How To Get Rid Of RV Sewer Smell?

Sewer smells in RVs can ruin a nice camping trip. The odor comes up from the gray and black water tanks. These hold sinks and toilet waste. When the tanks get full, gas leaks out into the RV. No one wants to smell bad sewage odors on vacation. There are ways to stop this problem. Making some changes can eliminate smells fast. Opening windows and vents is the first thing to try. 

Also fully emptying tanks often keeps gas from building up. Using tank deodorizing products helps too. If bad smells still come inside, try charcoal bags and sprays. Those grab and neutralize odors. Fixing leaks also locks smells in tanks. Stopping gases at their source works best. Follow these tips in your RV to enjoy trips scent-free. No one wants stinky sewer smells while camping. However, there are practical and effective ways to tackle this issue and ensure that your RV remains fresh and odor-free throughout your travels.

Strategies to Eliminate Unpleasant Odors from Your RV Sewer System

Dealing with unpleasant sewage odors in your RV can really diminish your camping enjoyment. Luckily, there are many effective methods to tackle foul smells and keep your recreational vehicle fresh. By taking proactive steps, you can contain nasty odors and filter any lingering smells that arise during travel.

Manage Black and Gray Tank Levels

Keeping gray and black tank levels low should be your first line of defense against sewer stench.

Empty Often

Make it a habit to drain tanks regularly at dumping stations before they become overly full. Overfilled tanks are more likely to leak gases and allow smells to back up inside. Get in the routine of checking tank levels frequently with gauges and dumping every few days.

Use Tank Deodorants

RV waste holding tanks benefit greatly from using specialized tank deodorants and treatments. These break down solid wastes and combat odors right at the source inside tanks. Popular brands like Bio-Active and Happy Campers hold tanks fresher longer. Simply pour into drains and toilets to treat entire systems.

Inspect for Leaks

Small leaks in plumbing joints, seals, valves or pipe connections can allow smells to escape from RV holding tanks. Carefully inspect all gray and black tank plumbing and fix any issues immediately. Avoid potential leaks with tank additives that break down waste and keep drains flowing freely without buildup.

Tips for Removing Lingering Odors

If unpleasant smells make into the living space of your RV, these handy tips will help to actively eliminate and neutralize them:

Act Quickly When Dumping

Turn on all exhaust fans, open windows and run your generator when draining tanks to actively ventilate while dumping contents. This removes any sewer gases that may enter living quarters so smells don’t stick around.

Use Air Purifiers and Charcoal Filters

Placing charcoal odor eliminator bags and filters around the RV living space aids tremendously in absorbing foul gases from gray and black tanks. Position them near shower and toilet access points for best effect. Replace filters regularly when saturated to keep working properly.

Spray Odor Neutralizer Products

It’s smart to keep RV odor eliminating sprays on hand. Brands like Febreze or Out odor destroyer use technology that actually eliminates sewage gases instead of just covering up smells temporarily. Spray liberally down drains, vents and toilet bowls after dumping.

Getting into consistent sewer management habits goes a long way toward preventing unpleasant RV odors. But when smells do eventually arise, use these handy tips to tackle them quickly and restore freshness. Then you can go back to enjoying idyllic days of RV travel and camping in peace without putting up with nasty sewage stinks.

RV Smells like Sewer when Driving

RV Smells like Sewer when Driving

An RV can develop a sewer smell when driving if there is a leak or issue with the black water holding tank or plumbing lines. Potential causes include:

  • Cracked sewer pipe or faulty seal allowing gases to escape
  • Failed or clogged vent pipe not allowing gases to properly vent outside
  • Full black tank allowing sewage to back up into pipes
  • Improperly emptied black tank leaving debris to decay

The sewer gases containing hydrogen sulfide, indole, skatole, and mercaptans can enter the RV living space causing unpleasant odors. Identifying and fixing the source of the leak is key to stopping the odor.

Sewer Smell in RV when AC is on

RV air conditioners work by pulling air from outside and cooling it before circulating it inside. If there is a sewer gas leak on the RV, running the AC can potentially draw those odors inside and spread them throughout the interior.

Some potential reasons an AC could pull in sewer smells include:

  • Failed plumbing vent allowing gases to accumulate under the RV that get sucked in
  • Sewage leak near where the AC pulls in outside air like the underside or roof
  • Roof vent positioned too close to the AC intake

Checking the plumbing components and seals as well as the positioning of vents can help prevent this issue. Running the vent fan while using AC can also help.

