Ten Ways to Keep Your RV Clean and Tidy

Make every camping trip more enjoyable by keeping your RV clean and tidy

Almost everything about camping in an RV is great—except for cleaning it. The dreaded chore can put a damper on the fun. Spring cleaning, prepping before your next trip, and cleaning up when you get home are all important and often unpleasant tasks.

Being on the road often, driving, and parking in the dirt and traveling through various weather conditions all put your RV through a lot. The cleaner you keep your RV, the easier it will be to avoid the normal wear and tear from traveling throughout the year. (You should aim to wash the exterior of your RV at least once a quarter, if not more depending on how often you travel and where you go.) 

An RV seems like a lot of work to clean but doing little things frequently will make it seem like less of a daunting task and help you take pride in your ride.  

Here are 10 tips that can help to take the hassle out of cleaning your RV.

1. Read the instruction manual

Your RV’s instruction manual is a treasure-trove of information that can give you tips and tricks for cleaning your RV’s exterior and interior. This includes what type of cleaners you should and shouldn’t use and any specialized care instructions. For further information, try your RV manufacturer’s website for extra tips on cleaning and making your RV sparkle. Failure to read the instruction manual could lead to damage to your RV’s surfaces and finishes. 

2. Ditch the brand-name products

Most RV materials aren’t any different from other vehicle or living material types. It’s easy to want to purchase a brand-name cleaner or solution that’s made exclusively for RVs but the truth is many common and generic household cleaners work perfectly well to keep your RV sparkling, including dish soap, window cleaner, even distilled white vinegar. Those fancy products at the RV superstore are appealing but they’re typically more expensive. 

Dawn Dish Soap © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Spring cleaning

Make sure to have a clean start for your camping season. A deep clean each spring makes your entire summer of camping so much better.

Give the exterior of your RV a thorough cleaning and waxing.

Don’t forget to wash the awning, too. It is easy to forget about this important accessory because it is usually folded in when you are at home doing maintenance and cleaning on your RV.

Clean your RV’s tank sensors to keep them working all season long. Use a cleaning wand to blast the gunk out of your black tank. You can also soak your black and grey water tanks by adding a cup of Dawn dishwashing detergent to a tank that is ½ full of water and then driving around to agitate. There are also commercially available enzymatic tank cleaners that help to remove a dirty tank.

By the way, I have a series of posts on spring cleaning:

4. Clean out the storage area

Your RV’s storage areas can hide nasty messes and smells. It can also host mold, mildew, and other nasty critters. Clean out your RV’s storage areas, including external storage, often to avoid build-up of any dust or the accumulation of dirt and debris. Always check the nooks and crannies of your RV’s storage areas to make sure nothing is left behind that can turn to stink. 

Dump the black and then the gray water tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Dump those tanks

Your gray and black water tanks can be the source of many nasty odors and while tanks don’t directly affect your RV’s appearance, a poorly maintained tank will bother you while hanging inside and outside your ride. Dump and flush your tanks as necessary to keep your whole ride refreshed. Keep a supply of disposable vinyl gloves, a hose, a bucket, and other necessary items stored away exclusively for dumping and cleaning your tanks. 

Here are some helpful resources:

Reduce moisture with dehumidifiers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Prevent mold and mildew

Mold and mildew are major enemies of RVs and since they thrive in moisture reduce moisture within your RV. This includes running yo ur air conditioning in humid environments, opening windows and doors when possible, and buying moisture-absorbing packets for closets and storage areas. If you have an item that reeks of mildew, avoid detergent as it can feed the critters. Wash mildew-smelling clothing in a washer with a couple of cups of distilled white vinegar to kill off the bugs and leave your clothes smelling fresh. 

Be sure to read How to Reduce Moisture and Condensation in Your RV.

Take good care of your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Give your tires some shine

Over time, your RV tires start to fade and wear out as they are increasingly exposed to the elements and road debris. Tires withstand a lot of abuse and can sustain scuff marks and small cracks which ages them and frankly makes your vehicle less attractive overall.

Use a product that’s specially designed to spiff up your tires. The best tire shine brands not only clean your tires but also produce a nice, glossy look. When used as a regular part of your maintenance routine, tire shine not only makes your tires look better, it can also protect them from UV rays and other damage. 

