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There’s just something unpleasant about the way new RVs smell. Not only do new RVs have the potential of looking ugly, but they can smell ugly too! If you are wondering how to get rid of new RV smell, you’re in the right place.
So how do you get rid of new RV smell?
You can air out your RV, heat it up until the chemicals burn away, use air freshening items, and more. However, one of the best solutions to getting rid of new RV smell is simply time and after a few weeks (sometimes days) the smell will simply fade away.
In this article, we will discuss why new RVs smell the way they do, if that smell could adversely affect you and your travels, and we’ll even give you some tips on how to get rid of new RV smell.
No matter your budget or level of experience, you can get rid of new RV smell and make your trailer or motorhome a place you actually want to spend time in. Let’s get started.
Why Do New RVs Smell?
New RVs smell worse than used RVs because of their recently manufactured products. They are made with many different adhesives, dyes, and preserving chemicals that often adversely affect your sense of smell.
No matter the building materials used and no matter the RV manufacturer, there will be some potentially unpleasant smells involved in any new RV purchase. It is a natural part of the manufacturing process.
These unpleasant smells are released through a process known as offgassing. This is a natural process where manufactured materials let off their unpleasant chemical smells, but usually over a long period of time.
Many RV manufacturers will try to tackle this issue before selling their rigs to the public, but the offgassing process takes far longer than many manufacturers expect. This usually leads to either one of two things.
An RV manufacturer can help expedite this smelly process through a few different steps, but most of them don’t. The majority of RV manufacturers choose to cover up the smells using other chemical smells.
You can obviously assume that the process of covering up chemical smells with more chemical smells isn’t a good idea. This is why it often falls on the RV purchaser to fix their brand new rig!
But have you ever stopped to consider what chemicals are producing these unpleasant smells? Now’s the time to discuss this in more detail.
Is New RV Smell Dangerous?
While some RV purchasers may even enjoy the smell of new RVs, it’s important to discuss whether or not new RV smell is dangerous. The answer may surprise you.
Most new RVs are manufactured with formaldehyde, as this chemical additive has been used in manufacturing since the beginning of RV production. Formaldehyde doesn’t exactly sound like the most pleasant thing to breathe in while you’re enjoying your brand new RV, does it!?
For the most part, formaldehyde is a normal part of any modern manufacturing process. However, the smell has been known to negatively affect many people, in subtle ways. You may notice the following symptoms when dealing with new RV smell:
- Respiratory issues (like congestion, wheezing, and sneezing)
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Dry and itchy skin
While not everyone experiences these symptoms, it can be something that happens when smelling any new RV. These symptoms can be exacerbated by the fact that most RVs are fully enclosed and compact, leading to more of the unpleasant smells breathed in.
Why is Formaldehyde Used in New RVs?
Given that formaldehyde can negatively affect us, you may be asking why it is used in the manufacturing process of new RVs. Let’s talk about why.
Formaldehyde is a common preserving agent used in many different industries. It is used often in plywood and engineered wood manufacturing, which means that it often goes hand in hand with RV construction.
In fact, formaldehyde has been used in just about any RV since the 1950s. This chemical doesn’t have very many adverse health concerns when it occurs in smaller quantities, though many people are more sensitive to it than others.
Many materials that use formaldehyde were banned from RV use back in the day, but this isn’t the case anymore. Most materials used in RV manufacturing are purchased at a wholesale or budget cost. And most budget friendly building materials are made with formaldehyde.
There are some building materials that don’t use formaldehyde, and you can always purchase an RV that uses fewer wood-based products. Aluminum trailers are a good way to go, along with fiberglass rigs.
There have been occurrences of formaldehyde directly affecting people who live in manufactured homes and RVs, so it is an important thing to keep in mind while shopping. However, it is often part of the inevitable process of purchasing any newly manufactured item!
Once you bring your new RV home, what can you do to take care of that new RV smell? Let’s talk about that now!
8 Ways to Get Rid of New RV Smell
So you’ve brought your new RV home, installed your home furnishings and brand new RV curtains– and everything stinks. You want to get rid of your RV smell, and fast- here’s what you can do to help with this process!
1. Air Things Out
If you have brought your new RV home to a pleasant climate, the first thing that you should do is air everything out.
