Spring is coming. Whether you have been traveling all winter, or just hibernating in the South with other snowbirds, road grime, dust, bird droppings and other acts of nature have no doubt accumulated on your motorhome and maybe even your dinghy vehicle. To preserve their value, and make them more fun to drive, like any quality piece of equipment, you need to give them a little routine care.
Sure, you can run through an automated commercial truck wash, but if you’re even a little bit of a perfectionist like we are, you’re much better off doing a thorough spring cleaning yourself. We take our motorhome into some very muddy places, and over the years we have found specialized products that make the job faster and easier.
First, you need to rinse off the chunks. Soap comes later. For all the fancy gadgets out there, it’s hard to beat the ordinary garden hose hand sprayer. Carrand makes the Water Snake that can redirect the adjustable spray in any direction, which is great for getting under the frame. The telescoping wand and three-position off-hi-low thumb switch make reaching the roof easy without a ladder.
With the big stuff rinsed off, it’s time to move on to the fun part. A couple of years ago we found the Grit Guard bucket (the Grit Guard 3.5-Gallon System is $34.95). It has a big grate in the bottom that allows sand and grit to fall through instead of turning your wash mitt or brush into a piece of sandpaper. Great idea. Add soap and water. No worries.
We used Joy dishwashing detergent for years at the risk of stripping the wax off our paint. It works, but several companies have products specifically for washing vehicles. We have tried many of them, including Protect All Quick & Easy Wash, Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax, Mothers Marine Wash‘n Wax, Armor All Ultra Shine Wash & Wax, and Thetford Premium RV Wash & Wax. Some claim to be “rinse free” or “self-drying.” Maybe, but we prefer to rinse and dry by hand. We’re not in a hurry.
If your motorhome or dinghy is dirty, and I don’t mean just a little dust, you can’t clean it with a hose. You could use a rag, but there are special products that can vastly improve and speed up the job. Emgee/Clean Tools, Adjust-a-Brush and Carrand all offer great wash mitts made of some combination of natural wool, polyester and nylon. A bug sponge will help with the insect guts on your grille.
Wash mitts and gloves are important for details, but for big jobs like a full-size coach, a brush works wonders. Many companies make extendable brushes, including Adjust-a-Brush, Camco and Carrand. The Carrand Deluxe 10-inch Flow-Thru Wash Brush has a huge soft head that carries loads of soap and water, and the click-lock handle is super easy to adjust with wet hands. It has a long extension, and a three-position flow-through feature.
Carrand also offers a handy wash mitt that can be adapted to an extension pole. Trillium’s WhirlyWash ($29.95) is a water-powered, gear-driven soft bristle brush that attaches to any garden hose to wash anything, including RVs. It extends to more than 57 inches to reach sides of tall motorhomes, and includes a soap dispenser and an on/off/rinse valve.
When it comes time to deal with stuck-on bugs, Protect All, Thetford, and Rain-X make special bug and tar removers, but they’ll probably take off your last wax job, too. Got lovebugs? They’re really nasty. We’ve heard folks in Florida spray cooking oil on their hoods and grilles to keep the little buggers from sticking when a hatch occurs, but an application of RejeX ($14.95 for 12 oz.) is a much better method.
Using a selection of the products mentioned here can have you making 15 trips to the garage and back to your motorhome. A very cool tool is the Bucket Taxi ($59.95). It has big wheels that even roll on gravel, and little pockets for stuff like a wheel brush and a Water Blade, or a cold beer, and the center will carry a full bucket of soapy water. We just load it up and pull it behind us. If you like need more space, Grit Guard’s Universal Detailing Cart ($169.95) also has a holder for a 5-gallon bucket. Both can save you a lot of walking.
Next, and perhaps one of the most important steps, is drying. If you’ve done a good job with good-quality soap followed by a thorough rinse, gravity will do some of the work. In any case, grab a squeegee. Shurhold offers an assortment of squeegees as well as its SHUR-Dry Flexible Water Blade ($26.98), which molds to curved surfaces. The Water Blade can be used by hand, or inserted into an adapter for use with any Shurhold handle.
