Reduce the mess — and the slippery slopes — with near-waterless fiberglass roof cleaning
Cleaning the roof of a motorhome is never a particularly easy task, but some ways of keeping it clean are easier than others. In the May 2010 issue (“Winning the Battle With Rooftop Mold and Mildew”) we covered some products and tips for cleaning a one-piece fiberglass roof that required the use of a water hose and various cleaners. Since then we have continued to search for better, easier ways of conquering this task and we found a new method that is waterless. We should point out that waterless cleaning doesn’t mean dry; rather, this method no longer requires access to running water. In fact, no water is required at all.
The disadvantages of the traditional way of cleaning a fiberglass motorhome roof are many. First, you need access to running water, and also to be in a place that allows you to use running water for washing your coach. Since many RV parks don’t allow rig washing onsite, that alone relegates the procedure to your driveway or other areas where washing is allowed. The next problem is that while you are on the roof cleaning off all that mold and mildew, it invariably gets rinsed away with the water hose and down the side of your motorhome — which usually means streaks and residue are left on the paint and extra care is required. Another disadvantage is that with the traditional hose-down method you are forced to do the entire job at once or else be faced with lugging the water hose and other products up and down the ladder multiple times. Then of course there is the issue of safety. Walking around on a wet, slippery roof is tricky at best and requires extreme caution.
When using the waterless method, all of those disadvantages are alleviated. We recently tried a number of cleaners from a company that produces a waterless cleaning product called Wash Wax All (www.washwax.com) that we tested in the May 2011 issue (“Getting the Dirt Off”). Many of the company’s products are used in the aviation industry, where cutting heavy dirt and crud from large aircraft is the norm. After reading about its line of aircraft cleaners, we contacted the company and asked if its product would work on a fiberglass roof — without hesitation, we were met with a resounding “Yes!”
We ordered a few bottles of each of the heavy-duty cleaners, Wash Wax All Degreaser and Belly Wash. The Belly Wash is aimed at the dirtiest areas when nothing else seems to work and is safe for aluminum and fiberglass, which makes it perfect for a typical fiberglass roof. We also ordered the Aero Scrubber pad and handle, which is manufactured to work with these cleaners as well as removing bugs from the front of a motorhome (with the Wash Wax All product) and other really dirty or hard-to-clean areas. Each cleaner has specific uses, so make sure you follow the directions to prevent any issues with using the wrong one on paint or sensitive plastics.
After trying countless products in an attempt to clean a motorhome roof using a waterless method, we had all but given up until these arrived. Nothing we tried would cut through the months of mold, mildew and road grime that had accumulated and, frankly, we didn’t think these would either.
As a trial run we went on the rooftop of the motorhome (again, safety here can’t be stressed enough) carrying nothing other than the two bottles of cleaner along with an Aero Scrubber pad and a few microfiber towels. First, we sprayed a small area with the “red” degreaser and started scrubbing with the pad. Within a few swipes of the pad we could already see the dirt and grime begin to dissolve. After a few moments of scrubbing we then used a clean microfiber cloth to wipe up the residue. All that was left was a bright white and clean section of fiberglass roof. Since time didn’t allow that day to clean the whole roof, we had some time to carve out a plan. In doing so, we quickly realized that this was a huge advantage in waterless cleaning. Since you no longer have to haul the water hose and worry about runoff from the roof and/or soiling the painted sides of your motorhome, you can clean as much or as little of the roof as your schedule (or physical limitations) allow. That alone makes this a much easier and more convenient way of cleaning a motorhome roof.
And, since many of us are still employed and our time for coach maintenance is limited to periods after work and on weekends, we decided to tackle the rest of the job on a weeknight after work to see how long it would take. If you are a full-timer in an RV resort this method allows you the flexibility of getting up each morning and cleaning a small section before the sun is bearing down on you, or waiting until near sunset and working to beat the darkness.
The very dirty roof shown in these photos is on a 36-foot Tiffin Phaeton motorhome. To completely clean the roof as well as the HVAC covers, skylights and satellite dish cover (we used the red Degreaser on them), it took almost 32 ounces of each of the products shown. The Degreaser sells for $14.95 for 32 ounces (less expensive per ounce if you buy a gallon) and the Belly Wash is $13.95 for 16 ounces (we used two), or $39.95 for a half gallon. Our total chemical cost was a very reasonable $42.85.
On most areas of the roof, the red Degreaser worked just fine, but on the really stubborn areas we resorted to the heavy-duty Belly Wash instead. Both are really good cleaners, but if you are going to only use one and your rig’s roof is heavily soiled, you should probably opt for the Belly Wash. Although it is more costly, it simply cleans better. Some areas may need to be scrubbed twice depending on the degree of cleaning needed.
[ Micro Mania ]
We used a lot of microfiber towels, so we suggest you buy a large pack at a local warehouse club like Sam’s Club or Costco, or at Camping World. Since you are just mopping up the residue off the roof there is no need to buy a really expensive microfiber towel.
After each session we washed the dirty (and they were VERY dirty) microfiber towels in a (home) washing machine in hot water and they bounced back for subsequent days on the job with no signs of distress. If you are full-timing you may want to wash these towels somewhere other than your built-in washer. After wiping each area dry, the towels actually take the majority of the moldy, dirty mess, so make sure you have plenty. It’s also a good idea to have something to place them in on the roof, like a bag or a nonabrasive container; otherwise the dirty towels will contaminate the areas that were just cleaned.
Aero Cosmetics Products
800-927-4929 | http://washwax.com