Open all of your RV windows, turn on your fans, and let some fresh air in. If you have a vent fan that sucks the air out of the inside of your rig, now is the time to get those fans working! Don’t worry about using your air conditioner right now- fresh air is best.
Let your RV sit with everything opened up for as long as you can. An entire morning and afternoon during mild weather is best. A mixture of sunlight and fresh air can do wonders to combat any unpleasant chemical smells building up in your RV!
Never open up your windows and ceiling vents during times of inclement weather. Even the smallest bit of water damage can wreak havoc on your RV. The last thing you want is to ruin your brand new travel trailer or motorhome!
It may take a few sessions of airing out your camper before you notice any big changes to the chemical smell. However, if you have ample time before your upcoming camping trip to do this, it’s definitely one of the most effective things that you can do.
2. Heat Up Your RV
Many RV owners swear by the heat technique when it comes to removing new RV smell. This simply means running your RV heater for a few hours after you first bring it home.
The idea behind this process is that the heat burns away any unpleasant chemical smells. This can include both formaldehyde scents and any scents used by RV manufacturers to cover up the initial formaldehyde smell.
However, it is important to note that formaldehyde scents won’t magically go away during this process. But heating up all of the fixtures in your RV may help with the initial offgassing process. Having dry heat, like from an RV wood stove, can be one of your best bets.
Take the time to turn your furnace up to its highest setting, if possible. Leave everything closed up in your RV, no matter how nice of a day it is. Having everything enclosed allows for the chemicals to get cooked off much easier than if everything is closed up.
Let your rig sit with the furnace running for no less than 12 hours. You can go for a full 24 hours if your RV is in a safe and observable location. Then, turn off your furnace and get your vent fan running so that you can totally remove any unpleasant scents that might have built up during this time.
Opening your RV windows after this time can also help speed the process along. The heat from a nice summer day can also lead to a less noxious smell, but this isn’t always a possibility. However, mimicking a hot day inside of your rig is a good place to start!
3. Cook Something Good
Sometimes, all it takes to get rid of new RV smell is to simply use your RV. And what better way to christen your new camper than through a nice meal!?
Okay, you don’t have to set up your RV kitchen just to cook something in. But using your RV stovetop or oven and cooking something memorable and fragrant may be all you need to eliminate some of the more troubling RV smells happening inside of your rig.
Many RVers bake a tray of brown sugar and cinnamon in their RV oven, should you have one. Baking some cookies may also be enough, or perhaps boiling a pot of mulled wine spices will do the trick as well.
You can also go for a more savory route instead. Bacon is a great choice of food when used to cover up other smells. If you like the smell of bacon in your home, try cooking some in your RV!
Other savory recipes are useful in this situation as well, such as roasts, soups, and sautees. While it may simply be another way of covering up an unpleasant smell rather than eliminating it, this may be one of your best options if you are planning on debuting your new RV sooner rather than later.
4. Use Ammonia
Did you know that you can use ammonia to eliminate a lot of new RV smells, including formaldehyde? While using one chemical to fight another chemical may seem counterintuitive, this is one of the best processes for fighting formaldehyde.
This process of using ammonia to rid your RV of formaldehyde is more involved, but it may be worth it for the safety of you and your family. You can purchase ammonia from many common retailers, and your local hardware store should also be able to help you out with this purchase.
Start by removing anything in the RV that might touch skin. This includes fabrics, cushions, dishes, plants, and more. You should also turn off your propane and empty your water tanks at this time, if you have already used your new RV.
After everything is emptied and cleared out, gather 1-4 large, shallow bowls, depending on the size of your RV. The larger the RV, the more shallow bowls you will need! Spread them out and fill the bowls with ammonia, about a half gallon in each dish.
Ammonia absorbs formaldehyde and other unpleasant scents or chemicals, leaving only water behind. This is why it is such a sophisticated and respected method for new RV owners. But the process isn’t quite finished…
After setting up your ammonia dishes, you should close up your RV, including every window and door. Like a few other processes on this list, you should leave your RV sitting with the ammonia inside for 24-72 hours.
Once this time has passed, vent your RV by opening all windows and turning on your fan. You can now safely dump the ammonia down any drain, as it is primarily water now. This process takes the longest time when compared with any other method, but it is the best process when it comes to fighting formaldehyde specifically.
