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What’s Making Your Camper Stink?

If your RV stinks, there’s a good chance you’ll not enjoy being inside of it or taking it out on adventures. Getting to the root of the smell is essential so you can get back to making memories with your loved ones.

If you’re battling a stinky camper, there are several things that you might want to consider when it comes to tracking down the source of the smell.

Today, we’re going to take a look at what’s making your camper stink. Let’s get started! 

Is a Camper Supposed to Stink?

Your camper should have a specific smell, but not one that stinks. New campers often smell like formaldehyde because it’s often used during manufacturing.

If your RV stinks, it’s important to know that it’s not normal. You’ll want to investigate the smell as soon as possible to avoid delays in your future camping trips.

Reasons Your Camper Might Stink

There are several reasons why your camper might stink. Let’s look at a few culprits of camper smells and what you can do to eliminate them. 

Black Tank Has a Clog

A clogged black tank can cause some pretty rancid smells. This is typical because your tank isn’t able to empty, and the nasty gunk in your tank creates a pretty horrendous smell the longer it sits in there. Many experience a clog in their tank due to not using enough water when there are solids in the black tank.

One of the best ways to prevent clogs is to use septic-safe toilet paper and plenty of water every time you flush. Extra water in your tanks helps break down the solids and makes you less likely to experience a clog. After dumping your tanks, you should always add a couple of gallons of water to avoid any potential issues.

Your Black Tank Is Full

If your RV smells like an outhouse, there’s also a good chance you need to empty your black tank. This is rather simple if you’re at a campsite with full hookups. However, it can be a bit more difficult if you’re boondocking or camping somewhere without a sewer connection. You can use a portable waste tote or hire a sewer service to come empty and haul away the waste in your tanks.

Tanks Need Cleaning

Even if your tanks are empty, they can be pretty stinky. This is often the result of bacteria and other gunk that can grow inside them. A tank treatment like Happy Camper is a good way to keep your tanks clean and smelling fresh.

After dumping your tanks and adding a few gallons of water to your black tank, dump some Happy Camper down the toilet and into the black tank. This product has chemicals that will eat away the odor-causing bacteria, and you’ll eventually have a fresh-smelling RV. Consistency is the key, and you shouldn’t wait to clean your tanks until they start smelling.

If you have a black tank flush connection, it’s a good idea to flush your tanks regularly. You’ll want a sewer connection easily available so you can fill your tanks with clean water and rinse them out several times. This can take a considerable time, so it’s not always advisable to do this at the dump station unless there are no other options.

Faulty Air Admittance Valve

An air admittance valve allows for a one-way movement of air in a plumbing system to avoid creating a vacuum and sucking water out of the P-trap in a sink. The water in the P-trap prevents odors from the gray tank from entering the RV through the drain. A faulty air admittance valve will allow the smells to escape the tank. You’ll quickly notice them, especially if your RV has been closed for some time.

Luckily, this is relatively easy to identify and easy to fix. If you notice the odor under your sink, there’s a good chance this is the problem. Once you’ve secured a replacement air admittance valve, unscrew the faulty valve and screw on the new valve.

It’s that easy! You don’t need any tools or training to replace it. You can now return to having a clean smelling RV again.

Dead Rodent

There could be a dead rodent if you have a putrid smell. It’s not uncommon for mice to find their way into an RV, especially when they sit in storage for months. The best way to locate a dead rodent is to use your nose. This isn’t the most fun way, but it’s highly effective.

Try to find where the smell is the strongest and start searching near the smell. You may need to open cabinets or remove drawers to locate the source. Unfortunately, there are some instances where mice die in the underbelly of your rig. It can be a complicated process to remove the underbelly, but it will be necessary to remove the rodent.

Once you locate the dead carcass, use your frustrations as motivation to seal up any entry points in your RV where mice or other critters could get into your rig. We recommend spray foam insulation to seal up those gaps as quickly as possible.

You Need to Clean

If your rig stinks, it might be time to do some cleaning. Check your fridge and other compartments for any food or trash that needs to find its way into the nearest dumpster. You might not realize that leftovers are in the back of your fridge. Perhaps someone threw something away in the trash they should’ve taken straight to the dumpster.

How to Get the Smell Out of Your RV

Once you locate and fix the issue, there are some things you can do to get rid of the smell inside your rig.

Increase Air Circulation

You’ll want to open up all of the windows and vents in your RV. This will help maximize air circulation in your rig and eliminate any lingering odors. Turning on your vent fans can help push out the air inside your RV and suck in fresh, clean air.

Turn on the air conditioner if it’s too hot to open up your rig. This will help move air inside your RV and help eliminate the odor as quickly as possible without increasing the temperature.

Activated Charcoal

Using activated charcoal is a great option for eliminating odors in your RV. The ingredients in the charcoal will absorb any unpleasant smells inside your camper. You can purchase air purifying bags to place around your RV to help eliminate odors and create a clean and fresh-smelling atmosphere. These are relatively inexpensive and activate when placed in the sun. If you’re tired of the smells in your RV, give these a shot.

Use Air Fresheners or Candles

If you have a specific scent that you want for your RV, you can always use your favorite air freshener or candles. However, we strongly recommend using a candle warmer and not an open flame. 

Candles may help improve the smell in your RV, but they can be extremely dangerous. Fires in an RV can spread very quickly, and it can go up in flames in minutes. So make sure you take the proper precautions and never leave it unattended if you use an open flame.

Cooking Some Food

Why not replace the stinky odors in your RV with some more appetite-inducing? Bake some cookies or special treats inside your RV that will provide a pleasant aroma. Not only will you improve how your RV smells, but you’ll also have delicious cookies to snack on at your campsite.

You may even make a friend or two when the neighbors smell what you’re cooking. Avoid cooking overly strong-smelling foods like bacon, or you’ll be smelling it for weeks.

Bring in Plants

Using plants inside your RV will not only add some life to your RV, but also help eliminate odors. Plants like azaleas, orchids, and anthuriums are great for absorbing odors. They come in various colors and can help your RV smell and feel more like home.

However, ensure you take your plants when you’re not using your RV. If you don’t, you’ll come back to some dead plants that may make your RV smell, which defeats the purpose of using plants.

Enjoy a Fresh Smelling RV

You’ll be miserable if your RV smells to the point where you don’t enjoy being inside it. We’ve shared some common reasons your RV might stink and what you can do to fix them. Ensure you immediately investigate any odors you might smell.

These issues don’t typically fix themselves and only worsen with time. So if you have a smell that you’re trying to track down, give some of our tips a try and see if they do the trick!

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