5 Tips for Keeping your RV Bathroom Clean and Fresh

Last updated on December 29th, 2021 at 02:45 pm. Originally published on July 14th, 2017

Alright, everybody. We’re going to take a moment to talk about a not-so-pleasant camping reality.

It’s a teeny tiny space with a big job to do, and your whole family visits every single day — several times a day, in fact. And even though you only spend a small percentage of your total camping trip using them, the facilities in this space serve an incredibly critical… um, function, so to speak.

That’s right: I’m talking about your camper bathroom, and specifically the toilet. 

Whether you’re just making a quick weekend getaway or taking on full-timing, your RV or travel trailer bathroom is a very important part of your camper.

If you don’t believe me, try making a trip when it’s not working properly. It’s no fun having to rely on external facilities that may require a midnight hike for those unscheduled 2 a.m. calls of nature — not to mention dealing with any unpleasant smells while you’re trying to relax in your rig.

But with a little bit of care and maintenance, it’s easy to keep your RV bathroom clean, fresh, and in proper, working order. That way, you’ll be ready to go… wherever you go.

RV Bathrooms

Before we dig into how to take care of your RV’s restroom, let’s learn a little bit more about it.

RV bathrooms come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from large and lavish compartments with walk-in showers and even bathtubs to smaller, wet-dry closets that function as both latrine and shower stall. Some very small RVs, like sleeper vans, might not even have a built-in toilet at all!

Although some custom-built conversions utilize composting and other types of toilets, the vast majority of mass market vehicles are equipped with a simple gravity flush setup. Here’s how that works.

RV Toilet

The bathroom in your camper operates a little bit differently than the one in your home. Instead of disappearing forever into the depths of the city sewer as soon as its flushed, everything you put down the RV toilet is instead evacuated into a holding tank under your RV, where it waits patiently to be dumped. In fact, even when you’re at a campground with a convenient dump station or sewer connection, it’s a good idea to go ahead and use the holding tank as intended, waiting until it fills a bit before you flush it. Otherwise, liquid waste can run out first, causing the, uh, solids to clog up the line.

You’ll also notice your RV toilet doesn’t use water the same way your home toilet does. That’s because RVs are built to operate with limited resources, pulling water from a finite freshwater tank. Thus, instead of flushing the bowel generously (and wastefully) at the single press of a lever, you’ll instead have to use a foot crank to fill up the bowl with as much water as you need — which is probably less than you think. Then, you’ll depress the foot crank to send the water down the pipe into the toilet’s waste water holding tank, also known as the black water tank.

Camper Bathroom Odor

Ah, the holding tank. Therein lies the problem.

Since your RV toilet literally sits over a tank of your waste, it only makes sense that a certain smell can make its presence known from time to time.

But don’t worry. If you’re wondering how to avoid or get rid of a bad smell in camper bathroom, there are a few simple ways to do so.

1. Use the right RV toilet chemicals.

Thank goodness for technology!

Special chemicals specifically designed to neutralize RV toilet odors and help break down solid waste and toilet tissue to ensure an easy trip to the dumping station later. These chemicals are affordable and available at any camping supply store you might visit, and even Walmart — so make sure you stock up and use them every time you empty your tanks, and whenever your bathroom needs a little freshening up!

2. And the right toilet paper.

Did you know RV toilets require the use of special, extra-dissolvable toilet paper?

Although some campers try to get by with their regular household toilet tissue, this can lead to clogs — which can mean nasty odors or worse. Why risk it? Get the right stuff for the job, and remember to use only what you need. (You’ll save a tree along with your nose.)

3. Dump your tank regularly — but don’t leave the valve open when you’re connected.

As mentioned above, leaving your sewer connection open can wreak havoc on a system that’s designed to work with a closed holding tank. But at the same time, it’s important to empty your tank regularly and thoroughly, and also to give it a thorough washing out from time to time. Here’s how.

4. Turn off your bathroom vent fan before you flush.

Your camper bathroom likely has an exhaust vent with a fan situated above the toilet in your restroom. While this can be a great tool for reducing and eliminating odors, it’s a good idea to close the vent and turn off the fan before you actually flush the toilet.

Think about it: that open vent will cause an updraft, sucking the fumes and odors directly from your exposed black water tank into the air! No, thank you. Close it up before you flush!

5. Keep it clean! 

It might seem obvious, but keeping your RV bathroom nice and clean will go a long way to reducing odors and keeping everything working properly — not to mention reducing disease-harboring germs.

Go ahead and scrub your toilet and bleach all the bathroom surfaces just as you would in your house. And as mentioned above, that keep-it-clean mantra extends to the holding tank, too!

Camper Bathroom Upgrade

If your RV toilet is old and decrepit, you might be looking for camper bathroom design and renovation ideas.

As mentioned above, there are all sorts of different RV bathroom designs and types on the market, from toilet/shower combos to DIY portable camper bathrooms. There’s also a wide range of accessories to help make your RV’s bathroom more comfortable and convenient.

But no matter which kind of privy your rig boasts, we hope these tips help you keep it sparkly and fresh — that is, ready for (your) business.

For more tips check out these articles:

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