What do school buses smell like? (5 reasons)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: What do school buses smell like? We will go on a quest to find why your Skoolie may smell bad and give you a few tips to avoid any bad odours. 

What do school buses smell like?

School buses are not known to smell very good, quite the opposite actually. If you got yourself a school bus and are planning on converting it to a Skoolie, you will need to make sure you clean it well and get rid of any rust, mold and mildew. These three are the enemies of every motorhome. 

There are several reasons why Skoolies may smell bad:

  1. High humidity – that causes mold & mildew, thus the bad odour. 
  2. Changes in temperature or environment: Sometimes a simple change in weather conditions can cause bad odors to appear suddenly. This can happen especially in spring with sudden good temperatures, and obviously in summer.
  3. The toilet cassette is full: I know it seems obvious, but once on the road, it can happen that you are a little head in the air and that you let your tank fill up beyond ⅔ generally recommended.
  4. The toilet vent is clogged: RV cassettes sometimes have openings connected to vents usually on the roof that let odours escape. It can happen that this ventilation is blocked, especially by dead leaves, and the smell cannot escape.
  5. Bacteria overgrowth: If you haven’t cleaned your Skoolie for a while (if ever), bacteria can grow inside and cause bad odours.

How to prevent bad odours from school buses

Before moving to the solutions, we must first discuss preventative measures to keep bad odours from your Skoolie away:

  • Open windows every few minutes to days to let in the fresh air – unless you have asthma caused by outdoor air pollution or pollen or are concerned about safety.
  • Install and use exhaust fans whenever possible.
  • Keep the temperature and humidity inside your camper at the lowest possible comfort level.
  • Make your camper smoke-free. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your camper.
  • Choose low-formaldehyde or formaldehyde-free products for your future purchases. Such as furniture, wood cabinets or floor coverings made without urea-formaldehyde (UF) glues and choose insulation without UF foam.
  • Wash clothes and curtains with permanent ironing before using them.
  • Allow new products to release formaldehyde outside your living space before installing or using them indoors. If possible, keep them out of your living space until you can no longer smell a chemical odour.
  • Install depolluting or purifying plants such as gerbera or ivy which neutralize emissions and indoor pollution.

How to eliminate bad odours emanating from a Skoolie toilet cassette

The first thing to do is to determine the exact origin of the bad smells. If it is coming from the toilet cassette, here are the steps to follow:

  1.  Start by emptying and thoroughly cleaning the cassette. Empty your cassette. Then fill it with a mixture of white vinegar and hot water, and leave to act for a few hours. You can add baking soda to the mixture. Empty it again and put it back
  1.  Unclog the cassette vent. Cassettes often have an original or customized turbine odour venting system that sends them through a PVC duct system to an air vent, often on the roof. This vent can also be located on the cassette access door. You can obviously adapt such a system if your school bus is not equipped with it, the results are excellent!
  1. Change the valve seal. Occasionally, the valve seal may no longer be tight due to wear, drying out or lime build-up which allows odours to pass through. It is then preferable to replace the gasket.
  1. Repair the bowl gaskets. Bowl seals age and can eventually leak. In this case, even after a good cleaning of the cassette, you will have odours. Replacing toilet gaskets in a school bus is quite a delicate operation, and I advise you to consult a professional in the maintenance of recreational vehicles.

How to remove the smell of damp from your Skoolie

If bad smells are not coming from the toilet, then you must find the source of the humidity problem.

When trying to neutralize a bad smell, it is essential to first find the source of it. Before starting to treat your school bus, it is therefore very important to define the source of the problem. 

Is it because there has already been water damage, or was there a problem with water infiltration? Or what if it’s just the fact that the place has been closed for several months? Once the cause is found, correcting the problem is essential to prevent the odour from lingering. There may therefore be materials to be removed in order to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Once you have identified the problem, you should deal with any absorbent surfaces that have stored the odour of moisture. For example, rough wood, metal, plywood, walls, floors, ceilings, cabinets, fabrics, rugs, furniture and even the ambient air. It is important to use the right products and techniques for each type of surface. 

