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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Motorhome Cleaning- getting started
Let’s be real- most of us know how to clean. We are perfectly capable of cleaning our houses, cars, clothes etc.
But cleaning a motorhome, campervan or caravan for the first time (or the second, third, fiftieth time) can be daunting- you don’t want to use any cleaning product which might cause damage or a reaction. Or pressure wash it if you’re not supposed to. Or use the wrong cleaning brush and scratch that expensive hunk of plastic.
The other frustrating part is when you spend HOURS cleaning your motorhome… and then two days later the dreaded black streaks are back. It’s frustrating.
The good news is, once you’ve found a motorhome cleaning system and products which works for you, you’re set for a while (until the next motorhome show at least, when you’ll discover a NEW miracle motorhome cleaner!)
What’s the best motorhome cleaner for the outside of a motorhome?
It goes without saying that there is no one BEST motorhome cleaner, whether for the outside, inside or roof of your motorhome. But there are products we have used, love and trust.
We also asked this question in the Wandering Bird Motorhome Facebook group (which you’re more than welcome to join) and will be sharing the results of that here too.
So, let’s dive in to the best motorhome cleaning products. Of course, there are different products you’ll need for different jobs. We’re going to cover the best products for
- Getting rid of black streaks on your motorhome
- Cleaning windows and sealants on your van
- Cleaning the motorhome roof
- Best motorhome cleaning brushes and cloths
- Pressure washing your motorhome (and should you!)
- Other common questions and tips to help.
In a hurry? Here are a few of our favourite motorhome cleaning products
- Best general motorhome cleaner
- The best black streak remover for motorhomes, campervans and caravans
- The best motorhome window cleaner
- Best window cleaner for glass and acrylic motorhome windows
- Best rain repellant for windscreen and wingmirrors
- The best product to clean a motorhome roof
- The best extendable motorhome brush
- The best motorhome wheel cleaner
- The best motorhome pressure washer (also useful for bikes and around the house)
- Best motorhome awning cleaner
- Best motorhome cleaning product for shine
- Best winter protector
Motorhome Cleaning Kit- things you’ll need to clean your motorhome
Here’s a list of the kit we recommend having to clean your motorhome or campervan:
- Somewhere to clean it
- Water- either a hose, bucket or pressure washer (we’ll talk more about the dangers of pressure washing later)
- Ladder or way of reaching your motorhome roof
- Extendable or long-handled brush
- Washing mitt (sponges are fine if used once, but can retain grit which could scratch your van)
- Motorhome cleaner
- Window cleaner for both glass and acrylic windows (assuming you have them)
- Wheel and tyre cleaner
- Finishing product for protection and shine
- Microfibre drying cloth (better than a chamois leather- and cheaper!)
- Toothbrush for seals
- Headphones and your favourite podcast or music – you’re going to be here a while…
Where to clean your motorhome
Another thing to consider is access to water. If you’re at cleaning your motorhome or camper at home, then you’re likely to have a good supply of water. However, if your motorhome is in storage, it’s very likely that you won’t have access to a tap and the rules for the storage may well prohibit cleaning your vehicle there.
In that case, your easiest option is to find a motorhome cleaning station near you, perhaps at a local garage.
CAUTION: I wouldn’t recommend using a ‘drive-through’ car cleaning place. Most of the people who work there have no idea about the vulnerable areas on motorhomes, campervans or caravans and will probably cause a lot of damage when they aim their pressure washer at your van. (We’ll discuss pressure washing later in this post) But just trust me when I say you’re better off cleaning your own van or hiring a specialist company to do it for you (ask me how I know!!)
Best General Motorhome cleaner
To get started, you’ll need a general motorhome cleaning product. There are many on the market, but a few which are consistently recommended as giving great results.
Dirtbusters Premium Caravan Motorhome Wash And Wax– creates a foamy ‘pre-wash’ which also has a wax to help with black streaks forming.
Other highly recommended motorhome cleaning products include:
- Fenwicks Caravan Cleaner
- Autoglym Caravan & Motor Home Cleaner
- Liquipak Caravan Motorhome Cleaner and Mould Remover
- Silky Motorhome and Caravan cleaner
Why are there black streaks on my motorhome, campervan or caravan?
