How to Get Rid of a Smell in a Camper

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Campers become your home away from home as you explore the country. But just like a regular home, your RV home can start to smell for various reasons. You could spray some air freshener, but the smell will come back quickly. Sniff out the source of the odor and fix it to banish the stinky smells.

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Tackle Holding Tank Odors

If you use the toilet in your camper, you could face stinky holding tank smells. Always keeping a little water in the black water tank, enough to cover the bottom, helps prevent smells from solid wastes in the tank. Holding tank chemicals used to break down the waste can also reduce smells. Empty your black water tank regularly before it gets too full, and rinse it out each time you empty it. Deep clean your holding tanks at least a few times per year to remove any buildup and to keep it smelling better.

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The gray water tank, which holds water from your sinks and shower, can also get stinky if you don't clean it. You can clean it easily by pouring in about a cup of cleaning product plus enough water to mostly fill the tank and then drive the camper to splash the water around inside the tank. Cleaning options that work well include:

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After a day or two, drain the water and rinse out the tank. Avoid using bleach in the holding tanks as it can be damaging to the valves and seals in the tanks.

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Freshen the Fridge

Your camper refrigerator can be the source of odors whether it's due to old food or simply mustiness from not being used for a while. Deep clean the refrigerator to help clear out the odor, and leave it open until it dries fully. Keeping a box of baking soda in the refrigerator helps minimize food odors. When your camper isn't in use and the fridge is shut off, leave the door propped open a little to let moisture and odors out.

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Clean the Drains

The camper's kitchen and bathroom drains can also get smelly, especially if you haven't used them in a while. You can clean your drains with baking soda and vinegar. Pour a few tablespoons of baking soda down the drain and follow it with a cup of vinegar to create a fizzing reaction that helps clear out the gunk from the drains. Run water down the drain to rinse it when you're done.

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Minimize Musty Smells

An RV can smell musty if it sits in storage for a long time. Open all the windows and vents to air out the camper if this is the case. Clean it from top to bottom, and wash any fabrics, such as curtains and removable cushion covers.

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Mildew and mold growth can also cause musty smells. If your camper is damp or recently had leaks, you could have mold growth. Look for mold and mildew on all visible surfaces of the camper. If you spot it, use distilled vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to kill the mold.

If the mold happened due to water damage or leaks, repair the issues to prevent the moisture from entering your camper again. You can use products like DampRid to absorb moisture from your camper or you can run a dehumidifier as needed when you're camping in humid areas.

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