Cleaning a motorhome certainly isn’t the most rewarding part of owning one and anyone with any experience of the task in hand knows that it can be fiddly and laborious.
However, you’ve made a big investment in your home on wheels so it’s important to maintain it and keep it at its best to protect that investment for all your future adventures.
Before you get started
Unfortunately, cleaning your motorhome isn’t quite as simple as taking it for a trip to the local car wash or giving it the once over with the car shampoo and ancient sponge you’ve got lurking under your sink (two things we highly recommend that you don’t do).
Check your handbook
One of the most important things to do before you start the cleaning process is to check your motorhome’s handbook to ensure you’re familiar with the exact types of products you can and can’t use on all the specific areas of your vehicle. This really is a crucial step to ensure you don’t accidentally cause damage whilst trying to polish up your pride and joy.
Motorhome cleaning kit and checklist
Some of the cleaning products and tools you’ll likely need:
- a suitable place to clean your motorhome
- adequate water supply – access to a hose is even better
- a ladder or platform to reach your motorhome roof
- an extendable or long-handled brush
- a washing mitt and/ or soft cloth (avoid sponges as these can trap dirt and cause scratches)
- all-purpose motorhome cleaner/ body shampoo
- window cleaner (you will need separate products for glass and plastic windows if you have both)
- silicone-friendly sealant cleaner (and an old toothbrush)
- silicone coating product to protect your seals
- wheel and tyre cleaner
- wax coat/ finishing product
- microfibre drying cloth
Where not to clean your motorhome
We strongly recommend avoiding your local car wash and ‘drive through’ facilities when it comes to cleaning the exterior of your motorhome.
It’s unlikely that these services will be specialised enough to know which areas of your motorhome require special care and attention and which areas are vulnerable to damage during the cleaning process.
The brushes used in ‘automatic’, or drive-through car washes are likely going to be too rough for your motorhome and you run the risk of damaging anything from the finish of your bodywork to the vents, electricals, solar panels and even windows of your vehicle. We just don’t think it’s worth the risk!
Can you use a pressure washer to clean your motorhome?
Opinion is rather divided on whether you can use a pressure washer to clean the exterior of your motorhome or not.
We would only recommend using one if you’re highly knowledgeable of where all the vulnerable spots on your motorhome are.
Pressure washers can be a highly efficient way to rinse everything down and remove any stubborn dirt and grime, particularly from the roof. However, motorhomes have multiple vents, seals and panels that do not do well with pressurised water being directed at them. You run the risk of causing damage or getting water into places where it really shouldn’t be.
If you’re in any doubt as to where these vulnerable points on your motorhome are, it really is best to avoid using them altogether. A hose and/ or buckets of water are likely going to be safer to use.
How often should you deep clean your motorhome?
We recommend that, as a minimum, you should be giving your motorhome a deep clean, inside and out, twice a year – once at the end of the season, before it goes into storage, or is out of use, and once at the beginning of the season (or after it has been unused for an extended period of use).
Having said that, if you really make the most of your motorhome and you get plenty of use out of it, maintaining it between trips is always a good idea and is likely to make your life easier in the long run.
If you’d like more tips and advice on looking after your pride and joy, read our guide on Motorhome Maintenance.
Cleaning waste and water tanks
It’s important to keep your water tank clean and sterilised because not only will this be your supply of water to drink, wash and cook with, it can also help maintain the cleanliness of your grey water tank too.
Before cleaning the water tank, remove any water in there that has been hanging around.
Next, using a specialist sterilising agent, pour it into your water tank (ensuring that all your water taps, and valves are turned off first), then fill the tank with fresh water.
Turn the water taps and valves back on, one at a time, and allow the water to pull through until you can smell the cleaning solution.
Once you’re certain that the sterilising product has pulled through all the pipes and taps in your motorhome, turn them all off again and allow the solution to sit in the system for the recommended amount of time.
After the steriliser has been allowed to work its magic, you can fully drain your freshwater tank into your wastewater system (which can help to flush that through too).
Refill your water tank with fresh water and pull it through the entire system again, until you can no longer smell the cleaning product and are happy that it has been fully flushed through.
