For some, an RV is a ticket to freedom some of the year, and for others, it’s a home away from home. No matter your frequency of use, discovering mold in your RV will put a damper on your travel plans quickly. So, how do you find and remove mold in an RV?
Bleach, vinegar, or mold-removing products can be used to remove mold from an RV. Mix 1 part bleach to four parts water in a spray bottle and apply to the affected area. Leave for 30 minutes and gently wipe the area clean with a rag and water, then leave to dry.
In today’s guide, you’ll learn how to test for mold in an RV, how to remove mold from tricky areas such as camper slide-outs, and how to clear your vehicle of a persistent mold smell. RV owners will certainly not want to miss this!
How to Find Mold in Your Camper or RV
Determining whether you have a mold problem in your camper or RV begins with confirming the presence of mold.
Here are two methods for doing just that.
Look For It
When you first purchased your RV or camper years ago, you paid a premium for laminated surfaces, real wood, stainless steel, and other high-quality materials.
You know what your vehicle usually looks like, so deciphering mold visually shouldn’t pose an exceptionally big challenge.
Mold can appear in a variety of colors, with green, gray, and black the most common shades. You might also spot mold in hues such as white, red, yellow, pink, orange, purple, or brown as well.
Thus, any strange color on RV surfaces that wasn’t there before could be mold.
Mold isn’t picky about the surfaces it grows on, either. From insulation to fabric, carpets, cardboard, ceramic, and wood, mold will propagate just about anywhere in your camper.
Smell For It
Although an RV or camper is only yae big, mold can hide in some difficult-to-find corners such as camper slide-outs.
Thus, you can’t always rely on your sight alone to confirm a mold problem in your vehicle. You can also smell it.
Mold has a distinct smell that’s earthy and musty. Some say it smells like decaying wood and others say it has an odor like gym socks, especially wet socks.
How to Test for Mold in an RV
You strongly suspect that mold has invaded your RV, but admittedly, you aren’t quite sure.
To quell your suspicions, you can always buy a mold test kit.
Although many of these test kits are designed for homes, the kit is usable in your RV as well.
Follow the test kit instructions when testing. The results are available in as little as a day or two.
The kit works by taking samples from either the air or from surfaces in your camper. You can either send the kit to an expert or you may be able to get the results yourself. In the example where you send the kit back to a lab, you can expect to see the results within around four weeks.
Why Is There Mold in Your Camper?
Why has mold appeared in your camper in the first place? Here are some common causes of mold in RVs.
Floods and Unmitigated Water Damage
Has your camper sustained a leak or two that led to significant water damage? If that water damage wasn’t fully remediated by a professional, then moisture can linger in the walls and floors of your vehicle.
The moisture allows mold to propagate where you cannot see it. Depending on how deep in your RV the mold has grown, you might struggle to smell it too.
A leaky camper roof is not something to ignore. Water can seep in whenever it rains, and eventually, it will cause significant damage.
Even a small crack can allow droplets of water to enter your camper, which if leftover time, can begin to form mold if the correct circumstances are present.
For example, you may have a hairline crack in the roof of your camper, but you don’t notice anything, you put it away for storage through the winter, and when springs comes, you find out there has been just enough moisture and just enough humidity to create mold patches in the darker areas of the RV.
Parking Your Vehicle in the Sunlight During the Offseason
Many camper owners will retire their vehicles for a few months during the winter, which is commonly referred to as the RV off-season.
Where you store your vehicle during the offseason matters. If the camper sits in the bright sunlight for several months, especially if you have a tarp or cover on your vehicle, then it’s going to bake.
The humidity in the vehicle will increase exponentially. By the time you come back to your camper in the spring, it may well have formed mold if both the moisture and humidity levels were correct.
How to Remove Mold from Your RV
The mold problem in your RV shouldn’t be left to persist.
Even outside of reasons of your health, if the conditions that allowed the mold to spread in the first place are perpetuated, then the mold spores will grow in number. What started as a mild mold problem in your RV will quickly become severe.
Per the intro, here are some mold removal methods for RV owners to consider.
Removing Mold with Distilled White Vinegar
Look for full-strength distilled white vinegar, as this will be the most effective on the mold in your RV.
Pour the vinegar into a spray bottle until the bottle is full. Do not dilute the white vinegar with water.
Cover moldy surfaces with the distilled white vinegar until the area is saturated. Then wait 60 minutes for the vinegar to work.
Your vehicle is undoubtedly going to smell of vinegar, so maybe park somewhere and take a walk or do some sightseeing.
After the hour has elapsed, take a clean cloth, wet it with pure water, and wipe away the distilled white vinegar residue.
The mold should be gone with it.
You can find distilled vinegar in larger grocery stores, but to make life a little easier, I’ve placed a few links the Amazon below where you can pick it up really easily. Distilled vinegar is an excellent anti-bacterial and mold killer, it’s environmentally friendly, cheap, and can be used to clean bathrooms and kitchens too.
Removing Mold with Bleach
Bleach is one of the heaviest-duty cleaners on the market, and thus, you should only use it if you’re careful.
Taking the proper precautions is integral. You should wear old clothes so that if you do spill some bleach on yourself, you won’t ruin a nice outfit. Put on safety goggles and rubber gloves.
Remove as many items from your RV as you can and put tarps on other surfaces so they don’t get bleach-damaged.
Open all the windows and turn on a ceiling fan if you can to create adequate ventilation.
Then take a cup of bleach and add it to a gallon of water to dilute. Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and mist the moldy RV surface.
Allow the bleach to work for several minutes and then use a clean, wet cloth dipped in pure water to remove all bleach residue.
How to Remove Mold in Your Camper Slide-Out
Camper slide-outs are electrical or manual extensions that create more space in the vehicle.
