You have a campervan and it is great so far but you found out your RV smells like sewage. What do you do? Every camper van owner can tell when your RV smells like sewage (or worse), but what does that smell really mean? What causes this odor? And how do we fix it for good so our next trip is as pleasant as possible without any nasty surprises in store?
There are several contributing factors to why an RV might smell like sewage, such as leaks in toilets or sinks, septic tank problems, and air fresheners not working properly. You will learn about all the different causes of the sewer gas that can leak into your RV, and how to prevent them.
- Why Does My RV Smell Like Sewage?
- 8 Reasons Why Your Campervan/RV Smells Like Sewage
- How Do I Get Rid Of The Sewage Odor In Your RV or Camper
- How Often Do You Have To Dump RV Sewage?
- How Much Does It Cost To Dump RV Tanks?
Why Does My RV Smell Like Sewage?
If your RV smells like sewage, there’s probably a good reason for it. Sewage odors are not normal and should not be ignored. In most cases, these smells are caused by a problem with the RV’s plumbing system.
There are several things that can cause an RV toilet to smell like sewage. One common cause is a blocked black tank vent pipe. This can prevent the gas from escaping the tank and cause the odor to build up inside the RV. Another common cause is a faulty bowl seal that allows sewer gases to escape into the living area of the RV.
A broken black waste tank can also be responsible for sewer smell in an RV. When this happens, wastewater and solid waste can back up into the toilet and create an unpleasant smell. If your RV has been sitting unused for a while, hot weather can cause these odors to accumulate and linger longer than usual.
You don’t need to buy any special products or treatments to get rid of sewer smells in your RV unless odor control is a concern for you. There are many effective deodorizers and air fresheners available at most stores that will take care of the problem quickly and easily. You can also try using an ozone generator in areas where you have them.
8 Reasons Why Your Campervan/RV Smells Like Sewage
1. Bowl Seal Not Sealing
The most common reason for a camper to smell like sewage is a broken seal. This means that the fix should be obvious; replace the seal on the toilet and your RV sewer gas smell should go away. If you find that a new flange or bowl seal is needed, then these are other potential causes of bad camper toilet smells.
2. Blocked Black Tank Vent Pipe can cause sewer smells
There are two vents on an RV- one is the black tank vent and the other is the roof vent. The smell of sewage can come into the RV if the waste tank pipe gets clogged. One way to try and unclog it is by running water in and out of the roof pipe with a garden hose on high pressure. If that doesn’t work, you may have to get creative or take it to an RV service center.
3. Leak In Sewer Pipe Or Broken Black Tank
If your RV smells like sewage, it’s likely that you have a leak in the sewer pipe leading from the toilet to the black tank. This can be caused by a number of things, such as corrosion or a broken black tank. If you find a waste leak but don’t know where it is, take your RV into a service dealer for them to diagnose and fix it. The best-case scenario for finding a leak would be that you can patch it yourself; however, if this fails, bring your RV in for servicing instead of trying to work with it on your own.
4. Clogged Black Waste Tank
Most RVers are familiar with the dreaded ‘poop pyramid.’ This is a clog caused by the sewer connection being left open when the RV is parked on a septic system. If this happens, wastewater will flow out of the black tank and back up into your RV through the gray water tank. There are several ways to avoid this:
Regular toilet paper or too much toilet tissue can cause clogs in RV toilets. A “poop pyramid” is a clog caused by the sewer connection being left open when the RV is parked on a septic system.
Water is the first thing to try and unclog a toilet. Blocking a clog can be done with bendable, colored tubes or tank treatments specifically made for breaking through a clog. The pile of poo must be punctured so that water can flow through it and rinse out the sewage buildup in the tube coming down from the sink
5. Your RV Toilet Is Dirty
One reason your campervan or RV might smell like sewage is that your toilet is dirty. When a toilet is not clean, it can cause odors in the bathroom. RV owners will not have odors when the toilet is clean and working correctly.
Sometimes the black tank can have a sewer smell due to blockage or leak, including broken pipes. The black tank may be dirty or clogged with waste and needs cleaning or repair.
6. Toilet Flange Seal Is Not Working
If you find that your RV toilet is emitting an unpleasant smell, the first thing you should check is the seal around the toilet flange. This seal can be cleaned and moisturized, but it is more likely that the seal needs to be replaced. Thetford toilets require disassembling in order to replace the seals.
