RV Hot Water Smells Like Rotten Eggs

rv hot water smells like rotten eggs

There is nothing worse than turning on the water in your RV only to have the smell of rotten eggs permeate the room. We discuss what causes this awful sulfur smell in the first place, how you can fix the issue, and how you can prevent it.

Why does my RV smell like sewage?

The cause of this putrid smell is anaerobic bacteria reacting with aluminum or magnesium anode rods. People commonly use germicides like peroxide to flush water heaters. While it may seem somewhat humorous that a substance many of us use to clean wounds can eliminate an egg smell, it works very well.

Experts recommend keeping a 16-ounce bottle of hydrogen peroxide on hand for this specific task. If you have small children or are concerned that hydrogen peroxide is too toxic, vinegar works equally as well.

To prevent the smell, utilize an aluminum-zinc anode. The zinc in it eliminates the production of bacteria that generates hydrogen sulfide gas (egg smell).

Flushing Wands Are Ideal for Maintenance

Flushing wands should be part of routine maintenance on an RV. Flush out a water heater with fresh water every year. This process eliminates accumulated calcified sediment and any deposits in the water and can prevent the sewer smell.

While flushing wands are an optional method of cleaning a hot water tank, they help increase the freshwater pressure, cleaning the smelly water system by directing it further into the water heater tank below the shower drain. It does a better job of loosening calcium deposits in the holding tank.

How do I get the rotten egg smell out of my RV water heater?

rotten egg smell
  1. First, examine the water inside the water heater to ensure that it is not too hot; otherwise, you may burn yourself. Turn the water pump off and make sure the hot water heater is also turned off.
  2. Open the cold and hot water faucets in the RV. Drain remaining water out of the water supply lines to eliminate pressure in the plumbing.
  3. If the water heater has a bypass, use the bypass to close the water to the system to prevent the fresh tanks from entering the water heater.
  4. If you have a suburban water heater, use 1-1/16′ deep well sockets with a 3/8′ ratchet and a 3′ socket extension to remove an anode rod and drain plug. Other units may require different socket sizes to remove these items. Reference the manual when removing the drain plug. It will give you the appropriate size.
  5. Once the drain plug (for an Atwood) or anode and drain plug (Suburban) are off, drain the water from the tank. Open the relief valve to allow air to drain the tank quicker. Water from the tank may have rust in it or contain water deposits that can potentially stain a driveway. Use a large bucket to hold the draining water or be prepared to hose down the driveway quickly after. Make sure the water does not land on your shoes. The rotten egg odor is difficult to remove.
  1. Spray the tank with freshwater using a freshwater hose. A flushing wand works equally well. To do this the old-fashioned way, place the hose in the tank. Plug the tank and fill it with water. Release the water and allow it to run out with the debris and sediment.
  2. Once the tank is flushed, put hydrogen peroxide or vinegar directly into the tank to get rid of the egg smell. To add either solution to the tank, use a polyethylene tube along with a j-shaped funnel. If using hydrogen peroxide, it will eliminate the product coming into contact with your skin.
  3. Once the bottle of hydrogen peroxide is in the water heater, return the bypass to normal. Fill the water heater by using the camper’s fresh tank. Also, turn off faucets located in the RV. Then turn the relief valve off.
  4. Turn the bypass off and allow the hydrogen peroxide to sit in the water heater. It will kill bacteria immediately. Allow it to sit to ensure it is completely sanitized.
  5. When the freshwater tank is drained, flush it again with a freshwater hose. More debris will probably come out. If you are not using either product, you can skip steps 7 to 10.
  6. Once the hydrogen peroxide is drained and there is no more debris coming out, put a new anode rod into a Suburban. Before doing this, wrap the threads by using white Teflon tape. It creates a tight seal and prevents leakage. Atwood owners probably won’t need an anode rod unless there are significant smells.
  7. Before refilling the water heater, open the pressure relief valve to allow air to vent the tank. Turn on the bypass valve. Open the hot water taps in the sinks to remove the remaining air from the plumbing.
  8. Fill the tank with water. Turn on the electric heat or propane tank to provide clean hot water.
  9. When the pump stops, open the hot water faucet. Run the water. If it spurts, you have to eliminate the air is in the plumbing. It should only take a minute to accomplish. After it is, the water should flow properly. Now the egg smell has been removed, and you can use your tank.

This type of thorough cleaning should ideally be done when you winterize your RV or camper. Any excess water that remains either in the plumbing or in the water heater will collect sediment, debris can potentially corrode, and will retain a pungent rotten egg smell. Any standing water has the potential to smell nasty after a while.

The cause of that rotten egg smell is due to compounds forming in the water heater and the plumbing. It’s nasty when you turn on the water or go to use your RV toilet and are overwhelmed by the odor. Yet the fix is quite simple to accomplish and takes little time to implement.

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