The slide-outs can be hard walls like the rest of the vehicle or soft pop-out walls.
As we touched on earlier, if your camper has slide-outs, then you have an additional place to check for mold.
Should you determine that mold has reached the slide-outs, you have to tackle the issue head-on.
For hard surfaces, the above mold removal methods are all effective.
If your slide-outs are pop-up walls made of a softer fabric, vinegar is one cleaning option you can use, but rubbing alcohol is another, here are the steps for using rubbing alcohol to clean mold off a fabric RV slide-outs.
- Mix rubbing alcohol with water in equal measure and then transfer it to a bucket or small basin
- Dip a clean sponge into the bucket and rub at the mold.
- Once the mold has been removed, rinse the area with water
- Allow the slide-out to dry fully and repeat if necessary
How to Prevent Mold from Growing in a Travel Trailer, RV, or Camper
The mold in your camper or travel trailer is gone, but as we discussed before, mold will grow back until you stifle the conditions it thrives in.
The following tips will make it a lot harder for mold to accumulate in the first place.
Fix Leaks Right Away
A leak may begin as an ignorable trickle before it grows significantly.
Patch up leaks in your vehicle long before they reach that point. You’ll do more than fight off mold. You’ll also prevent your vehicle from sustaining major water damage that could cause you to have to stop using your camper.
Let Surfaces Air-Dry After a Rain
Whether it’s an awning or pop-up walls, when these surfaces get wet, you cannot retract them until they adequately dry out.
Otherwise, the moisture and humidity of the enclosed environment will lead to the growth of mold. If you can, try to let them have several hours of direct sunlight whilst drying, this will ensure that every last drop of moisture is gone, and if the moisture levels aren’t correct, mold cannot grow.
Is Mold In a Camper Dangerous?
Is having mold in your camper really the end of the world?
It’s certainly not good for you or any of your fellow RV enthusiasts that you’re camping with.
Much more so than compared to a home, a camper is a very enclosed space.
You can’t exactly open a window when towing a camper or driving an RV, and most RV owners don’t open their windows at night for safety reasons either.
Thus, the moldy air that’s in your vehicle keeps circulating through.
Those with mold allergies and asthma will bear the brunt of the symptoms, as their conditions will both be exacerbated.
Even if you’re otherwise healthy, you might notice that you get more headaches, feel more congested, or cough more often since you’ve been staying in your moldy camper.
How to Get the Mold Smell Out of Your Camper
The tight quarters of your camper can make even a mild mold smell that much more egregious. How do you remove the smell so you can breathe easier both day and night?
Launder Removable Surfaces
Any removable surfaces in your camper, from couch cushions to the mattress, carpeting, and everything in between should be removed and cleaned in a washer and dryer.
Be sure to use a strong air freshener when drying to remove the scent of mold completely.
Clean with White Vinegar and Water or lemon juice
You still have some white vinegar lying around your camper, right? Mix it with water and clean all other surfaces of your RV that aren’t detachable. You need an equal mix of water to white vinegar.
If you prefer the idea of having a citrus scent in your RV, you can use lemon juice mixed with water to achieve the same effect as the vinegar. Some people may not like the smell of vinegar, so whilst vinegar does work extremely well, you may find lemon juice more pleasant.
You should also let in as much fresh air into your camper as possible to allow the mold smell to exit on its own.
Open the windows, turn on any ceiling fans, run the vent fans, and use your air conditioner (not with the windows open, of course).
How to Keep Mold Out of Your RV During Storage
Going back to our point from before, the winterization period is a relatively hands-off time for RV owners.
If you’ve had trouble with mold before during the offseason, these tips will keep mold away all winter long.
Park Your Vehicle in a Climate-Controlled Facility
Although it costs a little more money to do so, it’s worth it to shell out for a climate-controlled RV storage facility.
You can be wholly confident that your vehicle won’t experience too much humidity and thus no mold.
Store the RV Away from Sunlight
Whether you opt for indoor RV storage or outdoor storage over the winter, you do not want to park your vehicle where it will drink in the sunlight all winter.
As we talked about earlier, a UV-resistant tarp might prevent sun damage but cannot necessarily stop mold damage.
Do RV Covers Cause Mold?
RV covers are highly valuable in safeguarding your vehicle from the elements, but does tossing an airtight cover on your vehicle possibly contribute to mold?
Yes, a cover can lead to a moldy RV, as the cover entraps humid air.
The best way to ward off cover-related mold is to check the cover every few weeks and shift it so the hot air can disperse.
You can also buy a cover with ventilation throughout so the air under the cover never gets warm enough for mold to grow.
What Are the Best Products for Cleaning Mold and Mildew from a Camper?
As promised, here are some exemplary products for cleaning mold and mildew throughout your camper.
Camco Mildew Stain Remover
You trust Camco for its assortment of RV products, so you can have faith in their pro-strength mold and mildew stain remover as well.
To use this product, shake it and then apply it to the affected area. Using a soft brush, scrub at the moldy area until the stains are gone.
Then wipe down the area with a damp cloth and repeat if necessary.
To see the Amazon price for this product, click the link below.
Star Brite RV Awning Cleaner
If your issue is primarily with a moldy awning, then Star Brite’s mold cleaner is just what you need.
The cleaner comes in a 32-ounce bottle. Inside is a tough formula that can clear vinyl and fabric surfaces of more than only mold but also dirt and bird droppings.
You can also use this product for cleaning moldy furniture cushions, although Star Brite says the furniture should be for outdoor use only.
To see the Amazon price for this product, click the link below.
Mold poses a health hazard to anyone who enjoys using their RV. With the measures presented in this article, you can banish RV mold and enjoy more travel with your favorite people.