Ah, the dreaded black streaks. You KNOW they weren’t there when you cleaned your motorhome before storing it for the winter, but when you arrive back, there they are.
Black streaks are generally found under windows, doors and vents and are caused by two reasons. The first is simple- dirt/ algae. Above the windows and doors on your motorhome, you’ll find tiny gutters which collect water and dirt. Over time, (especially in winter), this dirt overflows the gutters and runs down the side of your van.
The second reason for black streaks (and the most common one) is the deterioration of rubber seals. As the seals in windows, doors and vents break down due to time, UV damage, temperature changes and exposure to the elements, bits break off and cause black streaks as they run down the outside of your motorhome or camper. These streaks also attract and collect other dirt- so by the time you come to clean it, it’s all a bit of a mess.
TOP TIP: The cleaner you keep your motorhome, the easier it is to clean black streaks off in the future. Using a protective aftercoat will also help.
Best black streak remover for motorhomes, campervans and caravans
So, how do you get rid of these streaks?
One of the best products is Fenwicks Black Streak cleaner– created specifically to remove stubborn streaks and algae from your caravan or motorhome surfaces.
Other notable products used by us and members of our group include:
- STAR BRITE Instant Black Streak Remover
- Rhino Goo! Black Streak and Algae Remover
- Muc-Off Bike Cleaner – as bikers, we use this for EVERYTHING and it’s brilliant, but do check in your motorhome handbook to make sure it’s suitable.
How to prevent/ stop black streaks on your motorhome, campervan or caravan
Prevention is always better than cure, although it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stop the black streaks completely. Still, if you want to limit them, there are a couple of tips you can try:
- Clean the window seals and then lubricate them with silicone. A product like Silky (in a tub) can be wiped on with a soft cloth and is better than a silicone spray
- Get a really good wax coat on the motorhome – so the streaks just wipe off with very little effort.
- Make sure you clean from top to bottom to avoid any further dirt being washed down.
Best Motorhome Sealant Cleaner
It’s common on boats to put a silicone coating over rubber seals, to stop the degradation. Turns out, it works on motorhomes too! You can clean the seals with any silicone friendly cleaner, and then rub a thin coating over the top (usually with a soft, damp cloth- read the instructions on your chosen product to be sure).
Make sure the cloth you use is clean and free from dirt or bits which could damage the seal- tearing it is not going to help!
As mentioned above, the one most commonly used is actually a boat product called Silky, which is a non-abrasive cleaner.
How to clean motorhome windows (without scratching them!)
You’ll be pleased to know that cleaning motorhome or campervan windows is fairly straightforward.
Just remember that you probably have a mixture of glass (in the cab) and plastic windows (in the habitation area). So you’ll need to use the appropraite products.
Want more tips for motorhome life?
Here are some more ideas you might find useful:
- Essential Motorhome accessories every van should have
- Best Sat-nav for motorhomes or campervans
- Motorhome Security– tips for at home and on the road
- How to get Internet in a motorhome
- Europe- essential gear for travelling to Europe
- Best gift ideas for motorhome and campervan owners
Want FREE checklists, eBooks and additional tips to help? Visit our resource page
How to clean glass windows
Follow me for any length of time on Youtube and you’ll see me raving about our Karcher window cleaner. I LOVE it. L.O.V.E it. We use it nearly every day in the van. You can clean the inside and outside of your vehicle windows within about 5 minutes.
It’s also a brilliant bit of kit for getting rid of condensation in the mornings (see more tips for getting rid and stopping condensation in your motorhome here)
Other products to clean glass windows include:
- Autoglym Fast Glass (works on glass and acrylic windows)
How to wash plastic motorhome windows safely
The thing to remember is that if you use cleaners meant for glass windows, general plastic or furniture, over time your windows will start to degrade (and might even craze). To avoid that, use an appropriate cleaner for acrylic windows.
Also, acrylic is easy to scratch, so use a damp, soft cloth. Never use a cloth previously used to clean other things- the dirt or chemical residue on the cloth may damage or scratch the acrylic.