7. Hot Weather
Tank odors are caused by bacteria digesting food and producing gases. In hot weather, this process happens more quickly and the smell is often worse. To combat the smell, use an odor-destroying treatment on your tank and use it consistently. Happy Camper is a good option for eliminating tank odors.
Bacteria is more likely to make a stink over the summer, so be sure to take extra precautions during these months. There are products available that help with tank odor and even adjust to different weather conditions.
8. Leaving The Roof Vent Fan On When Flushing can cause Camper Toilet Smells
The roof vent fan is a great way to circulate fresh air in your campervan on a hot day. However, if you forget to turn the vent fan off when flushing your camper toilet and it causes sewage smells in your RV, this can be problematic. The sewer gases will be sucked up through the vent and into your van.
The smell can be very unpleasant and is likely to linger for a long time. The solution to this problem is simple: just make sure you turn the vent fan off before flushing your RV toilet.
How Do I Get Rid Of The Sewage Odor In Your RV or Camper
1. Unclogging your RV toilet
There are a few methods that you can use to unclog your RV toilet: The first option is to pour pots of hot water down the toilet and let it sit overnight. The second method is to use ice, by adding ice to a full tank of water and then flushing the toilet once or twice.
You can use de-clogging chemicals to remove the smell. Household toilet tissue is an option for removing odor from your black tank, but Thetford tissue digester eats clogs and eliminates smell in tanks and lines.
2. Unclogging RV Shower Drain
If the shower still has a clog and you have tried everything else, pour down an enzyme-based drain opener designed for RV use and let it sit overnight to dissolve the clog. If you can’t get rid of the odor with these methods, try plunging your shower if it’s connected to a sink drain.
3. Unclogging RV Sink
There are a few things you can do to try and clear a clog in your RV sink. A common clog is a build-up of hair in the kitchen sink drain. If this is the case, you can try using a plunger or tweezers to remove the obstruction.
Another possibility is that there is a blockage in the p-trap. The p-trap is an opening at the end of a pipe where waste water drains from one side to another, such as from the kitchen sink to gray water tank. If standing water is found in either section, it can be cleared with tweezers or chemicals.
Do not use CO2 capsules, high-pressure air, or high-pressure water through the system. If you do, you could rupture the joints or pipes.
4. Replacing A Broken Wax Ring on your RV Toilet
If your RV toilet is leaking, it’s likely that the wax ring seal has broken. In order to replace it, you’ll need:
- A screwdriver
- Channel locks or pliers
- New wax ring – make sure it’s the right size for your RV toilet
First, unhook the water to the tank and remove any potential odors by flushing until it’s dry. Next, use a screwdriver or channel locks/pliers to remove the old wax ring. Be careful not to damage the porcelain on the toilet! Replace with a new wax ring, using sealant around the edge of the new ring. Finally, reattach the water and put everything back in its place.
5. Cleaning Flapper and Toilet
One of the most common sources for sewage odor in RVs is a dirty toilet or flapper. You can reduce the smell by keeping these areas clean. A wet rag can be used for cleaning the rim and drop-seat surfaces on the outside of your RV or camper, where waste and toilet paper can get stuck.
Chemical cleaners for toilets in RVs can kill the bacteria that break down waste, leaving your RV smelling like sewage. To clean a toilet, use a wet rag to clear debris from the flapper. Toilet bowl cleaner can also be used on RV toilets; however, standard chemical cleaners can damage RV toilet materials.
Mineral or pumice style cleaners are better for RV toilets as they won’t harm the material of the toilet. A sponge is a better tool to use than a bristle brush when cleaning an RV toilet bowl, as it will prevent scratching and other damage to the finish
6. Emptying Black Water and Gray Water Tanks
When you’re out on the open road, it’s important to know how to properly dump your black water and gray water tanks. Here are a few key tips:
Make sure you have the proper tools and are close to a dump station before dumping anything. To avoid spills, attach your hose to the black water tank first and then to the dump station.
Take out your black water tank first, fill it with water, flush it and then rinse it or use a built-in RV rinse tank if available; do not use a freshwater hose for this task. The only way to rid your RV of an odor is with a gray water tank opener.
If you have access to a municipal sewage system, empty the black water tank into that and then empty the graywater tank into either another septic tank or onto the ground using one of these methods:
- Put down some boards so that you have a solid surface on which to set your tanks while they drain
- Use risers placed under each corner of each holding tank (available at most camping stores)
- Build yourself a simple platform using 2x4s (see diagram below)
You will need a PVC pipe connected to a 4-inch diameter cap that sticks up 6-inches from the ground to dump RV waste.
