Owning a caravan or motorhome does mean you have to carry out cleaning and maintenance from time to time. Quite a few of our guests bring awnings with them, both traditional pole awnings and modern air awnings. They can be small porch awnings or large full-sized awnings with several annexes. Just like the caravan or motorhome itself, awnings every now and again need a bit of TLC and attention. Awnings can get dirty in a variety of ways. Say you are trying to erect the awning and the ground is muddy. Well, its likely some of that mud is going to work its way onto the awning as your putting it up. Some of it will wash off with rain. But often the mud will get trapped inside the fibres of the awning fabric and it will need cleaning. Once an awning has been cleaned you may also want to re-proof it to maintain its water resistance. With this post, I’ll discuss how to clean an awning and the process of re-proofing.
So the other main culprit besides mud that will end up getting your awning dirty is birds. Now, if your caravan or motorhome has been pitched under a tree bird ‘dirt’ will be more of a significant issue. However, anywhere you have pitched your awning if its up for more than just a few days its likely that birds will have played their part to add to the cleaning job. You do have to be careful when cleaning awnings as I’ll discuss below. If you just go full steam ahead try to remove dirt with any product you can get hold of you may end up regretting that choice. As always with my posts, I hope you have the time to read this whole post on how to clean an awning. If not please use the Table of Contents below to jump to a particular section. 🙂
Introduction on How to Clean an Awning for Caravans and Motorhomes
So before you go out and purchase any cleaning or re-proofing products there is something very important to you need to do. You need to find the instructional manual for your awning and read it very carefully. Within the awning manual its likely you are going to find instructions on how to clean the awning. Not only on what to do but importantly on what not to do. For instance, my father has an Isabella awning for his caravan which states ‘cleaning agents must not be used’. The reason is using certain cleaning agents could reduce the waterproofing ability of the awning fabric. Hence, just using any cleaning agent may make your awning look very clean. However, the next time it rains water may soak through the fabric instead of it running off it. Leaving lots of puddles inside the awning.
Other awning manufacturers state things such as ‘use a suitable approved awning cleaning product’, which I’ll talk about more below. But first and foremost, check those awning instructions. The same applies to re-proofing products. Some awning manufacturers may state to use one specific product over another. The point being, don’t just presume the same awning cleaning rules apply from one awning to the next, as they don’t. Yes, you want to get your awning clean, but you also don’t want to damage it.
Video on How to Clean and Re-Proof an Awning
Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the method and process of how to clean an awning. One of the best videos I’ve found on how to clean and re-proof an awning is from the YouTube channel ‘Here we Tow’. Clever name for the channel, so they are already off to a good start with me. In this video, they do refer to cleaning and reproofing agents. Just discount that particular advice if your awning manufacturer has said not to use such products. Their general advice on the awning cleaning process is still good.
Now that you have watched the video above on how to clean an awning, I want to discuss the various steps and tools in a bit more detail so you can make a decision on the approach you want to take. Julian and Karina are demonstrating how to clean an awning on their Vango air awning. However, the same cleaning principles apply to standard pole awnings.
Cleaning an Awning on the Ground?
So in the video above Julian and Karina are cleaning the awning attached and erected to the side of their caravan. For most people, this is the most practical (and only) reasonable means to clean and re-proof their awning. The other method would be to clean your awning on the ground. My father does this from time to time if he has to take the awning down and it got muddy in the process. He doesn’t want to leave the awning packed up wet and muddy. Therefore he has a large plastic sheet which he pegs down on our garden lawn. He then washes his caravan awning on this plastic sheet.
It can be tricky however getting the awning dry before storage. It takes turning it over every hour or so, as ventilation is obviously restricted. So while it is possible to clean an awning on the ground, its not ideal. Furthermore, many people simply don’t have space. Therefore in this post, I will discuss the awning cleaning process as Julian and Karina do in the video above. Erected and attached to the side of your caravan or motorhome.
Awning Cleaning Products and Tools
So just to point out the obvious, you’re going to need a bucket to start with. The next tool which is going to help a lot will be telescopic cleaning brush. In one of my previous posts on how to clean a caravan roof, I discuss the benefits of a telescopic brush being able to get to those hard to reach places. But importantly, the same brush in its compressed form can be used to clean areas close to you. So instead of needing a short, medium and long length cleaning brushes you only need one.
Most telescopic cleaning brushes can also be attached to a hose pipe. This will push water through the centre of the handle to the brush head. When cleaning a caravan roof this can be very handy, presuming you have access to mains water. When cleaning an awning its not as essential, as the amount of dirt on an awning is generally significantly less. I also discuss the benefits of telescopic brushes in my post how to clean a motorhome.
If cleaning your awning at a site you normally won’t have access to a ladder and even with a ladder you often still won’t be able to reach everywhere. Therefore a telescopic brush can come in very handy when cleaning an awning: Image – Amazon.co.uk
To start as Julian and Karina state in the video above, use the brush dry. Sweep the surface to knock off any larger bits of mud and other dirt before you start using water to the clean the awning. Otherwise once the larger bits of mud get wet you initially will just be smearing it around on the awning fabric before you are able to actually wash it off. Therefore it will just take you more time, soap and water to get that mud off.
