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jenbooks 12-27-2015 06:23 AM

Moldy smell in my casita
Hi folks. I've had my casita at an RV park since May. We didn't use it much but I wanted it to have a/c in the summer so it didn't get moldy. It only had a little bit of mold odor in one cabinet near the hot water heater but otherwise was good.

A month ago my partner went to the park to semi -winterize for two cold nights coming up that week. Basically drained and blew air through the lines and turned the heat on low. Did not drain water heater. He closed the fantastic fan vent which he should not have since I have a maxx air top and always want it ajar for air flow. He left the sewer cap off btw.

I've slept in it the last two nights in prep for taking to a county park for a month. I smell mold and it is causing me symptoms because I am extremely hypersensitive to any mold at all. It seems to me to be all in the area of the hot water heater and those cabinets under the bed. I have to take the bed off to really get in there but nothing seems overtly wet. Where could this yucky mold be coming from (it doesn't smell like a bad anode but I will check that).

The other issue is I had turned the fridge on low and the ice that had formed in the freezer melted and I am pretty sure somehow leaked into the area under the sink. I had a faucet leak there this summer that wet the carpet and I dried it out and had the plumber in. But the carpet was wet so I dried most of it with a space heater but if I press my finger in the crack between the carpet and wheel well I can still feel dampness in one area so I need to dry it out. This would have been there for at least a month. The area under the sink doesn't smell moldy but slightly off maybe more bacterial.

The upshot is my little camper isn't smelling fresh to me right now. Because I am so sensitive, something negligible to others is a big deal to me. (earlier in the summer I had a dried out p trap that made it smell and I fixed that with a hepvo valve mod and also added a ceramic toilet. The plumber said I was lucky to change the toilet when I did since a bolt was loose and it would have leaked sooner or later).

I need advice on sourcing the mold odor that is most bothering me around the water heater; and should I do anything more than dry out under sink a little more? Could any crap grow under the carpet? Should I cut out a piece?

I am really frustrated at the moment since I had so thoroughly cleaned the camper this summer. I steam cleaned everything and washed everything down.

I also realize my pillow area of the bed is right over the area you are supposed to store your stinky slinky and tools in...not sure I want to do that! I noticed when I was down looking under the sink.

Thanks from a newbie ( still a newbie)

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Uplander 12-27-2015 09:56 AM

First suggestion is to always keep your roof vents open even if only a little. You have a MAXX vent cover so that is not a problem.
Second address all your water problems. Use bleach and water combo to clean all areas that have moisture.
Check your water heater for leaks.
Address the storage of your sewer sure to clean it with a bleach/water solution after every use.
Check every square inch of your unit for leaks at every possible location including roof vents, storage areas, windows etc.
Always supply adequate ventilation...leave a window open just a bit along with your roof vents open.
Moisture is the enemy...leaks and condensation....bleach kills mold and disinfects...use it until the odor is gone.

Good luck !

Jody Himebaugh 12-27-2015 10:01 AM

I would recommend that you contact a reputable carpet cleaning company, or a restoration type company, and have them come in and extract any water and set up fans to help dry the interior.
However, for the mold, and any kind of odors you have in your camper, I would place a commercial type ozone generator in the camper and let it run according to specs with the machine. One type is called the max blaster which is probably one of the higher end ozone type generators. This is what we use to recover a room when it has been smoked in, for example.

Hopefully this will do the trick.

By the way, for your allergies, you can always buy a home type air purification system that uses ozone. Vollara company sells them. The use of ozone is controversial, so you might be inundated with people pooh-poohing the idea. All I can say is after about 25 years of using ozone in our household, we've never had allergies and the interior of the house is always very fresh smelling according to friends and family and visitors.

jenbooks 12-27-2015 10:02 AM

Hi up lander, yes I always had the roof vent open after installing the max air. Did not want it closed, my partner should not have, I also installed a maxx air louvre on the window and wanted that open an inch, too.

