RV Toilet Smells When Flushed? Do This!

Having a bad smell fill your RV every time the toilet is flushed can really put everyone’s mood down the drain (pun intended!).

This guide will help you diagnose why an RV toilet smells when flushed, how to fix it, and tips to prevent it from happening again.

What Can You Do to Manage RV Toilet Smells?

Initially, you have two options to successfully manage your RV toilets’ smell.

The first option is to never use your RV’s toilet. Sounds silly, but many RV’ers do this, especially those who stay in a specific location long-term and have other facilities available.

However, if you’re not staying in a campground with restroom facilities, you may need to use the RV bathroom regularly. Besides, you paid for the RV with the bathroom. Why not use it?

That leads us to the second solution: to learn how to properly handle the RV toilet and waste tank.

If you choose this option, you must accept the reality of regularly maintaining the toilet and the blackwater tank.

Things You Need to Know About Using Your RV Toilet

Before we discuss how you can better manage your RV toilet’s smell, you must understand how camper toilets work. Here are some things you need to know about an RV toilet system.

Liquid Is a Must for RV Toilets

And not just a little liquid, but a lot!

Every time you use your RV toilet, fill it with water first and again after flushing. The more water, the better.

This will help prevent any clogs in the pipes and the waste in the black tank from becoming a giant solid mass that wafts a nasty smell back into your RV when you flush.

Using the Right Toilet Paper

This one is debatable, as many RV’ers think special bio-degradable TP is a waste of money.

No matter what side of the fence you’re on, if bad smells fill your RV every time you flush, you may want to try switching to a toilet paper that is biodegradable and sewer-tank safe.

Scott Rapid-Dissolving Toilet Paper

Scott Rapid-Dissolving Toilet Paper

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Why? Non-biodegradable toilet papers (as well as flush wipes) are slower to break down. They can get stuck in the sewer system, which may cause clogs and other issues.

Toilet Flappers Must Perfectly Seal the Toilet

Toilet flappers are a vital part of a toilet because they provide a flush seal, preventing methane leaks. The flapper is also responsible for controlling the water released into the bowl.

Always keep the waste tank sealed, whether it’s clogged or not. If the toilet flappers cannot lock the toilet due to damage or a blocked passageway, you can expect that the waste toilet tank’s unpleasant smell will stink up the inside of your RV.

Keeping the Toilet Clean Is a Must

This one is self-explanatory. If you find no clog or leak in the toilet or the waste holding tank, this only means that the toilet itself needs a good scrub down.

Although RV toilets are designed with heavy plastics, dirt and waste can still stick to the surfaces. The solid waste buildup will dry up and cause a foul smell.

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell When Flushed?

In a small space like an RV, unpleasant odors can quickly build up and circulate. And it’s typically easy to identify the source of the smell because of the limited space.

However, at times, your bathroom’s unpleasant odor is not detectable until you flush the toilet. The usual odor from the toilet may smell like sewage or a rotten egg. And this disgusting smell often becomes amplified during high-humidity summer days.

There are several reasons why your RV toilet gives off that unpleasant odor when you try to flush it, including:

  • A clog in the toilet system (most commonly the black water tank)
  • Sewer line or tank leak
  • Poor toilet maintenance
  • Damaged or leaking toilet
  • Clogged vent pipe

To better determine the real cause of the foul smell, you’ll have to get your hands dirty (not in the literal sense… hopefully) and inspect the toilet and sewer system.

The good news is that you can fix most RV toilet issues yourself. All you need are the right tools and the knowledge to solve the smelly problem.

However, if the toilet requires fixing due to system leaks or damages, you may have to seek an expert’s help.

Tips on How to Get Rid of RV Toilet Smells When Flushed

Here are a few tips to eliminate your toilet’s unpleasant odor when you flush it.

Tip 1: Inspect for Any Leaks or Damage

Look for any damages or leaks in your RV’s waste holding tank, sewage line, or toilet. Check if you can detect any parts in the system that need replacement.

Tip: If the problem is a leak or impairment of the waste-holding tank, it’s best to get a quote from a professional to fix it. DIYs can be messy, especially in that specific part of the RV. Plus, you can potentially save on any unnecessary costs.

Do not forget to ensure that the toilet flap perfectly seals the toilet. If this does not fit properly, methane gas could leak out and cause a foul odor in your RV.

Luckily, leaks and damage to your RVs sewer system aren’t very common. And they typically aren’t the cause of your RV toilet smelling only when it’s flushed, but we have seen it happen.

