How NOT to Clean Your Caravan in 2019


Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

Sometimes when our guests arrive at Horton Common they choose to clean their caravan. This typically happens at the start and end of the year, when the roads tend to be dirtier. Our fully serviced pitches have a dedicated water connection next to the caravan. Therefore, some of our regulars even use a hosepipe to clean down their van. Over the years I’ve had several conversions with our guests on the methods and products they use to clean their caravan. Some are aware but others are arent, but there is definitely methods and products which you should not use to clean your caravan. Hence, how not to clean your caravan is the emphasis of today’s post.

How Not To Clean A Caravan

I will be writing posts on best practice methods and products for cleaning your caravan in the future. However, this post is focused on what no to do. The reason being you can easily damage your caravan by using the wrong methods and products during cleaning. Therefore, I thought the most important place to start was not to do when cleaning your caravan. As with all of my posts, you can use the Table of Contents below to jump to a particular section. Enjoy 🙂

Introduction on How Not to Clean Your Caravan

I’ve been caravanning with my family since I was a child. Furthermore, since running Horton Common I’ve met hundreds of caravanners. However, I don’t regard myself as a ‘caravanning expert’. When it comes to how to clean a caravan I’ve seen and heard of many different methods and products. From our guests I’ve also heard (and seen) of where mistakes have been made in the past when it comes to caravan cleaning. In the simplest terms, you cannot clean your caravan with the same methods and products as your car. Doing so is likely to lead to problems. To start the discussion for this post I would encourage you to watch the video below from Practical Caravan on why certain cleaning products should not be used on your caravan:

It’s important to appreciate that cleaning your caravan is very different from cleaning your car.

The Difference Between Cleaning your Caravan and Your Car

The best place to start when discussing how not to clean your caravan to the emphasis the differences between your car and your caravan. John touches on this topic in the video, but I just wanted to emphasize the differences a bit more. A car typically has 4 layers of paint over the metal bodywork. This includes two primer layers, a base coat (colour) and the clear coat (lacquer). Cars are typically made from steel panels, hence need several layers of protection from corrosion (rust) issues. Caravan bodywork is typically made from very think aluminium with a very thin layer of paint on top. Hence, if you use abrasive cleaners which are suitable for use on car paintwork they can potentially damage the paintwork on a caravan. Therefore, you have to use cleaners and polishes specifically designed for caravans to avoid issues:

Fenwicks Caravan Cleaner

Only use specific caravan cleaners. Cleaners designed for car paintwork in some cases contain abrasive chemicals which can damage a caravans paintwork: Image – Amazon

Avoid Using T-Cut on a Caravan

I’m sure at some point you have had light scratches on your car from hitting bushes and trees etc. A product which is commonly used on cars is T-Cut. Caravans especially when being towed down narrow roads can be subject to scratches on the bodywork from hedges and trees. However, T-Cut is not a recommended product to be used on a caravans bodywork:

T-Cut

While T-Cut is commonly used on cars to remove scratches, you should avoid using T-Cut on your caravan: Image – Amazon

T-Cut is a rubbing compound. Hence it removes the appearance of a scratch by effectively removing more laquer/paint from around that scratch. So while it can remove the appearance of a scratch, you have lost even more lacquer/paint in the process. When T-Cut is used on a car its even more important from that point onwards that high-quality polishing products are used to maintain the paintwork.

As referenced in my own comments above and in the video. Caravan paintwork is very thin, much thinner than the paintwork on a car. Therefore, its much easier to cause more damage to the paintwork on a caravan with T-Cut when trying to remove scratches.

Don’t use a Pressure Washer to Clean your Caravan

As the start of this post, I started that some of our regulars to Horton Common use a hosepipe to clean their caravan when they arrive. We are located in rural countryside. At certain times of the year, as I’m sure you can appreciate the roads get dirty. However, as John discusses in the video above, you do have to be careful cleaning a caravan with a hosepipe. You should never spray water directly at an of the vents of chimneys on your caravan. This could get water inside of the gas heater or fridge unit and cause all sorts of problems. While it is possible to clean a caravan with a hose pipe responsibly, there is a ‘big no-no’. Never use a pressure washer to clean your caravan.

Pressure Washer

While you may use a pressure washer to clean your car, a pressure washer could lead to a big mistake when cleaning a caravan: Image – Amazon

I have seen staff at service centres and dealers cleaning caravans with pressure washers and it always puts a shiver down my spine. Let’s presume for a second they were very careful never to spray the jet of water into a fridge or heater vent. Well, that still leaves my biggest concern, the seals on a caravan.

Caravan construction techniques continue to improve with wood-less construction techniques etc. However, nothing lasts forever and adhesive sealants are still used heavily in caravan construction techniques. Well, pressurised water will put those sealants under more force than they would normally experience under UK weather conditions. Yes, from time to time we may get the odd storm with high wind speeds and rain. But even then its not comparable to a pressurised jet of water heating those caravan seals.

You don’t want to investigate during your annual caravan service with a moisture meter only to find a potential damp issue and think back. ‘Did I damage a seal using a pressure washer to clean my caravan?’.

Glass Cleaners and Caravan Windows

As referenced by John in the video above. Some caravanners will try and use the glass cleaner for their car on the windows of their caravan. However, as I’m sure you know, the windows on your caravan are not actually glass. It would increase the caravan’s weight significantly if the windows were made from glass. Instead, caravan windows are made from acrylic plastic. And while the acrylic windows on a caravan may feel smooth, the surface on a microscopic level is actually extremely rough compared to glass. Therefore, if you don’t use a cleaner which is able to remove dirt from acrylic windows you may be very disappointed with the results.

In the video above John references a product called ‘Fast Glass’. But due to some branding restrictions, they had to cover up the label. However, I’m sure most people reading this including my self are fully aware that the typeface on those bottles is used by one of the leading automotive cleaning product brands, Autoglym.

Autoglym Fast Glass Caravan Window Cleaner

Fast Glass is just one of the Autoglym cleaning products suitable for caravans: Image – Amazon

There is a number of cleaning products online suitable for cleaning the windows on your caravan, Fast Glass by Autoglym is just one example. Just make sure whichever product you choose the label specifically states it is suitable for use on acrylic plastic.

Conclusions on How Not To Clean Your Caravan

In summary, I hope the main point you take away from this post and the video above is you need to clean your caravan with great care. Not that you don’t obviously clean your car with care. But the paint finishes on cars are much more durable. Furthermore, with a car, there isn’t the risk of cleaning with a pressure washer and getting water into the structure which could damage its integrity. Soon I’ll get round to writing some posts on the best methods and products to clean your caravan opposed to what not to do. I just thought it was important to write this post first.

Anyway, I hope the above information on how not to clean your caravan was of some use. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the near future. 🙂

Chris - Site Manager

Hi, I’m Chris, I along with my father Robert we operate and maintain Horton Common.

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