What happens if you Smell Sewage for too long?

What happens if you Smell Sewage for too long?

Exposure to the gases found in sewage, especially hydrogen sulfide, can cause a range of health effects if inhaled for too long inside an RV. Effects can include:

  • Headache, nausea, and dizziness from short-term exposure
  • Eye and respiratory irritation developing after a few hours
  • Fatigue and inability to think clearly after longer-term exposure
  • Loss of olfactory senses causing you to no longer smell the gases

The gases displace oxygen which can cause asphyxiation in confined spaces. Prolonged exposure can affect the nervous system and cause inflammation. It’s critical to evacuate and ventilate an RV if sewage gases are detected for any length of time to prevent hazardous health impacts. Finding and fixing the source of the odors right away is key.

What Causes the Odor in My RV Black Tank?

The source of unpleasant sewer gases and odors in your RV black tank can stem from a variety of causes. Getting to the root factors behind smells is key so you can address the issue properly.

The most common offender is overfilling. When black tanks become too full, sewage has no place to go. Gases then backup and escape through pipes into the RV interior. Sticking to regular dumping schedules helps prevent overfilled tanks.

Waste buildup is another culprit. Solid materials sticking to tank walls start to rot when left for longer periods between emptying. This decay process releases stinky hydrogen sulfide gases. Use a tank deodorizer containing enzymes to break down solids after each dump session.

Small leaks either from faulty valve seals or pipe connectors also lead to black tank odors. Even tiny leaks allow smells to escape. Carefully inspect all plumbing joints and fixtures to check for cracks or loose fittings. Replace aging rubber seals and tighten leaky spots.

Following good black tank maintenance goes far to prevent RV sewage odors. But when unpleasant smells arise, use absorbers, sprays and ventilation get rid of them quickly in living areas. Identifying and addressing the root cause keeps trips fresh.

What Causes the Unpleasant Odor of Rotten Eggs in My RV Toilet?

If you suddenly notice a nasty rotten egg smell coming from your RV toilet, determining the cause is important so you can remedy it. Typically an overflowing black tank is to blame for this common rotten egg odor.

Black Tank Issues Lead to Rotten Egg Smells

RV black water holding tanks collect all toilet waste. When capacity is reached, gases have trouble venting properly upwards through roof vents. The rotten egg odor is hydrogen sulfide gas leaking out. Here’s how it forms:

Solids Sticking to Tank Walls

Without enough tank volume left, toilet solids can’t fully drain away after flushes. Over time a coating of residual waste sticks to tank walls and begins to rot. The decomposition process releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which escapes into plumbing pipes and creates a rotten egg smell when you flush.

Lack of Tank Deodorizers

Sewage buildup causes more noxious gases inside tanks. To combat this, always use an RV-safe holding tank deodorizer after dumping tanks. Enzymes break down stuck-on solids and waste to keep tanks fresher longer until your next scheduled dump stop.

Clogged Black Tank Vent

If the roof vent stack becomes obstructed by debris or insect nests, gas release gets blocked. This causes increased pressure inside the black tank itself, forcing smelly hydrogen sulfide gases to back up inside RV toilet bowls after flushing.

Stopping those unpleasant rotten egg vapors requires getting your RV black tank back into proper working order. Carefully monitor waste levels, treat with deodorizers and clear any clogged vents. Then sewage gases can easily flow outside where they belong while you enjoy fresh travels.

Is Sewer Gas in RV Dangerous?

Exposure to sewer gases like hydrogen sulfide and methane can definitely cause harmful effects in RVs. The rotten egg smell produced inside black water tanks contains hydrogen sulfide. At higher concentrations, this toxic gas leads to eye and lung irritation, nausea, headaches and dizziness.

Long term effects of breathing RV sewer gases may increase susceptibility to respiratory illness. Methane gas is also extremely flammable and poses an explosion risk. Utilizing holding tank treatments, proper ventilation and gas alarms keeps exposure low. But recurring sewage odors should never be ignored and require expert repair of potential leaks letting gases enter living spaces.

Methods for Eliminating Odors in an RV Holding Tank

Methods for Eliminating Odors in an RV Holding Tank

Unpleasant sewer gases inside RV gray and black water tanks can make their way inside your living space. That’s why using effective holding tank treatments is so important. Here are helpful methods to attack odors right at the source.

Biological RV Holding Tank Deodorizers

Specialized biological RV tank deodorants use live bacteria and enzymes to digest solid wastes sticking to tank walls and pipes. This prevents decay that causes noxious sulfides and methane.

