There is one area on caravans that gets particularly dirty and at the same time is also the hardest area to clean, and that’s the caravan roof. I’ve had a couple of discussions over the years with our guests about how they clean their caravans roof. Due to our fully serviced pitches, each with a dedicated water supply some of our guest’s actually clean road muck off the front and sides of their caravan when the arrive. However, cleaning the caravan roof is not as simple. You need a decent ladder and some suitably long brushes. Due to the fact that cleaning the caravan roof can be difficult and time-consuming, there are certain cleaning methods which you may be tempted by. With this post I’ll discuss why these short cuts will not save you time and effort, they could actually cost you more in the long run.
Part of the reason your caravan roof gets so dirty is because its a large flat surface that’s generally level. Hence, as biological residue from trees (moss and algae) fall onto the caravan roof they generally stay there. Rain (unless its really heavy) is not going remove this algae and moss. Therefore, the rain and sun just feed it to grow more and more. As the surface becomes rougher due to the build-up of algae and moss it catches more biological residue and the build-up of dirt increases at a faster rate. Hopefully, you have the time to read this whole post on how to clean a caravan roof. If not please use the Table of Contents below to jump to the particular sections you are interested in.
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Introduction on How to Clean a Caravan Roof
As I’ve stated above, dirt, particularly from algae and moss on a caravan roof, can build up exponentially over time. Dirt attracts dirt, so the longer you leave it between cleaning your caravan roof again the harder it will be. The issue is though, its generally much more difficult to clean the roof on a caravan than the sides or front. Access is a problem, not only due to the height you need to get but the reach to be able to clean into the middle of the caravan roof. I’m going to write this post based on my own and my father’s experience of cleaning our caravan roof, feedback from our guests and applicable videos.
I’m not going to go into the minutia of how to clean a caravan roof from the point of ‘you’ll need a bucket etc’, though I will make some comments/recommendations on tools/cleaning products. The videos within this post cover a lot of the finer detail on how to clean a caravan roof, so I’ll leave that to them and just add in a few of my own comments. The first video I want to reference is from Caravan Guard, it will give you the broad outline of the cleaning process.
So the video above will have provided you with most of the important considerations on how to clean a caravan roof. I now just want to embellish and ‘flesh out’ in a bit more on the detail the applicable ladders, tools and cleaning products which the video does not go into detail on.
Raising or Lowering the Jockey Wheel?
Using the jockey wheel when it comes to cleaning the caravan roof and will make the job a lot easier to do. Whether you slope the caravan roof forwards or backwards by lowering or raising the jockey wheel is a personal preference. If you have a large sill around the back of the caravan roof that may stop the dirty water running off, therefore slope the caravan roof forwards by lowering the jockey wheel. If you don’t have a large sill on the back of the caravan roof you may want to slope it backwards by raising the jockey wheel. The reason being, the front window gutters will capture all of the dirt coming off the roof and that will make it more of a job to clean out later.
Suitable Ladders for Cleaning a Caravan Roof
So the video above from Caravan Guard discusses some good safety points when it comes to ladders. However, I know that many people are going to have several other questions going around in their head. The reason being its highly unlikely you own a larger platform ladder used by the caravan service centre in the video. Therefore, you are probably thinking ‘are my existing ladders good enough?’ That’s obviously a question only you can answer, the important point is to be safe. Talking from experience here as someone who has fallen off a ladder before, I have no intention of that happening again.
This is a fairly typical example of a combination step ladder which may be used for cleaning a caravan roof: Image – Amazon.co.uk
If we take the ladders in the image above an example, they can be used as an extending ladder or a traditional step ladder. Some people would choose to use them as an extending ladder leaning up against the top support rail around the caravan roof. The reason being this will give sufficient height and access to reach into the centre of the caravan roof. If you are going to do this first you feed to some sort of cushioning on the caravan/ladders. Otherwise, you are likely to damage the caravan.
The issue with using ladders in this way (despite the potential caravan damage) is ladder slippage. Say you are at the top of the ladders vigorously cleaning away with the brush try to remove stubborn algae and moss. The foot of the ladder keeps moving backwards until it eventually goes far enough back that the ladders fall and you along with them. Therefore if you are going to use extending ladders to clean you caravan roof always have someone else there to spot you.
Climbing on the Caravan Roof to Clean It?
A key emphasis when providing information on how to clean a caravan roof is safety. You don’t obviously want to clean the roof and potentially fall off the ladders, so you may be thinking I’ll just climb up there! Now, if you have purchased an older second-hand caravan that’s a big no-no. You would likely buckle the roof and cause significant damage to the caravan. If you own a Bailey caravan based on the Alu-tech construction system you may remember the image of a Ford Mondeo on the roof. Bailey also did a promotional image with 14 members of staff on the caravan roof.
