Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than opening the door to your RV after not using it for a while only to be hit in the face with a musky, stagnant smell. That’s if you are lucky. Horrible occurs can seemingly show up out of nowhere when our rigs are left unattended.
What can we do about it? Fortunately, there are a number of ways to keep our rigs smelling fresh and clean all year long.
Let’s take a look!
Why Does My RV Stink?
RVs can stink for a lot of reasons. If there is something that can cause a smell in your home, there’s a good chance it can cause a smell in your RV as well.
On top of that, you have to deal with gray tanks and black tanks, which are a whole other ballgame. You’re also in direct contact with nature so you can add in smells like campfire smoke, etc.
Food left in the fridge, rodents, bugs, and more, can all add a different layer of smell to your rig. It can be hard at times to stay on top of things. There’s just a lot going on.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the dreaded and feared smell associated with water leaks. Yikes! These may be the scariest of all.
Some of these issues can be easily removed and some take a little extra effort. Also, once you get it clean and smelling fresh you want to keep that way between trips. That’s important as well.
With that being said, let’s get to it.
How to Get Rid of RV Smells
The first thing you should always do is perform a thorough cleaning. Make sure EVERYTHING is cleaned prior to storing your rig for a bit.
Clean sinks, showers, tubs, toilets, refrigerators, floors, etc. I think you get the picture. A legitimate cleaning can go a long way to maintain a fresh and clean smelling rig.
In addition to cleaning your rig, be sure to remove all your linen. Soft fabrics can trap and hold bad smells. Go ahead and remove these and get them washed and clean for your next trip.
Leave Vents Open
If possible, leave your vents open. Fresh air will always help fight stagnant, musty smells. You just need to make sure you can do it and not worry about moisture getting in. If that is a concern, scratch the idea and use some of the other methods.
Drain the Tanks
This seems like a no-brainer, but don’t put your rig up for any amount of time with any nastiness in your black water or gray water tanks. Your just asking for trouble. Make sure these are drained and good to go.
Add a little Pine-Sol or Fabuloso to the drain as a deodorizer. It doesn’t take much…a 1/4 cup will do. Also, make sure there is a little water in p-traps under the sinks. This will help prevent the smell from coming back up through the drain.
Another good solution is to use activated charcoal. I prefer to use airBoss Anywhere Dehumidifiers when I can.
They come in a pack of six and can be opened and spaced out through your rig. Depending on the size, this should be more than enough to help remove any moisture and prevent dampness.
Citronella candles can be opened and placed throughout your rig as well. Obviously, you won’t be burning them. But, they offer a strong enough fragrance that they work well for controlling odor while you are gone.
I like to use Murphy’s, which are made with essential oils and a soy/beeswax blend. As a bonus, they can be left in the camper and used to keep bugs away when you make it to your campsite.
Dryer sheets are an all-time favorite for a lot of people and they are simple to put to work. Just grab a box of your favorite fragrance and place them in all the cabinets and drawers, as well and under the sink, mattress, etc. You can keep them in there during the off season and just take them out when you’re ready to start using your rig again.
Lysol Multi-Surface Cleaner
This is another easy one. Just grab a bottle of Lysol Multi-Surface Cleaner and dump it into a spray bottle. It can obviously be used to clean, but can also be used to spray down everything to fight odor.
Since it kills most bacteria and viruses, it’s great for fighting odor. It also good to use on multiple surfaces and materials. A bonus is that it still works even when diluted down.
These cans come in a variety of fragrances and can be placed throughout your RV. Pop open the can and space them out accordingly. They last for approximately 60 days before they need any attention. After 60 days, swap the scent pads around and place them in more confined areas like cabinets, drawers, closets, storage areas, etc., for even more use.
Use a sachet filled with something like cedar, or another fragrance, place them strategically throughout your camper. The good thing about cedar is that it helps repel moths and other pests. The pouches, usually cotton, are soft and non-abrasive to most surfaces and other materials.
Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags
Spread out charcoal bags like Vitscan Bamboo Charcoal Purifying Bags to closets, drawers cabinets, and more. They also work well when hung up from knobs, door handles, curtain rods, etc.
These things work great to absorb odor and moisture, which tackles two problems at once. The bags are reusable and the charcoal can be recharged in the sunlight.
Cinnamon Scented Pine Combs
I’ve used these in the past and they work wonders. I find them really easy to find around the holidays, and you can usually find them for a steal right after Christmas.
