View Full Version : How to get rid of RV Antifreeze smell in fresh water tank?

04-06-2014, 07:07 PM
I'm new to travel trailers. I bought my 2014 Wilderness 2175 RB in July 2013. When the freezing weather came, I drained the tanks per the owner's manual and added 6 gallons of RB antifreeze and pumped it through the system.
It did it's job in preventing plumbing pipe freeze. I de-winterized a few weeks before the freezing weather ended (got fooled by mother nature). Spent a few nights in the travel trailer with the heat on rather then going though the time consuming process of winterizing with RV anti-freeze again.

The problem is that after flushing the fresh water tank and hot water heater 4 or 5 times, the water from the fresh water tank still has an RV-antifreeze odor. I can't taste it, but the odor is objectionable. I wouldn't use it as drinking water, and I haven't tried to use it for cooking. It's OK for washing dishes.

Is there any way to get the RV anti-freeze smell out of the fresh water tank and water heater?
Should I flush the water tank and hot water heater 10 times? That seems excessive.
Note: When I switch to city water supply, the smell goes away.

04-06-2014, 07:17 PM
If you have the fresh water drain line (it will be a line under the camper), open the drain and run water thru the tank letting it drain out the bottom. If that doesn't do it, you might have to mix a small amount of bleach with a gallon of water, letting it set for a little while and then flush the lines.

04-06-2014, 07:20 PM
A water and bleach solution may do the trick. However, you shouldn't need to put RV anti-freeze in either the Fresh water tank or the Hot Water Heater. They can both be drained. There are by-pass valves in your rig to avoid getting the RV anti-freeze in your HWH when winterizing. Do a google search on the internet and you'll find lots of videos and articles on winterizing.

04-06-2014, 07:21 PM
You added antifreeze to your water heater?

I would drain the heater, then flush everything again. May as well sanitize the tanks while you are at it. Bleach and water and let it soak for 5-6 hours then flush again.

When you winterize, you should only have antifreeze in the lines and fixtures, not the water heater or tanks.

04-06-2014, 07:25 PM
Don't know how to get the smell out but I can say you used to much antifreeze ,it should only take about a gallon, don't fill the hot water with it ,always drain that and bypass it ,your hot water heater is probably were you are getting the antifreeze. IMHO ⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️⛄️

04-06-2014, 07:47 PM
You might try adding vinegar to the fresh water system. Mix about 5 gallons with a full water tank then pump it through the water heater.

04-06-2014, 08:22 PM
If you have a Suburban Water Heater with an anode rod, you may have to replace it. Here's what the Suburban manual says:

Antifreeze can be very corrosive to the anode rod creating premature failure and heavy sediment in the tank.

04-06-2014, 09:11 PM
If you have a Suburban Water Heater with an anode rod, you may have to replace it.
I checked the water heater in my travel trailer and it is an Attwood. I read the manual for the water heater and there is no mention of corrosion due to anti-freeze.

I turned off the propane and electric power to the hot water heater and drained it. I will flush it out again (for the 5th time) tomorrow morning.
I'm draining out the fresh water tank. It was full (36 gallons) and it has a small drain valve. It takes about an hour to drain.
I will fill up again tomorrow morning to see if there is any improvement. If no improvement, I guess I will try the bleach and water mixture and flush the system again.

04-06-2014, 09:12 PM
I would like to recommend an excellent resource for you to access (in addition to this forum:)) rvdoctor.com
I have been to his seminars as well as watched many of his programs and he is a wealth of info.
For your particular situation go to his web page, scroll down on the main page and you will find a resource menu for "Q&A Archive"...scroll down this menu to "odors"....the resulting page will have many articles...pick the one titled "RV Fresh Water Chlorination" and he will walk you thru the 12 point process of cleaning & sanitizing the entire water system. (I have a copy I keep as a reference "just in case".)

04-07-2014, 07:55 AM
I would like to recommend an excellent resource for you to access (in addition to this forum:)) rvdoctor.com

I found the rvdoctor.com FAQ http://www.rvdoctor.com/2010/07/rv-fresh-water-chlorination.html
I'm at step 11 (4 hour hold).
I'll update this afternoon to advise if this solved my RV anti-freeze odor problem.

Thanks for the information.

04-07-2014, 10:31 AM
If you answered, I didn't see it.

Did you put anti freeze in the water holding tank? If you did, by way of design, you will need to flush a lot of water through the system to clear that out. See below.

The Bleach combo should work and is something you should consider doing on a scheduled basis, depending on how you use the trailer and your water supply.
If you have the chlorine odor when done, either do another rinse or just use the water and wait, the chlorine will dissipate.

My routine for chlorine disinfecting is:

2 cups bleach in a clean 5 gallon bucket, 5 gallons of water.
I pump the 5 gallon mix into the holding tanks.
(The mix above is based on the 1/4 cup per 15 gallons of storage. I have 110 gallons of tankage and a 10 gallon heater)

Hot water heater off.
By way of my plumbing I am able to circulate the water in the tanks. You can do that by running the outside shower into the gravity fill port. I will circulate the water for 15-20 minutes and then run the mix through the plumbing until I can smell the chlorine.
Then I let it sit for 4-5 hours, drain everything and do a partial refill, maybe 20-30 gallons, then flush all the fixtures.