There is quite literally more tire dressing products on the market than you can count. Recommended products include Meguiar’s Ultimate Insane Shine Tire Coating, Chemical Guys Galactic Black Wet Look Tire Shine Dressing, and 303 Aerospace Protectant.

Here are some articles to help:

8. Don’t forget the roof

The roof of your RV is one of the most important parts to maintain to avoid interior leaks and other issues. Many modern RV roofs are constructed from membrane roofing, but you still see plenty of metal roofs on the road. If yours is metal, you can wash like you would your RV’s exterior, but if your RV is made of modern membrane roofing, it’s recommended to use specialized cleaner found at RV and camping stores. A twice-yearly cleaning of a membrane roof is usually enough to keep it in good shape. Take this time to inspect the roof for any tears, cracks, rips, or other damage. 

Start with a clean RV

9. Before you head out

Starting out each trip with a clean RV makes the entire trip much more enjoyable.

Clean all of the surfaces of the interior. Use a mild cleaning solution like a mixture of vinegar and water to wipe down every surface, wash walls, and clean all the nooks and crannies.

Clean camping toys in the dishwasher with about a cup and a half of vinegar.

Make sure the sponges in your RV are free of bacteria by microwaving damp sponges for one to two minutes.

10. When you return home

Take a few minutes when you get home to do a quick tidy up so your next trip is that much easier.

Check everywhere for dirty laundry or stray dishes. Move cushions and open cupboards to make sure nothing gets left in the RV between trips.

A quick wet mop on the flooring cleans up all of the dirt that is bound to accumulate during a camping trip.

Clean the toilet with a gentle, natural cleaner so it doesn’t break down the seals around the toilet and cause a leak.

Throw all bedding in your home laundry so it is ready to go when you are.

Keeping your RV clean doesn’t have to be a huge chore. When everyone pitches in, it shouldn’t take too long to get your rig back up to scratch.

Worth Pondering…

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.

—Phyllis Diller

13 Tips for Winter RV Living

Your RV need not be in storage during the cold months. Get out there! Here are 13 winter camping tips for RVers.

Most RVers in northern states and provinces leave their RV in storage from the first frost until spring. Some, like us, are snowbirds who head out for warmer temps in the southern Sun Belt states. But many others winterize their RVs and leave them sitting there all winter.

Other RVers love camping in the snow.

First, decide whether your RV needs to be winterized and learn what that means. Winterizing your RV means you’ve taken steps such as:

  • Emptying water tanks
  • Draining the water heater and water lines
  • Disabling plumbing to prevent the pipes (which run along the undercarriage of the RV) from bursting or being destroyed
Winter RV living © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But winterizing your RV is not always a must-do especially if you plan to spend considerable time in your rig or temperatures at your cold destination won’t get below freezing. If a vehicle has been winterized you won’t be able to use the sink or bathroom inside the RV as usual (unless you take extra steps like using antifreeze).

Bur, you can absolutely use your RV for camping in the winter provided you prepare adequately to keep yourself and your RV safe from harm.

It’s not easy to camp in winter but many people do it with joy and very little stress and that’s because they’ve learned how to prepare their RVs for winter RV living. They know how to keep the plumbing system from freezing and bursting, keep the temperature inside the RV at a safe and comfortable level, reduce or prevent moisture accumulation, seal out intruders with little paws and big whiskers, and many other important winter camping preparations.

Anyone who’s lived in an RV for any duration of time in cold and snowy climates is likely to have a list of things to do—and a list of things to NOT do—to stay safe and warm while keeping the RV from winter damage.

Here are 15 of my top tips for winter RV living.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 1: Fill your fresh water tank and/or use a heated water hose

Water is very important for a multitude of reasons but when the temperature falls below freezing, water turns to ice. And when it does this, it expands—potentially bursting/damaging hoses and plumbing. For this reason, if you plan to winter camp you need to put water on the top of your list of things to prioritize.

If you’re winter camping for a short duration (say a week or less) you can simply fill your fresh water tank and plan to use that water for washing, cooking, and drinking. If you’re parked near a city water source of any kind, you can connect your fresh water hose and refill your fresh water tank as needed. This technique avoids the issue of your fresh water hose freezing.

However, if you’re planning to be winter camping in an area where ambient temps are likely to hit freezing or below regularly, you may wish to invest in a heated water hose.

