One of the worst issues you can have in your RV is a smelly toilet. Clogs and backed up black water tanks can make living in such a small space miserable.
So, getting to the bottom of the smell should be a top priority immediately after you discover it.
There are different places a sewer smell can come from, but the most noticeable is when it comes directly from your toilet after you flush.
You may think that you’ve been keeping up to date with maintenance, but there could always be something else wrong.
Then, the first question you will likely be asking is, why does my RV toilet smell when I flush? There are four common reasons that RV toilets begin to stink after you flush, and they are as follows:
- There is a clog somewhere in the system, usually the black water tank which will cause your RV toilet to smell.
- Your RV toilet needs cleaning to prevent it from smelling.
- A leak somewhere in the sewer line or tank will cause your camper smells like sewage even after drain and flush.
- The toilet is damaged or leaking.
Any of these can cause a foul odor to arise when you flush your toilet.
It can be an easy fix if there is only a clog or the toilet needs to be cleaned, which is ideal when you’re on the road.
All you need is a little know-how and the right tools to be able to do the job right.
As for leaks or cracks somewhere in the system, you will likely need professional help to patch that up properly.
Why Does My RV Toilet Smell When I Flush?
If you’ve lived in or camped in an RV before, you are well aware that smells are hard to hide in the small living quarters.
Whether it is coming from the kitchen sink, trash, or bathroom, you’ll know right when you walk into the camper.
There are those times when there isn’t a persistent odor from the toilet but only one when you flush.
This can be good or bad news. One thing is for sure, you need to get to the bottom of the smell before it gets much worse.
What is actually causing any odor to come out of your RV toilet is a build-up of methane.
You may not have noticed an issue before, but if you are traveling through an area that has high humidity or is at a higher altitude than usual, the smell can become amplified.
The four primary reasons your RV toilet would have a build-up of methane gas include:
- There is a clog somewhere in the system, usually the black water tank.
- The toilet has not been cleaned for an extended period of time.
- There could be a leak somewhere in the sewer line or tank.
- The toilet is damaged or leaking.
While that is useful information to know, you will also need to know how to get rid of the smell.
You can quickly check the black water tank for a clog, investigate any need for cleaning, and you can even identify a leak if you take the time to look.
So, what comes next after you’ve identified the source of the smell?
How To Get Your Camper or RV Toilet To Stop Smelling
The good news is that many RV toilet odor problems can be fixed yourself. However, that is not always the case.
If your RV toilet starts to emit an odor, follow the steps below to solve the problem quickly.
1: Check for Damage or Leaks
If there is damage to the tank, sewage line, or toilet, you may need to replace that part of the system or have a professional take a look to see if they can fix it for you.
If you identify a leak or break anywhere, especially in the black water tank, it is best to take it to a dealer to get a quote.
Many RVers think that you have to replace the tank anytime something small like a leak arises, but that is not always the case.
Plus, replacing the entire tank can cost you anywhere from $300-800 and leave you without your RV for some time.
While you are investigating if there is a leak anywhere, also check to make sure that the toilet flap is secure.
If it isn’t snug and fit properly when closed, methane gas can leak out and let a foul odor escape.
So, the best first step if there is a leak in the black water tank, sewer line, or toilet is to bring it to someone that can fix it.
Now, while damaged sewer systems in RVs can happen, they are not usually the issue.
It is much more common for there to be a clog or for the toilet and tank to need a good cleaning.
2: Clean Your RV Toilet
One of the best ways to get rid of an odor coming from your toilet is to give it a good clean.
It is best to decide to clean your toilet after you have already checked for leaks, damage, and clogs.
If it is not one of those issues, then it is time to clean the RV toilet and black water tank.
It should become a regular habit of yours to clean the toilet to make sure that the black water tank is not clogged and to keep things running smoothly.
If it isn’t already, add it to your monthly maintenance schedule.
This should include cleaning and maintaining the toilet, sewer line, black water tank, and toilet flapper.
How to Clean Your RV Toilet:
You can use a toilet bowl cleaner on your RV toilet. However, you should avoid using standard chemical cleaners as it will damage the RV toilet.
Try to find RV safe toilet bowl cleaners by looking for mineral or pumice cleaners.
There are also RV specific cleaners you can find. It is also not recommended to use bristle brushes to clean your RV toilet.
Use a handled sponge to avoid damaging the toilet materials.
For the best result, when cleaning your RV toilet bowl, add cleaner, and make sure it covers all interior bowl surfaces. Let the cleaner sit for at least five minutes.
Then, scrub with your sponge. You can let the scrubbed cleaner sit again for a few minutes, and then you should flush the toilet to rinse it so as not to let the cleaner dry.
If you suspect that you have a clog somewhere in the system, there are a few ways to get rid of it. Check out this post on unclogging your RV toilet for more information.
Keep Up With Proper RV Toilet Maintenance
As mentioned earlier, the best way to avoid a foul odor in your RV toilet is to keep up with cleaning and maintenance.
The tips we’ve outlined above can become part of your regular cleaning schedule for your RV, and you can even add a black water tank rinse each time you empty the tank.
There are also some RV specific black water tank cleaners that you can add every so often to make sure there isn’t a build-up of any kind.
You should also consider adding in RV enzyme toilet cleaning tablets to keep things working correctly.
The last thing you need to know to keep sewage odors out of your RVing life is that your sewer system needs enough water to run properly.
So, if you have chronic smell issues or frequent dry build-up inside the black water tank, you may not be getting enough water through when you flush.
You can remedy this by starting to flush twice or adding a bit of extra water each time you flush.
Be mindful not to use too much water, though. The more water, the easier it is for the waste to break down, and the less likely you are to have a smell, but you will have to empty the tank more often.
Frequently Asked RV Toilet Questions
Can I use regular toilet paper in my RV toilet?
No, you need to make sure that you are using septic safe toilet paper or 2-ply toilet paper for RV use. Regular toilet paper will stop up your system because it takes too long to break down in the tank.
How often do I need to empty the black water tank?
Knowing how often you need to empty the black water tank will be up to how often you use it and how often you want to empty it.
The more often you empty it and clean it out, the less of a chance you have of having any smell appear.