When it comes to cleaning the grey or wastewater tanks of your motorhome, being mindful of what goes into them is going to pay dividends when it comes to getting it out again.
Avoid too much food waste, grease and even hand and body wash from getting into the tank as these can create quite the nasty mess when they all mix.
Choose a specialist grey water tank cleaner (that is suitable for your specific motorhome and tank system) and add it to the tank. If you can do this ahead of a long drive, this is really going to help the cleaning product mix around and get to work.
Once the cleaner has had time to do its job, empty your waste tank (at an appropriate disposal point) and flush the tank through with clean water. If your waste tank is still not as fresh as you’d like, you can repeat the process.
Cleaning the exterior of your motorhome
When it comes to cleaning the bodywork of your motorhome, it’s best to choose a still, overcast day if you can. Too much breeze and sunshine can dry off the exterior of your vehicle before you’ve had a chance to polish and finish it, leaving it looking streaky and a little lacklustre.
Cleaning the roof and side panels of your motorhome
Always start from the top of your vehicle and work your way down, that way you’re not going to get streaks and drips all over your hard work.
Most motorhome roofs are not designed to bear weight, so firstly you’re going to need a suitable, and safe, way to access the roof of your vehicle. We would also recommend an extendable cleaning brush so that you don’t have to keep adjusting your ladder every few minutes.
Rinse off grit and grime
Start by thoroughly rinsing the whole of the exterior of your motorhome, to remove any large pieces of dirt that may scratch the bodywork during the rest of the cleaning process.
Use an all-purpose cleaner
Use an all-purpose cleaner or body shampoo, that is specifically designed for motorhomes, on the roof and side panels of your vehicle. Use this in conjunction with a soft-bristled brush or mop head – anything too stiff could cause scratching.
We don’t recommend using sponges to clean any part of the exterior of your vehicle as these can too easily trap chunks of grit that may scratch your bodywork. Soft mitts, brushes, mop heads and microfibre cloths are the best tools for the job.
Take extra care around vulnerable spots
Proceed with caution when scrubbing around any wiring, vents, seals and attachments to your roof (such as solar panels and antennae).
A flat pad, like the ones used for cleaning behind radiators, can be used to gently clean around and underneath your solar panels.
Once you’ve given the exterior a thorough scrub with the all-purpose cleaner, rinse off the suds, ensuring no residue is left on the bodywork or on any of the windows.
You may well have a combination of glass and plastic window panes in your motorhome. Do not use the brush that you have used for cleaning the roof and sides of your vehicle for cleaning your windows, as this is certainly too rough and can cause scratching and damage to the windowpanes and the seals.
Use a soft cloth in combination with a specific plastic window cleaner (as all-purpose cleaners and products designed for cleaning glass windows can leave a residue and/or damage your plastic windows).
The sealant around windows and vents are particularly prone to cracking and deteriorating. Not only can this let water into your motorhome, but it can also add to those unsightly black streaks that are the bane of any motorhome owner’s life.
Use a silicone-friendly cleaning product to remove any dirt and algae that has built up around your seals (an old soft-bristled toothbrush is a handy tool for this job) and then treat with a silicone coating to protect them.
Black marks and streaks on your bodywork can either be caused by a build-up of dirt and algae, deteriorating rubber seals, or a combination of both.
There are a variety of specialist products available to remove black marks from your motorhome, so we’d recommend choosing one that is suitable for your vehicle.
Once you’ve got rid of those unwanted streaks and dried everything off with a microfibre cloth, finish up with a wax coat. This will not only leave your motorhome gleaming but will also make it a lot easier to remove any black marks that develop in the future.
Wheels and Tyres
There’s no point in going to all that effort cleaning the rest of your motorhome if you’re going to leave the wheels and tyres grubby.
Choose a cleaning product that is not going to cause any damage to your brake pads and give the wheels and tyres a gentle scrub and rinse.
This is always a good opportunity to check the health of your tyres and whether you’ve got any nasty bits of road debris lodged in there too.
Don’t forget to insure your motorhome
Cleaning and maintaining your home on wheels is an important aspect of motorhome ownership, but making sure you have the correct insurance in place for your vehicle is important too. Check out our motorhome insurance page to find a policy that is right for you and your pride and joy.