Cleaning the inside houseboat hull, there's a stale foul water smell

by Jeff Villwock
(Buford, GA)

A typical slime (stale water) covered interior boat hull

A typical slime (stale water) covered interior boat hull

Our houseboats air conditioning condenser pump failed. By the time we knew there was a problem there is quite a smell of stale water.


The water accumulated on the bottom of the hull, below all the floor decking. I have used gallons of water with Clorox to kill the slime. I have then use the bilge pump to pump out all the Clorox water.

Also tried to hand clean the small areas at the front and the back of the boat where I have access. Our houseboat is an 85 x 16' Starlite.

Any thoughts as to what else we can be doing to eliminate this odor?

Thanks for any help, Jeff.


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Reply - Answer


Hi Jeff, thanks for posting your question in our houseboat forums. Together as a community, we'll see if we can solve your issue.

I personally have had the same type of problem with long-standing, stale water in the bilge (or interior hull) and the smell can get quite annoying.

I don't know if my situation will solve yours, but I would surely give it a try. I think what you did with the Clorox is a great idea, and you may have to do it again to completely remove any mold, mildew, and bacteria from the hull surface.

I know it was a lot of work to get down there and hose it all down and extract all the water from the bilge, but it may be the only way to get the odor out.

The last thing that I needed to do was provide PLENTY of ventilation to continuously exchange the air below the deck. I even added a few of those "gel-type" air freshners to temporarily mask the odor until I managed to rid the problem.

I also (for a long term solution) installed two "air scooper" style vents into the hull (below deck) to provide constant ventilation to the area below deck. The vents will grab the outside air/wind, and funnel it into one end of the below deck area, and have it exit out of the other end.

This way the wind can blow from basically any direction, and it ventilates / exchanges the stale air from the bilge (lower hull area).


Lastly, hopefully some of our readers and visitors will share and post comments about their related STALE WATER / FOUL AIR SMELL houseboat experiences and tips.

Feel free to use the CLICK HERE TO POST COMMENTS link found near the bottom of this page.

Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Cleaning the inside houseboat hull, there's a stale foul water smell

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Foul bilge smell
by: Lee Davis.

Personally I would be afraid the bleach may leave corrosion on a aluminum or steel hull. I have used Mr Clean and or 97 cent lemon scent ammonia from Wal-Mart. Very tough on breathing.

Since you have used bleach I would not recommend ammonia because if any bleach residue still remains it could be life threatening. Ammonia and a long handled brush mixed with a little soapy water works great. Then come behind with Mr Clean for a fresh smell and a second cleaning as well.

Also I had one case of bad anodes in a hot water heater leaving rotten odors from the water system that didn't help any either. I also use Mr Clean in the holding tanks instead of the dreaded (my pet peeve) holding tank treatment - camper stink smell.

Good Luck, Lee

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Thanks IAN
by: Jeff Villwock

Thanks Ian for your comments. I've used some diluted bleach with a few gallons of water and it started to make a difference. I've now bought a couple of gallons of bleach and will bring a hose down to the hull. Hopeful this will truly flush the hull.

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