Awning Cleaning Agents/Soaps
In the video above from How We Tow on how to clean a caravan awning the cleaning product they are using is from Mellerud. Its not a common cleaning product brand here in the UK, but its commonly used in Europe. I previously referenced their products in my post on black streak removal. Some people appear to rate their cleaning products very highly, though I’ve not used them myself as yet. They are not the cheapest caravan cleaning products available. But likely as is often the case, you get what you pay for.
The awning and cover cleaner from Mellerud comes in 1 Litre bottles. It states it can be used as both a diluted and concentrated cleaning agent: Image – Amazon.co.uk
There are a couple of other awning cleaning products available online on websites such as Amazon. It may be worth checking them out, reading the reviews etc. Though remember, if your awning manufacturer states not to use any awning cleaning product, follow that advice.
The Use of Warm/Hot Water for Cleaning an Awning?
This is a bit of a tricky one. When it comes to cleaning, in general, as I’m sure you are already aware warm/hot water helps to lift dirt off surfaces. This is particularly true when it comes to fabrics such as awnings. Well, awnings are not normally exposed to warm-hot water. Therefore, there is a chance that warm/hot water may denature/wash off the waterproofing agent which has been previously applied to the awning. As previously discussed, check your awning owners manual. It may state something about using/not using warm water for cleaning. If in doubt personally I would just stick to the water temperature straight from the tap.
Re-Proofing Your Awning After Cleaning
Now, after you have cleaned your awning you may want to consider adding a re-proofing agent to restoring the waterproofing ability of the fabric. In the video above from Here We Tow, they discuss looking to see if the water when washing off the awning was beading or not. If the water is not beading then this could be seen as a sign that the awning needs to have a re-proofing agent added. This is partly true, but it does also depend on the type of awning you have. Some awnings are based on a natural canvas/cotton. Natural canvas provides its waterproofing ability through swelling up when exposed to water. As the canvas fibres swell up they close the gaps between the fibres, hence rain then runs off the surface.
Other awnings are made from a synthetic acrylic fabric, this fabric on its own is not waterproof. Acrylic fabric awnings require the use of a waterproofing agent. My point being, don’t presume the same re-proofing products can be used on all awnings. Find your awning manual and read it carefully with regards to the pre-proofing products you should use and how often. If you cannot find your awning instruction manual through a quick search online on the manufacturers’ website you may be able to find it. If not, send the awning manufacturer a quick email and I’m sure they will email you a copy.
Lowering Your Awning for Re-Proofing
As shown in the video above, lowering your awning to apply a re-proofing agent will make the job a lot easier. Though before you do you want to make sure your awning is completely dry after cleaning it. If you have an air awning letting the pressure out of the front poles should be sufficient. If you have a pole awning, its likely you’re going to have to remove pretty much all the poles. Hence you may be able to do the cleaning and pre-proofing of your awning when you leave site providing you have sufficient time.
Take your shoes off before you step onto the awning. This is vital, not only will you likely tread dirt onto the awning keeping your shoes on, but that could include stones etc which could cause damage. Now, as you can see in the video above, Julian isn’t a short guy and he’s still struggling to spray at the top of the awning. You could get around this using a pressurised sprayer and lance (more details below). Alternatively, you could grab your caravan step. However, you would want to put towels or something similar under the feet of the caravan step so not to damage the awning fabric.
Awning Re-Proofing Products
Some products are water-based, others are petroleum-based. Generally, you are going to find petroleum-based products are going to provide longer-lasting protection. However, if your awning manufacturer specifies a particular product, follow what they state. There is a risk of doing a bad job applying petroleum-based pre-proofing agents. Therefore, for most people, I would probably recommend sticking to a water-based re-proofing agent. In the video above from How We Tow, after cleaning their awning and once its dry they then use Fenwicks Awning and Tent Re-Proofer.
Fenwicks Awning Re-Proofer is a clear liquid water-based product suitable for both natural cotton-based canvas awnings as well as synthetic acrylic awnings: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Now, as you can see in the video above Julian is having to work his trigger finger pretty rapidly to apply the re-proofer over the whole surface of the awning. Alternatively, you could use a pressurised sprayer such as the one below. However, if you already own a pressurised sprayer which you use for weed killer etc you want to make sure you have washed it out many, many times before you fill it with re-proofer and spray it onto your awning.
Really, you should only need a pressurised sprayer such as this to apply a re-proofing agent to your caravan or motorhome awning if its very large: Image – Amazon.co.uk
Conclusions on How To Clean an Awning
So I hope the above video and my comments above have given you the information you were looking for on how to clean an awning. I know I’ve stated this a couple of times but its important, always check your awning owners manual first. You don’t want to start cleaning the awning/re-proofing only to read the manual at a later date and regret your choice of products etc and worry about it. The same cleaning principles apply to caravan towing covers or hitch covers. There are lots of other cleaning jobs with caravans and motorhomes which I’ve got posts on as well. For instance, how to clean a wastemaster which can get pretty smelly. There is also my overall post on how to clean a caravan which links to several of my relevant posts.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope at some point in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common to experience our fully serviced pitches with hardstanding. 🙂
At least every couple of months, but as and when needed in most cases. Leaving dirt to sit on the surface and for the sun to bake it into the awning fabric fibres is not ideal. The sooner you can get that dirt off the easier it will be to keep the awning in a good condition.
At least once a year is generally stated in many awning owner manuals. When you do apply the re-proofer doing a double coat should provide sufficient protection to see you through the year. However, if you have your caravan/motorhome on a seasonal pitch and the awning is up for several months at a time you will probably need to re-proof more frequently.