So, once your RV toilet system passes this test, it’s time to move on to the main culprits…

Tip 2: Clear Any RV Toilet Clogs

If you are trying to empty your waste-holding tank but nothing is coming out of it, or it’s only partially emptying, it is clogged.

Clogging results from solid waste buildup inside the tank. And this usually happens from too much toilet paper/waste and not enough water. Remember, water is super important. The more, the better.

If you do find yourself with a clog, and these things happen, you can unclog it using one of the following ways.

Use a Toilet Tank Wand

A flexible toilet wand is a versatile tool that you can use in your toilets and sinks that are predisposed to clogging. This commonly used tool can maneuver through the toilet drain into the tank and uses a high-pressure spray to remove the clogs.

When buying a toilet tank wand for your RV, find one that has a nozzle that connects to the faucet with a flexible hose.

Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve

Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve

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Pour Hot Water Down The Toilet

Pouring hot water into the toilet is a popular method to remove the clogs in your toilet system. And it works well!

Simply heat a pot of water, open the toilet valve, and pour the hot water down the toilet.

You can also add a little dishwasher soap with the hot water. The detergent may also help to break up the solid wastes and lubricate the system.

Use Septic Tank Safe Decloggers

You can also use septic-safe chemicals to unclog your RV toilets. These chemicals are designed to eat solid clogs in the system.

CAMCO TST Ultra-Concentrated Orange Citrus Scent

CAMCO TST Ultra-Concentrated Orange Citrus Scent

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If you don’t like using chemicals because you fear they may be too harsh, you can use vinegar and baking soda instead.

When combined, vinegar and baking soda create a foaming effect that can help break apart stubborn clogs.

Use Ice Cubes

If you’re looking for a simple solution to unclog your toilets, use the ever-popular ice cube trick.

Simply pour a bag of ice down the toilet and drive around. The ice cubes will move around the tank and break up any clogs that may be present.

For more information on clogs, check out our in-depth guide to unclogging an RV toilet.

Tip 3: Clean and Sanitize the Toilet

Maintaining cleanliness in your RV toilet is one of the most effective ways to keep your RV bathroom odor-free.

If you make it a habit to clean your toilet regularly, the chances are that your RV toilet system will function smoothly… and remain fresh smelling.

How to Clean the RV Toilet

We’ve already covered in-depth how to clean an RV toilet (check it out if you haven’t already), but at a high level, you’ll need to:

  1. Spray the toilet with toilet bowl cleaner and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Scrub the bowl with a non-abrasive bowl brush.
  3. Rinse the toilet with a few flushes.
  4. While you’re at it, clean and disinfect the toilet seat and outside of the bowl.

Important: Be sure you do NOT use any harsh chemicals or scouring pads, as they can damage the toilet and void any potential warranty you might have.

Tip 4: Clear Any Vent Pipe Clogs

Sometimes the clog isn’t in your toilet or tanks at all. Instead, it’s the pipe that vents the black tank to your RV’s roof.

Diagram of a vent pipe clog causing a sewer smell to enter the RV through the toilet.
Diagram of a vent pipe clog causing a sewer smell to enter the RV through the toilet.

When this pipe gets clogged, the smell has nowhere to go but out of your toilet when you flush.

To remedy this, insert a garden hose into the pipe at the roof opening and turn the water on to clear the clog. A toilet wand can also be used for this, and it works wonders for stubborn clogs.

Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve

Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stik with Shutoff Valve

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Buy Now at Camping World

Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.


What Is the Best Deodorizer for an RV Toilet?

The best RV toilet deodorizer will help break down waste in the black tank and eliminate any smell’s, not just mask the odor. A few popular examples of these deodorizing treatments are Happy Campers Holding Tank Treatment and Camco TST Ultra RV Toilet Treatment.

Can I Use Regular Toilet Paper in an RV Toilet?

You can use regular toilet paper in an RV toilet, but if you encounter any clogging issues, we advise using degradable toilet paper that dissolves quickly. And if you use regular toilet paper, be very generous with the amount of water you use.

How Often Should I Empty My Waste-Holding Tank?

This comes down to personal preference, but we recommend you empty it when it’s at least 2/3rds of the way full. Why not more often? Emptying your tank too often can leave solid waste behind. When it’s full, it’s easier for the solids to break down and empty out. Check out our guide on how to clean out an RV black water tank for more information.

Why Does My RV Toilet Smell During High Temperatures?

The high temperatures could have evaporated the water covering the fecal matter in the black tank, exposing the matter to the air. Also, in high heat, the good bacteria that break down waste are less efficient. Adding more water to your waste-holding tank should help. As well as treating your tanks with a high-quality bacteria and enzyme tank treatment, like RV Digest-It.

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