How to Clean a Caravan in 2019 – Full Guide and Tips


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

One of the reasons I started to write posts on our website was in response to questions I would often get asked by our guests. A question I’ve been asked frequently from caravanning beginners is ‘how do you clean a caravan?’. I’ve written quite a few posts around the various aspects of cleaning different parts of a caravan. Now I’ve finished all the cleaning posts I can think of I’ve decided to create this overall post on how to clean a caravan to link them all together. I believe this type of post is called ’round-up post’. Essentially within this post, I’m going to discuss all the different aspects of how to clean a caravan while linking to all my other associated posts which go into more detail on that particular cleaning task.

How To Clean A Caravan
How to clean a caravan is as much about knowing what to do as it is about knowing what not to do which may lead to damage: Original Image – Practicalcaravan.com

I do want to note that the first post I wrote was actually on how not to clean a caravan. You really do have to be careful with caravan bodywork by not using overly abrasive cleaning and polishing agents. For instance, whenever a guest tells me they have used T-Cut on their caravans aluminium side panels I do slightly cringe. I then politely inform them that using a product such a T-Cut while appropriate for car bodywork (within reason) is really just too abrasive for your caravan. So how should you go about cleaning a caravan? What’s the process? What are safe but effective cleaning products? Well, that’s what I hope to comprehensively cover in this post, how to clean a caravan top to bottom. I’ve also got a similar post on how to clean a motorhome.

However, if you are short on time and you are looking for a video to guide you through the process of how to clean a caravan with suitable and safe cleaning/polishing products the video from Dan of the YouTube channel Meet the Trudgians is worth a watch:

Dan discusses using the various caravan cleaning products available from Silky which is a popular brand which we use on our caravan and so do many of our guests to Horton Common.

Is it Safe to Use a Pressure Washer to Clean a Caravan

If I’m put on the spot and I’m asked about cleaning with a pressure washer I’ll say don’t use them on a caravan. The reason being a pressure washer may damage the seals/sealant around caravan doors, windows, fridge vents and lockers. However, in reality it does really depend on the pressure washer. I discuss this more in my specific post on caravan pressure washers. Briefly, I basically state in that post that while I would avoid the use of mains powered pressure washers (100-262 Bar), portable pressure washers can be used to safely clean a caravan following a couple of rules.

Bosh Portable Pressure Waster For Cleaning Caravans and Motorhomes

This is an example of a low pressure (15 Bar) portable/cordless Bosh Fontus pressure washer: Image – Amazon

Even when using a low powered portable pressure washer you still want to avoid spraying directly at seals around the doors, windows and lockers as well as vents. Keep the spray nozzle at a distance and use a diffuser when available. Finally, you want to use the lowest pressure setting available. Even on the lowest pressure setting it will be much more powerful than mains water pressure through a standard hosepipe.

Start with Cleaning the Caravan Roof

I’ve already written a comprehensive post on how to clean a caravan roof. So here I’m only going to briefly discuss the topic. Essentially when it comes to cleaning your caravan you want to start with the roof for a couple of reasons. First, the roof is typically going to be the most dirt surface of your caravan. Therefore if you clean the sides of the caravan first and then the roof a lot of dirt is going to wash down the cleaned sides of your caravan. Hence, you would probably end up having to wash the sides of the caravan twice. Therefore its best to start by cleaning the roof.

How To Clean a Caravan Roof
Your caravan roof will typically be the dirtiest surface on your caravan. However cleaning due to access can make it difficult, and in many cases standing on your caravan roof is a very bad idea: Image – How to clean a caravan roof

Due to access issues and dealing with ladders etc its understandable if you don’t actually want to clean the roof every time you clean the sides of the caravan. Therefore, you may choose to just clean the roof at the end of the season before winter storage and at the start of the camping season in the spring. This will keep the roof in a generally ‘green free’ condition, as its over the colder months of the year when algae, moss and general biofilm is going to take hold. As discussed in my applicable post on how to clean a caravan roof try and finish off with a product such as bobby-dazzler or over wintering. This will give new dirt/biofilm a harder time gripping to the surface of the caravan roof. Meaning it will stay cleaner for longer.

How to Remove Black Streaks on Caravan Bodywork

When it comes to cleaning the sides of the caravan a typical caravan cleaner concentrate is going to be able to remove the majority of the dirt. However, after you have cleaned the sides of the caravan you may be disappointed with the results. Under and around the window, door and locker seals you may notice black streaks. Now, a caravan which is cleaned frequently black streaks may not be apparent. However, most caravans especially with their first clean after winter, black streaks are going to be a problem.

