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End-of-Summer RV Cleaning:  All You Need to Know About Preserving Your RV for Next Year

How & when to clean your RV after a summer of heavy traveling

As the sun sets on a glorious summer, the time has come to start facing the fact that this year’s summer camping has come to an end. It’s time to start thinking about winterizing the RV for a well-earned rest until next year. But first, it’s important to give it a thorough cleanup. In this post, we’re going to look at the best methods for cleaning your RV before putting it into storage.

Why Should I Clean My RV Before Winter?

With heavy use, an RV picks up a lot of dirt over summer and unless it is properly cleaned, can fester during the long, cold winter, resulting in costly damage to your precious trailer.  By understanding your RV’s various systems and how they are affected by the elements during winter, you will have a good idea about why winterization is so important. Winterization is an important step to preventing damage due to freezing. If you're not comfortable with winterizing your RV, it is best left to the service professionals like The RV Warehouse.  You could however save money in the mean time by taking care of the basics:

  • Wash the exterior of your RV.
  • Clean the inside of your RV.
  • Winterize the plumbing lines using a non-toxic antifreeze.
  • Cover the RV, tires and A/C.
  • Disconnect the batteries and propane bottles and store them away from moisture.

Winterizing is about preparing the RV / Motor home or towable to withstand the winter cold and every year, we winterize our homes, automobiles and plumbing. By the same token, your RV needs winterization too. If you only use your RV during summer, you will have to winterize it pre-season to prepare it for the cold winter months and keep it in perfect condition. By properly winterizing your RV, it will be ready to go when you're ready to go camping in spring. But before you winterize, it is crucial to clean your RV properly. Let’s look at how to do that.

1. Clean the Holding Tanks

When the weather starts to heat up after winter, many RV owners complain about the bad smells emanating from their RV holding tanks. Instead of buying expensive septic tank chemicals (Note:  The holding tanks work differently to septic tanks and those chemicals will do more harm than good.), simply dissolve 2 cups of water softener in a gallon of hot water and pour it down the drain while the drain valve is closed after you have emptied the tanks. You could use holding tank treatment found at The RV Warehouse.

2. Keep the Rodents Out

During winter, rodents and other critters are on the hunt for food. It is important to remove all foods from the RV while you winterize. Apart from eating your food, rodents can also damage your fabrics and insulation. Remove all food, including canned, dry and boxed goods. Canned goods can freeze and split. MouseFree is a good application to prevent rodents. Read up on MouseFree here available at The RV Warehouse.

3.  Clean the Interior

In addition to the standard cleaning (dust, polish, vacuum, wiping down surfaces), it is important to pay some extra attention to the interior of your RV:

  • Defrost the fridge and freezer and clean it thoroughly. Leave the doors open to prevent bacterial or mold growth and odors.
  • Clean out all the cupboards and place mothballs in linen cupboards. Be sure to remove any insects and nests by cleaning in the corners.
  • Pay attention to all the upholstery, as critters tend to gnaw on spills lodged in the material.
  • Clean blinds or curtains thoroughly.
  • Mix ¼ cup vinegar with ¾ cup olive oil, and dab a cloth soaked in the solution to remove scratches from wood surfaces.
  • Rub ½ a lemon on taps to remove water stains, or on porcelain to remove rust from bobby pins or razors.
  • Use vinegar, Q-tips and paper towels to remove the grime from your window seals.
  • Place your vacuum cleaner filter in the dishwasher and use your regular detergent to clean it.
  • Safe time and the hassle of scrubbing by placing your burners in a ziplock bag with ¼ cup ammonia overnight.
  • Wash your pillows in the washing machine with a mixture of 1 cup of laundry detergent, 1 cup of dishwasher detergent, 1 cup of bleach, 1/2 cup of borax, and very hot water to remove dead skin cells and dustmites.
  • Remove mold from your shower by soaking cotton coils in bleach and lining the grout with it overnight.
  • Clean your microwave by placing a lemon cut in half in a small bowl of water on the highest heat setting for five minutes. When it stops, wipe the interior with a kitchen towel.
  • Clean your mattress by mixing lavender oil drops with bicarbonate of soda and sprinkling it over the mattress. After an hour, vacuum the mattress.
  • Mix one part vinegar with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray it over carpet stains. Cover the wet stains with a damp rag and iron it using the steam setting on your clothes iron.

