Why Does My RV Toilet Stink and How to Get Rid of the Bad Odor?

Why Does My RV Toilet Stink and How to Get Rid of the Bad Odor?

Posted by Happy Campers Store on Jan 11th 2024

RV toilet odors can be a common issue when traveling or living in a recreational vehicle. These odors can be unpleasant and make your RV experience less enjoyable. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to eliminate RV toilet odors and keep your vehicle smelling fresh.

Let's start with the basics, shall we?

RV toilet odors can stem from a variety of sources, from a lack of ventilation to clogged pipes and even bacterial buildup. One thing's for sure, though - that funky smell is not what you signed up for when you hit the road. So, let's roll up our sleeves (and pinch our noses) as we explore the main culprits behind these pesky odors. This post is going to thoroughly answer the following questions as well as show you how to remedy the source of the bad odor.

Why Does My RV Toilet Stink?

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell When I Flush?

Almost certainly the reason for your RV toilet smelling when you flush is a faulty or damaged seal in the toilet or plumbing system, allowing odors to escape.

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell Like Urine?

The most likely cause for your RV toilet smelling like urine is that urine has been left in the toilet without much water allowing it to dry or create a layer of odor causing residue in the toilet bowl.

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell Like Ammonia?

A possible reason for your RV toilet smelling like ammonia could be a buildup of urine in the holding tank, which can produce ammonia-like odors when it decomposes.

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

A rotten egg smell in your RV toilet is often an indication of a problem with the plumbing system. It is likely caused by the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas, which has a distinct rotten egg odor. This gas can be produced when organic matter in the holding tank decomposes, or if there is a problem with the RV's ventilation system.

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell Like Sewer?

Most Common Reasons: blocked or damaged vent, leaking seals, holding tank issue.

There are several reasons why your RV toilet may be emitting a foul odor. We're going to look at each of these reasons in a little more detail in order to help diagnose the root cause.

The Main Causes for RV Toilet Odor:

1. Poor ventilation:

We list poor ventilation as the number one cause because it's a tricky one to diagnose. Typically, if poor ventilation is the culprit, it's only discovered after you diagnose, treat and test the other causes listed below.

Inadequate ventilation can lead to a buildup of odors in the RV toilet. Make sure that the vent pipe on the roof is clear and functioning properly. Proper ventilation is crucial for keeping those toilet odors at bay. Make sure your RV's bathroom vent fan is in good working condition and use it regularly while you're doing your business. Trust me, a little bit of fresh air can go a long way in banishing those unwanted odors.

Check out our detailed guide on how to diagnose and fix clogged black tank vents;


2. Improper use of chemicals:

Using the wrong type or amount of chemicals in your RV toilet can contribute to unpleasant odors. Ensure that you are using RV-specific toilet chemicals and following the recommended dosage.

When it comes to battling toilet odors, the right chemicals can be your secret weapons. Look for RV-friendly toilet chemicals that are specifically designed to neutralize odors and break down waste effectively. These mighty potions will not only keep your bathroom smelling fresh but also prevent clogs and maintain a healthy plumbing system. It's like having a superhero squad cleaning up after you – without the capes and catchy theme songs.

3. Clogged or dirty tank:

A clogged or dirty holding tank can cause odors to escape into the RV. Clogs can prevent proper ventilation and cause odors to linger. When waste sits in the tank for a long period of time, it can start to emit a foul odor. Regularly clean and maintain your tank to prevent buildup and odors.

Check out our detailed guide on how to assess and fix stubborn clogs;


4. Leaks or damaged seals:

Leaks or damaged seals in the toilet or plumbing system can allow odors to escape. Inspect the toilet and plumbing connections for any signs of leaks or damage and repair as necessary.

Check out our complete guide on fixing toilet seals;


5. Lack of water in the toilet bowl:

Insufficient water in the toilet bowl can lead to odors. Make sure there is enough water in the bowl to create a proper seal and prevent odors from escaping.

6. Improper waste disposal:

Improperly disposing of waste, such as using excessive amounts of toilet paper or flushing non-biodegradable items, can cause odors. Follow proper waste disposal practices to prevent odors from occurring.

7. Bacteria and mold growth:

Over time, bacteria and mold can develop in the tank and cause odors.

If the issue persists despite addressing these potential causes, it may be helpful to consult with a professional RV technician for further assistance.

How to Get Rid of Bad RV Toilet Odors:

By following simple steps below you will be able to eliminate and control any unwanted Odors coming from an RV toilet including, sewer gas smell, urine smell, ammonia smell, and the smell of rotten eggs.

1. Regularly empty and clean the black tank:

It's important to regularly empty and clean the black tank to prevent odors from building up. Use a high-quality RV black tank cleaner like Happy Campers Extreme Cleaner to thoroughly clean and deodorize the tank.

2. Check for clogs:

If you suspect a clog in the plumbing system, use a plumbing snake or auger to unclog the pipes.