How to Remove Black Streaks
Black streaks on caravan bodywork happens to the best of us. Unless a caravan is cleaned very frequently they are pretty much unavoidable: Image – How to remove black streaks

My associated post which can be accessed through the links above discusses how to remove black streaks. However, I thought I would briefly reference where they come from. Yes, they are partly just ‘dirt’ including some biological matter (moss/algae/biofilm), however its also small particles of denatured rubber. You see as the rubber seals around the windows and doors on the caravan age they shed little bits of rubber particles. These wash down the side of the caravan bodywork when it rains and sticks the surface. Then other dirt sticks to these rubber particles. As a result, you typically have to use something stronger than diluted caravan cleaner to remove black streaks.

How to Polish a Caravan (Safely)

I have particularly noted from conversations with our guests that there is a great deal of confusion out there on suitable products for polishing a caravan. Hence, why I have previously produced the post on how to polish a caravan. For instance, I’ve already discussed how T-Cut as a cutting/polishing agent is just too abrasive for caravan aluminium bodywork. However, it is important to remember caravan bodywork is typically made up of various materials from aluminium, plastic and fibreglass (GRP). There are various polishing products which can be used on GRP to make those surfaces shine that should not be used on aluminium bodywork.

How to Polish a Caravan
You have to be very careful when polishing a caravan to only use suitable products on certain surface materials. Image – How to polish a caravan

For instance, 3M produces a light cutting/polishing compound which can restore your caravans GRP surfaces to their original factory shine. However, its important to remember what this product is actually doing. Its stripping away part of the top gelcoat layer to reveal a smoother surface. Hence, if you used this product too frequently you would eventually remove the coloured gelcoat layer back down to the resin layer. Therefore, such a cutting/polishing compound is not suitable for the aluminium body panels on your caravan. For those surfaces, a general, all-round polish for the caravan such as Autoglym Super Resin Polish is much more suitable. It has very minimal abrasive and is more about adding a protective layer to provide surface shine.

How to Clean a Caravan Awning and Reproofing

So its not only your caravan that gets dirty. From time to time your awning will also need a clean. Hence, why I’ve written a post on how to clean a caravan awning. If you have ever pitched your caravan and awning near a tree favoured by various birds you’ll appreciate why. However, let’s say you arrive on-site, its raining, its muddy but you have just got to get that awning up. Our guests use their awnings for many different purposes. Sometimes its just additional storage, but sometimes its the sleeping space for the family dogs or other members of the family. In those circumstances, no matter the weather conditions that awning needs to be setup. Well in muddy and raining conditions the awning will often get muddy. Some of that dirt may wash off next time it rains but not always. Sometimes its up to you to physically clean the awning.

How to Clean a Caravan Awning
If you have to put your awning up on a wet muddy day its likely your awning will get pretty dirty. However, birds also like to play their part: Image – How to clean an awning

The process of cleaning the awning is similar in a sense to cleaning the caravan roof, hence a telescopic brush is going to come in very handy. However, don’t be tempted to use caravan bodywork cleaner on your awning, it could denature the fabric. This could lead to the awning material losing its ability to repel moisture. You need to use specific awning cleaner such as that offered by Mellerud. After the awning is clean (and dry) you may want to consider adding a re-proofer. This will help the awning to retain is moisture (rain) repellant qualities. You do have to be careful with which re-proofer product you use. While a product such as Fenwichks is suitable for both synthetic and cotton-based awning materials that’s no the case with all re-proofing agents. The process of cleaning a caravan towing cover is very similar to cleaning an awning. However, check the manufacturer’s recommendation on which (if any) detergents can be used.

Cleaning Inside the Caravan – Portable Vaccum Cleaners

So when it comes to keeping your caravan clean its not obviously only about the outside, the inside of the caravan also needs to its own TLC. As I mentioned in my post on how to connect up a caravan to your house electrics, your domestic vacuum cleaner, in general, is going to provide much more suction power than your typical portable caravan vacuum cleaner. Yes, there are certain portable Dyson products which are probably on par with a mains powered vacuum cleaner. However, as they generally cost so much more than other portable vacuum cleaners its hard to recommend them as a viable option for a second vacuum cleaner for your caravan. The point being, when (if) your caravan is at home and you have mains power available use your domestic vacuum cleaner in the caravan, it will do the best cleaning job. However, you’ll still likely want a smaller portable vacuum cleaner to take with you in the caravan.

Caravan Vacuum Cleaner
When choosing a suitable portable vacuum cleaner for your caravan there are a lot of things to consider along the lines of size, weight, battery life etc: Image – Caravan vacuum cleaners

As I live in a small cottage I actually use a small portable vacuum cleaner (seen in the image above) as my home vacuum cleaner. Its a lot easier to get up my narrow staircase and corridor, which is similar to the space restrictions in a caravan. You have to be careful when looking for a portable vacuum cleaner. There are some very lightweight units out there. But many are so underpowered that you might as well not bother using them at all. Furthermore, some of the most lightweight units have very small battery capacities, hence power and run time is very poor. Now, obviously a caravan is a pretty small space so you don’t need a very long run time. But some low cost/lightweight vacuum cleaners will struggle to last more than 10 minutes or so. There are 12V vacuum cleaners, however, none of the established brands produces them. Therefore, their quality is generally pretty poor from reports.

