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Old 06-14-2024, 11:47 AM   #1
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2015 30' International
Poconos , PA
Join Date: Apr 2019
Posts: 18
Black tank smell coming through air

Hello - it's been a long time since I've been stuck on a troubleshooting issue - local RV repair places wont touch it.

2015 International Signature Airstream 30'
The black tank smell has been plaguing me all season. Just in case it's relevant - I dewinterized too early and broke a few pipes that were fixed.

It was sitting around after being fixed and the black tank smell was horrid. Treated it, to the point where I was dumping full buckets of pods in the tank. Flushed it twice and still have the smell in the cabin.

Then took it out for a weekend and used the A/C. Lordy the SMELL was so bad it kept waking me up.

Took it home and used RV Digest treatments every few days for a week, then emptied and flushed tanks again - black tank flush AND Rhino Blaster. Everything is coming out clear. Ran the fans and it's still dissssgusting smell coming through the fans.

Two other thing I have to check - one I dont know how:
  1. Make sure vents are clear on top of rig. Another RV shop that wont touch black tanks told me this one.
  2. Mouse poop... Or dead mice? I had an infestation sometime over the winter - they chewed through the insulation in the ceiling vents, I fished 5 dead mice out of the toilet bowl, and one out of the garbage can. Wondering if this could be the cause of the smell and how to find and get rid of dead mice in the walls / ventilation if so...

Or, any other ideas or thing i could check?
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Old 06-14-2024, 12:38 PM   #2
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When you dewinterized early and some of the pipes had broken, were there any traps that were not replaced? Are there any HepvO in-line traps? It just sounds like the air from the black tank is feeding back into the trailer.
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Old 06-14-2024, 01:49 PM   #3
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Does your trailer have a black tank flush line? If so there is a anti-siphon valve somewhere; in my trailer it is up against the outside wall under the bathroom sink. As others have reported, anytime a partial vacuum is pulled on the interior as in roof vent, AC pulling fresh air, driving down the road, etc. the anti-siphon valve can allow air to be pulled down the vent stack, though the black tank and into the interior. When I had the problem I pulled the valve, cleaned it, put it back and no more smell. Others have reported it installed backwards. Some removed it and placed a separate anti-siphon valve at the black flush inlet when using it. It is not needed if your dump station uses non-potable water for flushing/cleaning.

All that said, if your tank is clean you probably should be looking for dead mice, or mouse nests.

Also, flush and treat your gray tank. They get really smelly.

Another test - with your tanks empty, put a box fan on the toilet seat. Turn off any water source and open the flapper valve. Smell the air coming out of the drain.
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Old 06-14-2024, 02:22 PM   #4
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Are you sure it's from the black tank & not a "dead critter" or "critter debris" in your Air Conditioner or A/C ducting? I would take the shroud off & check that thoroughly...it could be a mouse nest (& also excrement) left over. If it's in your walls, that would be impossible to get rid of without dismantling the panels - either inside or out.

Could also be a clogged vent to your black tank...sometimes leaves & stuff gets in there, but it sounds like cleaning that has already been suggested by your RV shop guy.

Good Luck!

Shari
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Old 06-15-2024, 05:12 AM   #5
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Ok great thank you all - this gives me some things to try to find and check on Monday - really appreciate everyone's help!
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Old 06-15-2024, 09:26 AM   #6
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Hi

Step one:

1) Pull up to a full hookup site somewhere.

2) Hook up the flush hose on the black tank and drain line to the sewer.

3) Let water run for a *long* time. Cycle the gate valve to let the tank fill and flush. Do this for both black and grey.

4) Put a bottle's worth of soap into both the black and gray tanks. Fill them both, let them sit for an hour or two.

5) Go back to flushing for a while.

6) Repeat steps 5 and 6 a second time.

At this point your tanks should have no smell at all .... none. If you used scented soap, you might have a little of that smell. Indeed they likely will have no smell after step 3. Steps 4,5, and 6 likely are not needed.

What does this do? It rules out the tanks as the issue. As long as you don't put anything else down them, they should stay "fresh".

Now start the sniff test here and there. As others have mentioned, I suspect you will find more than one "surprise" here or there .....

Bob
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Old 06-15-2024, 09:46 AM   #7
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Good Advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle_bob View Post
Hi

Step one:

1) Pull up to a full hookup site somewhere.

2) Hook up the flush hose on the black tank and drain line to the sewer.

3) Let water run for a *long* time. Cycle the gate valve to let the tank fill and flush. Do this for both black and grey.

4) Put a bottle's worth of soap into both the black and gray tanks. Fill them both, let them sit for an hour or two.

