Have you ever been driving in your RV, or open the door after some time, and noticed a strange rotten egg type smell in your RV?
When I noticed an awful smell coming from our RV’s engine compartment, we first thought we’d accidentally blown a seal or something. It was a worrying time.
The last thing anyone wants is damage to their RV, or an expensive repair bill.
I noticed the rotten egg smell was at its strongest as the tap was run, but why did this happen?
The culprit of the rotten egg smell, we found out, was down to anaerobic bacteria.
The rotten egg smell is caused by hydron sulfide gas which is created when anaerobic bacteria living in water inside an RV water tank reacts with a magnesium or anode rod. The magnesium or anode rod, also inside your RVs water tank, is designed to slow down corrosion or rust.
Once we knew what was causing the bad smell in our RV, we could go about fixing it which I will come on to shortly. Through our research we discovered this wasn’t the only source of a rotten egg smell.
The science, for those interested in such things, is explained by The Department of Health in Minnesota, but for those that just want to find the fix and what other factors may cause this, read on.
How to Fix a Rotten Egg Smell Caused by Anaerobic Bacteria in the Water Tank
To fix the rotten egg smell in your RV water tank you need to add 3% hydrogen peroxide to your water tank, as well as replace the magnesium or anode rod.
Make sure the tank is switched off, and the water cold enough, fully drain the water tank. Add the 3% hydrogen peroxide to the water tank (see recommended guide for volume to add) and then after 3-4 hours flush the tank.
Clean Water Store have a great guide to help you remove the rotten egg smell from your water tank
Other Reasons for Rotten Egg Smells in an RV
If anaerobic bacteria is your problem, then hopefully this has fixed and solved your problem like it did for us.
If though this isn’t the cause, here are some other ways a rotten egg or foul smell can be created inside an RV:
- RV Furnace
- Grey Waste Tank
- Drain Blockage
- Fridge or Freezer
- Leisure Battery
RV Furnace Smells
Some new RV furnaces can give off a slight smell, but if you do detect a smell of gas or rotten eggs it could be concern.
Solution: The odor can also be quite strong when the tank is low. With any such gas smell you should switch off equipment and have it serviced immediately.
Grey Waste Tank
Grey waste tanks are renowned for smelling a little. This odor is due to the waste particles congealing. This stagnates after a while to produce a smell.
Solution: Although this generally is quite normal it’s recommended to regularly pump and clean of your grey waste tank, especially if you detect a stronger than normal rotten egg type odor.
You may not have a fully blown drainage system in your RV or motorhome, like you do in your main home, but you will have pipes and drains designed to flow waste to the relevant tanks.
Blockages of one type or another are common. If food or toilet waste become lodged, then bad smells are likely to emit.
Solution: Check the drainage or flow pipes in the bathroom and kitchen area and make sure nothing is trapped in the drain, or between the drain and tank.
Fridge or Freezer Smells
It’s highly plausible you perhaps have some food past its best, and maybe someone has recently opened the fridge door and released the odor.
If all the options so far have been ruled out, it is worth checking any food stored in the RV to make sure it isn’t the culprit.
Food can also fall and become dislodged in places, especially when small children are involved.
Solution: Spillages inside the fridge can also cause bad odors, so a good thorough empty and deep clean may do the trick!
Leisure Battery Overheating
If your leisure battery inside your RV or motorhome starts to overcharge, it can produce a rotten egg smell. This is because when a leisure battery overcharges it discharges sulfuric acid which creates the bad smell.
Solution: Switch off the engine, let the battery cool down if hot to the touch and make sure it’s safe to switch off and remove.
Preventing Rotten Egg and Sewer Smells Returning
With all things, prevention is better than cure.
Why spend hundreds of dollars fixing a fault, then a few dollars keeping everything in the best condition possible.
No one likes cleaning RVs before heading out on a road trip, or checking the drainage pipes, or conducting general health and maintenance around the RV every few weeks – but these simple steps can help keep your RV or motorhome is a good condition.
Keeping a good running condition of your RV is important but faults can happen anywhere at any time.
The worst decision usually is to keep driving another 500 miles to see if it ‘goes away’.
You are more likely to make the problem worse, than make it better.
If you detect any strange smells, make sure you stop the RV if in motion when safe to do so and open windows and doors to ventilate the RV.
Check the reasons I’ve described in this post to eliminate the problem.
You may need to find a local garage to help deal with the problem.
Many such problems go away with cleaning, flushing and pumping – as well as good ventilation – but if any such odor happens around any electric or gas equipment then get it looked at by a professional immediately.
Is a Rotten Egg Smell Dangerous in an RV?
A rotten egg smell can be dangerous in an RV. Smells are added to toxic odorless gases to help you detect them. You should always carry with you smoke, propane and carbon monoxide detectors to help you detect gas leaks.
A propane gas leak has a distinct rotten egg smell, so you need to make sure this is not the cause.
How to get rid of the bad egg or sewer smell in an RV
Once you’ve found and fixed the bad smell problem, you need to find a way to get rid of it from your RV.
The best way is ventilation.
Open windows, open doors and create a through draft between the front and back, and sides of your RV, as best as you possibly can.
You can also clean affected areas and use air freshener for an immediate fix.