A couple in their RV on a sunny country road

How to Get Rid of Holding Tank Odor in an RV

Come February and March, winter can really start to drag on. That’s why, when the weatherfinallygets warm for more than three days at a time, getting out and enjoying the sunshine without any interruption is essential.

Whether your summer days are spent at the lake or a scenic campsite, it’s important to make sure summer gadgets like boats, kayaks, and RVs have been de-winterized properly. A common issue that often stems from hasty de-winterization or from an RV, in particular, is holding tank odor.

If you find yourself preparing for a camping trip only to find your RV’s holding tank has a stench you can’t ignore, or worse, your camper smells like sewage, here are some easy ways to resolve the issue so you can enjoy the warm weather.

Ways to Get Rid of Holding Tank Odor

  1. Flush Your RV’s Water System
  2. Replace Your Holding Tank’s Anaerobic Bacteria
  3. Get Rid of Odor in Your RV
  4. Use a Natural Odor Eliminator in Common Areas

What Causes Holding Tank Odors?

Before you can eliminate holding tank odor, it’s first important to understand its source. At a micro-level, your RV’s grey and black tanks contain a tiny ecosystem of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. When you detect a rotten egg smell in your camper often, the source is anaerobic bacteria emitting hydrogen sulfide.

Anaerobic bacteria, commonly referred to as “bad” bacteria, are microscopic organisms that respire without oxygen. Why is that important? Because anaerobes rely on sulfhydryl compounds to breathe and breakdown waste, and this process creates a methane-like smell, as reported by Tufts.

Conversely, aerobic bacteria, aka “good” bacteria respire with oxygen. When there’s an imbalance of these organisms in your camper’s holding tank, the smelly byproduct of the anaerobic bacteria can cause your entire RV to stink. Additionally, the rotten egg smell in your camper could also be the result of:

  1. Not enough water in your RV’s toilet
  2. Not enough water in the tank itself
  3. Excessive heat

Any of the three possible causes above require their own solution, but don’t worry, there is a remedy for any one of these problems and an effective way to get rid of holding tank odors.

Flush Your RV's Water System

The first step to getting rid of holding tank odor is to properly flush the RV’s water system. When you winterize a camper, it’s common practice to add special antifreeze to the water system to prevent the pipes from freezing.

When you pull your RV out of storage, it’s important to flush the system and clear it of this antifreeze. When you’re on the road, you and your passengers rely on the water in your holding tank to cook, use the bathroom, clean, and bathe. You can flush the system using the RV’s water pump, but you can also use a garden hose or another external water system.

Run water through the system for several minutes and allow water to run in the sink, shower, and flush the toilet a handful of times. This should flush all of the antifreeze out of the water system leaving potable water once the tank is refilled.

Replace Your Holding Tank's Anaerobic Bacteria

If you ever encounter advice that tells you to kill off all of the anaerobic bacteria in your Rv to get rid of holding tank smell, don’t! Anaerobic bacteria breakdown waste; If you kill all of the beneficial bacteria in your holding tank, you’re asking for a backup and an extremely unpleasant camping trip.

Instead of killing your tank’s cultures with chemicals, you need to promote the production of aerobic bacteria. Aerobic bacteria is a natural holding tank odor eliminator because it produces an odorless byproduct; carbon dioxide. If you can force out the bad bacteria and replace your tank’s environment with good bacteria, this is the most effective way to get rid of holding tank odor without compromising the tank’s efficiency.

Here’s the good news, your holding tank itself is a natural environment for aerobic bacteria, and you can give these organisms a boost with a high-quality natural treatment. Follow the recommended instructions for your treatment of choice, and allow the aerobic bacteria to naturally deodorize your holding tank.

Get Rid of Odor in Your RV

If you’ve ever experienced a camper smelling like sewage, it can really put a damper on an otherwise wonderful trip. After you’ve successfully used a holding tank odor eliminator and treatment to introduce more aerobic bacteria into your tank, you may still be experiencing that rotten egg smell in theinteriorof your RV. While it might seem like the smell will never go away, there are easy solutions you can employ to clear out the odor and get back to enjoying the great outdoors.

Open Windows and Vents

With any common household odor like fresh paint fumes, the pungent smell of bleach, or a particularly strong trash can odor, the first step to get rid of a lot of these odors is to open the windows and let in the fresh air. The very same goes for rotten egg smell in a camper, begin by opening your Rv’s windows and vents and let in the sweet mountain or lake air all around you.

Deep Clean Your RV's Bathroom

If you can stand it, one of the best ways to get rid of lingering holding tank odor in your RV is to follow up your chemical treatment with a bathroom deep clean. While the smell might be a little tough to bear, scrubbing and wiping down surfaces, and deodorizing the air will help prevent the odor from spreading into your RV’s common areas.

After you’ve actively cleaned the surfaces in your RV’s bathroom, you can also employ a set-it-and-forget-it method and place a canister of Odor Eliminating Gel.

Bonus Tip:Sprinkle baking soda in sink and shower drains to absorb any odor that might be coming from those sources.

Use a Natural Odor Eliminator in Common Areas

In the off chance that the odor has already filtered into your RV’s common areas, use an all natural odor eliminating method to absorb unwanted odors in the air. Fresh Wave is a highly effective odor eliminator with natural ingredients and no toxic chemicals or perfumes. Simply sprayOdor Eliminating Sprayin the air in your RV and allow the plant oils absorb malodor.

You can also place Fresh Wave Odor Eliminating Gelon countertops and tabletops to fight odor while you spend time outside. While you’re away enjoying a long hike or time at the beach, Fresh Wave Gel will slowly evaporate into the air, eliminating odor. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it solution that will allow you to get back to what matters most: spending time in nature.

As odor experts, we’re always looking for solutions to the most common sources of odors at home and on-the-go. Check out moretips where to use Fresh Wave so you can find the perfect solution for your needs.