Check this out to learn more: Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Heated Water Hose

And while you’re at it, be sure to always use a water pressure regulator when connected to any city water source including in the winter in which case you may want to wrap it in some type of insulation.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 2: Fill Propane or connect to an external propane tank

Before heading out on a winter camping trip (or before settling into a long-term winter campsite), be sure to fill your propane tank/tanks or obtain the necessary materials to connect to an external propane tank.

If you’re going to need propane for heating your rig and water and for cooking you’ll need to prepare ahead of time so that you don’t run out (I recommend having a couple of different options for heating your rig if you’ll be camping in sub-freezing temperatures because you can’t risk losing a single heat source).

If you are boondocking, bring a snow shovel and clear off the area.

Tip # 3: Keep sewer hose off the ground and flowing downward

If you connect to a sewer outlet during your winter RV living, you’ll want to keep your sewer hose off the ground and running on a downward slope. An easy way to achieve both of these goals is to use a Slunky sewer hose support.

The Slunky elevates and supports your sewer hose (off the frozen ground) and provides the slope you need for proper drainage. The Slunky is a 20-foot support that’s 7 inches tall at the RV end sloping to 4.5 inches in height at the sewer end.

Keep valves closed when not dumping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 4: Keep gate valves closed during winter RV living

Along with using a sloping sewer hose support, you’ll want to keep your gray water and black water gate valves closed (you should ALWAYS leave your black valve closed) opening them only when you want to dump your holding tanks.

When left open, only small amounts of gray water will drain out through the hose at a time; that small flow could freeze as it flows through slowly building up (like the layers of a pearl) until the hose is blocked.

Here are some articles to help:

Tip # 5: Seal off sewer hose entry

Another way to tend to the warmth of the basement or water compartment during winter RV living is to seal off the sewer hose entry. If you’ve got your sewer hose connected then you’re probably running it through a hole provided in the bottom of the bay. That hole allows cold (and potentially rodents) into the water compartment.

You can use steel wool to seal around your sewer hose opening when camping in the cold. This serves two purposes—to keep the cold from entering the bay and to keep mice from entering as well! If staying in a damp climate or for the longer term, consider brass/bronze wool instead since it won’t rust.

Tip # 6: Use steel or brass wool to seal small openings

To keep mice from seeking warmth inside your RV seal all small openings using steel wool. Brass wool also works. Also, use mouse traps and glue sticks in the basement and interior just in case they foil your attempts to seal them out. We’re not mean-spirited and we do love animals. We just don’t like stowaways that reproduce at warp speed and love to gnaw on everything in sight (and lots that ISN’T in sight) ending an otherwise wonderful winter RV living experience!

That’s why I wrote this article: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Mice Out of an RV

Dehumidifier for moisture control © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 7: Moisture control for winter RV living

Moisture control is essential in an RV to prevent mold and mildew from causing potentially serious issues. In winter, it’s especially important to keep moisture at bay. The three greatest producers of moisture in an RV are showering, cooking, and breathing. Since we generally need to do all three, I suggest keeping moisture at bay using a few simple methods, especially during periods of winter RV living.

Even though you’re probably inclined to want to seal everything up airtight to keep heat in and cold out, DON’T! You’d just be trapping in all of the moisture you’re creating in your RV. First, run your vent fans—yes, even in winter. You need to be able to run your roof vent fans in any kind of weather. This is why I recommend the installation of RV roof vent covers. They allow vents to be open without letting rain or snow enter the RV.

Vent covers aren’t expensive and are well worth the minimal effort to install.

Second, I recommend using a squeegee to pull the water off of your shower walls and toward the drain after each shower. If you don’t do this, your RV absorbs a significant amount of moisture while the shower is drying on its own because the water is evaporating.

A shower squeegee is also inexpensive but is an important tool in keeping moisture at bay. We use it all year long—not only when winter camping.

Finally, you can opt to use a small electric dehumidifier (if you’re connected to shore power) or a dehumidifying product like DampRid or something similar positioned throughout the interior of the RV.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoiding moisture damage in your RV: How to Reduce Moisture and Condensation in Your RV

Dehumidifier for moisture control © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 8: Use holding tank heating pads

If you’re winter camping in sub-freezing temperatures for an extended period, you may need to warm your holding tanks by using holding tank heating pads. Some RVs come from the factory with tank heating pads (we opted for them when we bought our Newmar Dutch Star and ultimately we’re glad we did).

Tip # 9: Insulate RV windows

You may also want to consider insulating your RV windows depending on how long you plan to winter camp in very cold temperatures.