Now that your interior is clean, it is time to clean the exterior.

Cleaning Your RV Exterior Before Winterizing Your Trailer

Owning an RV is one of life's greatest joys, but it does require a lot of upkeep, which you cannot neglect. The exterior of your RV is vulnerable to sunlight, rain, temperature fluctuations as well as various debris such as bird droppings, falling leaves or sticks.  Constant exposure to the elements can damage your RV if it is stored outside for long periods of time. Sun damage can cause the paint to fade, and cause vinyl and rubber to become brittle, crack and deteriorate.  Prevent this by giving your RV a proper cleaning on the outside (also the roof) before you store it for winter. Your RV is also one of your biggest investments, so it only makes sense to take good care of it. The good news is that, with proper care, you can keep your RV's exterior looking as good as new for as long as you wish by looking after it. Good RV care starts with cleaning the exterior thoroughly before storing it away for winter.

Inspect the exterior:  Be sure to inspect the exterior carefully, especially around the seams and window seals. If you see openings or cracks, you should repair it to prevent water from getting in. Your RV dealer will help you find the right materials. The RV Warehouse offers most winterizing items you need in its retail store or you can Check out our Parts Catalog online.

Clean and protect your roof:  Your RV is your home away from home, which is why it’s so important to clean and protect its roof. We have created a tutorial devoted specifically to your RV roof.

Before Cleaning Your RV, Know Your Products

With so many cleaning materials available, it can be hard to decide which would be best for your RV.  Follow these guidelines to find what you need.

Wax:  Wax is extracted from leaves on the Carnauba tree, and penetrates deeply through the gel and paint coats to seal the fibreglass. While fiberglass is porous and must breathe in order to not turn yellow, Carnauba is best for use on metal surfaces.

Silicone:  Although silicone leaves a beautiful sheen, it can become problematic if your RV is damaged and needs to be repaired. Since silicone cannot be removed completely, it will be difficult to maintain a paint job. Both gel coats and paint will bubble and peel quickly.

Most wash and wax products that are added to a bucket of water, contain silicone wax, as do products that don't list contents, but state that it’s "proprietary information". Don't apply any product to your RV unless you know exactly what it contains.

Petroleum distillates are frequently used in RV wax products, but paint companies usually discourage the use of these products, as distillates can damage the clear or gel coat. Over time, it can cause the finish to oxidize. While manufacturers are allowed to include a small amount of distillates without disclosing it on the bottle, it is best to read the material safety data sheet (MSDS) to find out whether the product contains distillates. You can find the MSDS for any product online by Googling "MSDS for ..." and the product name. These are the words you should look for:

  • aliphatic hydrocarbon
  • mineral oil
  • hydrocarbon
  • petroleum

Also look for warnings such as: "If this product reaches 150° it turns to sulfur oxide, silicone dioxin and formaldehyde". That means that it contains silicone.

Find a product that contains polymers, instead. These products are generally referred to as protectants. Polymers don't penetrate, but rather provide surface-level protection by making the surface slick.  Bugs and dirt slide right off the surfaces of your RV.

Cleaning Your RV Exterior

Give it a good cleaning:  Wash your RV on the outside and wax it using a quality wax formulated especially for your RV's exterior. This will help protect the finish. Also clean the awnings and all tenting materials before you store the RV. And they should be dry before you store them so it does not mildew.

Keep the RV exterior rust free:  Any dirt, grime and road chemicals that are not removed from the RV exterior, will harm the finish by causing dissolve, rust and discoloration. Keep your RV's shiny new look by giving it a good wash and wax before putting it in storage.

Covering your RV when not in use, is probably the most effective way to ensure that it stays in tip-top condition, but you can also protect it when you can't cover it, by using waxes, sealants and protectants and we're going to explain just how to do that. Find out how to choose the ideal RV cover for your needs.

Once your RV is squeaky clean, it is ready to be winterized, a task best left to the pros. Contact RV warehouse today to learn more about winterizing your RV.