Flush RV Water Heater YouTube Video Thumbnail

Flush RV Water Heater

We recently ran into a problem, the water in our RV smelled like rotten eggs. We used vinegar to flush the RV water heater. Flush RV water heater instructions.

Flush RV Water Heater to Remove Smell

We were camping at a state park and noticed that our water smelled horrible, like rotten eggs. In over ten years of camping, we had never encountered this issue. However, we have heard that rotten egg smelling water is a common RV problem. It’s caused by bacteria. You can help prevent this issue by draining water from your water heater and water lines when it will be several weeks or more between camping trips.

I didn’t have any special tools along, just my basic RV toolkit. I discovered that vinegar can be used to solve this issue. As a bonus, this method can remove scale buildup from your freshwater system. Here are the steps for flushing and descaling an RV water heater.

Step One: Drain Water Heater

Most RVs have a six-gallon water heater. You’ll need at least two gallons of vinegar for this project. Add an extra gallon if you want to clean all your RV water lines.

Ensure that the water in the water heater is cold. Turn off the water heater. Wait at least 30 minutes for the water to cool.

RV Control Panel
Turn Electric and Gas Water Heater Switches Off

Locate the water heater access door. This will be outside the camper and will have ventilation grills. You’ll also want to locate the freshwater tank fill. Note that it is next to the water heater door in the image below.

RV water heater door
RV Water Heater Door & Freshwater Tank Fill

Drain the water heater. Use a 15/16 inch wrench or ratchet to remove the plastic plug from the heater. Be careful as the plug is made of soft plastic which can be easily damaged. Once the plug is removed, water will flow from the water heater. You can make the water heater drain faster by opening the pressure release valve and by opening the hot side of a water faucet.

Remove Plug to Drain Hot Water Heater
Remove Water Heater Plug

If you plan to clean all the lines, drain water from the system by opening the low point drains.

Camper Low Point Drain
Low Point Drains

Once the water heater is empty, replace the plug.

Step Two: Add Vinegar and Water

Fill the six-gallon water heater with a mix of 2 gallons of vinegar and 4 gallons of fresh water. You can do that by adding the mix to the freshwater tank. One way to do that is to use a large water jug, like the kind used to bring extra water when camping without water hookups. These usually have a spout that makes adding water to the tank a bit easier.

Water Jug to Fill Freshwater Tank
Water Jug to Fill Freshwater Tank

You can also add the mix by using the winterization hose. Locate the winterization bypass valves which may be located under a bed or behind a panel. Turn the valve for the winterization hose to open.

Turn on the water pump and then open a hot water faucet to draw water into the heater.

If you are flushing all of the lines, open each faucet to draw the vinegar and water mix. Repeat until the mix is in all the lines.

Step Three: Wait

Let the vinegar and water mix sit for several hours. You might feel better if you take a hike or go for a bike ride while the mix does its work.

Step Four: Flush RV Water Heater Tank and Water Lines

Empty the water heater to drain the vinegar and water mix, just like you did in step one. If you have a water heater flush wand, rinse the tank to remove any scale or debris from the tank.

Using the Camco tank rinser to clean RV hot water heater
Tank Rinse Wand

Flush all the lines by running fresh water through each faucet. Continue to run water until you no longer smell vinegar. At this point, the water should smell much better.

Flush RV Water Heater Video

You can see the steps for flushing your RV water heater in our YouTube video.

Flush RV Water Heater YouTube Video Thumbnail
Flush RV Water Heater Video


We hope you found this helpful. Let us know if you have any tips for flushing and descaling an RV water heater. Thanks.

There are only a few things you need to flush your RV water heater. You can get the Vinegar from a grocery store. You’ll want a water heater tank rinser and a 15/16 wrench or ratchet socket. I’m adding Amazon links here. Note: these are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase by using the link there is no additional cost to you, but we earn a commission that helps enable us to continue sharing helpful information.

Camco RV Water Heater Tank Rinser

Craftsman 15/16 Deep Socket

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