This post may contain affiliate links. Exploring new sights is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases linking to Amazon.com and affiliated links.
Whether you’re on a camping vacation or starting to live full-time, RV smells are going to happen.
If you’ve come across some stinky situations, please know that you’re not alone!
There are 4 typical odors you may encounter in your RV that are common and can be remedied. We’ve lived in our RV for two years and over those years we have found some great options to keep your RV smelling fresh and clean.
But first, here are the 4 smells that can happen in your RV.
Smells you may encounter in your RV
- Tank Smells – These can be the worst smells you will probably smell in your RV. The smell can smell like rotten broccoli to burning sulfur. Both are extremely unpleasant and disgusting.
- Musky or Mildew Smells – These smells are not pleasant and at times can mean trouble. If you’re smelling a musky or mildew smell, I suggest searching for water leaks. Also, check corners in dark closet spaces and under mattresses. You may not find anything, which is a good thing. Sometimes the musky smell can come after it rains. I’ll discuss items you’ll need to use at all times to prevent musky smells and mildew from growing in your RV.
- Rotten Egg or Sulfur smell – This smell is usually coming from the water system. Most of the time it’s the hot water. This just simply means you need to clean your hot water heater and possibly your entire water system
- Propane – This is a serious smell. If you smell this while not using the heater or stove then you will want to open all windows and doors. Also, many RV’s have a CO2 Sensor. If your RV does not have one, I highly suggest getting one. If you smell Propane, shut off your propane tanks immediately until you can figure out if there is a leak. Propane can be deadly.
So, here are different remedies we have used to combat and eliminate these horrible RV smells.
9 Ways to Keep your RV Camper Smelling Fresh
1. Use an Essential Oil Diffuser
Using essentials oils is a great way to keep your RV space smelling fresh and clean. I recommend using oils that are pure! What I mean by that is don’t use the watered-down versions.
For example; don’t buy a pack of oils from Amazon for $24.95. Those oils are not pure oils and you will end up using a lot of drops in order for you to smell what you are diffusing.
Now, you can buy a diffuser anywhere, including Amazon, but the oils I recommend using are Young Living, Doterra, or Edens Garden.
2. Use A Room Spray
If you’re looking for a spray at your local grocery store, then Febreze is the way to go. Don’t buy into the Air Wick or Glade sprays. For me, they smell way to chemically and aerosol-based, and they don’t help with the smells.
Febreze is the one brand that helps eliminate the smells and they have pure options like the new Febreze ONE line. My favorite smell from Febreze lately is the forest smell.
3. Burn Candles Safely
I know, some people say “don’t burn candles in an RV” but it’s really not a big deal.
I’m sure you’re wondering why people say that. Well, it’s because if the RV was to catch fire the propane tanks could explode if the fire got out of hand. RV’s are also quick to burn because of the materials they are made from.
However, if you put the candle in a proper place and never leave it burning unattended, then it is okay.
I love candles and we burn candles all the time. My favorite is from Mrs. Meyers because they burn for up to 35 hours and smell so fresh.
IMPORTANT** – IF YOU SMELL PROPANE DO NOT LIGHT CANDLES!!!
4. Use Plug In’s
Febreze: Their plugins are the best ones you can get from a local grocery store. I’ve literally tried them all, and I always go back to the Febreze. I can always smell them when they’re plugged in.
They keep the air fresh and it’s doesn’t smell like a bunch of overpowering chemicals smell like Air Wick and Glade.
Bath and Body Works: Another Fantastic plugin is from Bath and Body Works. They are great to use in any home or RV to keep your living RV’s living space smelling fresh.
The scents are pleasant and not overpowering. My favorite from Bath and Bodyworks is Eucalyptus and Mint. Smells like a spa to me.
5. Use the Right Tank Treatment
This is a huge deal because the tanks are usually what cause the worst smells in an RV.
