RV Odor Control: What Absorbs Bad Smells?

RV Odor Control: What Absorbs Bad Smells?

How To Get Rid Of Odors In Your RV

Just like any other living space, RVs can get smelly after a while! The issue is even more common in these mobile living spaces because everything is in pretty close proximity. You’ve got your bathroom, kitchen, garbage can, sinks, etc in a small, contained area. If you deal with persistent odors, you might be looking for something that absorbs bad smells in an RV.

Fortunately, there are lots of things (both natural and store-bought) that can help cover up or neutralize bad smells. Some of them might leave a bit of an odor of their own, but generally, they will make your living space smell fresher and cleaner.

To help you out, we’ve got a list of what absorbs bad smells in an RV. You may already have some of these items on hand, while others will need to be ordered. If you consistently have to deal with foul odors in your living space, you might want to look into a more long-term solution. No matter what the problem is, at least one of the solutions below should be able to help!

Best products to absorb bad smells


Charcoal is a fantastic choice when it comes to neutralizing odors. Lots of commercial deodorizing products contain charcoal because it can easily soak up all kinds of bad smells. You can either use charcoal sticks or packets. Both options are effective, although they may leave a faint smoky smell behind once they finish their job. This will dissipate pretty quickly though!

Baking soda

Baking soda is a classic cleaning go-to, and it can also help you when there’s a nasty smell in the air! If you can identify the source of the smell, sprinkle some baking soda around it and leave it for 30 minutes. After that, you can just vacuum it up and you’ll have a clean-smelling RV again!

Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds serve a similar purpose and are super easy to obtain! They also may leave a faint coffee smell behind, which many people enjoy. Coffee grounds can also be sprinkled over liquids because they soak up moisture and make gross spills easier to clean up.


Citrus smells great and it can absorb/overpower any other scents in the area. You can use any type of citrus (oranges, limes, lemons). Cut a few citrus fruits into chunks and place them around your vehicle. Try squeezing the peels for extra effect. This solution absorbs bad smells throughout your RV!


Vinegar is another all-purpose cleaner that you’ll want to keep on hand. It has a fairly strong smell of its own, but it can overpower lingering odors that are otherwise difficult to remove. Try mixing up a blend of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and misting it around the smellier parts of your RV. You can follow this up with an air freshener if you don’t want to smell the vinegar.


Slices of bread can be used to soak up odors, but they don’t have a very large range. This technique works best if there’s a stench in a small, enclosed space. Place a few slices of bread near the source of the problem and let it sit for an hour or two. This may not completely solve the problem, but it can absorb some of the bad smells.

Cat litter

Cat litter is designed to soak up and neutralize odors, so it’s perfect for this task! This solution is especially convenient if you already have a cat, but it’s not hard to find cat litter at most general stores. Sprinkle the litter around the problem area and wait until you no longer smell the original scent. Then you can sweep/vacuum it up and enjoy your fresh-smelling RV.

Dryer sheets

Finally, dryer sheets are a low-cost and low-effort solution for a smelly RV. Again, these only work for small areas, but they can cover up odors with a fresh, neutral smell. Place a few dryer sheets around the source of the problem and let them sit for about a day.

Other ways to neutralize bad smells

Although there are many things that absorb bad smells, sometimes you need something a bit stronger that can cover up the lingering traces. Luckily, there are plenty of great-smelling solutions you can use!

Wall plugins/diffusers

One common solution that’s great for RVers is a wall plugin or a diffuser. These project odor-neutralizing mists into the air. They make everything smell great and there are a variety of scents you can choose from. A lot of them can also run 24/7, so they can provide constant coverage for your living space.

Freshening sprays

Freshening sprays serve a similar purpose, but they’re more useful for spot treatment. If there’s a particular area that’s giving you trouble (such as a garbage can or litter box), spray your freshener of choice around the source of the problem.


Excess moisture in your RV can cause lots of problems. Whether it’s standing water, mold, or rot, a dehumidifier can help prevent these issues before they begin to create a stench. Run the dehumidifier as much as possible and use your RV vents and fans to release excess moisture and heat.

Air purifying house plants/herbs

Plants can help you in the battle against bad smells. Many of them will help you filter the air, while others produce pleasant smells that can cover up unwanted scents. If you have space for a few plants, these can be a big help! Some good options for RVers include:

  • Snake plants
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • English ivy
  • Lavender
  • Lady palms
  • Dracaena
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Lemongrass
plant in RV to absorb smells, feature image for how to absorb bad smells

Cook something that smells nice

Finally, you can do the old trick of replacing the bad smells with something better! Try cooking something with a strong, pleasant smell such as popcorn, cookies, stew, etc. This might be a short-term solution, but it gets the job done.

You can also try to make a simmer pot, which involves boiling aromatic ingredients like herbs, spices, and citrus. If you let the steam from these pots permeate the whole RV, you can usually neutralize the source of the problem.

How to treat persistent odors

It’s useful to know how to overpower or absorb bad smells. But sometimes that’s just not enough! If you frequently deal with persistent odors, try some of the tips below to help you attack the root of the problem.

Look for the source of the smell

In an RV, there are a few common culprits that cause the majority of the odors. For instance, if you smell rotten eggs, your water heater is probably the issue. You might also notice a sewage smell coming from your bathroom, which means that you need to dump/clean your holding tanks. Your faucets and garbage cans are other common sources of bad smells. Sometimes there isn’t a clear culprit, but those are some good places to start your search.

Deep clean cushions, carpets, etc.

All RVs can start to smell musty and stale after a while. This is especially common if they sit unused for a few months out of the year! In order to freshen things up and get rid of some lingering odors, try cleaning your carpets, rugs, curtains, and furniture cushions. These can trap bad smells, so it’s a good idea to focus on airing them out.

Improve airflow and let sun/fresh air in

Finally, make sure your RV is properly ventilated. If you have good airflow, odors will usually move out before you even have a chance to notice them. Make it a point to open up your windows as much as possible and keep your blinds open so the sunlight can come in. Sunlight and fresh air can solve the majority of your odor-related problems!

Track your RV maintenance

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. 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.

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