How to Remove and Clean Caravan Roof Lights

Roof lights on caravans perform several important roles, from allowing additional natural light into the living space to providing vital ventilation. However, they can get pretty dirty and they are not the easiest thing on the caravan to clean. I discuss the cleaning process in my post how to clean caravan roof lights. It can be pretty frustrating looking up through the roof light and seeing dirt and insects. This can be particulary frustrating with certain brands of roof light which are constructed in two layers. The two layers stop rain from entering the caravan while providing constant ventilation, great! The problem is insects like to climb in between these two layers of plastic and die! Hence, you can’t clean out these insects without removing the roof light and taking it apart.

How to remove and clean a caravan roof light
Removing and cleaning a caravan roof light can be a tricky job. However, it is possible with the right tools: Image – How to remove and clean caravan roof lights

To remove a caravan roof light may involve some tools that you don’t already own. For instance, they are typically fixed together with what are called Torx screws. Once the roof light has been removed and separated there is something very important to understand. Never use methylated spirits, isopropanol or acetone to clean a caravan/motorhome roof light. In doing so you will potentially damage and reduce the life of the roof light as these alcohol cleaners can denature the acrylic plastic.

How to Clean a Caravans Fresh Water System

While the various caravan cleaning topics above provide a more pleasant and comfortable caravanning experience, they are not related to safety. However, properly cleaning your caravans fresh waster system does definitely come under the safety topic. With my post on how to sterilise a caravans water system, I discuss the process and which sterilisation products you should and shouldn’t use. I also have a similar post related to motorhome water systems. Every caravanner should sterilise their water system to clean it at least once a year. Ideally, you would run a sterilising solution through your caravans water system before each trip.

How to Clean a Caravan Water System
You may be tempted to use a product such as Milton to clean a caravans freshwater system but that would be a bad idea. You need to use a suitable product such as Puriclean: Image – How to sterilise a caravan water system

Now, several of our guests don’t drink water from the tap in their caravan. They will use a separate portable drink water container to fill up their caravan kettle. However, even in that scenario its still important to clean the freshwater system. You wouldn’t want to wash your hands or use a shower with water that contains bacteria, would you? Something that is important to note. If you have a water filter fitted to your caravan you would want to remove it before passing through the sterilising solution. The sterilising solution may break down the water filter. Bits coming off the caravans water filter is also one of many possible causes for your tap to stop working.

How to Clean a Wastemaster

Our guests to Horton Common due to our fully serviced pitches and unique trough wastewater removal system can actually leave their Wastemasters at home. However, that’s not the case on most caravan sites, and Wastemasters can get pretty gross. Therefore, I’ve written a post on how to clean a Wastemaster. The wastewater from a caravan contains grease and sugar deposits that stick to the interior surface of the waste container. Hence, the Wastemaster can become a breeding ground for bacteria which can make it smell pretty bad.

How to clean a caravan Wastemaster
Occasionally you will want to clean the inside of your caravans Wastemaster to stop the bacteria built up which can lead to some pretty nasty smells – How to clean a Wastemaster

Now, you could use Puriclean, the same product used to sterilise the clean water system. However, that would be an expensive way to clean a Wastemaster and unnecessary. In my post linked above, I discuss the official and unofficial methods to clean a Wastemaster to neutralise the bacteria and hence stop the smell. Importantly you don’t just want to tip boiling water inside as this could buckle and distort the container. While we are on the topic I also have another post on caravan wastewater about how the improve the pipework.

Conclusions on How to Clean a Caravan

So as you can see from the content above linking to my various posts on the topic of how to clean a caravan there is a lot to think about. Its as much about knowing which processes and products to use as it is about knowing what to avoid. For instance, you want to avoid overly abrasive cleaners and polishes as well as avoiding alcohol degreasing agents on acrylic surfaces (caravan windows). Some of the cleaning jobs above may be seen as purely cosmetic. However, when cleaning the exterior surface of the caravan it also gives you a good opportunity to spot damaged seals. Hence, you may be able to spot a potential point of water ingress before it leads to an issue with damp in the caravan and potential damage. Cleaning the freshwater system on your caravan even if you don’t use it for drinking water is very important.

I hope you found the information and further links above on how to clean a caravan useful. I also hope at some point in the future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common to enjoy our expansive views over the Staffordshire Moorlands and Peak District National Park. šŸ™‚

Chris - Site Manager

Hi, Iā€™m Chris, along with my father Robert we operate and maintain Horton Common Caravan Site. Located in the Staffordshire Moorlands Horton Common benefits from expansive views over the Peak District National Park. Horton Common features five hard standing fully serviced pitches for caravans and motorhomes.

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