RV Smells | How to Keep Your RV Smelling Fresh and Clean

RV Smells | How to Keep Your RV Smelling Fresh and Clean

RV Smells can be unpleasant at times with all the outdoor camping odors and holding tanks.

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.
These are 4 RV smells you could experience. Now, there are many more smells if you have children or pets but all are easy to remedy.

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.


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!

Final Thoughts

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.

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RV Tank Treatment: Comparing GEO Method to Happy Camper

RV Tank Treatment: Comparing GEO Method to Happy Camper

Let’s be real… Living in an RV or traveling even part-time on the weekends with family, your grey and black tanks will hold a lot of gross things and can develop a horrible stench.

There I said it!

It can get extremely stinky when you open those valves to dump both the black and grey tanks.

If you RV, you probably already know this. If you’re new, like we were at one point, you will soon find out.

We have found two reasons why your Black and Grey tanks wastewater can smell when the valves are released.

GEO Method VS. Happy Camper Tank Treatments
  1. The vents system is improper and instead of the air being forced out of the pipes, it is getting trapped and seeping through the walls when another source of air or valve is open.
  2. The holding tanks have deposits from either dishes or human waste that needs to be treated and cleaned/flushed.

We are going to discuss number 2. There are many methods on the internet that guarantee to break up the deposits in the tanks to prevent backups and smells. We have tried a multitude of them and will be comparing the two common types many RVer’s turn too.

First, what are your Grey and Black tanks used for?

When we first moved into our RV, we were a bit confused about how things worked. So, don’t worry! It’s a great question to ask especially when you’re new at RVing.

In a nutshell, the Grey Tank(s) holds the water that is used by cleaning dishes, hands, clothes (if you have a washer), and showers. You may think; ‘oh, it’s just the water you clean stuff with, it shouldn’t develop a stench’…..Wrong!

The oils, soaps, and food that drops down the sink from doing dishes and taking showers accumulate and it’s not the greatest smell. These tanks usually hold 35 to 40 gallons before having to release them.

The Black Tank is for human waste from your toilet(s). This is the nasty one. Usually holds 35 to 40 gallons of waste before having to dump.

In case you’re wondering about your City/Clean Water tank, this tank holds usually 40 gallons of fresh clean water that can be used to shower, drink, and flush toilets.

This is only used usually when you want to clean out your water system or you plan on being somewhere that does not have the option to hook a hose up to your RV aka ‘Boondocking’ or ‘Dry Camping’.

Now you know what the tanks are and what kind of waste they hold. A little background on us.

We have lived in our RV for a year now. I remember the first time we dumped our tanks and the smell fumigated the entire RV. It was the kind of smell that made you gag and even Febreze didn’t cover it up. We only get this smell when the tank valves are open! Once they close the smells begins to go away. 

After the second time dumping our tanks, I just couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to deal with this smell every time we open our tank valves. Therefore, I went to the internet and found that there are actually ‘tank treatments’ that will help break things down and help the horrible smells. Who knew? We were newbies at the time.

Through my research, I found out that Walmart carried a couple of brands specifically for treating your tanks wastewater. These treatments came in nice citrus smells which I enjoyed. However, after using them completely as directed, they did not work. I was frustrated and thought “why are there products that say they “help” but do not actually work?”

Trying the GEO Method …

So I took to the internet once again and found the GEO Method for RV tank treatments. If you don’t know what the GEO method is, it is Dawn Dish soap and Calgon Water Softener. Some choose to include Bleach or Borax with the Dawn and Water Softener.

I would be cautious with bleach in the black tank because urine holds a chemical called Ammonia. When the chemical of Ammonia is mixed with Bleach it will cause a toxic gas. Be Careful mixing any chemicals! 

Now, this method is doable and it did kind of work to help combat the smell but I found that it took a lot for it to cover the smells when we dumped the tanks.

Also, we had to place the mixture in every single time we dumped. Now, this is still a great option and I would still use it if I had to. It’s better than the cheap RV tank treatments by TSP and other brands at Walmart.

Although the GEO method seemed to work ok, there were still times the smell just wouldn’t fully go away. So again, I was frustrated.

I did more research, checked out other Full-time RVers blogs and social media to find out what they used. I found the GEO method again and again until I came across one couple that used “Happy Camper”.

Truth be told, I was skeptical! Why wouldn’t I be? I had tried all the “recommended” store bought treatments and the DIY treatments; so what was so special about this one?

I did more research, read all the reviews for “Happy Camper” tank treatment on Amazon, but I still wasn’t convinced. It took me months of using the GEO method until I just couldn’t take it anymore. The smell when dumping was still horrible, I was tired of using so much Dish Soap and Calgon that my patience was running thin.

Trying Happy Camper…

So, finally caved and made my purchase of “Happy Camper” on Amazon. I felt like I had nothing to lose at this point, and if it didn’t work, I would just send it back.

It only took two days to come in the mail, because we have Amazon Prime. I’m glad it only took two days because I was excited to use the product to see what all the hype was about.

When we received it our tanks were full, so I decided to go ahead and release them, close them, and pour one scoop in the black tank and one scoop in the grey tank, as instructed, with about ½ a gallon of water.

We went on like normal then after about a week, we repeated the process.

Of course, I knew I needed to give it some time to see if it would work. I decided I would use this product for a month to test it out and see if it was everything it says it was on the Amazon description.

(Just so you know, in a months’ time we usually release our tanks once a week, grey tank sometimes twice depending on how many dishes and showers we take. On average it was 6-7 dumps and retreats.)

Did it work?

Now that we have used the “Happy Camper” tank treatment for a month now, I can truly say I am a ‘Happy Camper’. The horrible smell is now under control. I can go into my bathroom and not hold my breath. I can release the tanks without having to worry about the smell fumigating the entire RV. Truly I am amazed that it works.

Not only has it eliminated the smell in our tanks from fumigating our RV when we release them but it’s also all organic.

The highly concentrated mineral blend neutralizes the toxic smells in the black and grey tanks without a heavy perfume smell. The treatment works in hot and cold temperatures, is biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and completely odor free.

The only negative is it does take a couple of treatments for it to fully start working to combat the smells.

After a couple of times of emptying the tanks and placing a treatment after every dump, it really does make a huge difference. Although it takes a few times to begin combating that smell, once it does, you don’t have to treat the tank after every dump. We now only treat the tanks every other dump.

What is the price? Is it a good value?

As I mentioned, I was hesitant to purchase Happy Camper because of my previous experience with tank treatments and also the price compared to other treatments. It’s not $5 or $10 like the stuff you get from Walmart or Camping world.

The smallest tub is about $22 and can go up to a larger tub of $79.

But…. Let me tell you, IT IS WORTH IT!!!

We will never go back to another tank treatment.

If you live fulltime in an RV or even RV on the weekends and holidays during the summertime, this tank treatment is a life changer. It keeps your RV from smelling like disgusting sewage and after using the product for a long period of time it will begin to save you money.

You can try it out yourself here!

Comment below let us know which you prefer! Have you tried either the GEO method or Happy Camper? Love to hear your response! Thanks for stopping by! Remember Sharing is Caring!

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