How to Get Musty Smell Out of Camper Cushions (Follow the Methods)

Nothing can ruin an amazing camping trip faster than lifting up those camper seat cushions and being hit with an intense wave of stale, musty odor. That dank smell means moisture has invaded the porous foam inside, allowing mold, mildew, and bacteria to thrive deep within the cushions. No matter how much Febreze you spray or the hours spend airing them out, that nasty smell just won’t disappear completely.

The most effective way to fully eliminate musty smells from camper cushions is to thoroughly dry the foam cores first to remove the source of moisture that feeds mold growth. This starves the odor-causing contaminants at their root.

The good news is with some simple, inexpensive drying techniques and prevention strategies outlined here, even the staunchest camper cushions can be refreshed and restored to provide comfortable, smell-free seating for years to come. Read on to uncover the secrets for banishing that musty stench from camper cushions for good.

The Causes and Challenges of Musty Camper Cushions

A musty smell in cushions is often caused by moisture getting trapped inside the cushion. Most camper cushions consist of a polyurethane foam core wrapped in a vinyl or fabric cover. The foam is porous and will absorb and trap moisture from the air or if the cushion gets wet. Over time, mold and mildew can start to grow in the damp foam, causing that familiar musty stench.

This is a common issue in campers for a few reasons:

  • Temperature Changes – The warm interior of a camper cooling down at night can cause condensation to form on cold surfaces like windows and cushions. This introduces moisture that gets wicked into the cushion cores.
  • Limited Air Circulation – Many campers have little airflow when not in use. This allows dampness to linger inside cushions instead of fully drying out.
  • Infrequent Use – Cushions left sitting for weeks or months between camping trips are prime targets for moisture buildup and mold growth.

That musty smell is difficult to eliminate because it permeates deep inside the cushion foam. Simply letting cushions air dry or spraying odor eliminators on the fabric covers treats the symptom, not the root cause. To fully get rid of musty odors and prevent their return, moisture needs to be drawn back out of the foam itself.

The good news is there are several methods RV owners can use that are safe, effective, and budget-friendly to breathe new life into smelly camper cushions.

Effective Ways to Remove Musty Odors from Camper Cushions

The most important first step when dealing with musty cushions is to thoroughly dry them out. Removing the source of moisture deprives any mold and mildew of the damp environment they need to grow and spread.

There are two main approaches to drying camper cushions – air drying outside in the sun and using mechanical drying methods. Here we will explore various techniques for each approach that have proven successful in eliminating that stubborn musty smell.

Method 1: Air Drying Camper Cushions

Air drying cushions are the simpler, less expensive route to remove moisture and musty odors. However, it does require consistent sunny weather and takes more time. Here are three methods for air-drying cushions:

1. Hang Cushions Outdoors

  • Remove cushion covers
  • Take foam cores outdoors and hang over a clothesline, fence, or deck railing using rope, twine, or bungee cords
  • Allow sunshine and airflow to thoroughly dry cushions – may take several days if very damp
  • Bring foam indoors at night to avoid re-dampening from dew

2. Lay Cushions in Direct Sunlight

  • Remove cushion covers
  • Lay foam cushions directly on a flat, dry surface in full sun
  • Turn cushions periodically to expose all sides to sunlight
  • Bring foam indoors at night

3. Place Near Heat Source Outdoors

  • Remove cushion covers
  • Position foam cushions near a safe outdoor heat source like a fire pit or chiminea
  • Turn cushions periodically so all sides benefit from the heat
  • Bring foam indoors at night

Placing cushions near radiant heat accelerates the drying process. Just take care not to get the foam too close to open flames which could scorch or melt it.

Method 2: Mechanical Drying Options

For faster drying times, mechanical methods use fans, dehumidifiers, or heating devices to actively draw moisture out of foam cushions.

1. Use Fans

  • Remove cushion covers
  • Set up 1 or more fans to blow air directly on the foam cushions
  • Elevate cushions on cinder blocks or milk crates to maximize airflow circulation
  • Add more fans to increase air volume moving over cushions
  • Check foam daily until completely dry

Industrial drying fans are ideal but standard home fans work too. This dries cushions faster than passive air drying.

2. Use a Dehumidifier

  • Remove cushion covers
  • Place loose foam cushions in an enclosed space like a shed, tent, or closet
  • Run a dehumidifier on a high setting with cushions for 24-48 hours
  • Check cushions for dryness and continue dehumidifying if needed

The dehumidifier will pull moisture from the air and foam to thoroughly dry cushions. Monitor progress until cushions feel dry all the way through.