How to Remove Stubborn Holding Tank Clogs, Buildup and Mold in Black Tanks:

Use Happy Campers Extreme Cleaner to Get Rid of RV Tank Odors:

1. Empty the black tank completely.

2. Mix the Happy Campers Extreme Cleaner with water according to the instructions on the packaging.

3. Pour the solution into the tank and let it sit for the recommended amount of time.

4. Flush the tank thoroughly to remove any remaining residue.

3. Repair any leaks:

If you notice any leaks in the toilet or plumbing system, repair them promptly to prevent odors from escaping.

4. Control RV Toilet Odors:

Use Happy Campers Holding Tank Treatment to effectively control RV toilet odors under any conditions.

To get rid of unwanted RV toilet odors, you want a product that eliminates bad RV holding tank and toilet odors completely.

There are a handful of really good products available that all claim to do this, including our own Happy Campers. In my experience all of the products available do one thing better than the other and that is to break down waste. While Happy Campers does help break down waste its primary focus is to effectively stop and prevent odor.

Many enzyme based treatments do a great job of breaking down solids, but fall short when it comes to preventing or controlling odor. Happy Campers holding tank treatment is often confused with enzyme based treatments, but it is not, and this is important.

Why Enzyme Treatments Don't Work as Well to Control RV Toilet Odor:

Why? Because enzyme based treatments require an optimal temperature to work.

Happy Campers is a proprietary blend of micronutrients and minerals, many of which support the growth of good bacteria in holding tanks and septic systems. Unlike enzyme based treatments Happy Campers is developed to work in extreme heat and extreme cold.

The ideal temperature range for the "good bacteria" in septic tanks, which are responsible for decomposing waste, is between 77 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit[1][2]. This temperature range is considered optimal for aerobic microbes to thrive and effectively break down the waste in septic tanks[1].

It is important to maintain the appropriate temperature range to support the growth and activity of these beneficial bacteria. A temperature below 77 degrees Fahrenheit may slow down the bacterial activity, leading to less efficient waste decomposition[2]. On the other hand, excessively high temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit may have a negative impact on the bacterial population.

I love camping under ideal circumstances, but my family does a lot of camping in cooler climates as well as some that are hotter than Hell ie: Texas, Arizona, Florida which go well above 95 degrees. There's really nothing quite like the smell of baking poo.

How to Use Happy Campers Holding Tank Treatment:

1. Add a one scoop (two tablespoons) of Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment with water to the black tank after emptying.

2. Add water to the tank as directed on the packaging.

3. Use the RV toilet as usual, and the holding tank treatment will work to break down waste and eliminate odors.

4. Repeat this process each time you dump your tank to maintain a fresh-smelling RV toilet.

By following these steps and using high-quality products like Happy Campers Extreme Cleaner and Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment, you can eliminate RV toilet odors and keep your recreational vehicle smelling fresh and clean.

Avoid These Chemicals in RV Toilets and Tanks:

When it comes to RV holding tanks and septic systems, there are certain chemicals that should be avoided and this means for cleaning your rv toilet as well. These chemicals include:

Formaldehyde: Traditional RV holding tank chemicals often contain formaldehyde or bronopol1. Formaldehyde is a biocide that kills bacteria and breaks down waste quickly. However, it is harmful to the environment and can disrupt the natural bacterial balance of septic systems1.

Petroleum-based Products:

Products like motor oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, and other petroleum-based chemicals should never be put into RV holding tanks or septic systems. These substances can contaminate the soil, groundwater, and surface water1.

Harsh Cleaning Chemicals:

Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals, such as bleach, chlorine, and ammonia, in RV holding tanks or septic systems. These chemicals can kill the beneficial bacteria that are essential for breaking down waste and maintaining a healthy septic system1.

Antibacterial Soaps and Cleaners:

Antibacterial soaps and cleaners contain chemicals like triclosan, which can disrupt the natural bacterial balance in septic systems. It is best to use septic-safe alternatives for cleaning purposes1.


Always stay away from bleach or chlorine products. These will erode the rubber seals in your plumbing as well as kill helpful bacteria. It is important to use environmentally friendly alternatives in RV holding tanks and septic systems to prevent harm to the environment and maintain the proper functioning of the systems1.


So, my RV-owning comrades, it's time to bid farewell to those pesky toilet odors that have been cramping your style on the open road. From proper ventilation and RV-friendly chemicals to good old-fashioned cleaning and a little DIY magic, armed with these savvy tips, you'll be on your way to a journey that smells as sweet as a field of lavender. Say goodbye to the stink and hello to fresh-smelling adventures! Happy travels, and may your RV always be a sanctuary of delightful scents!


Wren Environmental - How Lower Temperatures Impact Bacteria in Your Septic Tank

The Grey Water Guide - What Temperature Does A Septic Tank Reach?

Do It Yourself RV. RV Holding Tank Chemicals: Environmentally Friendly Options vs. Traditional Chemicals.