Care and Cleaning of Your RV
You Might As Well Do It the Easy Way
By Warren Petkovsek
OK, you know that your RV is dirty and you know that it has to get cleaned up somehow. You also know that if you look around you won’t find a crowd of people standing in line offering to do it for you so that means that you have to do the job yourself. Being lazy by nature I have worked hard to find the easy way to do big jobs like this and I will now share my experiences with you so please read on.
Any of the products or suggestions mentioned here can also be used on your vehicles, boats, motorcycles and ATVs so you can also save time and work on those jobs. Here we go.
Let’s start out with washing the RV. It is very important to get all of the dirt off before you do any kind of polishing or even before you dry off the rig because residual dirt particles will scratch the finish and produce a dull and lifeless appearance over time so get the dirt off! You will simply wash an RV the same way that you would wash a car. Any commercially available car wash detergent will be fine. I use Turtle Wax Zip Wax Car Wash. It’s no substitute for a good wax job, but it does do a good job of cleaning. Other products like Blue Coral, Meguire’s or Mother’s (to name a few) will do just as well so find something that you like and stick with it. This next point is very important. NEVER NEVER NEVER use dish washing detergent or laundry detergent to wash your RV or other vehicles. It will strip off your wax and repeated use will leave the finish dull. Use only car washing detergent that is designed for the job. When you wash start at the top and work down. That way you will get all the dirt off as you go. I use a wash brush with a telescoping handle so that I can reach everything without a ladder. I do have a ladder and I’ll talk about that later. In order to expedite the drying process I have a long handled squeegee to get most of the water off. I got mine at Wal Mart, but you can make your own by using an automotive windshield wiper blade attached to a broom handle (you can figure that one out). I finish drying things off by using a thing called “The Absorber”. This is better than the expensive chamois skins that have been used by detailers for years. It will pick up a lot of water even when it’s wet and it saves a lot of work. It can be found everywhere that automotive accessories are sold. What about the RV that has been sitting out in the elements and has some black streaks or even green slime? Here’s my recipe for a cleaner that will wash that nasty rig and leave it shining like new. Mix one cup ammonia, one half cup vinegar and one quarter cup baking soda in a gallon of hot water. You may want to double or even triple this mixture because of the size of your RV. This will strip all the dirt, slime and streaks right off and will leave a nice shine. It will also strip off any wax, but there probably wasn’t much wax if any to start with so that’s a minor point. Some elbow grease may be necessary to get off all the black streaks. A friend of mine got the streaks off of his rig by using Easy Off Oven Cleaner. It worked for him, but BE CAREFUL! Try the oven cleaner on an inconspicuous spot and make sure that it won’t hurt your finish. He also used a Bar-B-Q grill scrubber; use that at your own risk too.
What about road tar, bugs and other nasty things? There are products available for things that can’t be removed by normal washing, but charcoal starter or even WD-40 will work just as well. Just be sure to wash and rewax the area afterwards.
You keep hearing me talk about waxing the RV and you’re thinking, “OH NO! He can’t be serious!” Well, I’m afraid so. Nothing will protect and beautify your RV or vehicles like a good coat of wax, but don’t panic just yet. Remember, I told you in the beginning that I was fundamentally lazy by nature so I’ve found the easy way to do this job too. There is a product called “ProtectAll All Surface Care”. It contains carnuba wax and comes in a 16 ounce pump spray bottle. It can be found wherever RV supplies are sold, but I like it so well that I order it by the gallon from Camping World. This stuff is so easy I couldn’t believe that it worked as well as it does. You just spray on a small amount and spread it around with a rag and then immediately buff it with a dry rag. It doesn’t dry to a haze like traditional waxes so it doesn’t hurt if you get some in a crevice and can’t reach it with your rag. That’s why detailers like it so much. The company advertises that ProtectAll will reduce the time and effort required to wash the RV by up to 60% and I’ve found this to be true. Dirt comes off much easier and black streaks require a lot less effort. By the way, this is why I have purchased a 10 foot step ladder. I can safely reach the high places on my fifth wheel with it and other jobs like going up on the roof of my house are much easier and safer with this big step ladder than with an extension ladder.
ProtectAll also makes something called “Quick and Easy Wash”. This is an RV (or car) wash product that requires no rinsing. It works pretty well especially if you are in a camp site and can’t really use a water hose. I have used it to spot wash areas on an otherwise clean vehicle like when my dear wife finds a puddle immediately after I’ve washed her car. You can learn more about ProtectAll products by going to www.protectall.com .
OK, it’s time to talk about the finishing touches. I’ve found a product made by the Stoner Corp. called “Invisible Glass” and it does exactly what its name implies. I follow the directions and finish up by wiping the glass with a crumpled piece of newspaper and there are never any streaks. Invisible Glass also acts a little bit like “Rain X” and makes rain drops bead up and roll off of the windshield as you drive.
I confess that I don’t wash my fifth wheel’s rubber roof every time that the rig gets washed. It would probably be better if I did, but even I’ve got my limits on stuff like that. That job gets done two or three times a year and I use “ProtectAll Rubber Roof Cleaner” followed by “ProtectAll Rubber Roof Protector. There are other products out there that are probably fine, but this is what I’ve used and it works great. The roof can be washed with a sponge mop and the protectant can be applied the same way.
I had a hard time finding a product that was suitable for tires and trim. I knew that many traditional tire dressings are actually bad for the rubber and some don’t provide any protection from the UV rays in sunlight. I even tried the spray-on tire dressing that comes out of the can as a white foam and you then just let it run down the tire and dry. ‘Bad idea. At the first stop I found that ugly black spots were slung all over the front of the trailer by the tires. I’ll never use that stuff again! OK, what’s a guy to do? I stumbled across a product called “303 Aerospace Protectant” that can be used on rubber, plastic, vinyl and fiberglass. This stuff was developed specifically for aerospace and aviation applications where protection from UV rays is vitally important. I love to use it on tires because it doesn’t sling off black goo, it doesn’t look too shiny or greasy, and it lasts a long time. Unfortunately, I have yet to find this product at any department store, but it can be ordered from Camping World. You can get more information by going to www.303products.com .
When washing and waxing your rig it should be done under cover or in the shade. If that is not possible then do the shady side first and do the other side later in the day. I’m lucky because I have my rig under a car port that is so big that I can do all of these cleaning chores without hitching up and moving everything outside.
Well, that’s all for now. I got tired just thinking about all that work. Actually, the work isn’t that bad if you do what I’ve suggested and don’t wait too long between cleanings so that things don’t get too out of hand. Please do try your best to keep your RV looking good. You will be a lot more satisfied with it and it will last much longer as well as keep a higher resale value.
Warren Petkovsek has been an avid RVer for over several decades. He lives
in Lumberton, Texas with his wife Myra. A former teacher, band director and
professional musician, Warren is now retired from the petrochemical industry.
In addition to being a freelance writer he is also a school volunteer, a Texas
State Park volunteer and has been a Boy Scout Leader for many years.
Warren would be delighted to answer any RV related questions that you
may have and would be delighted to send you some or all of his other articles.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .