How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in RV

How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in RV


George Cummings
November 23, 2021

An RV is a home-like any other, and sometimes it experiences strange odors and unpleasant smells that are hard to get rid of.

Having a musty smell in your traveling home isn’t the worst thing that can happen to it, but it can ruin the ambiance inside, so you need some tricks up your sleeve to fix it quickly.

How do you get rid of a musty smell in your RV? Musty odors in RV can be caused by excess moisture and a lack of fresh air, so finding the source is the best place to start.

Some tricks for getting rid of the smell are cleaning the water tanks, opening up all the windows, using a dehumidifier, and doing a deep clean, with one or more of these usually rectifying the issue.

If you’re looking for a way to freshen up your RV so that the only thing you can smell is the ocean or pine forests as you drive by them, we can help.

We’ve got the simplest tips for getting rid of the musty odor and making sure it stays gone for good.

Tips for Getting Rid of the Musty Smell in Your RV

RVs are prone to picking up all kinds of smells along their travels, and that musty odor is one of the most common.

If you’re suffering from this scent problem, check out these musty smell-in RV tricks that you can use to bring fresh air and goodness back into your traveling home.

#1 Clean The Tanks

#1 Clean The Tanks

Your RV is home to three tanks, each as important as the last, and all potentially responsible for musty smells when not taken care of.

Regular maintenance, cleaning, and upkeep are needed for all of these tanks to ensure you’re living as healthily as possible in your RV and not being exposed to contaminants, including nasty odors.

The freshwater tank is the most likely one to develop a musty smell because people don’t realize it needs to be cleaned regularly.

The usually freshwater will turn into stagnant water and any time you’re using it through faucets and showerheads in the RV, this smell will permeate through the vehicle.

The grey and black water tanks also need to be cleaned and sanitized regularly, as they could be the cause of the musty smell as well.

Without cleaning, the water can make its way back up through the pipes and into the RV or pose a serious threat to your health and safety, so they’re crucial to maintaining.

#2 Empty The Fridge

#2 Empty The Fridge

Whether it’s at home or on the road, our fridges can be home to some pretty nasty odors.

However, when you’re in such closed quarters as a motorhome it’s even more crucial to remove old food as quickly as possible and keep the fridge sparkling inside and out.

Once a week, remove everything from your fridge and check its condition and expiration date to make sure it doesn’t have to be thrown out.

Wipe down the shelves of the fridge with a powerful cleaning agent and look for signs of leaks, mold, and excess moisture before putting the contents back in.

When you’re planning on storing your RV for a while, do a thorough clean of the fridge and empty all of the contents.

Unplug it from the wall and leave the door slightly ajar so that these musty smells don’t build up further while it’s not in use.

#3 Keep the Bathroom Clean

#3 Keep the Bathroom Clean

As the room of the RV that comes into contact with the most moisture, it makes sense that the vehicle’s musty smells could be coming from here.

Any time you step out of the shower, it’s important to give it a squeegee to remove any moisture, and immediately hang up any wet towels or bath mats outside where they can dry.

Other areas worth checking out in the bathroom are the drains, as they could be hiding something inside that needs removing.

You’ll want to make sure you don’t leave any dirty clothes laying around, give the toilet and tank a regular clean, and have a room deodorizer spray that helps to eliminate any odors before they become a problem.

#4 Look Out For Mold and Mildew

#4 Look Out For Mold and Mildew

Mold is a serious business, whether you own an RV or a regular home, and it’s one of the most common causes of musty aromas.

As an organism that thrives on a lack of fresh air and the presence of moisture, your RV is the perfect breeding ground for it.

People often assume the musty smell they’re noticing comes from moisture and dampness, but it’s likely caused by mold or mildew, you want to do whatever you can to remove it.

Once you get used to the smell that mold makes, you’ll be able to notice it before you even see it, and give your RV the deep cleaning that it needs to remove it

To tackle mold and ensure it’s gone for good, you’ll need a dedicated mold removal product or homemade solution, and the willingness to put in some elbow grease to get rid of it.

Keeping your RV well ventilated with access to sunlight and getting rid of anything that’s harboring moisture will ensure it doesn’t return once it’s been removed.

#5 Invest In a Dehumidifier

#5 Invest In a Dehumidifier

RVs are prone to trapping moisture and humidity inside, even if you’re doing your best to keep it aired out.

Thankfully, the addition of a dehumidifier is a quick fix and will prevent other issues like mold and mildew from arising in the future as well.

There are loads of RV-friendly dehumidifiers made for this very purpose and they work well in the smaller spaces of your motorhome.

These devices actively absorb moisture so it’s not left to wander around the vehicle and find its way into seats and carpets or start to affect your health.