How do I check the water heater?
Where do I look.
How can I find other leaks if nothing is apparent. I don't think the windows are leaking, the casita is in good condition. Plus there is no moisture.
I'm thinking of applying concorbium trisalts to the rug. I can't bleach the rug...

jenbooks 12-27-2015 10:06 AM

Thanks, Jody. I don't think I need a commercial carpet cleaner just for the area under the sink from the fridge.
I do have an ozone machine but want to correct problems first, I don't want an aranizer because constant low level ozone is hard on lungs, thanks, tho.
Mainly as a newbie I was looking for advice on how to figure out what's up w e water heater, where to check it, and whether I need to worry about the carpet under the sink.

Jody Himebaugh 12-27-2015 10:17 AM

Being a retired plumber, I agree with everything Uplander offers. I was suggesting what to do about residual dampness and odors.

And, as I said, ozone ionizers are indeed controversial. People camp on both sides of their effectiveness and safety.

De nada

jenbooks 12-27-2015 01:21 PM

If anyone has specific advice on how to check the hot water heater and anode and fittings I would be most grateful. And under the sink how to be sure I dried the carpet if the top feels dry how can I know if any padding underneath is also dry? Thx!!

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Jody Himebaugh 12-27-2015 02:06 PM

In order to check for leaks at the water heater, you will have to pressurize your water system, making sure your water heater is full by turning on a hot water sink faucet until water comes out. Turn off the spigot.

Assuming you have access to all the fittings on the water heater, take a paper towel and wipe thoroughly around each fitting to see if there is water present. If there is, wait a minute or so and recheck. If the water reappears you have a leak. Fix it or get it fixed.

The anode rod normally is not suspect unless the hot water coming from the faucets has a rotten egg or sulphur like odor. If you're asking if it might be leaking at its installation point, look for water as above.

The best way to check for the presence of moisture under your carpet without having to lift it is with a moisture probe, available at Home Depot and Amazon.

Otherwise you will have to pull up the carpet and physically check for dampness.

If indeed you do find the carpet padding wet, your best bet is to replace it. Ensure the subfloor is completely/totally dry (use moisture probe agai), reinstall the padding, make certain the carpet is completely dry, then reinstall the carpet.

Extracting water from the padding is very difficult unless you have it done professionally. Even then, it might take a day or two of running a dehumidifier and fans in an attempt to get the flooring dry. Oftentimes they will lift the carpet enough to place supports under it and direct the fans underneath.

Regardless, you have to be aggressive and thorough at removing the moisture.

If intimidated, by all this, call in the pros. You might be looking at replacing the subfloor as well......

Good luck.

Uplander 12-27-2015 02:16 PM

GI am not a big fan of carpeting in camp trailers. If the carpeting got wet then you should pull it up as there is a good possibility the area under the carpet will develop mold.

My free advise would be to remove the carpet 100% under the sink. If it was my trailer I would remove all the carpeting and replace it with vinyl flooring. The material isn't expensive for such a small area. Dry the area after carpet is removed then glue down the new flooring. Places like Lowes of Home Cheapo are good sources if you are a do it yourself guy....or....ask them about installation is a very small job compared to a home install.
If you want some carpeting do what I did...put down a carpet runner or a throw rug.

I am hoping someone who has plumbing background will chime-in with a check list for your water heater. All I'd do is put Bounty towels under and around the water heater area and check them for water absorbing after a day or two.
You could use the bypass then drain the water heater...refill and check for leaks.
Be sure the drain plug is not leaking...use Teflon tape when reinstalling drain plug.
I have had the pex-pipe fitting develop leaks after long tows. Road vibration can loosen fittings. I had to trace down leaks when I noticed water on my vinyl was a loose fitting. I used Teflon tape to end the problem once I located the loose compression fitting.

jenbooks 12-27-2015 02:18 PM

Thanks! I am not sure what fully pressurized means but I will follow your instructions. I just went to Home Depot for concrobium. Guess I will stop at lowe's for a moisture tester. Really appreciate it. I don't mind replacing carpet padding under the sink. Isn't the sub floor coated with fiberglass? Wouldn't there need to be an ongoing serious leak of long standing to ruin a casita floor?

