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Ultimate RV Cleaning Guide

June 15, 2024

RVs are a great way to travel. For one thing, it gives you total flexibility; you can set your own schedule and go on pit stops along the way.

It’s also cheaper than other methods of travel. Not only do you not have to pay for airfare, but you don’t need a hotel room either – you can sleep in the comfort of your own vehicle.

If you want, you can even cook your own meals.

Like all vehicles, however, RVs do require regular maintenance and that includes cleaning the motorhome itself – both the interior and the exterior.

What are the best ways to maintain a clean RV? What products should you use? Which areas should you focus on? For the answers, be sure to keep reading.

We’ll be going over everything you need to know about cleaning a RV below.

How Often Should You Clean Your RV?

Cleaning the Exterior

how to clean an RVIdeally, you want to wash your RV’s exterior once every two weeks. Depending on how often you use it, however, you may need to clean it more often.

For example, if you’re living in it full-time, you may need to wash it once every week, sooner if it’s visibly dirty. That includes everything from the windows to the rims and awnings.

Many people also choose to clean and wax their RV after every trip.

Cleaning the Interior

As for the interior, it’s best to vacuum or sweep the floor and surfaces at least once a week. It’s also a good idea to sanitize the kitchen and bathroom facilities regularly.

Keep in mind, however, that that’s only a general guideline. For instance, if you have pets or small children on board, you may need to clean the inside more often.

Where Should You Wash Your RV?

Washing an RV is a lot different from washing a regular car. If anything, it’s more like washing a tiny house with wheels, which brings us to our next point – that is, you’ll need to find a proper space to wash it.

Here are some options:

Washing Your RV at Home

If you have the space, you can wash your RV at home. For example, you can park it outside the garage or on the driveway.

Just make sure you have a water supply that you can attach your garden hose to. You’ll also need a few brushes, a bucket, a ladder, and a cleaning solution (more on this later).

Self-Serve Car Wash Stations

self serve car wash stationsSelf-serve car wash stations are a great option if you can’t wash your RV at home. There are many across the country – just search ‘self-serve car wash station’ on your GPS and it should give you lots of results.

Most will have large stalls so parking your RV inside won’t be a problem. It’ll also say whether or not they’re able to accommodate such vehicles in the search results.

Truck Wash Station

Most, if not all truck stops, have facilities that allow you to wash your motorhome. They’re also convenient in that they are typically located right off the main roadways or interstate.

You can also look them up on the GPS and when in doubt, you can call and ask about their facilities.

RV Parks

Some RV parks may allow you to wash your vehicle at the campsite. Keep in mind, however, that most prohibit the practice due to strict regulations on water usage.

Washing the RV’s Exterior

Cleaning RV Rubber Roofs

Cleaning and sealing your RV’s roof will not only make it look nicer but will also protect it from the sun’s UV rays, which will add years to its lifespan.

You just have to be careful how you do it as the last thing you want is to tear the material, which can lead to leaks and costly repairs.

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Clean the Roof

cleaning rv roofsFirst things first, make sure you’re wearing the proper footwear. We recommend wearing rubber-soled, non-slip shoes as the roof can be slippery, especially when wet.

Using a broom or soft brush, gently sweep away any dirt, loose dirt, or leaves that have accumulated on the roof surface.

Using a garden hose, spray down the roof. It’s also a good idea to wet the sides as that’ll help prevent streaks if the cleaner runs down.

Next, prepare a cleaning solution. Make sure it’s safe to use on your roof’s material and avoid abrasive cleaners as well as those that contain citrus or petroleum solvents as they can cause permanent damage to the roof.

Using a soft sponge or soft-bristled brush, apply the cleaning solution to the roof. It’s best to work in sections as that’ll prevent the cleaner from drying before it’s rinsed off.

Gently scrub away any grime or stains before rinsing the roof with clean water. Don’t forget to rinse the sides of the RV as well as it’ll likely be dirty from cleaning the roof.

Once the roof is clean, seal the surface with a rubber roof protectant – that will repel dirt and protect it from the sun’s rays.

Washing the RV Body

There are three main types of exteriors: fiberglass, painted metal, and metal, all of which can be washed similarly (when in doubt, check the RV owner’s manual for specific cleaning instructions).