5. Try Baking Soda (And Vinegar Too)
You can even use baking soda and vinegar to help with your new RV smell. Many RVers report having success with these two products, or simply just a baking soda solution. Baking soda is responsible for absorbing odors, which is why many people still keep an open box of baking soda in their fridges!
You can sprinkle baking soda on all of your soft RV finishes, such as carpeting and furniture. Allow it to sit and absorb some of this scent before vacuuming it up with ease.
You can also make a vinegar and baking soda floor cleaning solution, should your RV be made up with hardwood or vinyl flooring rather than carpeting. Be careful with any baking soda and vinegar cleaning solution, as it will foam up when the two materials are combined.
6. Use Candles or Air Fresheners
Let’s face it, unpleasant smells are a part of life, which is why we regularly employ candles and air fresheners to combat these scents. You can do the same for your RV!
Be sure to turn off your propane if you plan on using candles inside of your rig. While many RV owners use candles inside of their motorhomes, no problem, you may want to do this just in case. It’s an added safety precaution, especially if you are getting used to how your RV works!
Simple air fresheners may also do the trick in eliminating new RV smell. You can use air fresheners commonly used in cars, or you can try an aromatherapy diffuser. There are many different electric plug in options that can help make your home smell nice as well.
Febreeze or other fabric sprays can also be helpful odor eliminators. While some of these options are heavily perfumed, many offer lighter scents, and most are designed to absorb and eliminate odors, not simply cover them up.
You may need to schedule a few sessions of candle burning before the new RV smell is completely eliminated. However, this method may be all you need to take care of unexpected scents.
7. Get Air Purifying Plants
What’s an all natural method that you can try to help rid your RV of unnatural smells? You can get air purifying plants, of course! There are many different potted plants that you can place around the interior of your RV so that you get the cleanest air possible.
Some popular air purifying plants include:
- Spider plants
- Peace lilies
- Many palm varieties
- Pothos plants
- Calathea plants
- Rubber plants
- English ivy
While plants may work in ways that are too subtle for you (especially if you have an upcoming camping trip), this can be a fairly easy solution to invest in. It may be especially lovely to those of you living in your travel trailer full time.
However, it is important to note that RVs are always at risk for moisture damage, especially if you plan on traveling to or storing your RV in a particularly moist location.
Having too many plants inside of an enclosed area can indeed be too much of a good thing. Too many plants can mean more moisture, and can damage the interior of your brand new rig. Try some plants in moderation, and always be careful when watering them!
8. Activated Charcoal Could Help
Speaking of moisture, did you know that activated charcoal can help you eliminate excess moisture as well as unpleasant smells? You can purchase activated charcoal in many forms, some of which may help you combat the bad scents lingering in your RV from manufacturing.
I personally use these bamboo charcoal bags throughout my RV. They absorb excess moisture, which is something that plagues my RV since I live in the Pacific Northwest. They also help with unpleasant smells as well.
You can reuse these bags by simply setting them out in the sunshine to air dry, and the charcoal gets refreshed. These are perfect compact solutions to eliminating both moisture and smells inside of your new rig!
New RV Smell in RVs Over Time
While purchasing a brand new RV only to find that it smells bad can be disappointing, there may not be very much for you to do, at least at first. What’s the best solution for fighting new RV smell? Time.
That’s right- time is your best solution to chemical smells inside of your trailer, particularly when it comes to fighting formaldehyde. But why might this be?
Well, formaldehyde dissipates over time, usually as your trailer ages, year after year. This is how the chemical is designed, and it gradually lessens as the materials used to build your motorhome age.
This is why I never noticed an unpleasant smell in my travel trailer: it was built in the year 1976! By the time I purchased it, decades of formaldehyde and other chemicals had completely disappeared, leaving no scent behind.
This is one of the main arguments for purchasing an older RV. While it won’t help you with your new RV scent, it can be a comforting thought. You won’t be stuck with gross RV smells forever, and any harmful effects from formaldehyde are reduced year after year.
However, if you do suffer from a formaldehyde or chemical production allergy, some of the techniques and tricks used above should help you through this process. You no doubt want to hit the road fast, and these tips can help!
There aren’t very many people who enjoy the smell of a new RV. However, if you’ve always wondered how to properly eliminate the smell, hopefully you have picked out some helpful tricks from this article!
Have you encountered any tricks that you can use when it comes to getting rid of new RV smell? Let us know in the comments!