Bed inside RV with pile of pillows.

How to Keep Your RV Smelling Fresh and Clean

People say all kinds of interesting things and ask all kinds of interesting questions when they hear we are currently living in an RV full-time while we travel. But the one that made me actually laugh out loud was “Ew, doesn’t your RV smell bad ALL THE TIME?!”

Yes, it smells bad sometimes.

No, it doesn’t smell bad all the time.

She went on to say that if she lived in that small of a space with her boys, she knows it wouldn’t smell pleasant…ever.

Living in such a small space with any number of people means having to deal with smells, both good and not so good. For example, my daughter is currently making her breakfast – scrambled eggs – and the entire place smells like…scrambled eggs.

But it won’t for long because we’ll open the windows and the door, and that good ‘ol Canadian air will come wafting through, taking the smells with it.

So, how do we keep the RV smelling fresh and clean? Or, maybe a more accurate question is, how do we get it back to smelling fresh and clean? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that help.

How We Keep the RV Smelling Fresh

Reduce RV Refrigerator Smells

It didn’t take very long for us to realize that the refrigerator in our travel trailer could start smelling bad very quickly. Things like leftovers, half an onion, and other mysterious things you’re not sure about can make a tiny fridge smell bad. Really bad.

Of course, the positive side of having such a small fridge is we know what’s in there and food rarely goes bad. I remember being so irritated in our house when I would clean out the fridge and find things hiding way in the back. We waste way less food because of our tiny fridge.

We keep the fridge wiped down and make sure food is wrapped up tightly. In addition, placing a container of Arm & Hammer baking soda in the fridge definitely helps maintain freshness.

I Smell Feet

I think I said ‘I smell feet’ about a hundred times when we first started this full-time travel journey. Dirty, stinky feet is the smell that bothers me the most. We all take off our shoes before we come into the RV to help keep the floor clean, but doing that results in, well you know.

So, how do you get rid of dirty feet smell inside your rig, other than banning the stinky feet from coming inside? Foot powder. Just have them sprinkle a little inside their shoes and on their feet and your RV will smell much more pleasant.

Dirty Laundry Smells

In our RV tour video and post, I mentioned that we keep our dirty laundry in a basket in the tub. This way, it’s not out in the open in the main areas, which also helps with the dirty laundry smell.

Does it smell up the bathroom? Nope. This hasn’t been an issue at all, possibly because we turn on the fan and vent out the bathroom as much as possible. Which leads me to my next point…

RV Bathroom Odor

Here we go again, talking about bathroom topics. 🙂 RV sewer issues was one of our top fears when we thought about a full-time RV lifestyle. If you’re a full-timer, or a newbie, you must know what I’m talking about.

Without going too much in detail (you’re welcome), if we’re close to a bathroom at an RV park, then we encourage everyone to do their business in those bathrooms and not ours. We have a pretty small rig, the Keystone Passport 2670BH, so the bathroom is right by, well, everything.

Related Reading: Fears of Full-Time RV Living

Using the RV park bathrooms helps reduce the volume of odors no one wants to experience. It’s hard to avoid in a small space. And you definitely don’t want to notice it while sitting at the table having a snack or lunch. Hmm, that’s true for dinner, when reading, or just being awake inside the trailer. OK, you get the point.

Interior kitchen area of a travel trailer
This is what the inside looks like on moving day.

Pro Tips to Keep Your RV Smelling Clean

Here are a few other ways to help keep your RV smelling fresh:

  • I turn on our oil diffuser a couple of times a day, which helps fill the space quickly with some great scents. Our favorites have been pine, eucalyptus, and lavender.
  • Wiping down our rig once a day and on move days, helps keep it smelling fresh. On move days, I wipe down almost everything, from the tops of the cabinet to the floors.
  • Opening the windows and door and airing out the rig helps a ton with keeping things smelling fresh. I love to do this in the mornings and evenings when it’s cooler.
  • Eventually, I’d like to get some air purifying plants but right now we just don’t have the room for them. RVShare has a good article about plants that need minimal sunlight. These types of plants are a good option for RV life.

For those of you who are avid RVers or are full-time, if you have any other tips to share, please drop them in the comments below!


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  1. I light incense on every move day! There’s a few reasons to this. One the RV fills with pleasant smells before we box it all up and trap it in. Two it becomes my timer to finish move day tasks. Once the incense burns out completely – time to go! Plus different incense smells are believed to bring properties of healing, health, and good fortune. I’m not as knowledgeable of these but it does make scents (see what I did there? 😉) to give the RV a fresh vibe with every move.

