside your RVs refrigerator, simply use some warm soapy water and wipe down the inside of the refrigerator after every trip.

Leave the door open to allow all the water to evaporate and to avoid any build up of any smell. Make sure the door doesn’t close accidentally by propping the door open.

For added smell combatting, add a small bowl of baking soda to the refrigerator to absorb and combat any smells that do occur.

8. Ammonia Odors In RVs

A smell of Ammonia can signify serious problems.

If there is a strong overwhelming smell of Ammonia, then the smell is likely originating from the cooling unit of your refrigerator. This smell will be intense and almost strong enough to bring tears to your eyes. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to fix this by yourself unless you’ve had specialist training, it’s best to leave this to the professionals.

Chances are it won’t be cheap to fix.

9. RV Propane Smell

The smell of propane can originate from several sources in your RV, including the propane tanks, the stove, oven, water heater, refrigerator or the heating furnace.

Not only can the smell originate from any of these appliances, but the smell might also be coming from any number of gas lines connected to them.

An easy way to check connections is to use some soapy water and a small brush, simply brush some soapy water onto the suspected source and check for any bubbles forming. Repeat this process for all suspect areas.

Before you begin this process, just make sure there is plenty of ventilation in order to avoid the build-up of gas. If you’re at all uncomfortable with doing this then get a professional to help you out.

Final Thoughts

RV smells and odors are part and parcel of owning an RV, and while they can be annoying, they are rarely permanent. A little know-how and effort is enough to eliminate most smells.

Try and avoid products that simply mask to smells, they can allow the underlying problem to worsen as you ignore it. For most people, it’s far better to spend some time and elbow grease giving your RV a bit of a clean.