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How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in RV

A few years ago, my car sprung a leak and the entire interior got covered in mold. The scent of mildew was so strong that my eyes would water and I would start coughing – I couldn’t drive without my windows down. Long story short, I cleaned my car by dumping it with about 3 gallons of vinegar and dishwashing soap. That didn’t get rid of the smell, but it did get rid of the mold.

My car smelled terrible for about 2 months until I started using this product from DampRid. My car had a lot of humidity inside it – it got rid of that too.

But before you pop off, it’s important to understand why your RV smells musty. In my case, I had a leak. But, there are a lot of factors that could be making your camper smell like a bag of used gym socks. Here’s everything you need to know about how to keep that dreadful smell from stinking up your wonderful travel machine:

Why Does My RV Smell Musty?

The truth of the matter is that musty smells come from the presence of moisture and in many cases, the presence of mold. Obviously, you don’t want to be spending a lot of time in a vehicle that has a lot of hidden mold. It’s extremely unhealthy to breathe. This is especially true in an environment as small as an RV.

Even the largest RVs aren’t really all that big, so if you’re dealing with mold inside of one, you’re going to be breathing in a lot of mold spores. Why does this matter? It can cause a whole host of health problems ranging from increased sinus infections to sore throats and spanning all the way to more serious issues such as permanent lung damage.

It can also do a real number on your immune system. Someone that’s perfectly healthy and in the prime of their life doesn’t want to spend time in an environment like this. If you or someone you love already has health problems or a compromised immune system, this is definitely not something you want to deal with.

Why do even the best-kept RVs have a tendency to accumulate moisture?

Unfortunately, a lot of it has to do with the way they’re built. Even the most high-dollar, well-designed RVs aren’t really designed all that well when it comes to ventilation. There are a few problem areas that you can check. Chances are, you’ll be in for a surprise when you do. Here are some common areas where moisture accumulates. These areas will also likely be the source of the musty smell:

  • Moisture accumulation in the base of the seats
  • Seat cushions full of mildew
  • Moisture accumulation underneath beds
  • Mildew in upholstery, curtains, and carpets
  • Mildew on shower curtains
  • Mold and mildew accumulating in the ventilation system itself

How to Get Rid of Musty Smells in an RV

Now that you know where the overwhelming majority of musty smells come from in an RV, it’s time to figure out what you can do to get rid of them. Fortunately, it is possible to get rid of these odors and the mold that is typically associated with them. However, it does require a fair amount of cleaning and more than your fair share of diligence.

Obviously, the first step in getting rid of musty smells in your RV is to identify the areas where they are coming from and then focus your cleaning efforts on them. Once you’ve done that and given the entire RV a thorough going over, you can get down to the business of cleaning things up and getting rid of those odors.

Since you already know where the most common problem areas are in an RV, you should start by focusing your efforts there. If you’re looking for more specific answers about what you should do, follow the list below. Of course, make sure that you’re wearing some type of mask while you’re cleaning.

An N-95 mask will work well. It’s also a good idea to wear some rubber cleaning gloves and old clothes you won’t mind getting dirty. Last but certainly not least, keep the entire RV well-ventilated the whole time you’re cleaning. If that means leaving doors and windows wide open and even incorporating a few fans to air things out, don’t be hesitant to do so. Here are the things you can do to start cleaning up:

  • Remove all upholstery that can be successfully removed and machine wash it
  • Remove curtains and wash them in the machine
  • Steam clean any upholstery that cannot be removed and machine-washed
  • Steam clean all carpet
  • Continue steam cleaning around all baseboards and crevices, from ceiling to floor
  • Do the same for the shower curtain
  • Consider having the ventilation system professionally cleaned
  • Pay special attention to the bases of seats and underneath beds

Keeping Mold and Mildew at Bay

Of course, it’s imperative that you learn how to keep mold and mildew at bay once you get everything cleaned up. While it’s a good idea to give your RV a thorough cleaning once or twice a year, this isn’t a problem that you want to be faced with every few months.

If RVs are notoriously bad for accumulating mold and mildew due to poor ventilation, what are you supposed to do to successfully address the problem moving forward, especially once you’ve spent hours and hours cleaning everything up?

Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do. Again, most of it comes down to being vigilant as opposed to simply allowing the RV to sit unattended for weeks or even months on end. The first thing that you’ll want to do is make sure that you take the steps that are necessary to manually ventilate the RV on an almost daily basis.

Don’t be afraid to open the windows and allow the RV to air out, even on days when you’re not staying in it. This is important any time of the year, but it takes on special importance during the hottest months of the year, especially if you live in a humid climate more moisture tends to accumulate on everything anyway.

It’s also important to run the RV’s ventilation system at least a few times a week for an hour or so. That keeps everything in good working order and it helps to ensure that you’re not accumulating mold and mildew in the ventilation system itself. Remember, you just spent a relatively decent amount of money on cleaning everything out, especially if you hired a professional to come out and clean the ventilation system.

The last thing you want to do is go through all of that so you can turn around and go through it again just a few months later. There is an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That saying couldn’t be more true in this case.

Finally, make sure that you regularly clean the RV. Use products that are geared toward preventing mold and mildew. In much the same way that you clean your house every few days, your RV also needs attention. Just because you’re not using it during that particular week (or month) doesn’t mean that things don’t need to be cleaned.

Spend a couple of hours cleaning things once a week and it will save you a lot of time and frustration later on down the road.

Helpful Products for Getting Rid of Bad Smells in RV

If you’re looking for specific products that will help get rid of mold and mildew and then even help prevent it from coming back, you are in luck. There are a few different products that you can use, either as a much-needed one-time aide or on a regular basis.

Here are a few of the best products, along with what they’re typically used for (as well as the advantages and disadvantages associated with using them).

1. Mold Bomb Fogger

  • What It Does: Just as the name implies, this is a fogger that you can set off inside the RV to get into those cracks and crevices that are impossible to get into through any other means. It’s designed to kill mold and mildew and even prevent it from coming back for at least a couple of months.
  • Pros: Easy to use, reliable
  • Cons: Must be used with caution where children or pets are involved, on the pricier side.

Click here to get it.

2. Microban 24 Hour

  • What It Does: This is a great cleaner that gets rid of mold spores as well as disinfects surfaces from other germs and bacteria for a full 24 hours after cleaning. Since the ventilation systems in RVs aren’t the best, the use of this product can really cut down on illnesses from various germs that are on surfaces or floating through the air.
  • Pros: Easy to use, can be used on various surfaces, one application protects for 24 hours
  • Cons: Can be expensive, especially if you go through a number of cans in a short time span

Click here to get it.

3. DampRid

  • What It Does: This product can be used in any home, office, or RV. It’s designed to pull excess moisture out of the air and deposit it into the canister. After it fills up, you simply discard it and replace it with a new one. It’s a great way to keep mildew from coming back once you get rid of it.
  • Pros: Can be used in various areas effectively
  • Cons: May not be safe for areas frequented by children or pets, must be secured in an RV

Click here to get it.