RV Maintenance Tips: What To Do When Your Camper Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs
When you own an RV, there are some potential problems you’ll need to be aware of. These vehicles have some quirks that may not surface for awhile. One common issue for RV owners is a strange rotten egg smell that’s hard to diagnose. So, if you’re wondering, “Why does my camper water smell like rotten eggs?” you are not alone!
Sulfur is the main culprit of the rotten egg smell that we sometimes pick up in our RVs. This substance might appear as sulfur microbes or hydrogen sulfide gas. These materials can build up in the water tanks of your RV, leading to a chemical imbalance and a potent smell!
Thankfully, this problem isn’t permanent, and there are ways that you can treat the smell and prevent it from returning in the future. You’re not doomed to live in a stinky RV forever!
The source of the smell
As we mentioned above, sulfur is the main ingredient in the classic rotten egg smell. If you’ve ever visited a hot springs that contained dissolved sulfur, you probably noticed a similar scent. This is all well and good when it’s out in nature, but why would camper water smell like rotten eggs?
You may not think that sulfur is a substance that you’ve introduced to your RV, but it can happen without you even knowing about it. The water in your holding tanks, toilet, sink, or water heater could be causing this smell.
It’s also possible that the scent could be coming from a propane leak or old battery, but if you’ve narrowed it down to the water, there are a few things that could be creating the stink.
Trace amounts of sulfur won’t smell too bad on their own, so the main problem is the bacteria that reacts to it. RV water systems typically have some helpful bacteria cultures that help break down waste. These anerobic bacteria can sometimes react poorly if they’re introduced to substances like sulfur, magnesium, or aluminum.
Many RV water heaters use these chemicals to function, so you could mix the two without even knowing about it. Once the water, bacteria, and chemicals mix, they can form hydrogen sulfide gas, which is the stinky smell you’re currently dealing with! Once the reaction has begun, it can spread to affect all the water in your camper.
Hydrogen sulfide is highly flammable, so it’s dangerous to let it build up in your RV. You won’t want to deal with the smell either, so make sure you treat the problem as soon as possible.
Treatments for smelly camper water
So, why does my camper water smell like rotten eggs? It’s because of the mixture of bacteria, water, and sulfur. Once you’ve diagnosed the problem, you can move on and find treatments!
Luckily, there are ways to dispel this nasty scent so you won’t be stuck with an RV that smells like spoiled eggs forever. It may take a bit for the smell to disappear entirely, especially if it’s had time to sink into the furniture. Deal with the root of the problem and the rest will resolve itself.
There are a few different treatments you can try. Make sure you open the doors and windows of your RV before you try these methods to the gas has a chance to disperse. You won’t know if the treatment is working if the smell is trapped inside!
Vinegar is great for removing bad smells and killing bacteria that are getting out of control. You can use simple white vinegar to address the problem because it’s easy to find and safe to handle.
Simply drain and flush out the old water in your RV water heater, then create a mixture of 1/3 water and 2/3 vinegar. Refill the tank with this blend, then pump the water through your entire RV plumbing system. This may take awhile, but you should continue until you can no longer smell vinegar or the rotten egg smell.
Bleach and peroxide
Bleach and peroxide are also powerful cleaners and disinfectants. However, they are more powerful than vinegar and could cause some damage to your RV if you aren’t careful. Use the same method listed above but use 1 cup of bleach or peroxide for every 4 cups of water. This will help dillute it a bit and make it safer to handle.
Even if you clean out the affected water, the problem may not go away until you address the source. The anode in the water heater is often the piece that introduces sulfur, magnesium, or pure aluminum into the equation. If it’s an older model, it could break down and affect the water even more. Replacing the anode with an aluminum-zinc model will help reduce the smell and prevent this problem from happening again.
How to prevent the rotten egg smell in the future
If you’re asking, “Why does my camper water smell like rotten eggs?” there’s a good chance you’re dealing with that problem right now. You can use the treatments above to fix the issue, but it could always come back again. This is why it’s good to learn some preventative measures to take so you’re not dealing with a smelly trailer again in a few more months.
As we mentioned above, you can always replace your current anode with an aluminum-zinc model. The zinc will prevent the reaction from occurring and stabilizes the chemicals in the water.
You can also slow or prevent the buildup of hydrogen sulfide gas by draining your fresh water tanks after every use. Standing water is more likely to lead to gas production, so you can nip the problem in the bud by using fresh water every time. This is also why it’s a good idea to let your taps run for a few seconds before using their water for cooking and cleaning. This delay lets the standing water get flushed out and replaces it with the fresh stuff.
You’ll also want to flush the water heater on a regular basis. Many RV water heater manufacturers recommend that you flush the system at least once a year. This is the minimum, but you can do it more often if you’ve noticed that a rotten egg smell is common. A flushing wand will help you do a more thorough job and remove any hard water buildup that could introduce sulfur, magnesium, or other minerals into your water.
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance from RV LIFE. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.