We are on city water at home, which out of the tap is quite palatable. I have no qualms using my Cyclones stored water for drinking, although I do run it through an under sink filter.

I sanitize the tanks before the first trip out at season start. I will usually sanitize once mid season.
I will always sanitize when we get home if we were out long enough to have added water to our tanks from an alternate source.

I always drain the water when we get home, so as to allow no stagnation.

If I was on well water I would sanitize more often.

I have been following this procedure since our first boat in 1991. Have always had clean tanks, have always drank the water from the tanks.

"IF" you put antifreeze in the tank/s. My suggestion would be to fill the tanks till overflow, circulate the water (see above), drain, repeat as needed.
If your trailer has two water storage tanks, that will add to the complexity.

04-07-2014, 11:12 AM
Disinfecting or shocking a water system is done in many applications like newly constructed water systems. You have to get the chlorine up to around 50 PPM and hold it for an extended period of time (24 hrs), to effectively disinfect it. Maybe this is in the calculation of 1/4 cup bleach / 10 gal water, never done the math since we use HTH granules at work. This is an integral part of my work since a good portion of it is in the installation of new water systems for public use. We have to take samples on two consecutive days to a lab of each municipalities choice, for bacteriological testing. If the shocking procedure is not followed thoroughly, it usually results in a failure, due to the presence of Coliform or E.coli. My question is, do I really want to test the water from my trailer? :eek:

I am on well water at home so I shock my system at the beginning of the year, and always add a water conditioner to my water tank when I fill it, since there is no disinfectant in the water. The water conditioner seems to work well in my situation.

04-07-2014, 11:54 AM
Did you put anti freeze in the water holding tank? If you did, by way of design, you will need to flush a lot of water through the system to clear that out.
I did put RV anti-freeze in the fresh water tank.
This is my basic travel trailer plumbing system for winterizing.
http://i1257.photobucket.com/albums/ii518/SailorDon/TravelTrailer/RV_Plumbing_zpse6fc4358.jpg (http://s1257.photobucket.com/user/SailorDon/media/TravelTrailer/RV_Plumbing_zpse6fc4358.jpg.html)
One exception is I could not find a valve between the fresh water tank and the water pump on my travel trailer. So I put 6 gallons of RV anti-freeze direct into the empty fresh water tank when I winterized.
Another exception is I flushed the city water connection in reverse direction by pushing in the pin on the check valve.
I'm following the rvdoctor.com method for fresh water chlorination.
I have just completed the 4 hour hold period and am getting ready to drain the system and fill with fresh water.

04-07-2014, 02:27 PM
I use chlorine concentrate you can get at a place that sells pools.it is granular and takes very little to do the job-also has less smell. I treat my fresh water holding tank every time I fill it-I don't like germs!!

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04-07-2014, 02:33 PM
I am pleased to report that the rvdoctor.com method as recommended by monica-don was 100% successful.
That is a great website. Thanks for sharing and thanks for the info.

I'm a happy camper! :)

04-07-2014, 03:22 PM
The valve and pick up line for your anti freeze is usually right before the pump. Find you pump. We have had 2 class c motor homes and now a sundance 5er and I have never used more than 2 gallons of anti freeze. Our sundance only takes a gallon and a half. No need to put any in your fresh water tank and spend all that time trying to rinse it out.

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04-07-2014, 04:55 PM
The valve and pick up line for your anti freeze is usually right before the pump. Find you pump.
What you say is just like in the plumbing diagram I posted for winterizing.
The problem is, I haven't found the water pump.
I haven't even found the fresh water tank.
So I certainly haven't found any valve between the two (if there even is one).

It certainly isn't easy access like the water heater drain plug, relief valve and by-pass valves.

04-07-2014, 05:28 PM
I used this generic plumbing schematic to winterize my travel trailer.
http://i1257.photobucket.com/albums/ii518/SailorDon/TravelTrailer/RV_Plumbing_zpse6fc4358.jpg (http://s1257.photobucket.com/user/SailorDon/media/TravelTrailer/RV_Plumbing_zpse6fc4358.jpg.html)
I couldn't find the valve between the water tank and the water pump.
I couldn't even find the water tank or the water pump.

By the sound of it, I think the water pump is under the shower stall or under the furnace.
But there is no access to those areas.

http://i1257.photobucket.com/albums/ii518/SailorDon/TravelTrailer/DoubleTrailer04_zpscb977521.jpg (http://s1257.photobucket.com/user/SailorDon/media/TravelTrailer/DoubleTrailer04_zpscb977521.jpg.html)

I ended up putting 6 gallons of RV antifreeze in the fresh water tank.
It took a lot of time and effort to get the odor of that RV anti-freeze out of the tank when I de-winterized.

04-07-2014, 05:45 PM
Sorry I wasn't more help, maybe someone with the same model will help

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04-07-2014, 05:56 PM
The fresh water tank is usually located near the axle(s) and the fresh tank drain valve is usually slightly in front of the axle(s) on the off-door-side. It's usually sticking out of the sealed underbelly if you have that.

The water heater bypass valves are usually close to the inside surface of the water heater, which is where the water connections to the water heater are located. Unless you have a large trailer with a Universal Docking Center (UDC), you typically have to open a panel or take down a wall panel to get to the valves.