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jenbooks 12-27-2015 02:21 PM

Thanks, up lander. I admit to not understanding much of your likely excellent advise but will show it to my partner and a smart do it yourself guy. I can see your point about the carpet but its the middle of a rainy winter and I don't at this moment want linoleum. Maybe later but given my sensitivities would need nontoxic linoleum tiles and nontoxic glue.

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jenbooks 12-27-2015 02:23 PM

PS I don't know what the bypass is.
I agree on carpet under the sink. It isn't worth keeping it there if padding is wet.

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Uplander 12-27-2015 02:35 PM

Most travel trailers have a bypass in the plumbing near the water heater to allow you to drain the water heater without draining the entire system. The bypass cut off allows you to pump nontoxic antifreeze into you pipes but saves at least 6 gallons bypassing the water heater. The water heater does not require antifreeze because you drain it dry for the winter storage period.

Considering your many sensitivities I am surprised you even have carpets as they harbor dust and air borne pollutants.

Tiles may not be the way to go because of the vibrations that trailers do through bouncing down the highway. Best to use a "sheet" product of your choice.
I go to a lot of RV shows and see very little carpeting in RVs...even the high end motor homes.

Jim Thor 12-27-2015 02:45 PM

I agree w Uplander. 1. Find source of leak and fix. 2. On carpet, likely just glued in place on the edges. Pull out, shampoo and add "mildewside". Then deodorize. Let it air out until throughly dry. Treat trailer floor w Bleach & water solution. Replace any foam pad you had, never reuse pad ( it is cheap). Use 3m 77 or contact adhesive to glue edges back down.

jenbooks 12-27-2015 05:55 PM

Thanks, all. A smart guy in the park looked in my casita. We pulled up a little of the carpet under the sink. It was dry. It doesn't really have padding on it per se. Plus you can see the fiberglass coating over the subfloor and that's dry too. I think basically when I turned the fridge down to 1 while gone, with only a water bottle in it, the ice that had grown in the freezer melted and there was enough that it leaked into the area under the sink.

He checked my water heater. It isn't actually the water heater that is the problem. I thought that thing under my bed is a water heater but its my breaker box and to me it smells moldy. He said he sees styrofoam insulation there. I will take apart the bed tomorrow and really check it out but I think there was condensation around that box somehow. That's where I smell something I don't like.

We checked the fridge drain inside and outside. That was fine. There's no moisture on the flexible piping that leads to the shower that is under the cabinets. I am going to reread all today's advice tomorrow and try to follow it anyway.

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jenbooks 12-27-2015 06:12 PM

Hi uplander....I have done some mods to the trailer but not changed to tiles. I meant linoleum tiles. Most important to me was the hepvo valve mod, a ceramic toilet ( I was yucked out by the plastic one as plastic is porous and just not what I wanted), and the Maxx air top cover and the window louvre. Also I steam cleaned the carpet myself. It seems okay to me tho definitely a nicer floor would be much more appealing.

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renegade 12-27-2015 07:14 PM

As far as the mold, I have found that wiping the affected areas with Simple Green will arrest the problem. Use the exhaust fan to air out the cabin.
Also use a spray bottle for hard to reach areas

TheWanderers 12-27-2015 09:06 PM

We can't leave our air vent open in our camper but we have hung up a thing called DampRid, hanging moisture absorber. We had some mild moldy musty stuff in our camper when we bought it and we cleaned it up immediately with Scrubbing Bubbles with Bleach and then we hung up the DampRid dangling in the middle of the camper on a hook. This thing seems to work very well and has already absorbed a lot of water which it catches in the bottom of the DampRid pack. Smells nice, no must, no mold, so far.

Borrego Dave 12-27-2015 09:25 PM

Remove the carpet from under the sink, it's not really needed there and if you do have a leak you'll be able to see it sooner for a fix.

WendyW 12-27-2015 10:29 PM

My throw rugs felt wet to me and in fact there was water on my floor. Turned out to be condensation on the underside of the mattress and almost everywhere there was a flat surface. Now I run a box heater and at the same time flip the fantastic fan to "out" to draw out the moisture and smell. Works like a charm for me!

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