You're cruising down the interstate in your RV, and suddenly it hits your nostrils. It's a smell the likes of which you've never smelled before, yet also seems familiar. What is it? You pull over to the side of the road, look all around your rig, but don't see any obvious cause. Then, you turn on a faucet, and you realize you've found the problem: Your RV water smells like rotten eggs. Wait, what? Is that even possible?
Unfortunately, yes, instances where your camper water smells like a sewer can happen, but there's usually no need to panic. There can be a few reasons why your RV water smells like rotten eggs. Ready to see what they are?
Why Does My RV Smell Like Rotten Eggs?
First off, it's important to realize that RV water that smells like rotten eggs is not an incredibly common occurrence. If you're renting an RV from Cruise America for a road trip, you won't likely encounter this issue at all.
However, if you're living in an RV full time, there's a greater likelihood that you will experience it at least once. In any case, it is useful to know the potential causes and how to fix them, even if chances are low.
Bacteria in Your Water Heater
So, why does my RV smell like rotten eggs? The most likely cause is anaerobic bacteria in your water heater. Your RV's water heating system usually comes equipped with a magnesium or aluminum anode rod, meant to prevent corrosion of your water tank.
As bacteria and sulfur microbes in your water tank interact with the rod, hydrogen sulfide is produced and interacts with the magnesium or aluminum, and it is this interaction that creates the rotten egg smell.
Yes, ironically, the thing that’s supposed to prevent corrosion and contaminants in your water tanks is something that can end up making your RV water smell corroded and contaminated!
The fix for this one is pretty easy: Flush out the tank with hydrogen peroxide, and replace the anode rod in your water heater. A magnesium anode rod will usually only last from one to three years, depending on how much you use it.
If you prefer an aluminum anode rod, that can last you three to five years, but you can still eventually encounter that smell. Another option is to install an aluminum-zinc rod, as the zinc can help prevent the smell for longer.
Bacteria in Water Hookups or Freshwater Tanks
Of course, there can be other causes for why your RV water smells like rotten eggs. For example, if you're making use of water hookups at your campground, it could be that water that smells, also due to bacteria. If you're not hooked up to water at a campground, it may be bacteria in your freshwater tank that is the main problem.
How to fix it? If it's the water you've hooked up to at a campground, notify the campground manager and switch to your freshwater tanks. If your freshwater tanks are the issue, you need to sanitize both the tank and your freshwater plumbing system. Make a solution of bleach and water, pour it into your tanks, and run your pump as well as all the taps in your RV.
Fill up the water tank again, let it sit overnight, and then flush your system with freshwater the next day to get the bleach smell out.
How To Determine the Source of the Smell
Your water system represents some of the most important and sensitive equipment on an RV. If your RV water smells like rotten eggs, you need to determine if the culprit is your water heater, your freshwater tank, or even your water hookup at your campground.
The easiest way to do this is simply to run both cold and hot water through your taps. If the water smells when cold water is running, and you're hooked up, unhook from water and see if that fixes the issue. If it doesn't, and your cold RV water still smells like rotten eggs, your freshwater tank is the issue.
Alternatively, if there is no smell when you run the cold water, but there is when you run hot water, then it's time to proceed with the anode rod fix mentioned earlier.
Use Your Newfound Knowledge on a Road Trip!
Traveling in an RV is, overall, a great experience, but an RV road trip is not without the potential for pitfalls. Just like any home or vehicle, a motorhome can suddenly develop issues, like weird smells, that need to be addressed quickly. You now know why it can be that your RV water smells like rotten eggs, and you also know what to do about it!
You're now sufficiently prepared to take on any challenges traveling in an RV could present to you. It's time to get in touch with Cruise America to grab an RV, get on the road, and put all of that knowledge to the test!