Finally, most of the products sold in stores are maskers or deodorants and not real neutralizers. In order to successfully eliminate an odour quickly and permanently, it is important to use a product containing an odour neutralizer specific to this molecule.

To remove the smell of damp from your Skoolie, you will need:

If you smell the damp smell all over the Skoolie and there has been no water infiltration, start by cleaning the hard surfaces inside your vehicle (cabinets, counters, floors, walls, etc.). ).

Moisture Odor Neutralizer is a cleaner and odour neutralizer designed to remove unpleasant odours from moisture in your environment, whether on concrete, rough lumber, plywood, carpets, walls or ceilings. It contains a unique neutralizer specifically designed to eliminate damp or musty odours, while leaving a clean, peachy scent. This Quebec product offers you many advantages:

  • Easy and simple to use
  • Ideal for use in Skoolies, motorhomes, cars and boats.
  • Effectively eliminates damp odours as soon as it hits the source and leaves a pleasant peach scent.

The best way to prevent bad smells in a school bus

The best way to prevent bad smells in a school bus is to make sure you clean it thoroughly.  Below we share more tips to help you get rid of bad odours from your school bus once and for all. Read them carefully and take notes!

  1. Let the fresh air in. If the musty smell has permeated the whole school bus, even in winter, do not hesitate to ventilate it by opening the windows wide and making drafts! If even doing these drafts, this is probably not enough; it is a humidity problem. And the humidity that causes this smell is very unhealthy.
  1. Use a mix of water, baking soda, lemon juice and essential oil. Spray rooms with a mixture of hot water mixed with a tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of lemon juice and 3 drops of lemon essential oil. This solution will also have the advantage of acting as a disinfectant.
  1. Try a mix of hot water, vinegar and alcohol. Spray then let dry a mixture consisting of a teaspoon of hot water, another cup of white vinegar and a tablespoon of 70 ° alcohol.
  1. Vinegar is your ally. Mask the musty smell of a house or apartment by spraying pure white vinegar on the carpet or rugs and curtains. Close the windows for at least an hour and then ventilate.
  1. Try bicarbonate. If the stale problem is minor, sprinkle baking soda on the rugs or rugs widely. Leave the baking soda to act overnight. Vacuum in the morning.
  1. Use an odour absorber in a pot. Place the odour absorber jar near the source of the bad odour, remove the cover and let it act and the odour will dissipate. The odour absorber, an ecological product, works by evaporation and is effective for 4 to 6 weeks.

If the problem persists, it will be necessary either to equip the house with an atmosphere purifier or a dehumidifier. It could also be a moisture problem.

The bottom line

We know that school buses smell far from ideal, especially if they are old and have never been cleaned properly. Still, with a few simple ingredients and time on hand you will manage to eliminate and prevent every bad odour from your converted school bus.

Do you have any questions or comments on the content? Do let us know!

FAQ on What do school buses smell like?

How to remove the musty smell in a Skoolie?

To remove the musty smell in a caravan, use a saucer filled with lemon juice and baking soda. Clean thoroughly your Skoolie and make sure you ventilate it well morning and evening if possible. 

How to perfume your Skoolie for a long time?

To perfume your Skoolie for a long time, use a  natural sanitizing spray. In a spray bottle, mix 500 millilitres of water, the juice of one lemon and a tablespoon of baking soda. Shake and spray around the house. This natural product cleans the air, rids it of bad odours and perfumes your interior at the same time. 

How to prevent high concentrations of formaldehyde in my Skoolie?

It is not very complicated, to avoid a too high concentration of formaldehyde emanations, you must, at all times, make sure to have good ventilation of the rooms by using the range hood, the ventilation fan and a bathroom and air exchanger.

How to remove the smell from a new cabinet?

To remove the smell from a new cabinet, put a bowl filled with baking soda to fight bad odours. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill a bowl with baking soda;
  2. Place it in your dresser drawers, kitchen furniture, etc. …
  3. Leave to air for a day then close the cabinet;
  4. Remove the bowl a few days later.

Other FAQs about Skoolie that you may be interested in.

How long do diesel school bus engines last?

How long does it take to build a Skoolie?

How much does it cost to get a bus painted?


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