Washing the RV – How the Beast gets Gleaming Clean

40-feet, a bucket and a brush? Yes, that’s all you really need.

Every now and then even the most hardened outdoorsy girl needs a wash. The RV and us are pretty zen about the whole deal and don’t think about it too often, but sometimes we do long for that lovely, shiny lustre…just to show off a bit, you know. We dry-camp quite a bit so when we go for a wash we sometimes have to be creative, and with a good 40 feet of beast to clean we do need to plan ahead. Here’s some of our squeaky clean secrets & a few alternatives to boot:

1/ Have Others do it for You – On the road there are quite places you can hand off this little task to others. Typical cost is ~$2/foot for a simple wash to upwards of ~$10/foot for wash & wax. If you have a rubber roof beware of the cleaners used to wash the RV (see #2 below).

  • Mobile RV Washers: Some of the bigger RV park will have connections with mobile RV washers that come to your site. They tend to book out so ask before you arrive to set-up an appointment.
  • Stop-Over Locations: For go-to places a lot of RV service shops will offer washing  plus many truck stops will offer it too (e.g. Blue Beacon). Believe it or not we even saw an automatic, brushless drive-through RV wash in Sevierville, TN (first one I’ve ever seen), so apparently they do exist. However, the regular service stops are more common. Again, book ahead for an appointment.
A little elbow grease does the job

2/ Do It Yourself – This is more our style and we usually bring out the ‘ol elbow grease every 3-4 months for just this job. Some private campgrounds allow you to wash with a hose, but many don’t (or charge a fee for it). You can also find do-it-yourself car washes with special large bays for RVers. We’re usually off in a State Park or forest somewhere so hose-cleaning is not an alternative for us. Here’s what we do:

  • Body Cleaning – With a bucket,  an extendable brush, and a cloth you can pretty happily clean just about any RV anywhere. We use a small amount of biodegradable car cleaner (Turtle Wax ICE) diluted in water. If you want a little extra cleaning power 1/3 cup of white vinegar will help prevent spotting. Then just dip the brush in the bucket, scrub and wipe to dry. NOTE/ Never, never using regular dish-washing or other detergents on your RV. They will strip wax and eventually dull the surface.
  • Bug Cleaning – Like all roving bodies in the wild, we pick up a lot of bugs especially on the front of the RV. You can use bug cleaner or WD40 to help get these off, but our favorite method is a regular dryer sheet (the type you throw in the dryer for clothes). Dip the sheet in water and rub…bugs come off like magic. Then rinse & clean as normal.
  • Roof Cleaning – If you have a EPDM rubber roof it’s a separate beast from the rest of the RV. The most important thing to remember is to avoid all petroleum distillates. Mild soapy water and a soft brush does the job. More on roof cleaning here.
  • Waxing – Every year we’ll wax the monster to help protect and beautify. For a serious shine I like RejeX and we’ll usually knukle down for an all-over with that once a year. Another easy product to use is ProtectAll, which Walmart carries it in their RV section, as does Camping World. We use it for in-between cleans & touch-ups on the whole RV.
Oooooooo…I’m so shiny!

There’s plenty of other methods and cleaners out there (including a whole plethora of “waterless” cleaners), but we stick with the bucket, brush and cloth approach. With a few free days, and a little help from your friends you can have your girl gleaming like a new-born RV.

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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Lynne Schlumpf says

    I always do ours by hand, too. Using a softer wash thingie with a long handle. I’ve loved Turtle Wax Zip Wash for years, and it really protects our bus against the Alaska winters and dusty roads. It still looks brand new, and I love how it does not smear on the windows. I kind of like Rainx’s wash and wax, but it is just quite as easy to rinse off.
    After we get back from a trip, I immediately wash the front of the RV with Turtle Wax Zip Wash to get all the bugs off. Then wash the rest of it just before our next trip. I laughed out loud in Lemon Law Court when they tried to say we abandoned/abused our bus. I don’t know anyone who washes their RV here just before every trip. :) Love my bus.

  2. Don says

    Very good comments about washing and products. I use Johnson’s baby shampoo to wash. I bought a Swobbit System which works well for me. I have the sheepskin head instead of a brush. I am a little leary of brush marks on the finish. http://www.ahoycaptain.com/shop/swobbit.html

    I have been using Maguires Wax (wax-on/wax-off) but I may give ProtectAll a try. RainX is great on the windshield as well. Our wipers quit working at the beginning of a trip earlier this year, and there was no place open for a repair. Of course, it started raining. I had applied RainX a few days before our trip. The water slid right off even in a moderate to heavy rain. Made we wonder why we have wipers. However, I always follow up the RainX treatment with a water spray mister and microfiber cloth. This gets the windshield showroom shiny, and makes for a clean landing strip for the next crop of bugs.

    I am enjoying your blog and all the helpful hints. Thank you.

    akadeadeye on iRV2.com

  3. Dorothy says

    Question? Could it be said that laundry soap would be as harsh as dish soap when it comes to using it to wash an RV. I have an old Born Free that is in dire need of some help. Just trying to figure out the best fix.


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