7. Flushing and Cleaning Tanks
RV and camper tanks must be flushed and cleaned on a regular basis to prevent sewage odors from building up. Here are the basic steps:
- Fill the tanks ¾ to ⅔ with water.
- Use a bottle of pine sol or laundry soap in the black tank and OxiClean for gray water tanks.
- Let liquid bleach sit for 10 minutes before draining it from your black tank, then fill ¾ of your capacity with fresh water after bleaching it out.
- An RV or camper should be emptied and refilled with fresh water after being flushed.
How Often Do You Have To Dump RV Sewage?
RV owners should dump their sewage tanks about every three-five days. This will help to maintain the RV sewage system and prevent foul odors from seeping into the camper or vehicle vents.
You’ll want to avoid dumping on a regular basis and only do so when necessary. Taking care of your holding tanks will maintain the RV sewage system and prevent foul odors from seeping into the camper or vehicle vents.
Every couple of months, your tank should be cleaned. Emptying the tank when it is full and giving it a good flush every time you use the RV or camper are also important steps in maintaining your RV’s plumbing system.
How Much Does It Cost To Dump RV Tanks?
The cost of dumping your black water tank might range from nothing to $35. Free dumping will be available at several public campsites, wastewater treatment facilities, rest spots, and RV shops. For emptying the tanks, private businesses and campsites will charge anything from $10 to $35, with an average of $20.
When it comes to emptying your RV sewage tanks, there are a few things you need to know. The cost of dumping your tanks depends on the amenities included in each membership. For example, some clubs offer memberships which allow you to dump and clean your tanks for a specific fee. Others do not include this service, so it’s important that you research the options before joining any particular club.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always close the valves when emptying your black and gray water tanks! This will help prevent any damage from occurring and make the process much smoother overall. It is also recommended that you empty RV tanks about every two or three days. When they reach 2/3 full capacity, it’s time to dump them!
Finally, some RV owners choose to use truck stops and restaurants for their toileting needs instead of dumping the black tank so often. While this can be more convenient in some ways, it can also be a hassle if you’re not familiar with the area.
What to do if my RV smells like sewage
If your RV smells like sewage, the first step is to figure out why. There are several possible causes, such as a clog or bad plumbing.
If the smell isn’t coming from your drains, you should follow the tips in the article that is specific to what’s causing the issue.
The first step is to figure out why your camper toilet smells bad. To avoid an odor, follow these five steps for each cause:
- Clean the tank and valves regularly using a cleaner designed for this purpose.
- Flush with lots of water after every use.
- Make sure the black water tank is empty before traveling.
- If you have a composting toilet, make sure it’s been emptied recently and add more carbon material if needed.
Why does my camper shower smell like sewer?
There are a few possible reasons your camper shower smells like sewer. The most common reason is that the smell is coming from the shower drain. This can be cleared by moving fast and removing the clog with care. Another possibility is that wastewater is backing up into the shower due to a clog in the sewage system.
In this case, you may need to call for professional help depending on the severity of the problem. Finally, if there’s an issue with your septic tank, it could cause sewage smells in your camper as well. Silvia is passionate about living a more sustainable life for her family and would love to help you out if you’re experiencing this issue!
Can You Hook Up An RV To A House Sewer?
Yes, you can hook up an RV to a house sewer. In order to do so, you’ll need to:
- Hook your black and gray water tanks up to a cleanout valve in order to dump them into the municipal sewer system.
- Check with local authorities before removing your tanks from the house, so you’re not fined for illegal dumping.
- If you have a septic system, follow the steps listed above to empty your black and gray water tanks into it.
- If your septic tank does not have a cleanout valve, install a PVC pipe with the top capped at 6 inches from the ground and with the bottom end emptying into the septic tank.
Why does my RV bathroom smell like sewer?
There are a few possible sources of the smell, but one of the tanks which may have a smell is the gray water holding tank. To check for this issue:
Be sure to check the valves for signs of not being properly tightened. If the valve looks good, then next you’ll want to check to see if the valve is bad and causing sewer smell and leakage outside. Finally, inspect for cracks in the tank. If you find any damage, be sure to report it to your local RV service center.
Why does my RV toilet stink when I flush?
There are several reasons why your RV toilet might start to smell when you flush it. Clogs and backed up black water tanks are two common causes of this issue. If the problem persists, you can contact a professional to look into it. The worst issue with an RV is a smelly toilet, but fortunately, some simple solutions exist that can help you fix the issue in most cases.