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Get Rid of Scary Cooking Odors in Your RV, Forever!

Published on October 25th, 2023 by Emily Lawrence
This post was updated on March 20th, 2024

Cooking while RVing can be a lot of fun. Getting rid of cooking odors in your RV isn’t. These easy ideas to ditch the stink are guaranteed to make the job easier.

We all love to enjoy delicious, home-cooked RV kitchen meals around the campfire. But the scent of those meals, like fried chicken, fish, bacon, curry, and other strong-smelling foods, can stick around long after you’ve eaten all the leftovers. If you’re tired of smelling last night’s dinner, this is the guide for you.

Why Should I Worry About Cooking Odors in My RV?

First, let’s explore some reasons why you should get rid of cooking odors in your RV as soon as they happen. We’ll also cover different ways to remove stinky odors, whether it’s attacking the source of the smell, airing out your kitchen, or covering up the scent with something more pleasant. We’ve got your back, no matter what kind of stinky aromas you deal with.

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It might not seem like a big deal if your RV smells weird for a few days. And in most cases, the scent will eventually fade on its own. But trapping odors inside can lead to some cumulative issues if you don’t deal with it! Some ways strong smells in RVs can ruin a camper include:

Attracts rodents and pests

First off, insects and animals are drawn to the smell of food, especially in small spaces like campers. If your RV has a lingering odor, you might have to deal with a constant stream of unwanted visitors. Indoor pests like mice, roaches, ants, and more could infiltrate your RV and hide in the walls. A strong-smelling RV might also attract local wildlife if you’re camping in a rural area. Raccoons, bears, skunks, and deer might sniff around your campsite or even try to get inside!

Stays put in greasy, humid conditions

Smells don’t just linger in the air. They can also embed themselves into materials like wood or fabric. A greasy layer might also cover the hard surfaces in your kitchen. If this is the case for you, you need to be wary of this accumulation of grease and humidity. Moisture and warm environments are the perfect breeding ground for rodents, mold and bacteria.

Adds unpleasant odors to your living space

Finally, it just isn’t pleasant to be surrounded by a strong food smell all the time! We might enjoy the scent of freshly cooked food while we’re making and eating it, but it’s not a nice thing to wake up to the next day. These smells might might eventually turn stale and rancid as well.

So whether it’s for health, safety, or personal reasons you should usually try to deal with strong smells as soon as possible.

simmer pot on RV stove to remove cooking odors in your RV
Get rid of food odors the same day, or else!

How to Remove Cooking Odors in Your RV

When you’re dealing with cooking odors in your RV, you first need to remove the source of the problem. Simply covering it up usually won’t be enough! You could also get some very strange results if you try to mix different scents without dealing with the underlying issue. Follow the tips below to get your RV back to a regular, neutral smell.

1. Attack the source of the problem

Begin by removing any strong-smelling food items. Get rid of food waste and empty your trash can. If you’re connected to a water system, open your faucet to eliminate residue in your kitchen sink drain. Run a few gallons of water down your p-trap pipes in both kitchen and bathroom. Then wipe down your countertops, fridge, and other countertop kitchen appliances.

An RVer’s gray water tank can also trap odors. Close the gray tank valves, and fill your holding tanks with clean water. Consider buying a box of gray tank treatments that get rid of foul odors. Once filled, open the valves again so your sewer hose gets a good rinse too.

Once the source of the smell is gone, you’ll have an easier time removing the lingering odor.

2. Open windows for fresh air

Next up, get some fresh air in the space! RVs are pretty small, so you’ll probably be able to smell these scents from anywhere in the vehicle. Open up every window and door that you can to let the air flow through your space. In some cases, this is all that you need to do to get your RV back to normal.

3. Wash fabric items

Some materials retain scents more easily than others. Hard surfaces tend to be easy to clean, but fabric can absorb the smell of food for a long time. If you can’t seem to shake the odor, try washing all the fabric items in your RV. This might include rugs, towels, curtains, furniture covers, and blankets.

4. Use baking soda and white vinegar

Finally, you can skip harsh odor removal chemicals and turn to the tried and true eco-friendly RV cleaning combination: baking soda and white vinegar. These two simple kitchen ingredients can remove almost any cooking odors in your RV when they’re applied correctly.

Baking soda can absorb strong smells, while white vinegar can sanitize surfaces and provide a new, cleaner scent.

For baking soda, you can place 1/2 cup containers around your RV. Fill them with baking soda and leave them open to the air. After a few hours, the worst of the odor should be absorbed. You can also sprinkle baking soda on your carpet or rugs for a similar effect.

Use vinegar to absorb or cover these smells as well. Either leave a small bowl on your floors/countertops or spray your work surfaces with a vinegar and water mixture. For extra cleaning power, you can also place a layer of baking soda, then spray it with vinegar to create the classic foaming mixture.

Forget using household bleach. Baking soda and vinegar is also great for cleaning bathroom toilets, showers.

Tips to Cover up RV Cooking Odors

Once you follow the steps above, your RV should be back to a more neutral smell. But it still might not necessarily smell good. Cleaning products have their own scent and you probably want your living space to have a pleasant, inviting smell. Follow the tips below to make your RV more aromatic!

Cook something fragrant

This might seem like strange advice after everything we went through to remove the smell of food. But sometimes you just need to cover up the odor with something light and pleasant. Meals that involve meat, grease, and strong spices can linger in a bad way. But if you want your RV to smell like nice food, you can try making cookies, popcorn, coffee, or something else with an appealing smell.

Light a candle or use scented plug-ins

Artificial smells can also go a long way! A fresh candle can make your living space feel more cozy, plus it can infuse a lovely smell into the air. Keep a variety of candles on hand so you can choose one that best matches the season. Scented plug-ins, wax melters, and essential oil diffusers can also accomplish the same task.

Use a simmer pot

Scented steam is a wonderful way to cleanse the air in your RV. A simmer pot can help you deal with lingering traces of a former meal or a kitchen that smells like cleaning products.

Simmer pots can involve a wide variety of ingredients, but the basic idea is the same. You simply fill a pot with water, add fragrant ingredients, and place it over low heat for a few hours. The resulting steam will absorb or replace any unpleasant odors.

Popular ingredients for a simmer pot include:

  • Lemons
  • Orange peels
  • Apple peels/halves
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Lavender sprigs
  • Vanilla

You can also brew up a batch of stovetop cider if you want to consume the end product!

How to Prevent Bad RV Odors

Once you know what you’re doing, it’s not too hard to get rid of musty odors, smoke, and other bad smells. But it’s even better if your RV never stinks in the first place! Try these preventative tips to keep your V living space smelling clean and fresh. They come in handy, especially when you’re cooking elaborate holiday meals in your RV.

Stop bad RV smells before they happen!

Remove bad food items from your refrigerator as quickly as you notice them.

Cook outdoors as much as possible. Campfire cooking and outdoor stove attachments are very handy!

Run the stove exhaust fan while you cook.

Keep your windows and vents open to improve airflow.

Use a scent absorber like a bowl of baking soda or a bag of activated charcoal.

Never keep your black tank open, and always use black tank treatments.

There are some smells that will quickly dissipate on their own, so you may not need to take extreme measures every time you cook. But when they happen, if you follow this advice, you’ll never have to worry about foul cooking odors in your RV again. Nobody likes to live in a smelly rig. Try a few of these strategies next time you can’t seem to shake the smell of day-old bacon or other aromatic foods that linger in your camper kitchen.

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