    1. What a great idea! Even on our short move days, the RV can start to smell funny. (And I did see what you did there ;))

  2. Using fabric softener sheets in your drawers and cabinets (Bounce is best), can help to keep odors and critters away. Also, putting a capful of Downy in the toilet every once in a while keeps your RV toilet and bathroom smelling fresh as well.

    1. I didn’t even think about using dryer sheets! Great tip! We’ve used them in storage units to keep critters away before.

  3. I’ve been full time for a couple of years now and one of the worst culprits for smells can be our plumbing. I’ve found that using plumbing deodorizer sticks in every drain really helps. I also will deodorize the plumbing tanks and lines once a year with a good chlorine shock treatment.

  4. We use dishwasher detergent in kitchen sink before every move to get rid of smells in gray water tank and cut any grease on side of tank.

  5. Thanks for the quick tips! We’re looking to move into out Keystone Outback with our daughter, dog, and cat next year and I have been worried about smells. It seems like regular cleaning is the key! Since we’ll be in a smaller space I think I’ll be able to handle that 😋 also, our bathroom vanity came with a pull out laundry bag… I was thinking of getting rid of it for more storage space, but maybe I’ll keep it. It should keep dirty laundry doors locked in the cabinet!

    1. Thank you so much for letting us know this info is helping you, Sharon! We appreciate the feedback more than you know.

      Our future RV plans are still coming together, but hopefully we will be out on the open road again before too long!

  6. We have had tent trailers, travel trailers with pop-outs, and now a smaller travel trailer and we used
    Irish Spring bar soap in all because it made the trailer smell good and we never had any rodents like once before!! Just chop a bar up into one inch slices and scatter in cabinets, under beds, crawl thru, etc.

    1. I’ve heard about this tip but never knew if it truly worked before. This is great to know! We will definitely start camping with Irish Spring from now on.

  7. I know this sounds pretty weird but I keep charcoal brickets in a small bowl in my fridge and it soaks up smells like onions etc. I read this in a magazine a long time ago and it really works. The brickets also saved my microwave once when someone at work burned popcorn in my microwave. I almost tossed the microwave but remembered the charcoal brickets. I tried them for a couple of weeks and saved the microwave. They work for other smells in a room if you set them out in a bowl on a counter.

    1. That is a great tip, Marilynn! I have not heard of that before so thank you for sharing…and great to hear you saved the microwave. 🙂
      Here’s to some better smelling travels!

    2. Charcoal briquettes also works wonders absorbing odors in shoes and boots. Put a couple of them in an old sock and put that in shoe or boot until the next time you wear them.

  8. We dump leftover ice down the toilet to knock anything loose that might be in the black water tank. Take an extra trip around the campground before going to the dump station. Helps knock out any lingering smells.

    1. Excellent tips! I had seen something about ice before but have never tried it. Next trip, ice it is (plus some extra sloshing).

      Thanks Karen!

    1. Now that is the first time I have heard that, Melissa! Very interesting, and seems like it would definitely do the trick.
      So you don’t use any of the “tank treatments” in your tanks? Just the fabric softener?

  9. We camp months at a time. Some of us have purchased small ozone machines from Amazon to purify the air on a monthly basis. Just put away fresh foods, remove pets and plants, open drawers and closets, turn on the machine for 40-50 minutes while running your air conditioner. Afterwards, roll out your windows and continue to run your ac for 20-30 mins. Whalaaa…fresh furniture, closets, camper!!🎉

  10. My RV has what I call a chemical smell…It is more inside the cabinets where the sinks are. But i smell it when i walk in the door, and on the clothes and items i bring home, I just washed the Towels And suits that were hanging on the BR door. Any ideas what it could be. 2011 Keystone Bullet Premier …..Anything used in building these that has a smell?

    1. Generally RV odors are due to must, mold, leaks and/or unwelcome pests. Check for leaks or trapped water in and around the cabinets, including any windows near the area that might not have a tight seal. Make sure the propane tanks are not leaking.
      Good luck and safe travels.

    2. @Jackie, I have the same issues with my Keystone Ultra Lite Bullet. I use an oil diffuser, but it doesn’t eliminate the chemical smell. Have you found anything that works? TIA

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