- Wash the windows with warm water if possible
- Use a generic cleaner (NOT washing up liquid) to remove surface dirt
- Follow with a proper acrylic cleaner
Best motorhome window cleaner
The best product we’ve found for cleaning all types of window on your motorhome or campervan is AutoGlym Fast Glass.
Best Motorhome Cleaning cloths
This is as good a place as any to talk about motorhome cleaning cloths. We have a set of microfibre cloths we use just for the outside of the motorhome- it also includes a glass cleaning cloth for mirrors.
You can spend a lot or a little bit of money on cloths. Personally, we don’t spend a lot and we tend to get a new set each year, but we do try and buy the biggest ones we can- less washing/ wringing that way!
Also, sponges are fine for the first time, but they are harder to wash out and can keep bits of dirt inside, which could scratch your windows or paintwork. So cloths or a mitt are better.
Motorhome Roof Cleaning
Ok, let’s talk about how to clean a motorhome or campervan roof. Obviously, the first thing you’re going to need is a way of getting UP to the roof. This is where having an extendable ladder and an extendable brush comes in.
Personally, we use both- a ladder so we can see what we’re doing (and avoid excessive force against delicate parts of the roof, like our motorhome wifi antenna), and then an extendable brush so we don’t need to keep moving all over the place.
Best Extendable Motorhome Cleaning Brush
You want something with fairly soft bristles or a sponge/ mop head. Remember, you will not be using this on the windows.
I think we got ours from a caravan shop, but here are a couple of very similar ones.
Can you walk on a motorhome roof?
Unlikely. Of course, some have been reinforced, but most motorhomes and campers are not designed to take the weight of a normal person. So you’re going to need another way to getting up there, like a ladder.
The safest option is a step ladder or some form of solid scaffolding- you might even be able to find one at a garage or local cleaning station. Some people are happy climbing out of a skylight and standing on their bed. Alternatively, you’ll need an extendable ladder.
Don’t forget you need a ladder at or slightly taller than the height of your motorhome- as it won’t be flush up against it. So if your motorhome is 3m high, ideally get a ladder at least 3.5m tall. You might not climb all the way to the top, but it will be a little more stable for you. Alternatively, some people have a permanently fitted ladder to the back of their van.
How to clean around motorhome solar panels
If you have solar panels on the roof of your motorhome, you’ll likely find lots of muck around the edges and underneath. You can use a flat pad (such as those designed for cleaning behind radiators) to clean beneath it if it’s not flush to the roof.
Be VERY careful with any seals and cables- water will get into any cracks. Having said that, don’t be too stingy with your water- not using enough will stop things getting clean.
How to clean motorhome wheels
The final part is cleaning your motorhome wheels. You need to remove dirt, grease and other build-up (like salt from the roads), but be careful to use an appropriate cleaner to avoid damage to brakes. You can get products which clean the wheel and tyre which save time (yay!)
Motorhome cleaner for wheels and tyres
Autoglym do a complete wheel cleaning kit:
There are also:
How to get a motorhome to shine again
And finally, now your motorhome is all clean again, how do you get it to shine?
By applying a wax or finishing product. Yes, this takes longer and YES- you will have had enough by now, but this extra step will save you time and effort the next time you come to clean the beast. It also makes black streaks easier to wipe off in-between cleanings.
Best motorhome wax or finishing products
There are a couple of products which are highly recommended.
Fenwick’s Bobby Dazzler is designed as an after wash protective solution for your caravan, motorhome or camper. It provides a protective coating that is repellent against water, dirt and algae, while making your motorhome shine again.
Dirtbusters Premium Caravan Motorhome Wash And Wax is both a general motorhome cleaner and has a wax built in.
For extra protection over winter, try Fenwick’s Wintering Protector. This gives a protective coating to your motorhome or caravan over the winter months, protecting against dirt, algae growth and black streaks.
Step-by-step guide to motorhome cleaning
So, having spoken about all the parts to cleaning your motorhome or camper, here’s a run-through of the important points again.
TOP TIPS: Start at the top- with the roof. That way, all the streaks and trickles from the roof won’t ruin all your hard work. Also, try to pick an overcast but not windy or rainy day- so your van won’t dry with streaks. If you can’t do this, completely wash, rinse and finish one side before starting another. Lastly, rinse cloths in clean water regularly to remove dirt.