You can insulate windows with heavy curtains or you can create DIY storm windows using ⅛-inch plexiglass or PETG panels which you’ll custom cut to fit your windows. You can adhere them to your windows using clear double-sided mounting tape.

Many RVers choose to use Reflectix, heavy-duty foam board, or even bubble wrap to insulate windows. The problem with these products is twofold. First, they seal out the light and need to be removed and installed daily to allow the sun in (unless you like living in a dungeon). Also, they tend to allow moisture to accumulate on the windows.

You can also use a combination of choices to cover your windows such as your choice of window covering combined with heavy-duty curtains. Although we often think of them as insulation from the sun, high-quality windshield covers can also be helpful in cold weather.

Winter RV living © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 10: Insulate your skylight

You may also want to insulate your skylights using a pre-made skylight cover. These are inexpensive and serve to insulate your RV from the cold that can come through the relatively thin plastic of the skylight. You’ll need to measure the inside of your skylight frame to obtain the proper dimensions for your insulator.

Some RVers use these in their roof vents as well but if you do this remember not to cover them all as it’s very important to run a roof vent fan to prevent moisture from accumulating in the RV.

These skylight/vent insulators are also good to keep the heat out in summer.

Tip # 11: Cover AC unit/units

Cover your roof air conditioning units. This is important from the perspective of keeping the cold from entering your RV in winter and also as a means of protection from the elements.

Of course, you don’t want to do this if your RV air conditioners are also heat pumps and you plan to use them as a source of heat while you’re camping. Just be aware that they’ll only work in outside temperatures above freezing so they won’t be of much use when the temps begin to drop.

Be careful where you park your car and RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tip # 12: Dress in layers

Dressing in multiple layers including base layers, mid-layers, hoodies, and shell jackets gives you greater control over regulating your body temperature. As you move through the activities of the day, you’ll work up body heat. As you do so, it’s important to avoid sweating because as it dries, sweat cools, wrapping you in a cold cocoon. Managing your body heat by constantly adding and subtracting layers helps you prevent sweating as much as possible—a key component of staying warm on winter adventures.

Tip # 13: Snow shovel and ice scraper

You might need to dig out your RV and scrape ice from your windows when it’s time to drive. Driving an RV in winter requires the same common sense you need to drive an RV any other day: Slow down and avoid being on the road when it’s dark.

Driving an RV in winter presents its own set of unique challenges: You’ll need to make sure your RV is set to handle winter conditions and you’ll have to track down additional winter gear and take extra precautions when driving and camping that a warmer destination wouldn’t necessarily require.

Read more: Don’t Get Stuck in the Cold: RV Winter Driving and Survival Tips

Worth Pondering…

The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.

—Ray Bradbury

Top 3 Winter RV Camping Must-Haves

Staying comfy starts with these three winter RV camping must-haves

After a long, hot summer, the first cold front of the season recently arrived. These three winter RV camping must-haves will help you be ready for the drop in temperature.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated RV water hose

A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost over $100 depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes and related issues.

A heated water hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Made with food-grade materials, a heated RV water hose comes in several lengths. Rated for use in temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit just plug it into a 110-volt outlet at the utility pedestal. It stays on to prevent a frozen water hose.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The material remains flexible down to -20 degrees which makes it easy to coil and store. A 25-foot hose typically uses about 2.5 kWh of electricity a day and will cost about 25¢ a day to keep water flowing to your RV in the coldest of temperatures.

Heated water hoses have long heat strips that run along their length. These prevent water from freezing when it travels through the tube. These hoses need to be plugged into electrical outlets to function and they have a variety of sizes and energy requirements.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated water hoses are an essential piece of gear for anyone who plans to use their RV in cold areas. You always need to be sure that your sinks, showers, and toilets are working when you’re living in an RV.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electric space heater

Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room.

When shopping for a portable electric space heater for an RV, consider the safety features of each model. When using high heat to warm small spaces it is paramount to use a heater that has safety features. Also, be aware of the amount of space the heater will cover. There is no use buying a heater that does not have enough power to warm your rig. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These little units are powerful and can easily warm up a small room. However, they’re also a fire hazard because they produce heat. Therefore, it’s important for every RVer to know some small space heater safety tips.