Break Down Waste Buildup

Powerful enzymes dissolve urine, fecal matter, food scraps, grease, paper and other organic solids that accumulate in gray and black water tanks between dump sessions. This greatly reduces odors.

Neutralize Sewage Odors

Billions of natural bacteria cultures release enzymes that digest waste particles and neutralize the sulfur compounds causing sewer odor as a byproduct. They turn smelly gases into inert salt water vapor.

Decompose Wastes Entirely

Over time, the bacteria completely decompose stuck-on organic waste materials into liquid and gas residues. This leaves clean tank walls and pipes that won’t contribute to sewer smells.

Using these kinds of biological treatments regularly keeps RV holding tanks cleaner between tank dumps. With fewer lingering solids releasing gases inside, less odor permeates upwards into living spaces. Create an odor prevention plan using both methods for best effects.

What Causes Unpleasant Odors When I Flush My RV Toilet?

It’s very common for RV owners to experience sewer gas smells inside their motorhome toilets after flushing. Tracing the root causes of these nasty odors allows you to correct problems properly.

Gray Tank Backups Create Flushing Odors

RV gray water and black water plumbing systems work together to drain sinks/showers and toilets. So when one tank malfunctions, the other is affected.

Gray Tank is Overfilled

The gray tank holds drainage from sinks, tubs and showers. When overfilled, water and debris can overflow into black tank piping. This causes waste backups when you flush toilets. Gases then leak upwards through the toilet bowl.

Gray Tank Residue Buildup

Without using tank deodorizers, residue sticks to gray tank walls over time. This buildup eventually clogs drainage pipes. When flushing solids get blocked partway to black tank, sewer gases then leak backwards through toilet drains.

Clogged Gray Tank Outlet

At the point where gray water exits the RV, aDumping strainer prevents larger items from traveling to campsite sewer hookups. If this outlet strainer gets filled with hair, food etc, a major clog happens. Drainage water then reverses direction when flushing other fixtures like toilets.

Getting to the root of RV toilet odors requires investigating gray tank issues as the source in most cases. Then you can dump tanks more often, clear clogs and install vents to prevent blockages resulting in foul smells with each flush.

How to Eliminate Odors from an RV Bathroom Caused by Urine?

How to Eliminate Odors from an RV Bathroom Caused by Urine?

Odors coming from urine buildup in RV toilets get worse over time spent traveling and dry camping between dumping stops. That pungent ammonia smell indicates excess solid wastes sticking inside toilet bowls and pipes.

Getting rid of urine odors requires some scrubbing and cleaning. Use protective gloves and ventilation when working with RV waste plumbing. Start by flushing water through toilet repeatedly to loosen deposits. Pour a mix of white vinegar and baking soda down the bowl and let fizz for 10 minutes before scrubbing stains away.

For extra cleaning power, close toilet lid and let blue or green toilet treatment liquids sit to dissolve stains per product instructions. Use a disposable wand and toilet brush to scrub bowl, paying special attention to corners and crevices where urine solids hide.

Finally, flush with plenty of water again. Then add a dose of RV enzyme tank treatment down toilet and drains to further break up any lingering urine solids or organic waste contributing to smells inside black tank system. Maintaining this cleaning routine limits odor sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get the sewer smell out of my RV?

Find leaks, clean tanks and pipes, ventilate, use RV odor control products.

Why does the inside of my RV smell like sewer?

There is a leak allowing the gases to enter from tanks or pipes.

What can I put in my RV toilet to get rid of smell?

Use RV cleaning treatments, enzyme packets, or RV toilet bombs in the toilet.

How do you get rid of a strong sewer smell?

Locate and fix the leak source, sanitize tanks/pipes, ventilate RV, use odor eliminators.


An unpleasant sewer smell in an RV can quickly ruin an otherwise enjoyable camping trip. The key to preventing and eliminating RV sewer odors is proper maintenance and using RV-safe products. Regularly flushing the black water tank with water and baking soda or RV odor elimination liquids helps remove solid waste buildup that causes smells. 

Using an RV holding tank deodorizer like formaldehyde or enzymatic products breaks down waste and keeps tanks smelling fresher between dumps. Changing the sewer hose to a premium non-toxic model can also reduce odor transfer. Taking preventative steps like these and avoiding chemicals that damage seals and gaskets will create a more pleasant environment inside and outside the RV. Addressing the sewer system promptly when issues arise is important for keeping RVing enjoyable for all.

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