Start by wetting the body with a hose; you want to get rid of any loose dirt and debris. If you’re using a pressure washer, make sure to do so at least 16 feet away and avoid spraying any glass fixtures.

Using a washing mitt, apply a liberal amount of cleaner onto the RV body in small circular motions. Remember to use a different mitt for your tires to prevent scratches from forming on the paint.

Rinse off the soap with the hose and wipe the exterior dry with a soft microfiber cloth.

Once it’s completely dry, apply a thin layer of wax onto the body – that will protect the paint from UV degradation and lower the chances of chips and cracks developing in the paint.

Washing the Awnings

If your RV has an awning, make sure to rinse it off as well. If necessary, you can also use a mild detergent. Just be careful not to scrub the material as that can damage it.

Wait until it’s completely dry before rolling it back up.

Cleaning the Tires

cleaning rv tiresDirt, oil, and grime can accumulate on your tires over time and if left unchecked, can shorten their lifespan. That’s why it’s so important to clean them regularly.

Start by wetting the tires with a hose. Using a soft cloth or brush, apply a layer of cleaner onto the tub and gently scrub to remove the dirt and debris.

Rinse the tires thoroughly with water after scrubbing and dry them off with a clean cloth. Alternatively, you can let them air dry.

Tip: Be careful with tire dressings if you plan on using one after cleaning. Avoid those that contain silicone, alcohol, or petroleum products as they will do more harm than good to your tires.

Deep Cleaning the Inside of Your RV

Cleaning the inside of your RV is just as important as cleaning the outside. This is especially true if you’re in the RV full-time.

Cleaning the RV Toilet

Before you start, make sure to wear a pair of rubber gloves – they’ll protect your hands from any bacteria or harsh chemicals that you may come into contact with.

Once you’ve got those on, turn off the water supply; that will prevent water from flowing into the toilet while you’re cleaning. The water valve is typically located under the sink or at the base of the toilet.

Next, flush the toilet. Continue to hold down the pedal until all the water has been drained from the toilet bowl.

Apply an RV-compatible toilet cleaner to the inside of the toilet bowl and gently scrub using a toilet brush. Make sure to start from the top and make your way down to the bottom.

Don’t forget to wipe the exterior of the toilet (e.g. the seat, lid, and base) as well, ideally with a soft cloth and a mild cleaner.

Cleaning the RV Shower

cleaning the rv showerStart by preparing a cleaning solution. Mix one tablespoon of dish soap, two cups of water, and one cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle and shake to combine the ingredients.

Spray the walls and floor of your RV shower with the cleaner. To make things easier, you can work one wall at a time and clean the floor last.

Let the cleaning solution sit on the surface for a few minutes – that will give it time to work at the stubborn stains.

Using a damp sponge or soft cloth, gently scrub each wall with the cleaner. If necessary, you can use a cotton swab to clean hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.

Do the same with the floor.

When you’re finished, rinse the walls and floor with the shower head. Continue until there are no more soap suds. Alternatively, you can rinse the shower with a hose or a bucket of water.

Open the shower door and let the surface air dry. If you can, open some of the windows to maximize airflow.

Tip: You can eliminate mold and mildew with a bleach and water solution. Mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water in a spray bottle and apply it to the problem areas. For the best results, let the bleach mixture sit on the surface for up to 24 hours – that will give it ample time to kill the spores.

Cleaning the RV Windows

To clean your windows, you’ll need a window cleaner, washcloth, squeegee, and paper towels.

Start by removing any curtains. You’ll also want to clean the blinds if there are any. The easiest way to do that is with a microfiber cloth – just wet it with some soapy water and you can use it to clean the slats.

Next, clean the window sill with a damp washcloth. Remember to rinse the cloth often – that will prevent the dirt from spreading.

From there, you can clean the insides of the windows with a window cleaner. Spray the product directly onto the glass and wipe using a squeegee or paper towel.

Do the same with the exterior windows.

Cleaning the RV Kitchen Sink

cleaning rv kitchen sinksStart by rinsing the sink with water and removing any leftover food that may have accumulated in the basin.