The old bath towel still has a place, but for the 10 percent of water a squeegee leaves behind, The Absorber by Emgee/Clean Tools or a Carrand Drying Towel are next in line. The Absorber has replaced all our chamois and the Carrand Drying Towel sucks up water like magic. Both can be tossed in the washing machine and reused hundreds of times. Zero lint!
Motorhomes have a lot of glass. For the outside, a good coat of Rain-X really does keep everything from sticking, even rain. If the glass is just a little dirty, one of the several spray cleaners will work. We especially like the Invisible Glass Cleaner by Stoner. The company now has an Invisible Glass with Rain Repellent. A great alternative is mixing 2 gallons of water, 1 cup of sudsy ammonia, 2 pints of rubbing alcohol and 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid. We use this with a 20-inch-long handle combination squeegee and scrubber. The mixture keeps for weeks. We carry the squeegee and scrubber on the road. It saves paper towels and having to use the greasy wash sticks often poking out of foul soups in service stations.
We all know how difficult it is to get the inside of a windshield clean. Now there are two products that make that awkward job almost fun. The in-Shield Wiper slips on the back of your hand, making those hard to reach corners a breeze. The Reach & Clean wand by Invisible Glass can clean where your hand has never gone. Especially for the inside glass, Invisible Glass Cleaner is a winner.
Tires & Wheels
Over the years, we have noticed an interesting phenomenon. If you can’t clean your motorhome, at least clean the tires and wheels. For some reason, clean rubber makes everything look better. There are several spray-on tire and wheel cleaners on the market that will remove most of the brake dust and road grime from rims with just a hose. A product that specifies both tires and wheels will make the job easier, and a good brush and elbow grease always helps. For getting into places where you may not want to stick your fingers, Carrand offers a selection of long round wheel brushes that are just right for cleaning around the spokes. If all else fails, our guaranteed tire cleaning method is a bead of Soft Scrub and/or a little Simple Green, with a stiff bristle brush and elbow grease. (Natural bristle is the best if you can find one.)
Once your tires are clean and dry, there are many products that will put the “new” back on old rubber. On the backside of a Michelin XZL truck tire, we tested products from Slime, Armor All, Simonize, Mothers, Vinylex and Turtle Wax. Personally, we don’t care for the shiny look produced by some, so Original Armor All, Armor All Gel, Vinylex by Lexol, Mothers Protectant, and Turtle Wax F21 gave us that “new tire” appearance. All require you to buff off the excess if you want that matte finish of new rubber. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, Carrand makes a tire dressing applicator that is convenient. The handy Wheel Shield keeps the spray off of the rims.
If you’ve let your aluminum wheels become scratched or pitted, there are some great tools and products that will give them back a blinding shine: X-Treem, Flitz-Polish and Mothers, to name a few. Flitz and Mothers have drill-powered buffing wheels. We really like the Mothers Cone PowerBall for getting into hard-to-clean spokes. Choosing the right polishing product can make all the difference.
Scratches & Headlight Lenses
If you have a few miles on your motorhome, chances are it has some nicks, scratches and rock hickies. Mothers, Turtle Wax, Quixx and Meguiar’s have kits that may help those ugly battle scars disappear. To avoid those problems in the first place, XPEL Paint Protection for grilles and hoods are custom-cut sections of special film that are easy to apply and they really work to keep bugs and gravel from nicking your paint. Many patterns are available for motorhomes.
Sunlight, UV rays, and the elements can degrade the plastic lenses of modern headlights just sitting in the campground, reducing their output by 30 percent or more. Several companies offer restoration kits. Those kits that use drill-powered buffing pads, like Flitz-Polish, Mothers and 3M, work the best. Once the headlight lens is cleaned and restored to its original clarity, XPEL makes precision custom cut, optically clear PVC headlight protection kits.
Now that everything is spiffed up, it’s time for a good wax job. There are so many choices from companies like Mothers, Protect All, Griots Garage, Thetford, Turtle Wax and Meguiar’s, it can boggle the mind.
Some products claim to do everything in one-step: wash, clean, wax and polish. Others may involve different products for each of those steps. Wax Shop Super Glaze is still one of our favorites. It’s fast, easy, and doesn’t leave a white residue on black trim. If you’re in a hurry, try one of the spray-on waxes from Meguiar’s, Mothers, Rain-X, Thetford and Turtle Wax. They all seem to really do a good job but may not last as long as those that require more work.
Often waxing and polishing amounts to how much work you want, how long do you want it to last and what results you want. That doesn’t mean you have to do the Mothers clay bar treatment, but if you do, you will be able to feel the difference.
With any wax, polish, cleaner or sealer, application is half the secret and often twice the work to do it right. Griot’s Garage has 3-inch and 6-inch Random Orbital polishing and buffing tools. Carrand now offers an Auto Spa buffer. All produce professional results without damaging the paint. We like to finish up with microfiber cleaning, drying and polishing cloths. You should have a few of these around before you start a wax job. If you use any kind of power polishing and buffing tool, you know cleaning the pads is a messy job. Grit Guard’s new Universal Pad Washer ($134.95) does the job in seconds.
Turning our attention to the inside, if you have a real leather interior, it needs special care. There are two cleaning methods: the one-step and the two-step. If you’re in a hurry, Meguiar’s one-step Gold Class leather foam will get the job done. We prefer the two-step Lexol method. Lexol Cleaner is used first, followed by Lexol Leather Conditioner which works great and smells good.
Cleaning the dash and instrument panel can be difficult with all its nooks and crannies. We recently discovered Cyber Clean, a weird kind of squishy synthetic membrane developed in Switzerland. When it is pressed on and into those impossible-to-reach places, like A/C vents and around radio buttons, it picks up dirt and dust like a magnet.
For the bigger areas our favorites are Lexol’s Vinylex, Turtle Wax F21, Mothers Vinyl & Rubber Care, and Armor All Gel Protectant. Vinylex seems to repel dust nicely and it’s the least shiny. Armor All Gel is convenient because there is no overspray. For small glass and plastic surfaces like auxiliary gauges and GPS screens, Invisible Glass offers mini Lens Wipes that clean without scratching. We carry a few in the glove box.
If you have carpet or cloth seats, there are options. Mothers and Super Green Naturals work well on moderate stains. WD-40 has a new Spot Shot carpet stain and odor eliminator, and a product called Carpet Fresh that removes odors. Frankly, keeping your interior clean is easier than cleaning them. For that purpose, Covercraft makes SeatGloves, SeatSavers and Sofa-Savers. Their durable polycotton fabric is easy-on/easy-off, and can be cleaned in the washing machine when they’re dirty.
In between heavy cleanings, keep your motorhome spruced up with a super-size duster like The Original California Truck/RV Duster ($39.99) that picks up dust like a magnet and has an extra-large dusting head. Bring back the shine with a spray-on detailer such as Meguiar’s Quik Detailer, Shurhold Serious Shine or Mothers California Gold Instant Detailer, which can be used with a microfiber cloth to produce quick results.
Most of this information has been about dirt, and how to get it off your motorhome, but the real trick is to keep it off in the first place. Most of us don’t have a garage big enough to store our coach, and even a garage has dust that paint attracts like flies on dead meat. The easy answer when you’re not on the road is to use a good cover like those made by ADCO or Covercraft. Our motorhome can sit for months under sun, rain, snow, tree pitch and bird droppings. When we pull back the cover, the most it might need is a quick pass with an Original California Car Duster.
So now you know a few of our spring cleaning secrets. It’s time to get to work! The only product missing is one that hasn’t hit the market yet: Instant Elbow Grease in a spray bottle!