An RV Toilet Smell Remedy in 6 Steps

How Tos & Tips

Don’t get us wrong, we think RVing is a wonderful way to travel… but it isn’t perfect. Part of the reality of living in such a small space is dealing with odors. The biggest RV smell complaint? Many campers complain that their RV toilet stinks. 

In this article we’ll give you our favorite RV toilet smell remedy. This involves six simple steps and gets rid of smells nearly every time!

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Step 1. Clean the Toilet

The first problem that could be causing your RV toilet stink is also the easiest to fix. Sometimes, RV toilets—especially those of the plastic variety—will hold onto smells. The longer you wait to clean the toilet, the more stink it’ll hold onto, until eventually the smell fills the entire RV.

This brings us to the first step of our RV toilet smell remedy: cleaning the toilet. A simple cleaning with your favorite household bathroom cleaner is the perfect first step toward tackling those RV toilet stinks and smells. Just be sure you get every nook and cranny. 

Step 2. Get Rid of Black Tank Clogs

Perhaps your RV toilet smells when flushed. In this case, you’ll want to continue on to step two of our RV toilet smell remedy: making sure there are no clogs in the black tank.

If you have a clogged tank, it won’t dump completely—or at all, sometimes—meaning you’re left with old sewage hanging out in your tank for days, weeks, or even months on end. Obviously, this isn’t going to start smelling any better anytime soon. Therefore, you’re going to have to address the clog. 

Usually, a clog is caused by too much toilet paper and not enough water. Sometimes this means you aren’t flushing long enough; other times it’s because the dump valve was left open, allowing all liquids to leave the tank and leaving just the solids behind. A leaky black tank can also cause this same issue. Of course, it could also be caused by something being flushed that should not have been. 

In any case, there are a number of methods for getting rid of such clogs:

  • Some people will dump a bag of ice down the toilet and drive the RV around, allowing the ice to break up the clog.
  • Others use special black tank chemicals to attempt to break up the clog.
  • We’ve even heard of people using boiling water.

Our favorite method, however, is to backflush the tank using a gadget such as this. Just make sure your tank isn’t full already, as spraying more water into a full tank may cause it to back up into the toilet and your RV bathroom.

Step 3. Check the Vent Pipe

Sometimes when your RV toilet smells when flushed the problem isn’t a clog in your tank, but rather a clog in the vent pipe.

You see, every RV has a pipe from the black tank to the roof, allowing methane gasses to escape. If this vent becomes clogged, those gasses can’t escape through the roof, and will instead come up out of the toilet when you flush. As you might imagine, this does not smell good. 

To check a vent pipe for clogs and get rid of anything that could be obstructing the airflow, simply put a garden hose into the top of the pipe and run some water through it. If the water backs up onto the roof, there is a clog and you will need to use a stronger jet of water to dislodge it. 

Step 4. Clean the Black Tank

Occasionally an RV toilet stinks because of buildup in the black tank. This might be a large buildup of solids on the bottom of the tank, or just buildup along the walls of the tank from regular use. 

As with clogs, solid build ups tend to be caused by too many solids and not enough liquid in the tank. This can be avoided by keeping your dump valve closed, ensuring your tank doesn’t leak, and using plenty of water when flushing. 

A solid buildup can be gotten rid of using the same methods you might use to get rid of a clog. Once again, we highly recommend backflushing. When backflushing, be sure to keep running the water through the tank until it comes out 100% clear and clean., 

Step 5. Replace the Seal

The last possibility is that your toilet needs a new flange or bowl seal. Both of these seals have a tendency to become worn over time, something that can cause bad RV toilet smells. 

If you notice that your toilet bowl won’t hold water, it’s likely that you have a bad seal that is also allowing stinky black tanks smells into the RV. Meanwhile, a leak around the bottom of the toilet would indicate a worn gasket that could be letting smells in. 

While we don’t necessarily recommend taking this step in our RV toilet smell remedy unless you actually have worn seals, it can be the most effective step on the list if you are dealing with a leaky seal. 

Step 6. Use an RV Black Tank Deodorizer

Once you have cleaned the toilet, gotten rid of all clogs in the system, thoroughly cleaned the tank, and made sure the seals are in good shape, it’s time for the last step of our RV toilet smell remedy: tank deodorizer. We highly recommend using tank cleaning agents such as Aqua-Kem after every dump. This will help keep your tank relatively clean in between cleanings and will help break down solids and keep smells at bay. 

Now that you know how to take care of those pesky odors in your rig, you can sit back and enjoy the fresh scent of a well-cared-for camper. Heck, we’re betting your rig smells so good you’ll even feel confident renting it out to others right here on the RVshare platform!