How to Get Rid of Mildew in My Camper

Mildew is one type of mold. It’s a fungus that can grow inside or outside of a camper.

Moist air, damp conditions, and places where a surface, wall, ceiling, or floor has become wet may later become susceptible to developing mildew if not dried quickly.

Difference Between Mold and Mildew

Different types of mold can develop and grow in a camper.

Both can be damaging to your lungs to breathe in the spores that can float in the air.

This is why it should be resolved when a mildew or mold problem is found in a camper.

To remove any confusion on mold vs mildew, here are the differences:

How Does Mildew Appear?

Mildew presents as a powdery substance. It usually sits on the surface and is mostly flat. As such, it’s harder to spot unless it becomes quite pronounced.

While mildew is often white, it can be in other colors too. It all depends on what it’s mixed with that may taint its appearance.

Therefore, if a camper’s interior walls are a pastel color, the mildew could take on this tint and essentially be camouflaged.

The smell of mildew inside a camper is similar to damp clothing that’s been left indoors for days without being properly dried.

Read Also: Storing an RV

How Does Mold Appear?

Mold is another type of fungus that develops from excess moisture.

The main difference between it and mildew is that it grows outwards from what it’s attached to, and beneath the surface too.

Therefore, it may look like a rocky surface has been added to a camper’s interior wall. The surface may appear visually bumpy.

Mold also tends to look furry or could have a sliminess to it.

The smell of mold is more significant and objectionable too. It worsens as a mold creates more compounds known as MVOCs during extended growth.

Read Also: Can You Sleep in a Camper Off the Truck?

How to Get Rid of Mildew in My Camper

There are several different approaches to removing mildew and potentially other types of mold too.

When removing mildew (or mold), be sure to wear a protective breathing mask that can filter out fungal spores from the air.

Here are a few that we recommend for removing mildew (and also mold) from a camper:

Vinegar to Remove Mildew from a Camper

If you keep telling friends that “my camper smells,” then vinegar might just do the trick!

It has a sharp whiff to it, but that’ll pass after its application.

Vinegar has excellent disinfecting properties making it an effective cleaner for various surfaces inside a camper. It’ll work fine on a floor, wall, ceiling, etc.

Use a spray bottle to distribute it more evenly over a surface before wiping it down later.

It’s fine to dilute the vinegar to mix it half and half with water (it’ll make it not smell as obnoxious).

Give it enough time to perform its magic on the fungi. Alternatively, adding some vinegar to a cloth and wiping it over the affected area works fine too.

Here is our recommended distilled vinegar cleaning product:

Lucy’s Family Owned, Natural Distilled White Vinegar – 5% Acidity (1 Gallon/128 oz.)

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Read Also: How to Heat a Camper Without Electricity

Ethanol (Distilled)

Some people try using distilled ethanol. It should also be diluted with water.

Using ethanol is going to be better for serious mildew issues where it’s gotten out of control, and you feel like something stronger is required.

Go Natural with Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an effective fungicide that will remove mildew from your camper.

It is quite concentrated, so it’s best to mix it with water in a spray bottle. Then spray it over the mildew, leave it a short amount of time, and wipe off any excess.

Baking Soda, the Old Standby

Baking soda is an excellent all-around cleaner.

Often, it can do more than manufactured solutions.

It’s a little harder to use with white mildew or white mold in a camper because you’ll be applying white on white here.

So, keep track of what areas you’ve applied the solution to before moving on to the next section.

This also applies when taking a break for lunch and returning to the task later – make a note of where you got up to avoid missing a spot.

Again, a water-filled spray bottle is useful here.

A sponge, dry cloth, or even an old t-shirt will be fine to wipe surfaces later after applying the baking soda spray concoction.

How to Prevent Mildew (or Mold) in My Camper?

There are several ways to stop mildew or mold from developing inside your living space.

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

1. Ventilate the Camper Regularly

Regardless of how frequently you hook up the camper to take on trips, owning it means you’re responsible for it.

