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Like any vehicle, your RV will need to be cleaned on occasion, with the exterior maintained as thoroughly as the mechanical workings of the vehicle. This will assure you of more years of enjoyment out of your rig, as washing the RV provides an opportunity to spot any irregularities or damage and to repair them before they become a problem.
But just the thought of washing a recreational vehicle can be daunting. After all, some rigs (like ours) are huge! How do you go about washing something that resembles a cargo container? Let’s review!
The Challenges of Washing an RV
There are a number of reasons that washing your RV can be intimidating. Here are some of the most frequent challenges faced when cleaning the exterior of your RV:
The Size of Your RV
The sheer size of many Class As, 5th wheels and travel trailers can stop you in your tracks. Will you need several ladders to access different parts of the RV? How many people does it take to wash it?
You might think a pressure washer would cut down the time needed to wash your home-on-wheels, but in some cases, they may make things worse, by tearing off decals and paint.
Paint and Decals
Speaking of which, how can you wash the sides of your RV, which are usually covered in paint and decals, especially if it is an older model? Will the paint run or the decals start disintegrating?
Do you wash with the awnings open or closed? Some awnings need special care and others can be washed with your RV. Also, you’ll want to consider how dirty your awning is. Maybe it needs more love. Check out our article How to Safely Clean an RV Awning before diving into this task.
Is it okay if the slide gaskets get wet? Should I wash the RV with the slides out? You can wash your RV with slides out, but it will take more time! We like to imagine anything that can handle rain, can handle a washing. Just be sure to not soak areas like the vents to your fridge, furnace, other open places.
Rims and Wheels
Do RV tires need special treatment? From what we’ve discovered, no. You can wash your RV tires much like your car or truck tires.
Pro Tip: Want to give your whole RV a good cleaning? Check out these RV Cleaning Products Every Experienced RVer Owns!
Do I really have to climb up on the roof to wash it completely? How do I get rid of black (or white) streaks? Not is only cleaning your RV roof key but properly maintaining it is extremely important. Be sure to know what type of roof you have so you know what products are safe for it.
Steps to Washing an RV
- First, you’ll want to plan ahead and gather supplies, which should include:
- Extendable brush
- Cleaning soap
- Wash and wax degreaser
- Dryer sheets
- Washer mit
- 5-gallon bucket
- Microfiber cloths
- Liquid wax
- Pressure washer or hose with a trigger on it
- Roll up your awning, cleaning it at another time with a vinegar mixture or occasionally with bleach and water. These solutions may not be the best for the rest of your RV, so schedule awning cleaning on the day before your RV wash.
- Decide if you will be closing your slides. If you’re short on time, you might want to close your slides but leave them open if you’re doing a deep clean.
- Spray rinse the undercarriage of your vehicle to the best of your ability. Newer units might benefit from a pressure wash but beware of using it on older units. The most thorough way to clean the undercarriage of grease and grime is in a professional truck wash, like Blue Beacon.
- Using wash and wax degreaser and a soft brush, wash the tires first. This will avoid any overspray onto clean RV panels. You may want to use a tire shine spray to give your tires a “new” look. Then use a soft mitt to wash the wheels and wipe all dry before moving on to washing the coach.
- Wash your RV in the shade or on a cool overcast day so soap and wax don’t dry on it. Start at the top by safely climbing on the roof with the brush, soap, and hose. Mix soap with water in a bucket and dip brush into the mixture, then scrub roof as you work out from the front and middle toward the back and sides. Scrub a small portion, then hose off the soap, moving to the next section.
- When the roof is complete, climb down and start at the front of the RV, using a dryer sheet and a little water to scrub off bugs from the grill and windshield. You will, most likely, need a ladder to get to the top of the windshield to scrub. Once bugs are off, use extendable brush and soap and water mixture (or pressure washer with a 25-degree tip if you have a newer RV with no decal damage) to clean the front in sections, hosing off the soap with water before it dries.
- After that, work your way around the RV to each side and back, doing a smaller section at a time with the soap and water mixture and extendable brush, and rinsing with the hose or pressure washer.
- When you have completed washing the entire exterior, let it dry. Then apply a coat of liquid wax section by section. Let the wax sit for about 30 seconds, then buff it dry with a microfiber cloth.
Professional Cleaning Services
Lastly, if washing your RV is overwhelming or you don’t have the equipment, space or desire to do it yourself, there are a few options.
- Hire a professional RV detail service that will come to your home or campsite and take care of everything, top to bottom. You will have to provide the water, but they will bring everything else needed to make your recreational vehicle shine like new. This can be a half or whole day affair and will be a bit costly, but will save you time and effort.
- Take your RV to a truck wash like Blue Beacon. These are normally located near truckstops and along interstates, and skilled workers wash the rig for you. They will rinse, but not scrub the roof of your RV, however. It’s not expensive and it’s not perfect, but it will get the grime and dirt off your motorhome.
In conclusion, you can see there are a few ways to keep your recreational vehicle clean even while you’re traveling to the countryside. It’s imperative to keep it running well too. If you routinely remove road dirt and grease that could hinder normal usage and fix any small problems before they become big ones. A clean rig will also give you pride in your investment!