When you use the wrong kind of tank deodorizer you tend to get a perfume smell mixed in with the disgusting smell of the grey or black water. To me, that is a waste of money when the product you buy to eliminate the smell doesn’t work.
Side Note: You should only smell these when the tank is released/open. If you smell your tanks while they are closed, I recommend looking more into the water trap and clean out your water system.
Since we switched to Happy Camper tank deodorizer it eliminates the smells. I hate when the smells are just covered up with other smells. This is the worst!
If you want to eliminate the odors then give Happy Camper a try! You can also read our comparison review on the GEO Method and Happy Camper here.
6. Use RV Moisture Absorbents
When living in an RV, you want to make sure you do whatever you can to keep the moist humid air out. The humidity can cause musky smells and even mold in corners and walls.
When an RV gets mold, just like in a home, it can be a costly repair. That is why you want to always use moisture absorbents. There are two kinds that we recommend and have used ourselves.
I don’t think one is better than the other. They both do a great job of pulling out the moisture in the air and also keeping the air fresh.
7. Clean your RV Tanks / Water system Regularly
There are many tutorials on the web as well as directions in your RV’s Manual on how to clean out your tanks and water system. This is important to do whether you’re living fulltime or storing your RV until camping season.
Our manual describes using a cup of bleach and a gallon of water to clean and sanitize the tanks. I would use your manuals directions to do this properly.
Also, when you store your RV it is best to make sure all the water in your lines and tanks are clear and empty. You never want to leave water in your tanks because this will cause mold and bacteria to grow.
8. Clean out your hot water heater
Another thing you want to do is to clean out your water heater. We have a suburban water heater that uses an Anode rod to help keep bacteria from deteriorating the metal tank.
It’s important to clean your hot water tank and replace the anode rod (if you have one) regularly. You will want to clear the system from any deposits that can accrue at the bottom of the tank. This happens from the reaction of minerals in water and the heat. At times, this mineral build-up can cause your hot water to smell like sulfur or rotten eggs. The smell is caused by the anode rod material reacting to the minerals in the water.
Tip: Replace your Magnesium Anode rod with an Aluminum Anode rod to get rid of the sulfur rotten egg smell in your RV hot water tank.
For us, we clean our water heater out once a month and replace our Anode rod at least once a year, depending on the deterioration.
9. Generally, Clean your RV
Keeping your RV fresh and clean by just cleaning your space. If you’re storing your RV, this is a great step to make sure your RV doesn’t accrue any bad odors while in storage.
General sweeping, vacuuming, doing dishes, taking out the trash, dusting, and mopping can go a long way in keeping your RV smelling fresh.
I love using Swiffer on our floors and Mrs. Meyers Lavender cleaning spray to clean the counters and table. This alone will help a lot!
There are many smells that can happen inside your RV. Please know, RV smells are normal and can always be remedied depending on where the smell is coming from.
As mentioned, one of the biggest smells is tanks. If you haven’t checked out our post on the Geo Method and Happy Camper Comparison, I recommend giving it a read.
Besides the tanks, if you have dogs or children like we do there are bound to be other smells. Bad smells like dirty diapers or wet dog can become overwhelming in a small RV space. Therefore, using essential oils, candles, or plugins are great remedies.
If you have found a great way to keep your RV space smelling fresh and clean, I would love to know. Please leave a comment below and as always, thank you for reading and stopping by.
I agree, RV smells can be very annoying. We are new to the RV life and have found the Damp Rid really helps with the moisture in the air. I use the Lemon Scented Lysol Spray cleaner on the countertops (especially useful to kill germs and bacteria during this pandemic). It leaves a clean fresh scent. I also use Bath & Body works wallflowers. My favorite is the Midnight Blue Citrus to leave a lingering fresh clean citrus smell.
Cleaning tanks often is a must! Thanks for the note to clean to hot water tank. We’ve had to do that with a vacation home after being left vacant for several months. It really eliminates the sulfur smell.
Very helpful! Thanks you!
You’re Welcome! Thank you for stopping by!