A Comprehensive Guide to Preventing Mold in Your RV

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RVs are incubators for mold. The size and construction of RVs and campers make them prone to condensation and moisture. Where there is moisture, there is mold. Mold can be hazardous, especially to those inclined to breathing difficulties. It causes severe reactions in people who are asthmatic or allergic. Even if you are not allergic, mold exposure can cause symptoms such as a sore throat, stuffy nose, and coughing.

To prevent mold in your RV, you will want to keep the air as dry as possible by minimizing the amount of condensation and humidity. Here are 11 tips to prevent mold in your RV.

  1. Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture.
  2. Place products that absorb moisture throughout your RV.
  3. Use your exhaust vents to draw moisture out of your RV, especially when showering or cooking.
  4. Re-enforce the insulation in your RV, especially around windows and skylights.
  5. Seal up all bathroom cracks.
  6. Frequently wipe down hard surfaces where or when moisture in the air is high.
  7. Keep your cabinets open.
  8. Use electric heat rather than propane heat.
  9. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels in your RV.
  10. Remove fabric from your RV while it is in storage
  11. Use an air purifier in your RV

Camping in areas with high humidity, such as the Southeastern United States or the Pacific Northwest, increases the likelihood that your camper will naturally have excess moisture. However, moisture and mold can also occur in dry climates.

What Causes Mold to Grow in Your RV?

Mold multiplies in damp, humid, and moist conditions. There are several ways moisture enters your RV. Condensation is the primary cause of moisture in RVs and campers, and it occurs when warm air contacts cold surfaces.

During summer months in an RV, the air conditioner causes the glass surfaces of windows to get cold. When the warm outside air strikes the cold window, condensation forms. The opposite occurs during the winter. The warm air inside the camper hits the cold window causing condensation to form on the inside of the window.

Another way that moisture enters your camper is through leaks. Leaks can occur in plumbing or through cracks in sealant around vents and seams. Also, tears in your roof will allow water into the camper. Therefore, you must inspect all roof seams and reseal them as necessary at least once a year.

The water vapor that produces steam also spreads throughout the camper whenever someone takes a shower or when you are cooking.

Where is Mold Likely to Grow in Your RV?

Dark, damp areas in an RV are perfect for mold growth. In addition, closets and cabinets are highly susceptible to mold, especially in bathrooms.

The bed in an RV is one of the most common places for mold to be found. Therefore, some important steps should be taken to ensure that mold growth does not occur under your bed  (Read our article about preventing mold under your bed).

A significant area of concern in a camper is the subflooring that is located under your linoleum or carpet. If water gets trapped in this space, mold will develop and ruin your trailer.

Preventing Mold in Your RV

Using a Dehumidifier for Preventing Mold in Your RV

Using Dehumidifiers in Your RV

The most efficient and obvious way to reduce moisture and mold is by using a dehumidifier. Most campers are not large, so they do not require a large dehumidifier. There are two different types of units, and they operate slightly differently.

Use a smaller desiccant dehumidifier in places like closets and pantries. These dehumidifiers pull in moisture, which is absorbed in tiny silica beads. Many of these models do not require electricity, so they are perfect for small remote locations like closets. In addition, the Eva Dry Unit (Check it out on Amazon) is spill-proof, and once it is full, all you have to do is recharge it, and it is ready to use again.

Traditional dehumidifiers pull the moisture from the air and drain it externally through a hose or into an internal tank that you must empty once it is complete. Since running a drain hose out of a camper can be difficult while camping, we recommend purchasing a dehumidifier with an internal tank. We also recommend buying a dehumidifier that shuts off automatically once the tank is complete so that you do not have to worry about it overflowing.

Most campers are only a few hundred square feet, so a small dehumidifier is all you need. We love the Laover Dehumidifier (Check it out on Amazon). This model is recommended for areas of up to 720 square feet, which is plenty powerful enough for most RVs.

Using Natural Water Absorbers Throughout the RV

Preventing Mold in Your RV

Products such as Damp Rid (check it out on Amazon) use natural crystal beads to absorb moisture from the air and are great for preventing mold in your RV. We use Moisture Eliminator from Home Stores available at Dollar Tree, which only cost a buck.

There are a few types of water absorbers available. Some can be hung, and others collect moisture in a bowl-like container. These types of products are designed to be disposable. Replace them once they are full of water. We keep several of these in our camper at all times.

Using Exhaust Fans

The use of your exhaust fan is necessary when camping. Exhaust fans are a great way to pull moisture out of an RV. Leave the exhaust fan running while taking your shower and for at least 10-15 minutes after you finish. Wipe down the bathroom with a towel as soon as everyone has showered to dry up extra moisture.

Exhaust fans are also necessary when cooking inside your camper. Any steam that is produced while camping is moisture spreading throughout the trailer. An even better way to eliminate dampness in an RV while cooking is to cook outside.

We avoid cooking inside the camper as much as possible and instead use a grill or a Blackstone Griddle (check it out on Amazon). We have portable electric and butane cooking eyes we use outdoors. Not only does this help keep dampness out of the camper, but it also keeps the camper cooler in the summer. When we cook inside, we are sure to use the fan on the vent hood, and we crack the door or windows by the kitchen.

