I have a camper (tow behind RV) with an awning. Every time I unroll the awning/canopy it stinks. I have scrubbed it with soapy water, and left it open to air dry several time. But it always get wet and smelly again (presumably related). The material looks like a vinyl.

Keeping it dry and/or open for long periods is not an option. I suspect I need to apply something to the awning that will kill what ever makes the smell without destroying the awning.

Picture of the awning style. We upgraded to a slightly larger camper after this trip, so while basically the same they are not identical. The camper/awning pictured here did not have the issue in the few years that we owned it. The replacement is similar (different brand) and nearly the same age.

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P.S. Notice that the rabbits in the photo, are in exercise pens (x-pens), have been treated for parasites/fleas and stay in the camper when not being directly supervised

  • Is the smell from the fabric or it being wet? When using a tent (not the same I know) you should always air it after use. So use it, take it home, air it on a nice dry day then pack it away until you next need it.
    – user2766
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:19
  • 1
    Sounds like mildew to me, which can grow on stuff other than fabric.
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:20
  • 2
    I think there is likely some mold or bacteria living in the fabric (vinyl/plastic) I can wash and dry it and most of the stink goes away, but it the stored position is it rolled up outside of the camper at the roof line. You drive to next place and it gets wet again, or even just parked between outings Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:23

2 Answers 2


If it's mold based, then my understanding is that borax or hydrogen peroxide are effective remedies.

Soap is not very effective against mold.

If you don't think it will damage the awning, I recommend scrubbing it with a borax-based solution. When in doubt, test it on a small less-visible section first.


For marine covers there are some cleaning products made on purpose that you could use on the awning too.

The DIY route consists in solutions of bleach+water or ammonia+water that tend to be nasty to deal with and dispose of (cant just let them on the ground), they do work. Peroxide is another solution, safer but a bit less effective. Beware that they can weaken the stitching. TSP also works.

The safest, but it involves some scrubbing is baking soda, scrub with a soft brush and then go over with vinegar.

In all cases rinse really well.

You can go to one of those self service carwashes (taking the awning off the RV the carwash bay should be big enough to let you open it fully) and wash it there, the water has good pressure and does a good job. Careful about the water pressure if you use a power washer, not all the fabrics can take it, but if it can be used it helps a lot. Sun is also one of your best friend against mold and being able to take the awning off the RV allows you to keep it in the sun as much as possible even if you dont use the RV. Sometimes though the smell is absorbed into the awning and never fully comes out.

Do not use car products, they can have some additives that will actually help the mold. Remember that if you clean the awning you need to also clean completely its housing where it gets rolled in.

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