Never leave a space heater unattended. If things unexpectedly malfunction you won’t be there to deal with the situation. It may be tempting to turn on the heater and do some chores while it warms up. This is a dangerous thing to do.

In addition, you are wasting electricity if you run a space heater in an empty room. When you plan to leave the room, turn off the heater, unplug it, and store it somewhere where it will be out of the way. 

Dehumidifier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Dehumidifier

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. Insulated RVs can quickly fill with moisture and humidity especially when frequently showering and cooking inside. The moisture and condensation can cause damage and promote mold and mildew growth.

When winter camping it’s advisable to use several dehumidifiers in the RV (bathroom and kitchen are particular problem areas). Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

Dehumidifier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

How to Reduce Moisture and Condensation in Your RV

A helpful guide to avoiding moisture damage in your RV

Ah, winter. It’s so cozy and warm when you’re cuddled up inside your RV, especially when the outside temps are frigid. Well, that cozy feeling is sure to cool when you begin to notice water droplets forming on the inside of your RV windows. That’s excess humidity and it is not your friend!

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

High humidity can cause damage to your RV. When the warm, moist air from inside your rig hits the cold window glass, moisture forms. If that moisture builds up, the water droplets form little rivers of wetness that will run into the windowsill and from there into the wall. Most RVs are constructed with a lot of wood and humidity can cause that wood to warp, expand, and lose structural integrity over time. 

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another serious issue with humidity is mold. Mold spores in the air will be able to attach to surfaces in the RV. This can cause health problems such as increasing issues with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide for Winter Camping

Here are simple RV hacks and tricks to help cut down on the humidity inside your RV this winter.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooking

I always think of humidity as being caused by the areas we travel to and weather patterns but that is only part of it. We cause humidity while cooking, showering, and even breathing. Luckily, there are a few ways to reduce humidity. However, I do recommend first making sure moisture is not getting in the RV from the weather.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Minimize cooking time on your RV stovetop. When you do cook on the stovetop, be sure to use the exhaust fan on its medium or high speed and crank open a nearby window. Cover foods as they cook as much as possible to avoid steam from escaping directly into the RV.

When possible use the microwave as an alternative to stovetop cooking. Use the microwave along with the vent. Once the food is removed, quickly close the microwave rather than let the steam escape into the galley.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get outside. Cook outside as much as possible. Use your gas grill or campfire to heat delicious meals without adding more humidity to the inside air.

Convection cooking. If you have a convection oven, use it instead of the propane oven which can produce steam.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heating

Electric is best since propane produces humidity. A heat pump is one option for heating an RV. It’s not a perfect solution in every situation but it is good to have on board. A heat pump uses electricity to warm up the interior of the RV. As the name suggests, it uses a pump to move warmth from one place to another. In this case, it absorbs heat from outside the RV and pushes it inside through the ventilation system.

Related Article: Winter is Here: What to Do with Your RV?

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are limits to what a heat pump can do. They’re great when it’s chilly but not when it’s freezing cold. This is because they draw warmth from the outside air. The critical point varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but from our experience about 34 degrees Fahrenheit is the point at which an RV heat pump stops working. There’s just not enough heat in the outside air for it to extract.

A second option is a portable electric space heater. If you’re plugged into a reliable power source electric heaters are a great supplement to your RV furnace. They help to save propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If your RV features a fireplace, use it instead of the furnace.

Take proper precautions for insulating your rig so that drafts are not an issue. It will help you stay warmer.

Dress for success. Consider dressing in layers so that you can keep comfortable even in cooler indoor temperatures.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other considerations

Take shorter showers. Hot showers put lots of excess humidity into your RV interior. Consider using the campground showers, if available. If you do shower inside your RV, keep it brief. Run the exhaust fans and crack open a window to help release the extra moisture to the outside.

Related Article: How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in your RV?

Some folks swear by running a fan with one window opened slightly. Proponents claim that the fan helps circulate the air and helps humid air escape more readily.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dehumidifier choices

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. All that heat in one confined space can lead to humidity and condensation which can cause mold in your walls.

When winter camping it’s advisable to use several dehumidifiers in the RV (bathroom and kitchen are particular problem areas)

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Be aware of the humidity especially when camping in winter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These tips are easy to follow and will play a huge role in cutting down moisture and prolonging the life of your RV. With one less thing to worry about, you can hit the open roads without a care.

Read Next: 6 Great Tips for RV Beginners

Worth Pondering…

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid