Cleaning Products

If you only brushed your teeth once a year, they wouldn’t look very good, and they probably
wouldn’t last very long. The same applies to the exterior of a motorhome. It needs periodic
attention because it is constantly bombarded by one form of contaminant or another, and
these elements can damage nearly every kind of surface found on a motorhome. Fiberglass,
aluminum, chrome, glass, plastic and rubber all suffer from the environment. Microscopic
particles of dust, layers of road grime, globs of tree sap and atmospheric chemicals, such
as acid rain, take their toll. The motorhome owner can either watch his vehicle
deteriorate, or he can get some appropriate products and go to work. Fortunately, today’s
technology has made the job somewhat easier than in the past. New products are less
labor-intensive. But you can’t polish or wax a filthy surface without causing damage, so
you have to start with a thorough cleaning. Before we go any further, one thing to be aware
of is that the treatment of a painted surface is different than the treatment of a gelcoat
fiberglass or bare aluminum surface. Processes that employ abrasives should not be used on
unpainted fiberglass or aluminum because slight surface damage may result. The same goes
for painted surfaces that have a clear coat. Use only nonabrasive products on these
surfaces. All painted surfaces (except clear coat) can be treated alike. It is the paint
you are cleaning, polishing, waxing, etc., not the surface beneath the paint. So from that
standpoint, it doesn’t matter if the paint is on aluminum, steel or fiberglass. Unpainted
aluminum has a protective coating that should only be washed, not deep cleaned, polished or
waxed. Over time, this coating may degrade and need to be replaced professionally. With all
these new products on the market, keeping your motorhome looking as good as new is easier
than ever these days. And, cleaning it regularly will extend the life of your
investment-on-wheels at the same time. The first step in the cleaning process is washing.
Even this simple procedure must be done properly, using the correct products. Because
washing with household detergents containing alkali or ammonia can harm the surface,
special car-wash products have been developed that remove dirt and grime without removing
the previous wax job. Some products even combine a wash-and-wax all in one process. An
example of such a specialty product is Eagle One Wet Car Wash. Not only is it safe for use
on vehicle surfaces, but the company claims it renews a wax shine, restores wax protection
and inhibits corrosion and oxidation. This product contains Teflon, which Eagle One says
enhances plating and durability, providing additional protection from hard-water spots and
bird droppings. Meguiar’s Car Wash Shampoo and Conditioner, designed for those who wash
often, protects and enhances the finish and won’t strip off wax protection, according to
Meguiar’s. The company claims: “The totally pH-balanced formula provides special
conditioners to neutralize deposits and promotes water sheeting to make drying easier and
spot-free.” Protect All offers its Quick & Easy Wash, which the company says eliminates
the need for a hose or for rinsing. Simply mix a capful of the solution with each two
quarts of water and apply with a sponge or cloth. Wash the vehicle one section at a time,
and dry that section immediately with a chamois or a clean towel. It leaves no soapy film,
streaks or spots, and won’t remove wax, according to the company. General washing calls for
using a supply of soft cloths or a wash mitt or two. To avoid transferring grime from one
part of the vehicle to another, try using one wash mitt for the upper part of the rig and a
second one for the dirtier lower region. Rinse the dirty mitt or cloth frequently, and make
sure it doesn’t pick up abrasive particles of grit that can damage the surface. Never place
the mitt on the ground. To help prevent spotting, wash the coach in a shady area, or do the
job either early or late to avoid the heat of the day. Work from the top down, washing and
rinsing as you go, to keep the wash solution from drying on the surface. Use a light spray
of water, rather than a strong stream, to avoid forcing grime behind body trim or into
window and door seams. Gently dry with a soft, clean chamois or towel to prevent the
formation of water spots. Dry glass and metalwork first, since these are the areas that
readily show spotting. After the vehicle has been washed and dried, deeper cleaning may be
needed. The folks who manufacture the Meguiar’s line of care products recommend a procedure
they call the “smooth-as-glass” test to determine if the surface has significant
contamination and needs to be deep cleaned. After washing and drying the vehicle, run your
fingertips over its surface; it should feel as smooth as glass — with no roughness. If the
surface doesn’t pass the test, it’s time for deeper cleaning. On appropriate surfaces, a
finish restorer may be used as part of the deep-cleaning process. Milder than a rubbing
compound, a finish restorer removes grime and oxidation, exposing the true color of the
paint. Instructions vary with different products, so read and follow the directions
carefully. Typically these products are intended to be applied gently in a circular motion
with a soft cloth. After drying, they are buffed to remove residue. Hard rubbing is not
recommended. For seriously deteriorated paint surfaces, rubbing compounds may be used.
Caution: Do not use rubbing compounds on flat-black paint, wood panels, vinyl, plastic,
unpainted aluminum or fiberglass. Extreme care must be employed when working with rubbing
compounds; if they are used too vigorously, they will remove good paint along with bad.
Rubbing compounds can also be used to remove scratches and stains from painted or
chrome-plated finishes. Work on clean, dry, cool surfaces. Apply sparingly and evenly,
rubbing in a straight line with just enough pressure to remove oxidized paint, stains or
scratches. Buff lightly with a clean, dry cloth. Detailing clay is sometimes used to remove
embedded contaminants, such as sap, paint overspray, etc. Use the clay in conjunction with
a mist-and-wipe solution, such as Meguiar’s Quik Detailer, to keep the paint moist and
lubricated during the process. Bug-and-tar remover will clean grease, bugs and road oil
from glass, paint and polished metal surfaces without damaging standard automotive paint.
It is also effective in cleaning tree sap from the finish. Polishes are different from
waxes. Polish is like a paint conditioner that restores valuable oils to the paint and
leaves a glistening shine, but does not leave a wax layer over the paint. As with wax
application, polish should be applied only with a circular motion to clean, dry and cool
surfaces. Polishing may, in some sense, be considered part of the deep-cleaning process
because oxidized paint will be removed by the polish and retained in the cloth. It’s a good
idea to keep several cloths on hand, so you can work with a clean one at all times. Overlap
areas being worked to ensure coverage of all body panels. After the polish dries to a haze,
remove the residue by buffing with a clean cloth. Eagle One Wet-Look Car Polish is a
Teflon-enhanced product that the company says results in a brilliant wet-look shine, fills
swirl marks and resists water spots and bird droppings. It also is claimed to be safe for
use on clear-coat surfaces. Protect All Fiberglass Oxidation Remover and Color Restorer is
a moderately abrasive liquid polish and wax that is specifically formulated to remove
light-to-medium oxidation and to restore color, shine and luster to motorhomes and other
vehicles. After thoroughly cleaning and polishing the vehicle, many people finish up with a
wax job to protect the paint from the elements. It will last longer and look better. Waxes
should be applied in the shade to a cool surface, using a clean, soft, damp or dry (follow
product recommendations) terry cloth. A separate soft, clean terry cloth should be used to
lightly buff the wax after it has had time to dry to a haze. Turn the buffing cloth
frequently and shake out the residue as needed. A type of product known as cleaner-wax is
milder than rubbing compound, yet it can remove minor stains and oxidation. Cleaner-waxes
offer a one-step process that rids the painted surface of oxidation and stains while
coating it with a protective wax. The durability of a wax job is evident by watching water
bead on the surface. When water no longer beads, it’s definitely time to apply a new coat.
When doing so, there is a temptation to use a mechanical buffer to make the job faster and
easier. The good news is that using an orbital buffer properly is perfectly OK, but avoid
rotary buffers because it’s too easy to damage the surface. For the same reason, don’t use
a buffing pad driven by a drill motor. Rubber roofs need a bit of special attention to keep
them looking fresh. As the material (EPDM) weathers, a powdery “chalk” may be created.
Although this is no structural threat to the roof, it washes off the roof and makes ugly
streaks down the sides of the motorhome. To remove the chalking from the roof, use borax or
other mild abrasive cleaner, a medium-bristle brush and plenty of water. Protect All Rubber
Roof Cleaner is said to remove the buildup of dirt, roof chalk and airborne pollutants with
use of a sponge mop and a bucket of water or, in stubborn areas, a soft-bristled brush.
Periodically inspect the roof to detect whether or not the chalking condition returns. If
it does, clean the roof as before, then treat it with a suitable protectant. Although EPDM
is resistant to ultraviolet degradation, products such as 303 Aerospace Protectant are
formulated to help prolong the material’s life. Black streaks are similar to chalky
streaks. They result from roof-borne contaminants and tarnish from roof-mounted metal
fixtures. Stubborn though they are, they can be removed by using an appropriate cleaner.
The important thing is to prevent them from returning, once you have removed them. This
requires constant cleaning of the roof and affected walls. Keeping the exterior sides as
smooth as glass with a healthy coat of wax helps prevent the residue discoloring. There are
a number of black-streak remover products on the market, available at local RV-supply
stores. These products usually are sprayed onto the streak; then the surface is wiped clean
with a soft cloth.. To remove tarnish and minor corrosion, a metal polish is the product of
choice. These compounds are rubbed gently on the metal surface and then buffed off. Read
the instructions carefully because some products specify that care must be taken to prevent
the polish from drying on the surface before being removed. Wheel cleaners are available in
liquid or paste form. The liquid cleaners are easier to use because all that is required is
to spray the product on the wheels, wait the specified time and then hose off with water.
Paste cleaners are applied much like paste wax and require some rubbing and buffing.
However, stubborn grime may demand scrubbing, even with spray-on/hose-off liquid cleaners.
Some liquid cleaners employ a two-stage system in which two solutions are used, the second
neutralizing the action of the first. Caution: Not all wheel cleaners will work on all
wheels. Some chrome cleaners will damage aluminum or magnesium wheels; other products are
specifically formulated for these materials. Read the labels carefully before you buy.
Eagle One offers A2Z All Wheels Cleaner, a spray-on, hose-off product that the manufacturer
says is safe for all wheels. Hydroxyacetic acid and oxalic acid are employed in this
solution, so caution is advised during use. In fact, many metal cleaners contain acid
blends, so caution is recommended during their application. The Magic Mix line,
manufactured by Valco Cincinnati, includes a product called Aluminum Brightener, which is a
blended acid solution containing sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. It is intended to be
diluted and is for use on nonpolished aluminum. For especially difficult metal-cleaning
projects, Magic Mix Metal Prep/Cleaner can be used as a prelude to applying the company’s
Metal Polish. A nonacidic approach to metal cleaning is taken by Meguiar’s All Metal
Polish, which utilizes a blend of specialized abrasives to break through metal oxidation to
clean and remove tarnish, surface rust, oxidation and corrosion. This product, a paste, is
rubbed into the surface until a shine begins to appear; then the surface is wiped with a
clean terry cloth. No Touch Deep Purple wheel cleaner contains no harmful acids or toxins,
according to the manufacturer. Deep Purple’s formula is said to clean, shine and protect
wheels, rims and hubcaps, as well as remove brake dust, grime and dirt. Someone once told
us about a method for keeping a windshield free of rain by cutting an onion in half and
smearing it across the glass. Alas, we’ve never tried it. These days, there are products
that very effectively keep glass clean and clear of water or other debris. Rain-X is one of
these, and No Touch Rain Shield is another. Of course, before treating the glass with these
special solutions, it’s necessary to thoroughly clean the surface. The numerous glass
cleaners on the market are all used in the same manner: Simply spray on and wipe off with a
lintfree cloth or paper towel. Some glass cleaners should not be used on windows to which a
film-type window tint has been applied. However, Eagle One 20/20 Auto Glass Cleaner is one
of the products that are reported by their manufacturers to be safe for use on tinted-film
windows. Technology has made it possible for manufacturers to offer some exterior-care
products that seem to transcend traditional techniques. There are now “quickie shine”
formulas that are promoted as the way to make the outside of a motorhome look good. Take
Meguiar’s Quik Wax, for example. According to Meguiar’s, this is made for those who want
superior protection, but don’t have the time to wax their vehicles. The manufacturer says
Quik Wax is a paint enhancer that conditions and protects, deepens the color and adds
gloss. It goes along with the company’s Quik Detailer, a mist-and-wipe product that is
claimed to be the missing link between washing and waxing. From Valco Cincinnati comes Fast
Shine, “a light cleaner for a quick, professional shine.” The company says you can just
spray it on and wipe it off to clean fingerprints, water spots, bird droppings, bugs, dust
and light dirt without leaving a residue. And it can be used in direct sun and on hot
surfaces without streaking or spotting, according to the company. Eagle One offers Wipe ‘n’
Shine, which “cleans, shines and protects all exterior surfaces.” Instructions direct not
to use this on extremely dirty surfaces. Simply spray a light mist on a soft, clean cloth
and apply to the surface in a circular motion. Then turn the cloth over and buff until dry.
Protect All’s All-Surface Care is a product designed to polish, wax, treat and protect in
one easy step. The nonabrasive cream contains a carnauba-wax formula designed to create a
durable and lustrous shine on all types of automotive paints, fiberglass, aluminum, chrome,
stainless steel, glass, Plexiglas and more. According to instructions, just apply a small
amount to an area and wipe immediately with a clean dry cloth. The manufacturer says
Protect All creates a slick, antistatic surface, so dirt and grime won’t stick.

  • Buffalo Milke Automotive Polishing Products Inc., P.O. Box 1955, Pleasanton,
    California 94566; (888) GO-BUFFALO. Web site:
  • Eagle One Industries, 5927 Landau Court, Carlsbad, California 92008; (800)
  • Environmental Products of America Inc., 6247 Amber Hills Road, Birmingham, Alabama
    35210; (205) 951-5100. Web site:
  • Lexol Division of Summit Industries, P.O. Box 7329, Marietta, Georgia 30065; (800)
    241-6996. Web site:
  • Meguiar’s Inc., 17991 Mitchell S., Irvine, California 92614; (800) 854-8073. Web
  • Mothers, 5456 Industrial Drive, Huntington Beach, California 92649; (800) 221-8257.
    Web site:
  • Protect All Inc., 1910 E. Via Burton Street, Anaheim, California 92806; (800)
    322-4491. Web site:
  • 303 Products Inc., P.O. Box 966, Palo Cedro, California 96073; (530) 223-4303. Web
  • Valco Cincinnati, 411 Circle Freeway Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246; (513) 874-6550.
    Web site:
  • The Wax Shop, P.O. Box 10226, Bakersfield, California 93389; (800) 323-9192. Web


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