5) Go back to flushing for a while.

6) Repeat steps 5 and 6 a second time.

At this point your tanks should have no smell at all .... none. If you used scented soap, you might have a little of that smell. Indeed they likely will have no smell after step 3. Steps 4,5, and 6 likely are not needed.

What does this do? It rules out the tanks as the issue. As long as you don't put anything else down them, they should stay "fresh".

Now start the sniff test here and there. As others have mentioned, I suspect you will find more than one "surprise" here or there .....

Bob
We just watched a guy do that same procedure, on S.O.B., at the campground we are currently in. Late in the afternoon he was done. Then the spouse started pulling stuff out of the cabinets, from under the cushions, and under the beds. Only found 2 dead mice but they were pretty ripe.
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Old 06-15-2024, 09:54 AM   #8
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Get a gas detector which can detect Methane, even if you get a few "false" readings.... it will show you a relative proximity and strength of the area that it is emanating from so you can visually see where the problem is. Using your nose for directionality is like trying to use your ears to locate the source of sub bass... your mind just can't do it unless your right up on it.

Gas detectors are cheap and you can get them at like CVS or any hardware store. That might be the easiest way to track it without driving yourself crazy.
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Old 06-15-2024, 02:56 PM   #9
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Black Tank Odor

We had similar a year or so ago and it turned out to be odor from the GRAY tank!
We filled it to 100%, dumped in a brown bottle of Lyson and let it sit for a day or two. Emptied and flushed with clear water which seemed to do the trick. We try not to get food particles down the sink but sometimes juices from meat or canned things get down there regardless.

Afterwards, we started using RV Digest and both tanks have no odor problem since. Highly recommend it over any of the packet treatments!
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Old 06-18-2024, 07:50 AM   #10
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2015 30' International
Poconos , PA
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Thanks everyone! I've taken some notes and going to go out right now and see what I can find. I'm not clear on where the "vent to the black tank" is.
Otherwise, i have been trying to find some diagrams of how the the AC/fans work and cant find any, so I'm just going to go start pulling off the ceiling vent covers and digging around in there, plus see what's going on on top, under the AC covers and anything else that might stand out up top.
I'll definitely RV digest the grey tank as well - have cleared it out a few times but havent treated it. Here goes nothing - gotta get out there before it gets past 90 degrees today! Thx again all!
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Old 06-18-2024, 04:29 PM   #11
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2015 30' International
Poconos , PA
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Well, phase 1 troubleshooting was RV Digesting and triple-flushing the black tanks (and single flushing grey). Still stinks.

Phase 2 troubleshooting today - I pulled down all of the ceiling vents - rounds ones and rectangular ones - and cleaned out the insulation mouse beds and reached around but didnt find any dead bodies. Took the AC covers off on the roof and no dead bodies or anything weird there either. Hauled it to the campground, plugged it in, and ran the fan, AC and heat - tried to run the smell through. After about a half hour it was still a musty stink - could be dead mice or could be tank water - it's just stale and putrid.

So phase 3, I'm working some RV Digest into the grey tanks the rest of the week and I'll flush that out next week and try again.

If that doesnt work, I'm just going to stuff the vents with dryer sheets and hope it disappears in the next few months (although it hasnt in the last 3 months)...
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Old 06-19-2024, 07:13 AM   #12
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2022 Interstate 24X
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lauralippay View Post
Well, phase 1 troubleshooting was RV Digesting and triple-flushing the black tanks (and single flushing grey). Still stinks.

Phase 2 troubleshooting today - I pulled down all of the ceiling vents - rounds ones and rectangular ones - and cleaned out the insulation mouse beds and reached around but didnt find any dead bodies. Took the AC covers off on the roof and no dead bodies or anything weird there either. Hauled it to the campground, plugged it in, and ran the fan, AC and heat - tried to run the smell through. After about a half hour it was still a musty stink - could be dead mice or could be tank water - it's just stale and putrid.

So phase 3, I'm working some RV Digest into the grey tanks the rest of the week and I'll flush that out next week and try again.

If that doesnt work, I'm just going to stuff the vents with dryer sheets and hope it disappears in the next few months (although it hasnt in the last 3 months)...
Hi

If the mice made it up into the ducts, they likely left "stuff" up there. Getting that out is not at all easy.

One thing that might help with this quest is a "bore scope" (they have lots of names for them). They aren't cheap, but for looking in odd places they are *very* handy:

Random pick from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BR7MKHF9...355822501&th=1

A real one from Home Depot:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Milwauke...3-21/324325310

Needless to say, there is a bit of "you get what you pay for" here. Not really sure that the second one is 10X better than the first. I do have one like the second one, they work very well. I have not tried that specific Amazon item.