Now, I’m not sure what Bailey’s current official advice is about getting on top of the roof of their caravans for cleaning. However, I would encourage you to consider the following points before you do. While cleaning the surface will be wet and slippy with soap, therefore you could potentially slip off the caravan. Secondly, while a Bailey Alu-Tech roof as a whole is structurally strong it will still likely be damaged with weight in small point contact areas. Hence, while kneeling down on the caravan roof may not cause structural damage to the caravan, but you may leave behind small dints. Therefore if you were going to climb on your Bailey caravan roof for cleaning you would want to displace your weight as much as possible. Finally, you would have to be very careful not to scratch the surface. Therefore, I personally would not advise climbing onto the roof of your caravan for cleaning it.
You’ll Need a Telescopic Brush to Clean a Caravan Roof
So we have established that really its not the best idea to climb onto your caravan roof for cleaning, even a Bailey caravan based on Alu-Tech. Therefore you are going to need the helping hand of a telescopic brush. You could use a long non-telescopic extending brush to clean in the centre of the caravan roof, however, that would be impractical for cleaning around the edges. Therefore you would need to get a second shorter brush, and you would be going up and down your ladders more frequently.
A typical example of a telescopic brush suitable for cleaning a caravan roof: Image – Amazon.co.uk
The important benefit of a telescopic brush for cleaning a caravan roof is that it will stop you from overextending and reaching over to try and clean the centre of the roof. It can also come in very handy as discussed in my post on how to clean an awning. Over-reaching while on step ladders is where it gets dangerous and where you could fall. With a standard short brush to clean in the centre of the caravan roof you would likely have both arms off the ladder and just one foot still in contact with the ladder. You try and stretch a bit further, push back on the ladders which then fall over. You are then likely to fall off the slippy caravan roof and cause yourself an injury. Therefore I would highly recommend you get yourself a telescopic bush and potentially also a telescopic sponge squeegee to help get dirty water off the caravan roof surface.
You may also want to consider a telescopic squeegee sponge to help you get the dirty water off the caravan roof: Image – Amazon.co.uk
I would also encourage you to source some microfibre cloths and cleaning mitts. These are great at attracting and trapping dirt in them. And for cleaning around the TV ariel, vents and solar panel potentially on your caravan roof they will do the best job.
Never Use a Jet Pressure Washer to Clean the Roof of a Caravan
As we have previously discussed, getting access to properly clean a caravan roof can be tricky. It involves a telescopic brush along with time and patience not to damage the caravan roof surface, vents, ariel, solar panel etc. You may, therefore, be thinking, why not just use a pressure washer, that will quickly clean all that dirt off the caravan roof even from the centre! And yes that’s true, a pressure would quickly clean a caravan roof. However, it would also likely either damage seals or get water behind them and into the caravan body. It could easily blast water up under a skylight and inside the caravan.
I know its very tempting to use a pressure washer to clean the roof of your caravan but doing so is more likely to cause you issues in the long run: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Therefore, when you think about it logically, the risk-reward basis of using a pressure washer to clean a caravan roof just doesn’t make sense. By saving a bit of time cleaning the roof you may be creating much more work and expense in the future with damp issues in the caravan created with the use of a pressure washer. I’ve previously written a post called how not to clean your caravan which discusses various other approaches you should avoid when cleaning.
Caravan Roof Cleaning and Solar Panels
Quite a few of our guests now have permanently mounted caravan solar panels on their roof. They are not only ideal for going off-grid wild camping they can also help you keep your leisure battery topped up during winter storage. However, solar panels on the caravan roof struggle to stay clean for the same reason referenced above as the rest of the caravan roof. Solar panels on homes are fitted on pitched roofs, so the rain washes off the dirt. However, on a caravan roof with the solar panel being mounted flat against the roof, its not long before they have a build-up of dirt.
Therefore its important you clean around the solar panel and its glass surface, but at the same time, you need to be careful not to cause any damage. Don’t be too rough when cleaning around the seals of the solar panel, especially where the power cable enters the caravan. You don’t want to damage that seal and create a leak path. As you will have probably noticed from the Caravan Guard video above on how to clean a caravan roof, getting under the solar panel to clean may be tricky.
Cleaning Around The Caravan TV Roof Ariel
Another item on your roof which can get particularly dirty is the caravan TV ariel. Most caravans have the Vision Plus TV ariel seen in the video, it can be raised and articulated in multiple directions to get the best signal. Again as with solar panels, this needs to be cleaned carefully to avoid damage. To make it as easy as possible to get the caravan TV ariel clean raise it to its highest position and flip the receiver up completely vertically. You will then notice that underneath the ariel is where most of the algae, moss and general green biological residue is hiding.
Its highly likely your caravan is fitted with this version (450) or similar of the Vision Plus TV ariel. Underneath the ariel, you will generally find quite a bit of dirt. So make sure you raise it up to its maxium height to provide good access for cleaning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
What about Caravan Roof Cleaning Products?
