What smells? Guide to eliminate a bad smell in caravan

A bad smell in a caravan is usually an indicator that something needs attention. Take a look at the common culprits for bad smells in caravans and what you can do about it.

Bad bathroom odours:

Keep the toilet from getting smelly by using the right chemicals at the recommended frequency. Using products designed for waste holding caravan toilets is key. Household cleaners are not a suitable substitute as they can damage the seals and other parts of the toilet.

  1. Use a Waste Holding Toilet additive to eliminate odours and gas build up and break down the waste for storage and easy disposal. Aqua Kem liquid or drop in sachets are our most popular holding tank products and liquid Aqua Kem comes in three colours.  Customers often ask what the difference is between the products – Blue has a pine scent and Purple is a lavender scent and Aqua Kem Green is environmentally safe for waste disposal in septic systems. We also stock other brands including Portapak and Biopak drop in sachets. Depending on the product these need to be added to the tank every 4 or 5 days when the toilet is in use.
  2. Keep the flush water smelling fresh: If you have a flush tank: The pink Aqua Rinse Plus is a product for the flush water tank and works keep the flush water fresh and reduce cleaning of the bowl. If you don’t have a flush tank then the pink Aqua Rinse spray which you can add to the bowl daily will help coat the bowl to give a fresh scent and reduce cleaning and staining. These products are both septic safe.
  3. Clean the bowl regularly with a safe cleaning product like Thetford Toilet Bowl Cleaner and a soft brush. The outside of the toilet can be cleaned with a bathroom cleaner that is safe to use on plastics.
  4. Keep the cassette clean by using Cassette Tank Cleaner two or three times per year. No scrubbing needed, this product will break down any deposits in the cassette. Driving with the Cassette Tank Cleaner in the waste holding tank is an easy way to achieve a clean tank.
  5. Don’t forget to clean the cavity in which the cassette sits.
  6. Look after the blade seal. The blade seal of the toilet will wear over time and a worn seal will allow tank smells to escape. Seal lubricant and new blade seals are available in our showroom.
Smells from the plumbing:

Grey water tanks can leach smell through the plumbing. Ideally you have an s-trap that will prevent smells or one-way valve although these are not always fitted. Grey water tanks need to be emptied, flushed clean and deodorised in order to stay fresh. Tank cleaning products and deodorizers for grey water tanks help eliminate unwanted smells.

Musty, mould smells:

This type of smell needs investigating due to the health risks of exposure to mould.

  • Mould in the walls and frame of the caravan due to leaks can lead to rotting timber and cause costly damage to the van. Checking seals around roof hatches, vents, air-conditioners, solar panels is a good place to start looking for leaks. Early detection of leaks and re-sealing the van will save you on costly repairs down the track. For more information on caravan re-sealing read this article.
  • Canvas and vinyl can go mouldy, especially awnings, and there are treatment and cleaning products available.
  • Moisture trapped inside the van when it is not in use can make the van mouldy and smell musty. Before storage remove, clean and dry all linen. Open the taps, drain the sinks, toilet, shower and washing machine – anywhere water may stay inside the van. Air out the van with all windows and vents open on a sunny day. Running the air conditioner will also help to dry out the van. Some customers use a dessicant product inside the van while the van is locked up to absorb moisture in the air of the van.
Rotten egg smell:

Three way fridges operate with an ammonia/hydrogen mixture and if the pipes crack or break you will get a rotten egg smell in the van. If the smell is from the fridge then it can be repaired or you may decide that it’s time for a new fridge. Our experienced service team can inspect and service the fridge and arrange a replacement if necessary.

Can you smell gas?:

LP gas has a distinct smell and if you can smell gas inside the van then you should take safety precautions to allow the gas to escape the van and turn off the gas at the bottles. Gas leaks are a serious safety risk and need immediate attention. Gas bottles should always be stored outside the van and gas vents always kept clear. A gas smell could be due to a faulty stove or fridge. Pipes carrying gas are sometimes located inside cupboards where things can get thrown on top of them and the pipes can get damaged. Gas leak detection sprays are available to test for leaks yourself or you can have our professional service team identify and repair the source of the gas leak in your van.

If your caravan smells bad then it is sign that you need to take action to remedy the problem. Often, an issue caught early can save you on costly repairs down the track. A regular caravan service will assist with preventing potential smelly problems and our experienced service team can repair any issues and have your caravan smelling fresh again. Give us a call at the RV Service Centre to book in your service or to have our team inspect and repair any problems.

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Toowoomba QLD 4350

(Cnr Gardner Ct)


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