Bob
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Old 06-19-2024, 07:53 AM   #13
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Have you checked your propane lines? Years ago, we had a stink in our SOB trailer that we swore was dead mouse. After tearing everything apart for awhile, found out via a gas sniffer, that we had a propane leak at the stove. They are elusive, and smell suprisingly like dead mouse or other dead things. Your in house propane sniffer may have gone belly up.


Kay
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Old 06-19-2024, 09:12 AM   #14
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2023 33' Classic
Chandler , Arizona
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Yeah you need to be utilizing a sanitizer. Been using this forever with no smells ever.
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Old 06-19-2024, 09:27 AM   #15
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2024 25' Flying Cloud
Coronado , CA
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I have a similar problem in my 2019 25 foot airstream. My order is coming from the closet on top of the tanks, but I’ve detected the odor is coming from the check valve on the black tank flush.
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Old 06-19-2024, 09:30 AM   #16
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Box Elder , South Dakota
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lauralippay View Post
Hello - it's been a long time since I've been stuck on a troubleshooting issue - local RV repair places wont touch it.

2015 International Signature Airstream 30'
The black tank smell has been plaguing me all season. Just in case it's relevant - I dewinterized too early and broke a few pipes that were fixed.

It was sitting around after being fixed and the black tank smell was horrid. Treated it, to the point where I was dumping full buckets of pods in the tank. Flushed it twice and still have the smell in the cabin.

Then took it out for a weekend and used the A/C. Lordy the SMELL was so bad it kept waking me up.

Took it home and used RV Digest treatments every few days for a week, then emptied and flushed tanks again - black tank flush AND Rhino Blaster. Everything is coming out clear. Ran the fans and it's still dissssgusting smell coming through the fans.

Two other thing I have to check - one I dont know how:
  1. Make sure vents are clear on top of rig. Another RV shop that wont touch black tanks told me this one.
  2. Mouse poop... Or dead mice? I had an infestation sometime over the winter - they chewed through the insulation in the ceiling vents, I fished 5 dead mice out of the toilet bowl, and one out of the garbage can. Wondering if this could be the cause of the smell and how to find and get rid of dead mice in the walls / ventilation if so...

Or, any other ideas or thing i could check?
This may or may not relate to the broken lines, but I had a similar experience with black tank odor in my almost new Pottery Barn. Also, a yellowish drip from underneath. Turns out that the connection between tank and toilet was never secured, or so the shop says, as well as a disconnected vent pipe.
In my experience, dead mice and black tank smells are two different types.
Good luck getting to the root of the issue.
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Old 06-19-2024, 11:51 AM   #17
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2022 25' Flying Cloud
Ocala , Florida
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Also had odor

We had a problem odor last year, smelled like propane (mercaptan, added to propane, which is odorless, to give it odor) to me. Other half said smelled like something dead. Eventually found a dead frog/toad that had stowed away in our back bumper amongst all the things we keep in there. Found it using a flashlight since itís so dark in there. Anyway, it was rotting away. And, this was in summer with AC on and windows closed!
Keep looking and good luck.
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Old 06-19-2024, 12:55 PM   #18
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I highly suspect your issue is caused by the air inlet valves under the sinks and one for the shower. They get stuck open and let the stink from the gray water into the air. I suggest replacing all of them with better quality ones. The black ones from airstream and by far the cheapest things you can by.
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Old 06-20-2024, 06:31 AM   #19
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2022 Interstate 24X
Carlisle , Pennsylvania
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeachHouse View Post
I highly suspect your issue is caused by the air inlet valves under the sinks and one for the shower. They get stuck open and let the stink from the gray water into the air. I suggest replacing all of them with better quality ones. The black ones from airstream and by far the cheapest things you can by.
Hi

Quick (ok not quite quick, but easy) way to rule in / rule out that issue:

Put a rubber stopper (nice and tight) in both drains. Air everything out for a few hours. See if the problem goes away.

While you are at it, put about 3" of water in the toilet to rule that out as well.

Bob
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Old 06-20-2024, 05:37 PM   #20
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Farmington Hills , Michigan
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I agree with Bubba L. On a previous RV, we had The Stench for an entire season. Did every kind of commercial and home brew tank cleaners. Also had Kleen Tank do a cleaning of the gray and black tanks (she noted that everything was very clean).
It turned out to be the vent on the sink in the bathroom. It failed and was basically holding open the shared vent from the black & gray tanks.



It's known as an Air Admittance Valve, Studor Valve, or Mini Vent. It's a $15-20 part, took 3 minutes to install, and the stink was gone in minutes.
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