If you simply leave it for months between uses, you’re asking for trouble.

Instead, open the door and windows to provide as much ventilation as possible. If there’s a roof fan, ensure it has the opportunity to be opened to ventilate near the ceiling too.

Leaving the fan running can improve the overall air quality and stop moisture or bad smells from lingering.

2. Manage Condensation Properly

Water droplets form on the inside of the camper’s windows and sometimes on the walls if they’re thinly insulated.

The condensation needs to be wiped down and removed every day.

It’s more of an issue when living in the camper because, without effective moisture control, breathing adds extra moisture to the air.

It shows up as condensation collected on the walls and windows, especially.

Better insulation is one answer to resolving persistent condensation issues.

3. Use a Dehumidifier

A good dehumidifier will take the nearby air and remove moisture from it.

A reservoir is used to collect the water.

The better models also have an auto-shutoff feature to prevent the container from overflowing.

Model sizes affect the daily water extraction capacity and the amount of moisture that is collectible before needing to empty the water collector.

Dehumidifiers use minimal power, aren’t noisy, and can reduce moisture levels significantly.

Placing them in the most affected areas, like the seating area, or the cooking area is extremely effective.  

Fortunately, they’re not expensive and can save money on future RV repairs due to an unaddressed moisture problem. So, they pay for themselves.

Here is our recommended dehumidifier model for a camper:

Pro Breeze Electric Mini Dehumidifier (250 square feet/2,200 cubic feet)

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4. Be Conscious of Moisture in All Forms

Moisture is a problem for campers, trailers, and motorhomes in general.

Many say it’s the enemy of camper owners because campers as a rule are less well-insulated than travel trailers, or motorhomes. Because of this, they’re more prone to moisture problems.

Dampness in the air can come from an area of high humidity. This is an environmental factor that needs to be managed by more frequently removing moisture.

Dry climates are less problematic for RVers.

Running a hot shower creates considerable moisture. Boiling vegetables in a pan inside the camper will add extra dampness too.

Camper owners often look for ways to manage these needs by adjusting how they prepare food (e.g., using a pot cover to limit steam release) or adding an overhead fan inside the shower cubicle to quickly remove excess moisture.

To know how much of a problem exists with lingering moisture, it’s useful to use a hygrometer. This technical marvel can verify the level of humidity relative to the outdoors and provide other useful readings too.

The ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer is a reliable model to do this for you:

ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer, Humidity Gauge & Temperature Humidity Monitor

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5. Heat Regularly and Use Dry Heat

Heating the camper regularly removes pockets of dampness and moist air.

The type of heating inside the camper makes a difference too.

For instance, diesel heaters are known to deliver dry heat in a confined space.

On the other hand, LPG might be a poor heating fuel/system because it’s a wet heat.

Using a wet heat system to produce warmth will add additional condensation and raise the humidity level along with the internal temperature.

Also, note that propane heaters aren’t necessarily dry heat sources.

Therefore, if your camper is having ongoing moisture problems, check how it’s being heated.

Why Does My Camper Smell Musty?

With how campers are designed, they may have fixed furniture or units that can trap moisture inside them.

A lack of proper ventilation combined with accumulated moisture is an ideal environment to develop mildew or mold.

Opening up the camper or trailer between uses to air it out, can remove the musty smell.

Then, if there are more serious issues with mildew or mold, you’ll be able to distinctly smell them as separate from the now-removed musty odor.

Also, doing so helps to track down the location where there’s a mildew or mold issue, especially if it’s inside a furniture unit or not easy to see on the walls.

Closing Thoughts

When finding mildew or mold, it’s not something to leave until another season or later in the year.

Mildew is a fungus that will continue to grow and become worse before it’s finally remedied. When left too long, it may ruin a camper from the inside out. Also, it can cause respiratory problems too.

Once eradicated, focus on the different ways to prevent it from reappearing.

These were detailed above and include heating, ventilation, and regularly removing moisture. Doing these things goes a long way to avoiding mildew in your camper in the future.

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