Now, this gets a little bit tricky. I’m not going to say just use this product or that product over another. First, because after speaking to our guests over the years there is quite a bit of conflicting feedback about which are the best products to use. Some caravanners will claim one cleaning product works wonders while another will say that its a waste of money. So the caravan cleaning products below are not recommendations, they are just references to some cleaning products you may want to choose.
Cleaning Moss and Algae Off a Caravan Roof
Probably the most popular product used for cleaning caravans is Fenwick’s caravan cleaner concentrate. I know several of our guests use this to clean their caravans as I’ve seen them use it on our site. It is stated to remove ‘stubborn streaks and algae’ but everything is relative. How much elbow create its going to take to remove the algae and moss off your caravan roof will obviously depend on how long its been since it was last cleaned.
Fenwicks Caravan Cleaner Concentrate is a popular product with many caravaners for cleaning the roof and the caravan in general: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Now, I did have one guest in the past who had not cleaned the roof on their caravan for many years and they stated that most caravan cleaning products (including Fenwicks) ‘wouldn’t shift it’. The product they used was something called Wet&Forget Moss Mould Lichen & Algae Remover. Its not a product I was familiar with and as yet I’ve still never used it, but that particular guest seemed to rate it.
Wet&Forget Moss Mould Lichen & Algae Remover is stated to be suitable for caravans. However, I’m still not completely convinced its safe to use for cleaning a caravan roof: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Now, when reading the Wet&Forget product description it does state its suitable for use on caravans. Along with the fact that its ‘Non-caustic, Non-acidic, Contains no bleach’. However, the sales description does not state what is actually in it. Therefore, personally I would be a little reluctant to try it on a caravan. There is a wide range of plastics and seal materials used on a caravan, therefore you have to be careful what cleaning products you use. Wet&Forget may be completely fine for cleaning a caravan roof, I just don’t know enough about it to recommend it.
Protecting the Caravan Roof from Moss and Algae Build Up
Many caravaners will clean the roof of their caravan before they put it away for winter. The problem is over winter due to the damp conditions that’s when algae and moss will really be flourishing on your caravan roof. Therefore after you have cleaned the surface you may want to consider using another product for additional protection.
If you want to make the job of cleaning your caravan roof much easier next spring I would encourage you to consider an overwinter protector: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Now, don’t expect this product to perform miracles. Come the springtime your caravan roof will still be green and you will need to clean it. However, if you remember my point above of the fact that ‘dirt attracts dirt’, this is where this product helps. As it states on the label ‘makes spring cleaning easier’, well it really does and I know a lot of our guests use it for this purpose. So come springtime you will need to clean your caravan roof for the season ahead. However, it will be a lot easier to do so if you previously used an over-wintering protector.
Cleaning a Caravan Roof Without a Hose Pipe
I’ve previously referenced that cleaning a caravan roof with a pressure washer is not appropriate due to the potential damage it may cause. However, using a hosepipe, while still being careful around vents etc is suitable. But what if your caravan is kept at a storage yard and not at home? You probably won’t have access to a hose pipe. Caravan roofs can get very dirty and you will generally use quite a lot of water to get it clean. Therefore, another video I wanted to reference in this post is one from a few years back that Dan Trudgian did with his son. You may notice Dan’s voice from the Caravan Guard video above as he now helps them to produce many of their caravan related ‘How to’ videos.
Conclusions on How to Clean a Caravan Roof
Hopefully, the above information and videos have provided you with sufficient information on how to proceed and clean the roof on your caravan. Its not the easiest of caravan maintenance jobs, but it needs to be done. Not only if you have a solar panel, but also because once clean it will give you the best opportunity to inspect the seals on the caravan roof. If you notice that any of the sealant is failing, while the caravan roof is clean its the best time to get it fixed. You don’t want to ignore it and when your next checking with your damp meter wonder if the source of a leak was on the roof when you could have done something about it.
Once you have cleaned the roof of the caravan you’ll want to clean the sides etc. You don’t want to do it the other way around as those clean caravan sides would get covered in all the muck coming off the caravan roof. There are a series of posts on caravan cleaning I’ve created. You can find links to them all in my round-up post how to clean a caravan. For instance, you may be interested in my post on how to polish a caravan. Anyway, that’s it for today. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the future to experience our amazing views over the Staffordshire Moorlands and Peak District National Park 🙂
UPDATE: Now, I meant to include how to clean roof lights in this post, but I forgot to. While cleaning the roof of a caravan the outside of the roof light will be obviously be cleaned. However, there is often an issue with dirt trapped inside the roof light. So if that’s an issue your experiencing please click the link above to read the applicable post.
No, using a pressure washer to clean a caravan roof is likely to lead to damp problems. The water may get behind seals or through vents. So while it may be tempting to use a pressure washer to clean a caravan roof due to the difficult access, please don’t do it. You will more than likely regret it.