They can be placed in baskets or whatever else you choose when you are using them. Mine came in a mesh bag and I just left them all in the bag and placed it on the floor. It worked great.
Coffee beans are a great option for all the coffee lovers out there. The variety and roast don’t really matter, just make sure you place them in an open-faced container. The subtle smell can really work well, especially in warmer temperatures.
If coffee isn’t your thing, grab a hand full of tea bags and hang them in closets, place them in drawers, under cabinets, etc. They give off a pleasant smell and help to absorb odors as well.
What is there to say about baking soda. Everyone knows how well it works. You can open containers and leave them in the refrigerator and on the counters for passive odor control.
It can also be used to control mattress odors. Simply sprinkle it on the mattress, let it sit for a couple of hours, then vacuum it off.
Apple cider vinegar can be placed in cups or bowls around the camper and allowed to evaporate.
Another alternative utilizes white vinegar. For this option, mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray surfaces and let air dry for excellent odor control.
Bag of Cedar Chips
If you want a cheap DIY hack, just grab a handful (or more) of fresh cedar chips and place them in a porous or mesh bag. You can even use something like an old bag that lemons or limes come in. Once you put the cedar chips in it, you can stash it or hang it anywhere you like.
Bag of Cotton Balls with Essential Oil
This is another cheap, DIY solution. For this easy hack, just use a bag like a zip-lock and fill it up with cotton balls. Then use an essential oil like peppermint oil, to treat the cotton balls. You don’t have to soak them, but sprinkle enough oil in there to get a strong smell going. Peppermint oil can also help to repel rodents if that is an issue.
An awesome natural option can be to use dried lavender. Dried lavender can be purchased in bunches and has a wonderful smell. You can put it in a vase or it can be placed in various things like a basket sitting on top of a counter. It’s up to your imagination.
Damp Rid is another solid option when it comes to removing those damp, musty odors that pop from time to time. For smaller problems, this is a much cheaper solution than buying a dehumidifier. Especially, if you don’t have electricity.
Ozium is kind of expensive per can ($17.50), but it works wonders. It is an air sanitizer that really works well to remove bad smells and odors. It kills the bacteria that cause the smell, so it actually removes the odor and not just cover it up. It even works well on smoke, which is a plus around campfires.
Davis 1458 Air-Dryr 1000
If you need something that packs a bigger punch, consider the Davis 1458 Air-Dryer. This thing works wonder to hold offer moisture and all the problems associate with moisture, like a bad smell. It can run 24/7 with minimal oversight.
You can always use something like Febreeze, which claims to eliminate odor and freshen the air. Some people like the scent and some people don’t. There’s only one way to find out, but a bottle and give it a go.
If you want a DIY Febreeze option, get a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Depending on the size of your spray bottle, add 25-30 drops of your favorite oil. Make sure it is mixed well and get to spraying.
Much like citronella candles, use your favorite candle as an air freshener. Make sure it is good quality because the cheap versions don’t work very well. The lose smell quick when compared to quality candles. When in doubt, add several throughout your rig.
Automatic Air Freshener
Try an automatic dispenser like the Air Wick Freshmatic. Some of the fragrances contain natural essential oils and offer better odor control. The good thing about these is that the refill will give you 2-months worth of fragrance.
Irish Spring Soap
Another old-time favorite is to use Irish Spring soap. You can use the entire bar, but I prefer to use it in chunks. Once you open it up, break it up into pieces and place chunks around the camper. Some folks say Irish Spring works well to keep rodents away.
Grab a mason jar with a lid put Downy Unstoppables in it. Make sure you poke enough holes in the lid to let the fragrance escape. Again, like a lot of these options, be sure to strategically place them throughout your rig. Think of places like the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom.
You can also add these beads to a spray bottle full of water. Let them dissolve and make sure it is mixed well. Lightly spray soft surfaces like cushions, curtains, and mattresses. Let it air dry and you are good to go.
Go to your local dollar store and buy a handful of the cheap $1 Renuzit air fresheners. For the price, they are hard to beat. Get your favorite scent and place them in your trouble areas. They last a long time and for the most part, aren’t too overpowering. I prefer to use more milds fragrances.
It sucks to have to deal with a bad-smelling RV. It is the last thing you want to run into when you open those doors for the first time of the season. Fortunately, you have a lot of options to help fight those bad smells. Pick what you like, base on your smell preferences, etc., and put it to work for you. You will be glad you did.