Adding Insulation to Your Camper

Most windows in an RV are not as insulated as the windows in your house. Most RV windows have a single window pane rather than the double or triple-insulated windows found in most homes. Condensation is more likely to form on RV windows because of the lack of insulation. Adding extra insulation to your RV windows is one way to help reduce condensation.

We do not recommend changing the windows. In our opinion, any changes, such as replacing windows, increase the likelihood of leaks. However, you can add insulation to your camper windows without replacing them. We bought Reflectix (check it out on Amazon) and used it in our windows. The Reflectix will help keep the camper warmer during the winter and cooler in the summer. We slide our Refllectix between our blinds and window, so no tape or Velcro is necessary. If you use Reflectix in damp locations, like the beach, check between the window and Reflectix each morning and wipe down the windows as necessary.

Skylights are another natural place to add insulation to your RV. You can purchase manufactured blocks (check it out on Amazon) that can be placed in the skylight or vents to add needed insulation in those areas.

Sealing Up Cracks in Your Bathroom

Many RV manufacturers use plastic tile sheets to hang up around the shower in the bathroom. Unfortunately, to produce campers quickly and cheaply, manufacturers do not seal the upper or lower seam around the tile sheets. Instead, use a silicone sealant on these seams to prevent moisture and water from getting behind the tile.

Sealing seams in your RV

Wiping Down All Hard Surfaces in Your RV

Wiping down hard surfaces in your camper is a must when moisture is high. Frequently wiping down walls and windows is especially necessary during the winter. The lack of insulation in your RV will cause your RV windows to be extra cold and your walls to get cold. When the warm air produced by the heaters in your camper hits the cold wall, condensation develops on the walls. We suggest going through your trailer at least twice daily and wiping down these areas. Also, be sure to check the inside of closed cabinets for condensation.

Keeping Your Cabinets Open

Keeping your cabinets open allows air to circulate, making it less likely that mold will have an opportunity to grow in these areas. Opening cabinets is especially important for preventing mold in your RV when the camper is not in use. We recommend that all cabinets and doors be left open while your RV is in storage. If the refrigerator is not in use, leave the doors open as well. Refrigerators are naturally moist and must be wiped down when not in use to prevent mold from developing.

Using an Electric Heat During the Winter

Preventing Mold in Your RV

We recommend using an electric heater rather than propane heat during the winter. Propane heat produces moisture, although electric heat does not produce water vapor, so it is a better option to reduce moisture in your camper. In addition, many campers now have electric fireplaces that produce heat.

You can also use an electric space heater. We use a combination of an electric fireplace and a space heater (check it out on Amazon) in our camper, which keeps it toasty during the winter. If you use a space heater, plug it directly into an outlet. Using extension cords and power strips with a space heater can lead to fires.

Monitoring Humidity Inside Your Camper

Ideally, the humidity inside your camper should be between 30 and 50%. However, if you camp in areas with high humidity during the winter or if you seem to have high moisture levels in your camper, we suggest purchasing a hygrometer (check it out on Amazon) for your RV. Hygrometers are inexpensive, and you will always know the humidity levels inside your rig.

Removing Fabric From Your RV Between Trips

Fabric absorbs moisture, so do not leave the excess fabric in your camper between trips. Do not leave extra bedding, clothes, or towels in the RV.

Using an Air Purifier in Your RV

Air Purifiers for Preventing Mold in Your RV

Air purifiers are an excellent way of preventing mold in your RV and helping clean the air. A good air purifier can be expensive, but it will remove mold spores from the air. In addition to removing mold spores, air purifiers will remove allergens such as pollen and dust. Our camper has a Dyson Air Purifier (check it out on Amazon). The Cool Link model has the added benefit of cooling the air as a fan during the summer. The Puraclenz Air and Surface Purifier (check it out on Amazon) also removes mold spores from the air and surface areas. Air purifiers are a nice way to keep air circulating in your camper as well.

How Do You Know if There is Mold in Your RV?

Before testing for mold in your RV, use your senses to look and smell for signs of growth. Mold has a distinct musty smell that is very noticeable. Upon entering the camper, I would definitely test for mold if you detect a musty scent. You can look for mold as well. Mold is generally a dark stain that is very distinct and out of place.

If you suspect mold, use a home testing kit (check it out on Amazon) to determine if there is growth. Even if you do not smell or see mold, it is a good idea to check if you frequently camp in areas with high humidity.

How to Treat Mold in RVs?

Treating visible mold is relatively easy. We recommend mixing water with white vinegar in a 1:1 ratio and placing it into a spray bottle. Using the mixture will kill visible mold. Unfortunately, if there is visible mold, there is more than likely mold that cannot be seen. Mold will grow on wood as well as under carpet and tile. You may need to cut out wood, tile, or carpeted areas to ensure that all of the mold is removed.

Mold is dangerous, and it can permeate through RVs quickly. Fortunately, there are a number of preventative steps that can be taken. Just follow the simple steps we have outlined that focus specifically on preventing mold in your RV.

Have you had to deal with mold in your camper? We would love to hear from you. Drop a line in the comment section below to let us know how you are preventing mold in your RV.

Sean Green

Sean and his family travel and camp throughout the United States. They enjoy camping over 100 days per year and love the educational experiences that camping provides to people of all ages. "And they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods." Ezekiel 34:25

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