Living the RV Life: Dealing with Common 6 RV Smells

As someone who has lived in an RV full-time for the past couple of years, I’ve gotten very familiar with the unique smells that come with RV living. While RVs provide a great way to travel and live on the go, the confined space can result in some less-than-pleasant aromas. Today I’m going to share about 6 RV smells (sewage, mold and mildew,  stale air, etc) that I’ve learned to identify and tips for dealing with them. So, if you’re interested and find similarities with mine, you’re welcome. Just take a few minutes and keep reading till the end.

6 RV Smells

Smell 1 – Sewage

Sewage is probably the most unpleasant RV smell of all. It’s usually caused by a problem with the black tank, which holds wastewater from the toilet. If the black tank isn’t emptied regularly, or if there’s a blockage in the tank or the vent pipe, it can cause a sewer smell.

To prevent sewer smells, be sure to empty the black tank regularly. You should also clean the black tank and vent pipe at least once a year. If you have a sewer smell, you can try adding a black tank treatment to the tank. This will help to break down waste and reduce odors.

If you have a persistent sewer smell, you may need to call a professional RV technician. They can inspect the black tank and vent pipe for any problems, and make repairs if necessary.

Smell 2 – Mold and mildew

Mold and mildew can grow in an RV if there’s too much moisture in the air. This can be caused by showering, cooking, or simply breathing. If you notice a moldy smell in your RV, it’s important to identify and fix the source of the moisture and clean up any mold or mildew that you find.

To prevent mold and mildew, be sure to ventilate your RV regularly. You should also use a dehumidifier if the air is too humid. If you find mold or mildew in your RV, you can clean it up with a mixture of vinegar and water. You can also use a commercial mold and mildew remover.

Smell 3 – Pet odors

If you have pets, their odors can build up in your RV over time. This is especially true if you don’t bathe them regularly, or if they have accidents in the RV. To reduce pet odors, be sure to bathe your pets regularly, and clean up any accidents immediately. You may also want to use an air purifier or deodorizer.

Smell 4 – Cooking smells

Cooking smells can also build up in your RV, especially if you’re cooking foods that produce strong odors, such as fish or garlic. To reduce cooking smells, be sure to use a vent fan or open a window when you’re cooking. You may also want to use an air purifier or deodorizer.

Smell 5 – Stale air

If you don’t open your RV windows and doors regularly, the air inside can become stale and stuffy. This can lead to a variety of unpleasant odors, including cigarette smoke, body odor, and food smells. To freshen the air in your RV, be sure to open the windows and doors regularly, and use a fan to circulate the air.

Smell 6 – Burning plastic

If you smell burning plastic, it’s important to investigate immediately. This could be a sign of an electrical fire, which can be very dangerous. If you smell burning plastic, turn off all of the electrical appliances in your RV and unplug them from the outlets. Then, inspect the wiring for any signs of damage. If you find any damage, or if you’re not sure what’s causing the smell, call an electrician immediately.

Common Related Questions

What is the most common cause of propane odor in an RV?

A: The most common cause of propane odor in an RV is a leak somewhere in the propane system. Loose fittings, cracked rubber hoses, and faulty propane regulators or appliances can all cause leaks and allow the rotten egg propane smell to enter the RV interior.

Why does my RV smell musty after being closed up for a while?

A: Stale, musty RV smells are typically caused by mold or mildew growth stemming from moisture buildup while the RV sits unused. Running a dehumidifier, thoroughly airing out the RV, and using mold/mildew cleaners on affected surfaces can help eliminate musty odors.

How can I keep my RV refrigerator from taking on bad odors?

A: To prevent refrigerator odors, regularly clean the interior with baking soda or RV fridge cleaner, periodically defrost, avoid spills, and make sure food is wrapped/sealed. Activated charcoal filters can also help absorb fridge odors over time.


Unpleasant smells are an inevitable part of RV living. By identifying odors quickly, thoroughly investigating their source, and taking the appropriate countermeasures, RV owners can keep their interior smelling fresh. Implementing preventative maintenance and being diligent about cleaning goes a long way in the fight against RV odors. With some attention and elbow grease, your RV can be odor-free and comfortable no matter where the road takes you.

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