Tracking down smells - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-16-2016, 11:01 AM   #1
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Tracking down smells

My new (to me) trailer has a smell. It's not a "bad" smell, but it's a smell, and I'm kind of sensitive to smells, and would like a more neutral smell in it.

I've stuck my nose just about everywhere, and can't seem to find a source. But anything that comes out of the trailer has this smell, and whenever I walk in there, it's the first thing that hits me.

It's a slightly sweet, not completely unpleasant smell. Not not quite pleasant. Could it be chemicals or treatments of the black water system? I know there are a thousand things it could be, including an actual scent that a previous owner may have purposely introduced, but if you have any ideas, let me know.

I've never had a camper with a bathroom so I don't know what all that stuff typically smells like...

But I'm not convinced it's coming from there either. Other than just opening it up and cleaning things, are there any treatments to help neutralize smells? I already washed the cushion covers. I wiped down the walls and cupboards but to the previous owners credit, it was pretty squeaky clean already.
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:49 PM   #2
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I think the best would be to take it one step at a time to find the source. Knowing the source might help you avoid a repeat.

Dump the black tank, rinse and dump again. Make sure the bowl seal works. Wash off the outside of the throne, especially where it meets the floor and where undesirable liquids might be trapped. The combination shower/toilet makes it easy to do occasionally.

Look for leaky windows, clean the channels in the aluminum frames and the weep holes. Any other potential leaks - vents in the roof, etc.

Any so called odor eliminators left in the cabinets by the previous owner.

The only real odor eliminators I know of is active charcoal or baking soda. They trap the volatile molecules, they do not mask their smell.

Hopefully what you smell is not trapped in the carpet. As an encouragement, I successfully cleaned mine with a carpet cleaning machine. The amount of mud and sand I removed was impressive and made a huge difference. Have fun.
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Old 02-16-2016, 12:57 PM   #3
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Thanks Paul. I checked my window channels already, since I have a little water damage under two of them. They're all clear. Wish that problem had been that simple but I'll be resealing them this summer, most likely. I will be resealing all vents when I put a fantastic vent/fan in the main vent. There is no visible water damage anywhere on the ceiling.

I don't have carpet, so that's not it. I checked all the cabinets really close and wiped them down. Paper towel didn't even get dirty Previous owner did a good job.

I'll clean out the water tanks and see if that helps. Hopefully that's the deal.

Thanks!
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:22 PM   #4
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Donna suggested this the other day. A sweet chemical smell in a new to you trailer could be antifreeze in the traps or toilet from the winterization process.
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Old 02-16-2016, 08:38 PM   #5
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I hope that's it!

We'll see.

Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:23 PM   #6
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another cause of semi sweet smell is....dearly departed mousies. usually its a mixture of musty/sweet..from urine and droppings before Mickey decided to use your cubby, walls or other hiding spot as a cemetery.

Would have to be a fairly recent departure tho. It can linger for a couple weeks. In my case, long before I can rip everything out of its place, send the cat in and find the little bugger.
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:01 AM   #7
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I'm betting that it's winterizing antifreeze in your water lines. Had the trailer been winterized? If so there will be pink colored fluid coming out of the taps when you open them. Special RV antifreeze is supposedly non-toxic but it smells sweet-ish and can also leave a terrible after-taste until you get it all flushed out of your lines. Open a tap and take a sniff.
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Old 02-17-2016, 07:58 AM   #8
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Ok, I'll check it out. It may have been winterized. Well I guess I should assume it was. It was in storage for the winter when I bought it.

I've smelled dead mouse before and luckily this is not it.

It just seems like this is a long-term smell. Everything that comes out of the camper smells like it. The cushions, even all the paperwork and instructions that came with the camper has this smell.

I almost wonder if it's just some fragrance a previous owner went really heavy on, and it's just going to linger for a while. We'll see what happens when I trust that the warm weather is sticking around, and can flush out the water lines.
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Old 02-17-2016, 10:59 AM   #9
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zach--i had exactly the same experience last week when i got my casita. the consensus of opinion was that the most likely culprit was winterizing anti freeze. go buy a jug of the stuff and give it a sniff--that will tell you a lot! if that's it, airing out thoroughly should help a lot. if you store it for the winter, throw in a couple of bags of fresh cab--that way, at least, it will smell like balsam fir when you open it up! i'll keep you informed on how my situation shakes out....
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Old 02-17-2016, 11:23 AM   #10
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I'll tell ya something else I've ran into with the RV antifreeze. A few years ago, wife and I decided to pull the Scamp out during the early spring- March I believe it was(?), take it to a campground and stay near a restroom so we wouldnt have to de-winterize. Well, it was a fairly warm day -- maybe 70's even. After we arrived at the campground, it wasnt long that we were smelling an "ammonia"-like smell and had NO idea where/why. My first thoughts were the refrigerator going bad!

Come to find out, evidently, while on the warm/hot road, it heated up our gray tank (that's closest to the road) and was causing the antifreeze to give off that smell! The quick solution? Seal the drains with the stoppers.

Just something to think about.
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Old 02-17-2016, 12:57 PM   #11
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Alright, thanks a lot.

For now I just won't worry about it, but by April when I know it's really spring and will be using it, I'll be ready to flush out the lines and tanks. Hopefully that'll do it.
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Old 02-17-2016, 04:52 PM   #12
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We have a similar problem with our Boler. It has a strange odor that isn't mousie or anti-freeze. I have vacuumed and washed everything down with bleach. Shampooed the cushions and the black water tank has been scrubbed as well as the toilet/bathroom. I know it's not antifreeze as we have winterized all our trailers over the 20+ years we have been camping and I know that odor very well. I'm hoping it will disappear when we fix the grey water tank and get the sink plumbing repaired. Maybe it just needs to be aired out for a few weeks.
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Old 02-17-2016, 07:06 PM   #13
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i believe i have zeroed in on the offending area in my own camper. when i opened the compartment where the fresh water tank is, the inside was damp and had a very strong odor the carpet in that area was very damp, as well. i think it was condensation that formed on and around the water tank that is the culprit--i'm certainly hoping that the tank itself isn't leaking. still not sure what is causing that smell, though. it just doesn't smell like mildew or mold. a mystery!!
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Old 02-18-2016, 08:12 AM   #14
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Crazy. Glad you found it!

Yeah I'm thinking it's probably something in the tanks or plumbing. I'll give them a good flush when it's warmed up for good.
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