Camping can become a very expensive hobby, especially when you upgrade from a 4 person tent to any form of mobile home. It’s only natural that anyone who has spent a hunk of change on a massive fifth wheel, a class C motorhome, or even tent trailer, would want to try and protect their investment. A great way of doing that is to take the time and clean it properly, which could help you avoid possible repairs and replacements in the future.
Taking them on the road can cause lots of dirt and mud kick-up (which can potentially rot the frame of any rig). Almost every time you put something into your compartments and cabinets sand, pine needles, and all sorts of wildlife creep up inside. Black mildew streaks run down your camper, and are difficult to get off. It’s easy to ignore these things when you’re making a manic scramble to pack up and get off of your campsite, but leaving it in such condition can make the beginning of your camping season an absolute nightmare, or ruin it completely. After reading this, you should be able to protect your investment and look clean while you’re doing it!
Here are a few things you’ll need to start cleaning your camper properly.
- -Enough water hose to reach both sides of your mobile home from it’s spigot and plenty of water
- -At least one spray bottle
- -6 or 7 clean rags
- -Cleaning products (black streak cleaner/degreaser found at most RV stores, bleach, carpet cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, bleach kitchen and bathroom cleaner, etc.). Aim for paint safe cleaners
- -A washing brush with an extend-able pole and bucket
- -Step ladder
- -Rubber gloves (working with chemicals can be quite dangerous if done improperly)
The easiest way to clean the entire camper, I’ve found, is to start with the awning. Roll it down with an awning rod, but do not set it up for use. Make sure you’re wearing tattered clothing for this part, because you’ll be working with bleach. Pour equal parts bleach and water into your spray bottle, and from here, spray both the top and bottom of your vinyl awning fabric completely, from your step ladder or the roof of your mobile home. If you let the bleach solution sit for a while it will ultimately do the cleaning for you, so go ahead and roll your awning back up and forget about it until you’ve finished step 2.
Next, you’ll want to wash your entire exterior using your degreaser or black streak cleaner of choice and a bucket full of good ol’ soap and water. Dish soap will do the trick just fine, but you can always spend more and go for the good stuff. Rinse down your mobile home, then spray it down wherever it needs cleaner, especially on the black mildew streaks, trim, and tires. Start scrubbing away, one side at a time, making sure to get every nook and cranny including the windows. Bugs can be a pain and nearly impossible to get off, so spray them with degreaser persistently. Try washing from the bottom to the top, in small sections, (don’t forget about the metal frame underneath and your hitches) as to not lose your place, rinsing when necessary.
Now you can unroll your awning again. By now, hopefully, your awning should have brightened up by quite a bit. If it’s still a bit dirty and the mildew hasn’t quite been eliminated, spray a bit more bleach on it and let it continue to sit. If not, grab your brush and lightly scrub the entire awning. Some stubborn awnings might require you to repeat the process, but having a clean roof to sit under in any weather is nice.
Take a break! Step back for a minute and admire your handy work. Your camper should be looking quite good right about now. However, don’t forget to notice any spots you might have missed and touch them up accordingly.
From here on in, you’ll start getting a bit more hands on. If you’ve noticed your window and door trim still has quite a bit of mildew on it, spray some bleach solution onto a rag and wipe all the trim down. No need to rinse immediately. Use glass cleaner to clean up any sun or water marks on your windows. If you’ve got a motorhome, be sure to clean your windshield and mirrors very well.
Open every single compartment on the exterior panels and clean those as necessary, too. A vacuum and a small hand brush do wonders. Clean out all the green and black scum from the compartment gaskets and replace them if need be. Sometimes, you may come across a nest from a critter who decided to make your camper his home for the off-season. A good way to prevent this from happening again is to leave a few laundry drier sheets or moth-balls in a small open tin in all the compartments. Mouse traps aren’t recommended. They hurt.
Congratulations! You’ve finished cleaning your mobile home and it looks great. Is it finished? Not if you want it to really stand out and shine.
Rust and rot issues can become a serious issue on a lot of mobile homes, trailers especially. The best way to combat this is by keeping a fresh coat of paint on your frame each season. Naturally, your first step in this process will be to sand down any rust spots on your frame, metal stairs, hitch, and bumper. If you’ve got a surface solvent, pour a small amount of that on a rag and wipe down all of the metal work. It will make a difference in the finish. Use masking tape where necessary.
After your metal work is prepped and ready for paint, begin the process of spray painting every metal surface with a coat of black paint primer. Of course, the more coats of black primer you use, the better the next coat will look. Once it’s finished drying, you can use a black gloss paint on each primed surface. I recommend Krylon for both the primer and gloss paints. Take a break and let all the paint dry, admire your handy work again.
Your wheels and tires are a very important part of giving your camper the desired clean “pop”. I usually start off by polishing the wheels, which is very time consuming if they’re aluminum. Mother’s makes the best aluminum mag and all purpose metal polishes. Tire shine is your next step in this process. Using products such as Armor-All can help prevent dry-rot in your tires, especially if your mobile home sits in one area for most of it’s life. Apply it by spraying it onto the tire. After a few moments of letting the product seep into the tire, gently wipe the surface down with a damp rag. Clean any excess tire shine off of the rim.
If you’ve gone this far, you’ve just successfully detailed your mobile home! This process can prove to be quite a bit of work, depending on how often you’ve maintained it in the past. However, once each process has been completed, you’ll notice a world of difference. Go over the check-list one more time just to make sure because once you’re out enjoying your clean, fresh RV, you won’t want to move from your lawn chair to restart the whole ordeal!