Is the weather enticing you to go outside? There’s nothing like relaxing under the shade of your RV awning. Put up a table, make a pitcher of iced tea, and you’re set.
That is only possible if the awning is clean and in excellent condition. A dirty or torn cover may put you off the idea of a picnic.
The reality is, you can’t completely eliminate dirt when you’re outdoors. If you’re a brand-new RV owner, here’s how to clean a camper awning without the hassle.
The awning is a feature in most RV and campers that helps protect occupants from:
- Falling or flying debris
- Sunlight and UV rays
However, dirt and debris can shorten the lifespan of your awning. Replacing it can be quite expensive, so it’s better to keep your awning clean and in good repair.
Take note that your camper awning is not self-cleaning. Each time you deploy this cover, it accumulates the following:
- Dust and small pebbles
- Bird and animal droppings
- Tree sap
- Dry leaves and twigs
They can all be difficult to remove if left on a surface for too long. You need to remove them before they stick permanently.
You should be cleaning your camper awning as often as possible, but not everyone has the time. When should you schedule this crucial task?
- The best option is to clean your awning before and after every trip. The more often you clean, the faster you can get rid of dirt.
- Do a deep clean at least once a year. Schedule a regular cleaning every couple of months.
- Give it a thorough cleaning before you store your RV for the winter. This is probably the longest time your camper will be unused.
During your camping trip, do a daily inspection. Check for stains and dirt on the top and underside. This way, you can easily spot-clean stubborn stains before they have time to set.
The first order of business is to read the owner’s manual. You must figure out the recommended cleaning instructions for your awning. Take note that various types of awning need different care.
- Get a brush with a long handle. It will help you reach corners and higher surfaces. You may also need a stepladder.
- Buy or make cleaning products. Homemade mixtures of soap water or store-bought solutions work fine as long as you check the compatibility.
- Use a sponge or brush to scrub and apply the cleaning agent.
- Bring a soft-bristle brush for vinyl awning and a stiff bristle brush for acrylic awning.
- Have a bucket or spraying bottle for the cleaning solution.
Pick somewhere with plenty of sunlight, as the RV awning needs to air-dry after cleaning. Make sure you can spray water around in your chosen spot.
Extend the awning before you start cleaning it. You can also use de flapper clamps or stabilizer kits. These keep the awning from flapping while you hose it down and apply the cleaning solution.
You can buy a cleaning product or make your own mixture of warm water and dish soap, bleach, vinegar, etc. depending on how strong the mold is.
Hose down the awning on both sides for a minute or two. It helps the cleaning solution to spread evenly to all parts. This also dislodges lightweight debris.
Spray or apply this cleaning mixture on the top and underside of your awning. Use the sponge, brush, or spray. If you can’t reach an area on the awning, then try to apply the product to one side at least and then roll it. This’ll help spread it everywhere.
This step can take a couple of minutes or an hour, depending on the type of awning.
- Vinyl awnings will be quicker since they aren’t porous.
- Acrylic awnings will take longer because they are porous.
After applying the solution, roll up the awning and let it sit for an hour or a few minutes.
Extend the awning again, then start scrubbing off the dirt with the brush or sponge. If you find any tough stains left behind, scrub the awning again by applying more cleaning products.
After all the scrubbing is done, all you need to do is wash everything off with a hose. Tilt the awning to get the water to drain easily.
- Let the awning air-dry completely. Direct sunlight also kills some microorganisms.
- Keep bugs or dirt from getting on the awning while it dries. Otherwise, you’ll end up starting a new mold cycle.
- People living in humid regions should allow the awning more time to dry off before they close it.
Once it’s dry you can apply protective coatings suitable to your awning material. Let that dry too and then retract your awning until your next summer trip.
Have you gotten along with minimal cleaning? Then you’re in for a surprise at the beginning of winter.
If you’ve been on the road too often, you are probably dealing with a filthy awning that has both natural and artificial pollutants.
Remember when you planned on cleaning your RV one last time before winterizing? But months later, the condition is still the same: the stains just won’t come out.
So, what do you do?
Do steps from 1 to 6 then extend your awning and get a look at tougher stains. Use a stronger cleaning agent to scrub these stains, then and roll up your awning again. Then wait for another hour or so. Then you can wash your awning with a water hose.
We do not recommend letting stronger cleansing products sit for too long. They also risk damaging the coating of your awning making them more prone to mildew.
These are made of plastic so you will need to clean them with minimum scrubbing. Vinyl awnings have a coating that helps prevent mold from growing, so make sure that you do not scrape it off when cleaning. The vinyl surface isn’t porous; therefore, less dirt settles on it. It is easier to clean.
On one hand, this covering is made of woven fabric. Woven fabric is porous and has more spaces for dirt to sit and mold to grow. This is why you will need to let the cleaning agent sit for an hour before washing this down.
If required, you may scrub surfaces a little but not too rough, or else you risk tearing the awning. Remember that acrylic awnings will be waterproof, hence making them harder to clean.
- If you have to retract a wet awning, dry it as soon as possible afterward and hose it down quickly. Do not close it when wet.
- Tilt your awning if it’s raining, so the water flows down instead of accumulating.
- Dry the awning in the sun.
- Use coatings and sprays that protect your awning from UV rays and mold.
- Use waterproof coatings on acrylic awnings.
- Clean the awning before applying the coating.
- The easiest and most accessible cleaning solution is dish soap mixed with warm water and baking soda.
- There’s plenty of options for commercial cleaners in the grocery store. However, the good ones are often quite expensive. Check the product usage instructions to confirm it is safe to use on your awning.
- Always dilute bleach. It should only be used on hard stains or mold growths, and only on the affected areas.
- If you don’t want to use bleach, a much safer alternative is antimicrobial soap. It helps get rid of the mold while being gentle on your awning.
- White vinegar and baking soda also work well to remove tough mildew. Just use some on specific stains and then rinse off with water.
- Avoid oil-based products and abrasive cleaning solutions. They clean the stain but are harmful to the camper awning.
- Use a small amount to clean an area first. If the solution works well and doesn’t cause any discolorations or damage, you can use it without worries.
You can also make a cleaning solution at home. Simply mix:
- 2 parts cleaning agents
- 8 parts water
Use a spray bottle or bucket to mix the solution and you’re done.
Cleaning the camper awning can be a good reminder of how helpful the awning has been on your camping trips. Taking care of it is the least you can do for the awning.
So next time you go camping and open your awning you can think of the time you spent cleaning it, and how good it is to show off a clean awning to your camping neighbors.