3. Apply Low Heat

  • Remove cushion covers
  • Place foam cushions in an enclosed space like a shed, tent, or closet
  • Use a space heater, heat gun, or hair dryer to gently warm the enclosed space
  • Check foam frequently to prevent overheating
  • Continue applying low heat until cushions are completely dry

Gentle heat accelerates the evaporation of moisture from the cushion foam. Just don’t overdo it with high temperatures that could warp or melt the cushion foam.

Now that we’ve covered effective drying methods, let’s discuss some other odor-removal tips:

Additional Tips for Removing Musty Smells

Drying is key, but sometimes stubborn odors linger even in dry foam. Here are some extra tricks to help banish that musty smell for good:

  • Expose Cushions to Direct Sunlight – The UV rays in sunlight act as a natural disinfectant. After thorough drying, leave cushions in sunlight for a few hours to help neutralize bacteria and mold.
  • Spray Vinegar or Vodka – These products help eliminate lingering odors without leaving a strong scent themselves. Lightly mist cushion foam and let dry completely.
  • Apply Baking Soda – Sprinkle baking soda directly on dry cushions and let sit overnight before vacuuming up. Baking soda absorbs stubborn odors.
  • Rotate Foam Cores – If one area of a cushion retains more moisture or worse odors than other spots, rotate or flip the foam so the worst sections are exposed to air and sunlight.
  • Replace Foam If Needed – Severely soaked or smelly foam that doesn’t improve with drying may need to be replaced altogether. As a rule, closed-cell foam is more water-resistant than open-cell.

Now let’s explore some key precautions to prevent musty cushion odors from returning next camping trip:

Preventing Musty Odors in Camper Cushions

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to musty camper cushions. Here are great tips to keep foam cushions fresh smelling trip after trip:

Promote Air Circulation

Allow air to freely circulate cushions when the camper is not in use:

  • Leave camper windows and roof vents open whenever possible
  • Use box fans to blow air through the camper interior
  • Consider adding vent covers with built-in fans for continual airflow
  • Use absorbent dehumidifiers and moisture collectors inside the camper

Keep Cushions Clean and Dry

  • Vacuum and spot clean cushions after trips to remove dirt and spills that can trap moisture
  • Always thoroughly dry cushions if exposed to water before storing
  • Check under cushion covers for hidden moisture
  • Consider waterproof cushion covers

Proper Cushion Storage

  • Store cushions on the edge instead of flat to minimize surface area touching storage surfaces
  • Place 1-2” spacers under stored cushions to promote under-cushion airflow
  • Use moisture-wicking dehumidifier rods in storage areas
  • Store loose cushions separately from a camper in a dry, well-ventilated area

Making cushion drying and odor removal part of regular camper maintenance goes a long way toward preventing annoying musty smells from ever developing.

Now that we’ve covered the main methods for getting musty smells out of camper cushions, let’s have a quick look at some frequently asked questions about this topic.

Short Questions with Answers

What is the fastest way to get the musty smell out of RV cushions?

The fastest way is to use mechanical drying techniques like placing cushions near an outdoor heat source, using multiple fans to blow high volumes of air across them, or sealing them in an enclosed space with a heavy-duty dehumidifier. These active drying methods remove moisture more quickly than passive air drying.

Why do my RV cushions keep getting musty?

Frequent musty cushions happen when excess moisture is introduced into the porous foam cores. High humidity, rain/water damage, spills, condensation, and improper drying all allow mold and mildew to accumulate and release that characteristic stale smell.

How often should you change RV cushion foam?

Most RV cushion foam lasts 2-5 years with proper maintenance. Replace immediately if very wet, moldy, or badly misshapen. Otherwise, change when worn out or severe musty smells persist after thorough cleaning and drying. Closed-cell foam withstands moisture better than open-cell.


Musty odors happen when moisture gets trapped in porous camper cushion foam, allowing mold and mildew growth. Thorough drying is crucial to remove the source of smells and discourage future growth. Hanging cushions outdoors, placing in direct sun, using fans/dehumidifiers, and applying low heat are all effective drying techniques. For particularly stubborn smells, try exposing dry foam to UV light, spraying with vinegar/vodka, sprinkling baking soda, or replacing foam altogether. With some strategic troubleshooting and prevention, soggy camper cushions don’t have to ruin your next big adventure. Here’s to many happy trails ahead breathing in the fresh outdoor air instead of stinky cushion smells! Let us know in the comments if you have any other useful tips for keeping camper cushions odor-free!

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