RV and Camper Trailer Repairs : How To Clean An RV Or Camper Trailer Exterior

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DIY RV Exterior Cleaning and Maintainence Tips

Both new and older RV’s , including camper trailers and motorhomes, require regular exterior maintenance and repairs to keep them looking good and to protect the finish from the elements. Learning how to clean and protect the exterior of your camper trailer or motorhome properly is a must for any DIY camper owner.

This article is intended to help you use the right cleaners and waxes to ensure a long life for your travel trailer or motorhome exterior covering. No matter if the outside consists of metal, fiberglass, or some other synthetic material, there are some good cleaners and protection products made just for this purpose.


RV Exteriors-Cleaning Different Materials

Older Motorhome with Fiberglass exterior. Use a Fiberglass reconditioning kit to clean, restore shine, and protect the finish.
Older Motorhome with Fiberglass exterior. Use a Fiberglass reconditioning kit to clean, restore shine, and protect the finish. | Source
This Classic Argosy travel trailer utilizes both painted steel and vinyl trim for the RV exterior.
This Classic Argosy travel trailer utilizes both painted steel and vinyl trim for the RV exterior. | Source
Use an aluminum cleaner for best results on campers such as this Airstream Bambi.
Use an aluminum cleaner for best results on campers such as this Airstream Bambi. | Source

Choose All Exterior Cleaners Carefully

Before cleaning the camper exterior, it is important to be sure the cleaning products you intend to use will not cause more harm than good, so always keep this in mind when you buy any cleaning product.

Some RV cleaning products are made for fiberglass or vinyl camper exteriors, while others are intended for use on aluminum- such as used on the classic Airstream travel trailers-or for painted metal exterior coverings.

While some cleaning products may be used on most camper exterior surfaces, some should only be used as recommended by the maker of the particular cleaning product.

Read the instructions and warnings on the cleaning product carefully to avoid damaging the exterior covering or siding used on your particular camping unit.

Some paints or synthetic covering materials used on RVs may be damaged if the wrong cleaner is used or is used improperly.

I cannot emphasize this facet of the camper exterior cleaning process too much. Choose the cleaner carefully and you will be happy with the results.

Great Trailer Or Motorhome Cleaning Products

B.E.S.T. 99001  RV Cleaning Kit - 5 Piece
B.E.S.T. 99001 RV Cleaning Kit - 5 Piece

Great cleaning kit for inside and out. Non-caustic for all surfaces. Includes streak remover too!

 
Camco 43633 Wash Brush with Adjustable Handle
Camco 43633 Wash Brush with Adjustable Handle

Dual bristles for cleaning and removing grime from your camper make this cleaning tool a must.

 

Camper Trailer Exterior Cleaning Tools

Depending on the size of your RV, it may take a few minutes or several hours to properly clean and wax your motorhome or camper trailer.

But using the right tools and techniques will make the job easier and less time consuming, as well as, providing a long lasting finish which will protect the exterior from future streaking and fading.

The use of a long handled mop or sponge cleaning tool will greatly diminish the effort needed to properly clean the travel trailer's outside materials and speed up the time normally required to accomplish this important procedure.

Be sure the mop or sponge tool is free of grease or grit to prevent damage to the surface of the camper exterior.

Examples of these tools are available on this page or you may find them at your local RV supply dealer.

Again, be sure to clean and dry these RV cleaning tools before storing them away until the next time the RV exterior needs cleaning and waxing. Any grit in the brushes will bump out easier when the bristles are dry.

Waxes and Protective Products

Waterless Car Wash Aircraft RV Cleaner Detailer Wax Quick Spray 32oz
Waterless Car Wash Aircraft RV Cleaner Detailer Wax Quick Spray 32oz

Wax developed for all surfaces and guaranteed to be safe for all RVs.

 
B.E.S.T. 55048 Rubber Roof Cleaner & Protectant Bottle - 48 oz.
B.E.S.T. 55048 Rubber Roof Cleaner & Protectant Bottle - 48 oz.

Even the rubber roof needs cleaning and protecting occasionally. This product is made for this cleaning purpose.

 

Choosing the Best RV Exterior Wax

No matter where you store your RV, it is important to use a protecting wax or vinyl treatment to ensure the color and shine will continue to accent your trailer’s exterior material.

Choose the particular protecting agent, whether it be a wax or coating, the same as recommended for the cleaners.

Read the product’s label and warnings carefully before using any of these protecting chemicals. If you still aren’t sure, try a small area in an area nor easily noticed to see if the product is suitable for your camping unit's exterior finish.

Although the products recommendations may specify a certain maintenance or reapplication schedule, this really depends on the climate and temperature extremes your trailer may experience in your area of the country.

It may be necessary to apply the product more or less often than the instructions imply. Extreme heat or cold, as well as exposure to frequent rain or salt air, may determine the frequency of application.

Specialty Cleaning Aids

Wade Maid Premium RV Cleaning Products - Beast Wash Super Concentrate
Wade Maid Premium RV Cleaning Products - Beast Wash Super Concentrate

Used by professionals for years to both clean and protect both camper trailer exteriors and roof materials.

 

How to Clean the RV or Camper Exterior Siding

Always start at the top of the RV and work your way down for both cleaner and protectants. Use a streak remover, such as advertised on this page, to first remove these hard to clean areas around the windows and doors before using the normal cleaning product.

A good bug and tar remover will quickly remove road tar and other insect residue before the initial cleaning process. Some of the insect residue will remove the paint or shine if left on the exterior for too long. Or the residue may become embedded into the finish itself.


With proper cleaning and the application of a good protecting product, your RV exterior will remain bright and colorful for many years to come.

Frequent cleaning will ensure easier cleaning the next time, so don’t put off this important part of maintaining your camper’s exterior finish. Good luck and happy camping.

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