How to keep pests out of your RV
So you’ve got ants? Roaches? Mice? WORSE?! In your RV? Well, that’s really lousy (see what we did there? 😀), but you came to the right place. It happens fairly frequently and is not a reflection on you or your cleanliness as a person. That said, there’s nothing quite like a roach, ant, or mouse infestation to ruin your dream RV vacation. Fortunately, there are plenty of inexpensive and effective ways to prevent pests from entering or damaging your motorhome.
How are the critters getting in, anyway?
Most infestations begin with a single bug, spider, mouse, packrat, or…shudder…snake. They sniff around looking for food and stumble on your delicious motorhome-cooked meals and look for a way to get into it. Once they find it, they go and tell all of their friends, and the next thing you know, it’s a pest party.
Or maybe it’s cold outside, and the warmth of your cozy coach beckons them in. Or maybe they are fleeing a predator, looking for prey, or finding respite from another harsh element of their natural climate. The point is, there are a lot of reasons for pests to want to take up residence in your very nice RV.
Keep your RV clean
One of the simplest ways to prevent pests, keeping your RV clean is also effective and inexpensive. Mice and insects are attracted to food and crumbs, so you’ll want to take special care to wipe down all your countertops, tables, and floors regularly. Clean up spills and crumbs right away, because even if it’s a small spill or just a few little crumbs, it doesn’t take long for a roach or mouse to sniff it out and make themselves at home.
You’ll also want to make sure to store your trash in sealed containers both inside and outside your RV and dispose of it regularly. Eliminating the smell of trash or food waste will prevent pests from being attracted to your RV in the first place.
Properly store your food
Storing food in airtight containers and avoiding leaving it out on the counter or table will also help prevent pests from being attracted to your RV. When you’re on the road, it’s also not a bad idea to limit the amount of food you bring with you, if possible. Excess food may attract pests more than it is getting eaten, so it’s often best to plan to only bring what you need on your trip.
When you winterize your RV, you will also need to ensure that there is not a single morsel of food remaining anywhere inside. Since it will be in storage for a prolonged period, it’s especially important to make sure that you don’t leave anything that might attract pests in the interim between seasons. The last thing you want is to go try to grab your RV for the first spring trip of a season only to find that mice have taken up residence in it.
Change your linens frequently
Mice, bugs, and packrats love anything made of fabric, because it’s warm and cozy and perfect for nesting. So make sure that you keep all of your bedding, pillows, towels, washcloths, and all other linens fresh and clean while your RV is in use. And when you put your RV in storage for the winter, take care to take all of your linens home with you and store them in space bags or airtight storage containers to keep pests out of your home as well.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a six-sided mattress encasement to protect the inside of your RV mattress from insect infestation. You’ll want to remove the cover and wash it on high heat every few months to maximize its effectiveness. Consider placing desiccant packs between the bottom and top of the mattress and the encasement to prevent mattress mold, especially if you use a memory foam mattress. Mattress mold is undesirable on its own, but it’s also attractive to bugs.
Seal up cracks and gaps
As your RV makes its way down the open road, it’s normal for the jostling to cause joints to expand and contract, leading to gaps and openings in the walls or undercarriage of the vehicle. Common areas of egress include around windows, doors, vents, and pipes. You’ll want to perform a thorough inspection and use caulking, expanding foam, rodent-proof steel wool, and/or weatherstripping to seal up any possible entryway. Pay special attention to areas where different materials meet, like the juncture of the exterior and roof or where the walls meet the floor.
While you’re inspecting the exterior of your RV, you may try putting a dog flea collar around the inside of the refrigerator’s exterior access panel, as the chemicals in flea collars may keep wasps and bees from entering this way to build a nest.
Try screens and netting
Flies, wasps, dirt daubers, mosquitos, and other bugs can easily enter your RV through open windows, so screens are an effective way to allow air to circulate without allowing these creepy crawlers into your RV. Install screens on all of your windows and doors, and make sure there aren’t any gaps between the screen and window casings for maximum protection.
Netting can also be used to cover any incidental openings in your RV, like vents and air conditioners, and you may consider that dog flea collar trick again on these openings.
Keep the humidity down
Pests are very attracted to moisture, so you can keep them away by keeping your RV dry inside. To do this, make sure you address leaks as soon as you find them, and you may also consider a dehumidifier to keep the air inside your RV dry. Humidifiers are especially helpful when you’re in a humid location like the southeastern USA and are staying parked for long stretches of time.
When possible, try to park your RV in a sunny and dry location, if you can find one. You should also try to avoid leaving wet clothes or towels lying around and keep your RV well-ventilated to keep moisture (and bugs!) out.
Try natural pest control methods
If you want to avoid using chemical pest control products, you can try natural methods like essential oils, dryer sheets, or kill-free mouse traps. Peppermint tea, mothballs, or tea tree oil may repel some pests, and citrus peels have shown some promise at keeping ants and other insects at bay. Cedar chips can be used to repel moths and some other insects. Vinegar-based solutions may work for some insects and spiders as well.
Diatomaceous earth, a powder made from fossilized algae, can also be used, as it dries some pests out and kills them when they come into contact with it. You can dust your leveling jack pads and the area under your RV with it if you’re going to be parked outside in the same place for a while. It’s especially helpful against fleas, ticks, ants, cockroaches, slugs, and even bed bugs within 48 hours of contact. Diatomaceous earth is natural and food-grade, but it can irritate your airway and eyes, so be sure to wear a face mask and safety glasses when you’re spreading it. Don’t forget to reapply after rain or washing your RV.
Natural pest control methods are cost-effective and definitely worth trying, especially as preventative measures, but they may not be as effective as chemical repellents, especially once an infestation occurs.
Break out the big guns
Pest control products, like traps, baits, sprays, and chemical repellents, are highly effective and usually inexpensive. Many of these are toxic for people as well, so you’ll want to choose a pesticide that is safe to use in an RV, follow the instructions carefully, and store them out of the reach of children. Never use a pesticide that is not labeled for use in an RV.
Ortho Home Defense insect killer eliminates pesky home-invading insects like ants, cockroaches, spiders, fleas, ticks, scorpions, beetles, centipedes, and silverfish and has proven effective in even the buggiest locales, like, say, Florida. Liquid ant killers, like those made by TERRO, are insect trap bait stations that allow ants and spiders to drink or lick the poison and take it back to their nests.
If all else fails, call in the professionals
Professional pest control specialists or exterminators are an option, especially if you’re dealing with a poisonous pest or one you’re not familiar with. Be aware of the products they use, as some may need to air out for a very long time or should not be used in an RV at all.
Undeterred by the real-life content of this post and still ready to purchase your own RV?
You are a true adventurer! Come on down to a Transwest location near you and talk to one of our friendly and helpful staff members or shop our online inventory to find the best RV for your next great (hopefully pest-free) adventure. We carry only the highest quality coaches (sans roaches) and more from top manufacturers, and we live to help you roam.