- Start up at the roof, put up your ladder (you can use pipe lagging or insulation to stop it marking your motorhome and prevent slippage.) Ideally, get someone to hold the base for you.
- Rinse down- using a gentle scrub to loosen dirt. Warm water is nicer for you but isn’t the end of the world if you can’t get any.
- Apply your motorhome general cleaner to your brush, start at one end or one side and work in smooth strokes across the roof. You want to apply some pressure to lift the dirt and marks.
- Don’t try to reach too far, in case you overbalance. Keep moving the ladder as needed.
- Rinse down- using a hose or buckets. Again, warm water is better is possible.
- Clean again around solar panels or obstacles, as dirty water and grime could have got stuck there after the first rinse-down.
- If you have an awning, make sure you clean the top and sides of this too
- Repeat the process on the sides. Rinse down, then apply a general cleaner to each panel with a soft brush, microfibre cloth or mitt. Let the cleaner rest for up to 10 minutes before cleaning off with another mop, brush or sponge.
- Clean the windows- both cab and hab. Use a sponge or mitt to initially wash, then clean off with a microfibre cloth. Use a glass cleaner to add shine, and add Rainex.
- Dry- using a microfibre cloth. Get the biggest one you possibly can! You can let it dry naturally, but it risks leaving streaks
- Clean the wheels- be careful to use an appropriate cleaner to avoid damage to brakes.
- Once you’ve applied wheel cleaner, use a wheel brush to get rid of dirt between the spokes, then rinse
- Finally, apply polish or finishing wax for shine and to make future cleanings easier. Apply it using a flat mop or cloth. You can also add an overwintering spray to help repel dirt and algae
Can you pressure wash a motorhome?
Yes- with caution. We’ve used a pressure washer many time on our motorhome- especially if we’ve gone to a motorhome cleaning wash station at a garage.
However, you need to be very very VERY careful where you point that high-powered water. Unlike a car, your motorhome has many things which do not react well to water- and which have air vents (fridge, oven etc). There are also seals and sealants that aren’t designed to stand up to pressure washing- especially on older vans.
If you do decide to use a pressure wash on your motorhome, be careful of:
- Don’t stand too close- the further away you stand, the less powerful the spray will be.
- Don’t aim at seals and sealants around windows, doors and exterior lockers. (The older the vehicle, the less flexible and more brittle these seals are- meaning they may have cracks that will allow water behind them- or they may break up completely.
- Spraying the water into the vents- especially at the back of the fridge or oven
- Causing damage to motorhome TV aerials or other items on the roof
The best pressure washer for motorhome cleaning
If you want to buy a pressure washer to clean your motorhome, it’s possible to get models with adjustable power settings. This is a GREAT idea- so you can use it for other jobs around the home and for your car, then have a more ‘delicate’ setting for use on your motorhome, campervan or caravan.
The Bosch Cordless Outdoor Washer comes highly recommended- it’s maximum pressure is only 15bar. It can run on its battery for up to 60 minutes (plenty of time) and has adjustable pressure modes and patterns – a pencil jet for stubborn dirt, a fan jet for smaller surfaces, a larger fan jet to rinse larger areas, and a shower jet for gentle cleaning. It also has an attachable brush for rinsing windows and bike wheels.
Do I need a pressure washer to clean a motorhome?
Nope. Not at all. It’s perfectly possible to get your motorhome clean and shiny without any high-powered water at all, just a little elbow grease.
How to clean your motorhome awning
The easiest way to clean any dirt or streaks on your awning is with a soft cloth and a spray cleaner.
Fenwick’s do an awning cleaner which is designed for use on synthetic and cotton materials to remove stubborn streaks and algae.
Don’t ever put your awning away wet- it will get mouldy and could tear. Make sure to leave it to dry properly before putting it away.
How often should you clean a motorhome or campervan?
Well, obviously, that depends how much you use it (let’s just not talk about 2020!) and also where it’s kept.
If you return from a trip and it’s particularly dirty, a good clean is better than leaving it sitting dirty. Also, if you have your van near trees, you’ll want to clean it more often, as the sap can cause damage (not to mention any bird droppings).
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