A dehumidifier can be either a battery-operated device, something that plugs into the wall, or moisture absorbing pack, each with pros and cons to weigh up.

With the introduction of one of these to your RV, you’ll get rid of those musty smells and keep moisture from causing any more harm.

#6 Let The Fresh Air In

#6 Let The Fresh Air In

Living in an RV is all about making the most of your natural surroundings and that’s hard to do when you’re cooped up inside a vehicle all day.

To prevent moisture building up and the musty smell arriving, you’ll want to ensure your RV gets as much natural air, breeze, and sunlight as possible

Thankfully, this is pretty easy to do when the weather is fine, and you should make it a habit of airing it out every day when living in your RV.

Spend as much time as possible relaxing outside of the vehicle and leave the windows and doors open to get the benefits of the fresh air.

Other important times to air out your RV include after cooking a strongly scented meal, during deep cleaning sessions, after showering, and if anyone in the vehicle is creating unpleasant odors of their own.

This will ensure no moisture or strong aromas get trapped in the vehicle and linger around forever.

#7 Check the Carpets

#7 Check the Carpets

Carpets go through a whole lot in their lives, and this is true for the ones at home and those in your RV.

As a soft, absorbent material, it’s natural for this surface to harbor lots of unpleasant smells and it usually starts with moisture being trapped inside without any way to dry out.

To get the musty smell out of our RV, one of the best places to start is by having the carpeted floors steam cleaned.

If you can still smell something unpleasant coming from their general direction after being thoroughly cleaned, you may need to have the carpets removed and replaced.

Beyond the carpets on the floors, also look at the other soft furnishings in the RV, including the car seat covers.

If you’re able to remove the cushion covers and get a look at the foam fill in them, this could be the source of your musty smell problem, requiring the foam to be replaced completely as well.

#8 Keep the Place Tidy

#8 Keep the Place Tidy

This might sound like an obvious one, but it’s also something that’s easily forgotten, and can lead to smells and other gross things taking up residence in your RV. 

At the end of each day, go through the camper and wipe benches down, sweep out, open up the windows, and wash any bedding or soft furnishings that need it.

The RV lifestyle is one that creates a lot of mess, whether it’s a trip to the beach bringing sand into your home or coming in soaking wet after being caught in the rain.

When you combine this with the general mess that occurs in your regular home, you’ll see how much more attention your RV needs when it comes to cleaning.

A little bit of time each day is all you need to stay on top of it and prevent unpleasant odors from arriving.

#9 Do A Deep Clean

#9 Do A Deep Clean

Sometimes the only thing that will remove a strange odor from your camper is to give it a thorough clean, both inside and out.

During a deep clean, you’ll want to focus on all of the smaller components like air conditioner filters, mattresses, curtains.

These are the most likely parts that would be harboring the musty smell that’s making your RV unbearable, and giving them a thorough cleaning will ensure that it disappears.

As a responsible RV owner, you should be performing this type of deep clean at least twice a year, and maybe more if it’s used exclusively as your living quarters.

Not only is it a great way to keep everything clean and smelling good but it’ll let you inspect the RV closely for any damage or repairs that need tending to, including leaks and cracks where moisture might be coming in.

A Musty Free RV

As a traveling home with a unique setup, it’s natural that our RVs will experience some strange smells from time to time.

With a little bit of preparation and some tricks up your sleeve, you can prevent these unpleasant odors before they become a problem and enjoy the freshness that living on the road offers.

Related Questions

Your RV is not only one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make but also your traveling home, so you want it to be taken care of.

To find out a little more about how to do just that, read on for some commonly asked questions that others have had on general RV maintenance and upkeep.

How Often Should RV Bed Sheets Be Changed?

How Often Should RV Bed Sheets Be Changed?

An RV bed should be kept like any other which means you should be changing the sheets on it once a week to a fortnight.

If your RV is parked in storage and not being used, make sure all of the sheets have been removed first, and then place a new set on when you bring the vehicle out of storage.

How Often Should You Clean RV?

The cleaning schedule for your RV will depend on its use, with regular travel in the vehicle requiring an exterior and interior deep clean every few months, as well as smaller cleans done as needed.

Otherwise, it’s advisable to clean the RV thoroughly before storing it away and at least twice a year for those that aren’t used as frequently.


George Cummings

George Cummings enjoys connecting with nature, meeting new people, and making friends from all over the world. RVing and camping create the perfect opportunity for [him/her] to take part in these activities. After spending several years on the road and exploring the great outdoors, George Cummings shares some of his best pieces of advice on how to make the most of your time while camping. TourTheOutdoors is his way of helping outdoorsy individuals like [him/her] start on a right footing with amazing recommendations and buying guides.