Next, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda throughout the sink – there should be an even layer over the entire basin. Not only will the baking soda remove water spots but it’ll also help eliminate grease.

The best part of all, it won’t leave behind any harmful chemicals.

Using a soft sponge or brush, gently scrub the sink in the same direction as the grain of the metal. Never use steel wool, steel brushes, or other abrasive cleaners as they will permanently scratch the stainless steel.

If necessary, you can also use an old toothbrush to clean around the fixtures and drain.

Once you’re done scrubbing, spray some undiluted white vinegar onto the sink. You’ll notice some frothing or bubbling – that’s normal. The vinegar will combine with the baking soda to dissolve any water spots that are present.

For the best results, wait 10 minutes before rinsing the sink with water.

When your sink is dry, you can buff the metal with a few drops of olive oil.

Tip: You can remove stubborn stains with white vinegar and cream of tartar. Mix one cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of cream of tartar to create a paste and apply it directly on the stain using your finger or a soft cloth. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing.

Cleaning the Floors

Different RVs have different floor types. For example, some may have carpet while others have hardwood.

The type of floor you have will determine how you should clean it.

Hardwood and Laminate Floors

cleaning rv floorsHardwood or laminate floors should be swept or vacuumed at least once a week. That will prevent dirt and dust from scratching the surface.

It’s also a good idea to clean the surface with a damp cloth or microfiber mop. Just make sure to use a cleaner that’s suitable for hardwood and laminate surfaces.

Also, avoid soaking the floor as that can cause the hardwood or laminate to swell or warp.

Vinyl Floors

Vinyl floors are similar to hardwood and laminate in that dirt and grit can cause scratching. To prevent that, we recommend vacuuming or sweeping regularly, at least once a week.

As far as mopping goes, it’s best to use a vinyl-specific floor cleaner. Apply it to the floor using a damp mop and remember to avoid scrubbing as that can permanently damage the vinyl finish.

Carpet Floors

Carpets are prone to trapping dirt and dust, which means they need to be cleaned more often. More specifically, you want to vacuum once every few days, ideally with a machine that has a HEPA filter.

Any stains or spills should be spot-cleaned immediately with a carpet-specific cleaner. The longer you wait, the harder they will be to remove, and remember, never rub the stain; that will only cause it to spread.

Hiring a professional carpet cleaning service once a year is also a good idea, especially if you have young children or pets.

Cleaning the RV Hot Water Tank

cleaning rv hot water tankTurn off the water heater the night before you plan on cleaning it – that will give the water inside the tank time to cool down so that you won’t hurt yourself. You can find the on-off switch on the electrical panel inside your RV.

Tip: If you’re in a rush, turn on all the faucets inside the vehicle to the hottest setting and let them run until the water turns cold.

To prevent water from entering the tank, disconnect the water supply pump or hose. It’s typically located behind a wall panel inside the RV.

Next, open the pressure relief valve – it should be on the exterior passenger side of the RV. Unscrew the tank’s plug with a socket wrench.

Attach a tank cleaning wand to the end of a hose and use it to spray inside the water tank. The jet of high-pressure water will help break down any buildup that’s accumulated inside.

Rotate the wand a few times around the tank to ensure that each wall is sprayed and cleaned.

If necessary, you can also soak the water tank with a vinegar solution. Simply mix the vinegar with water in a large container and pour it into the relief valve using a funnel.

RV Maintenance and Cleaning – FAQs

Where can I find an RV wash station?

You can wash your RV at a self-serve car wash station or a truck wash station. Just search on your GPS and it should give you the closest locations, along with details on whether or not they’re able to accommodate RVs.

What cleaning solutions should I use to clean my RV?

You want to use a mild cleaner, one that’s specifically designed for RVs. Avoid using products that contain petroleum or citrus – they’re known to damage RV materials.

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Picture of Marcus Washington

Marcus Washington

Marcus Washington is a well-rounded expert in RVs and campers. With a wealth of experience, Marcus shares his expertise through his valuable guides, helping enthusiasts and newcomers alike navigate the world of mobile living. His advice covers everything from maintenance to maximizing space, ensuring every road trip is smooth and enjoyable. You can trust Marcus to guide you in your RV and camper adventures.

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