A sparkling motorhome, inside and out, protects your investment while showing pride of ownership
Of all the things that most mothers (and fathers) harp on while we’re growing up, keeping our room clean has to be near the top of the list. And it should be. Your immediate surroundings are often a direct reflection of your attitude and disposition, and a filthy room with dirty dishes, an unmade bed and empty pizza boxes can speak volumes about one’s true colors.
The same is true for your motorhome. Just because it stays outside doesn’t necessarily mean it should look like it came from a monthlong trek through the Dust Bowl. A little dirt here and there is fine from time to time, but if left unchecked, that unsightly mess can also break down the fiberglass, chrome, aluminum, rubber and other materials that comprise the exterior of your rig. And that’s not even mentioning the interior.
So, whether you’re waking up your motorhome from a long winter’s nap or just continuing your perennial RVing season, there really is no time like the spring to give your ride a thorough scrubbing, inside and out. Not only will it keep things looking good, but it will extend the life of the components and even help with resale value when you’re looking to trade up.
I generally begin the cleanup process with the exterior (you could go either way). The first thing you need to do is get the large chunks of grit and grime off the exterior. Although there are a few “waterless” washes available for when you’re at a campground that doesn’t allow traditional RV hose-downs, I’ve found the best way is in the driveway with an old reliable garden hose. Though this classic method of simply spraying the exterior remains effective, companies like Thetford, Camco and Carrand all offer devices that can be attached to the hose for additional washing power (with the added benefit of a cleaning solution in the mix).
If it’s a sunny day, try to find a shady area that won’t promote quick drying. Wear proper shoes (as you’ll likely need to scale a ladder to access the roof) and rinse the exterior, beginning with the roof so that any debris trickling down the side walls will then be rinsed away by subsequent spray-downs.
Once the majority of the gunk has been washed away, be certain the roof is suitable for walking and proceed with extreme caution. It’s also a good idea to have a helper standing by, just in case. When it comes to scrubbing the roof, there’s little substitute for elbow grease. Using a brush (or other cleaning tool) like the ones from Camco, Rain-X or Carrand, is a must. You could also opt for an all-in-one kit, such as the Love Bug Eraser RV Roof Cleaning Kit. And depending on the type of roof (fiberglass, TPO or rubber), there’s a cleaner available designed for this type of use. Because the roof is so exposed to the elements, you’d be surprised at the amount of soil, leaves, bugs and bird droppings that have taken up residence just above your head. Take your time, and be sure to check the sealant condition around roof vents, satellite and broadcast antennas and air conditioners. Now is a good time to scrape and reseal, if necessary.
Once the roof is bright and shiny, hose down the exterior again, and it’s time for another tried-and-true method: the old soap and bucket. But not just any soap, as many of the products available contain detergents that can strip any wax you’ve previously applied, or even harm the exterior. There is no shortage of RV-specific washes and waxes on the market, including those from Dometic, Protect All, Thetford, Voom!, Walex, et al. And, when using a cleaning product for the first time, be sure to try it out on a small, inconspicuous area of the exterior to make sure it won’t harm the skin. Buckets are available from many RV cleaning suppliers, and Camco makes a collapsible bucket that’s great for space saving.
The best method of this phase of the washing process is to do one section at a time (front, left, right, back), working from top to bottom. Motorhomes are big, and applying a washing solution to the whole motorhome before rinsing is a surefire recipe for streaks and water spots, dull finishes and swirl marks. Doing one section at a time also allows for any unexpected events that always seem to occur once a project like this has begun, such as grocery store trips, visits from relatives or neighbors, playoff games, etc. It’s good to have an “out” should the need arise.
Again, elbow grease is the best method, and be sure to use caution when scrubbing around decals, as overzealous hands might damage the large stickers. Specialized RV awning cleaners are available from companies like Camco and Star brite.
After the washing is complete, you should immediately use a microfiber cloth or chamois to wipe off excess water. These are available at most RV accessories stores and most big-box retailers as well.
Once it’s all clean and dry, you may wish to add an additional “shine” product, such as one from Poli Glow, or a coat of wax from manufacturers such as Camco, Dometic, Star brite and Thetford. In many cases, the wax is mixed in with the washing solution, and could save you a considerable amount of time (but in our opinion, there’s no substitute for a separate, post-wash wax). Waxes can be applied by hand or with orbital buffers (we recommend some practice on small areas before going crazy). For even more sheen, Protect All makes an effective oxidation remover and restorer.
Glass cleaning comes next; completely cleaning a large motorhome windshield will likely require use of a ladder. Meguiar’s and Carrand’s Rain-X make good glass-cleaning solutions but, absent of those, an everyday residential glass cleaner should do the trick.
Finishing off the wheels and tires is a great way to make any motorhome look even cleaner. A stiff-bristled brush is generally the best way to remove brake dust, grit and road grime on the wheels. Pay special attention to the type of wheels (alloy, aluminum, etc.) and select a cleaner that is suitable for that particular finish (many wheel and tire cleaners and even some RV multipurpose cleaners should do the trick). When it comes to protecting tires, the main thing is to avoid any solution that includes petroleum distillates, as they can break down the compounds in the rubber over time and reduce the lifespan of your tires.
Stepping up into your rig, cleanup is likely a bit more familiar, as many of the methods mirror those of life in a stationary home. Begin with wiping down all the surfaces to remove any dust or solid materials. We like to save vacuuming for last so that we can remove any of the debris that may be dislodged during cleanup.
We start in the cockpit, and again the surfaces dictate the methods. If your motorhome has leather seats, it’s best to use leather cleaner and conditioner, which generally takes a bit longer but is necessary to keep the leather from cracking over time. Glass and dash cleaning will likely bring up familiar automotive names like Turtle Wax and Meguiar’s, in addition to RV-specific products from Drop-Off, Dometic and Thetford.
When it comes to countertops and cabinets, consult with the manufacturer as to which types of cleaners are acceptable. Multipurpose cleaners, like those from Drop-Off, Dometic, Thetford, Voom! and others should be used in small, inconspicuous areas (much like on the exterior) before total application to ensure they don’t damage the surface. Thetford’s Aqua-Clean has always worked well for us to remove hard-water and rust stains from countertops and sinks.
Appliances and furniture are often handled in exactly the same fashion as they are at home; just be sure to use the correct materials on their corresponding surfaces. There’s a neat product called the Fridge Coaster that acts as a liner on the refrigerator’s shelves, combating stains and nasty buildup before it sets in.
The lavatory should always be kept clean, and products like Dometic’s Toilet Bowl & Seal Cleaner help condition the delicate seals on the toilet and holding tank while it cleans. Multipurpose cleaners, or residential bathroom foams, are a good bet for the sink and counters. Spring cleaning time is also a great opportunity to clean your black tank from the inside. Using a product like Travel Jon Holding Tank Deodorizer/Cleaner helps eliminate odors while it cleans the tank. And you can finish off the interior with a fresh air-deodorizing spray, available from companies like Dometic, Monochem, Star brite and Walex.
Once your motorhome is spic-and-span, you’ll not only feel a sense of pride in that it looks as good as can be and the components are more likely to last longer, but other RVers will definitely notice your efforts. Cleaning up your act is a good way to show everybody you care, and is some of the best advice your mother ever gave you.
800-367-3245 | www.goldeagle.com/product/303-aerospace-protectant
800-347-5700 | www.meguiars.com
Mothers Car Care
714-891-3364 | www.mothers.com
Poli Glow Products Inc.
800-922-5013 | www.poliglow-int.com
Protect All Inc.
800-521-3032 | www.protectall.com
360-896-0407 | www.roadmasterinc.com
800-327-8583 | www.starbrite.com
800-543-1219 | www.thetford.com
800-338-3155 | www.walex.com
Worldwide Monochem, a division of Satellite Environmental LLC
512-267-5190 | www.satellite-environmental.com