How To Clean RV Camper AwningsAnthony Day
Before you leave for any road trip in your RV, you always want to make sure that your vehicle is prepped and clean - with awnings being an easy oversight.
If you have ever gone on a camping trip and opened up your RV awning only to find that the fabric stinks from the previous season, you understand the importance of cleaning it before you hit the road. RV awnings are notorious for being neglected, as they are really only used once you are situated in your campground - making them the last thing that you think about when you finally get home.
To clean an RV camper awning, use a cleaning solution such as a soap or bleach mixture. Unroll your awning, remove dirt and debris, and then thoroughly spray the mixture on the underside of the awning. Roll up your awning, let it sit for an hour, unroll it and then spray it again with water.
The upcoming RV season is right around the corner, which means that it’s a good time to start getting geared up for your next road trip. RV travel is as popular these days, as it ever has been in the past - with more and more people preferring to hit the open road in the comfort of their home on wheels. However, if you are new to RV travel, you need to understand that owning one of these vehicles comes with more upkeep than a standard car. There are so many components (big and small) attached to RVs that all need their proper maintenance and level of attention if you want to maximize the lifespan of your vehicle. Although RV camper awnings are not the most critical area for you to maintain, that is often why they are neglected the most and end up becoming quite foul all too quickly. One of the main reasons that this happens is that people roll them up when they are still wet, which results in mold and mildew building up in the fabric - especially if you leave it like this for a long time. To keep you from dealing with a gross RV camper awning on your next trip, we are going to take you through the whole cleaning process.
After extensively researching RV camper awnings, I have been able to gather enough information to determine the best way to clean them. My research has shown me that you should clean your RV camper awning based on how dirty it actually is - with mold requiring a more thorough approach.
Do You Need to Remove an RV Awning for Cleaning?
In most cases, you will not need to remove your RV awning for cleaning. You will find that by taking it out and following our cleaning procedure, you should be able to get the job done just fine without actually needing to dismantle the fabric from the awning.
With that being said, if your RV camper awning is particularly dirty - with mold and mildew all over the material, then you may want to consider dismantling it from the awning. This gives you the ability to put the awning on a hard surface so that you can scrub the fabric better. Most new RV awnings do not require this but old models that have been neglected over the years can use the extra attention.
When Do Awnings Need Cleaning?
How often you need to clean your RV awning should really be determined on a case-by-case basis. But as a general rule of thumb, you should be able to get away with doing it once or twice per year - generally in the middle of a road trip season and at the end of one.
This gives you a nice balance within the season to have your RV clean and operational without needing to deal with the consequences of letting it get too gross. With that being said, you may need to clean your RV camper’s awning even more than this. If you use your awning a lot, you will find that it gets dirty quite quickly. The fabric is going to get hit by virtually every weather condition that you experience on your trip, which is all going to add up after a while.
RV camper awnings particularly get dirty when they are met with a lot of dust and moisture. If you are leaving your awning open during rain, then you are increasing the chances of mold and mildew building up in the fabric. This is especially problematic if you are rolling up your camper’s awning when it is still wet. More often than not, awnings get worn out and nasty from this more than anything.
If you are opening up your awning and finding that it smells horrible, then it is definitely time to give it a proper cleaning. A telltale sign that this is mandatory is when you see physical signs of mold and mildew such as black spots and streaks in the fabric.
Common Awning Materials
Depending on the type of RV camper that you own, you may find that you have one of several different types of fabric materials. Over the years these fabrics have changed quite a bit - with modern awnings relying on materials that are much better suited for RV camping. These are the 4 common awning materials that are used by RV campers:
In the past, a lot of older RV models were using canvas and cotton for awning fabrics. While cotton is pretty breathable and decent as a material, it does easily result in mold and mildew building up, which is why you will rarely see any new RVs using it today. Polyester was introduced in recent decades and it proved to be a very reliable material for awnings, as it kept out weathering damage from moisture and heat. However, this material is not very breathable and it can get quite hot underneath a polyester awning.
These days, we see acrylic and vinyl fabrics used in RV camper awnings more than anything else. Both of these materials are considered to be grade-a for awnings as they are quite breathable and weather-resistant all in one. However, acrylic awnings seem to be the way to go, as they are more breathable than vinyl. In fact, acrylic is such a useful material for awnings that a lot of travelers are even able to get away with rolling them up while they are still wet without much smell or mold building up. However, we always recommend that you dry every awning thoroughly before rolling it up (even acrylic)
Chemicals for Cleaning Camper Awnings
If you want to clean your RV camper’s awning, you are going to want to have some proper cleaning supplies before you start the process. These days, there is an entire industry dedicated to cleaning RV awnings with plenty of chemical products having been manufactured to make the job as quick and easy as possible.
If you want an easy go-to, we have found that STAR BRITE RV Awning Cleaner is always a reliable product that is ideal for getting rid of virtually every stain and odor. However, if you do not want to buy an awning cleaning product, there are some great DIY solutions that you can utilize such as:
- Bleach Solution (10 parts water/1 part bleach)
- Soap Solution (4 parts soap/1 part bleach)
For most RV awnings, you can get away with a DIY solution for your camper awning, as soapy water should be more than enough to remove stains and odors. If you are finding that you have got mold and mildew, you may want to consider using a bleach solution as this will be much more reliable. We always advise owners to cautiously chemical-based solutions until they know for sure that they are not going to damage your awning. Bleach and other chemicals have been known to create irreversible damage to the color and integrity of certain awning materials, which is why you want to do a test run before you commit.
Before you begin cleaning your awning material, you want to gather all of the necessary tools that you will need for the job. What you will need can vary depending on how severely dirty your RV’s awning material is. To confirm this, unroll your awning and assess the damage.
If you are seeing that the cleaning required is going to be minimal - with hardly any stains or odors, then you can take a very minimal approach to clean your awning. In this case, you can skip the optional steps in the cleaning process.
However, if you are seeing that there is a lot of cleaning that needs to be done, then you are going to want to do a more thorough job to make your trip more enjoyable and also preserve the integrity of your awning material. This will particularly be necessary to do if there is mold, mildew, and foul odors in the fabric. Here is what you will need:
- Soap or Bleach Solution
- Spray Bottle
- Hose (with sprayer)
- Pressure Hose (optional)
- Sponge or Scrubber (optional)
- RV Awning Cleaning Product (optional)
How to Clean a Camper Awning: 8 Steps
No one enjoys cleaning their RV awning but you will find that if you want to get as many years out of it as possible, it is going to be a necessary aspect of maintaining your RV.
The best way to keep this procedure as quick and painless as possible is to simply make cleaning your awning a routine habit, as cleaning becomes much more tedious when you let your awning get really gross. Let’s dive into the procedure of cleaning your camper’s awning.
1. Add Cleaning Solution to Sprayer
If you have decided on the type of cleaning solution that you are going to use (soap or bleach), then you can begin the process. Create your solution and then pour it inside a spray bottle. If you are using soap, make sure that it has mixed properly to create balanced soapy water. If you are using an awning cleaning product, you do not need to mix it with water.
2. Unroll the Awning
Next, you are going to want to unroll your awning fully. Depending on the type of RV camper that you have, this will need to be done in one of two different ways. If you have an automatic/electronic awning, then all you need to do is activate the mechanism to have it unfold automatically. However, if you have got a manual awning, you will need to unroll it by hand.
3. Remove Dirt & Debris
Once the awning is unrolled, you always want to assess exactly how dirty the fabric is to determine the extent of the cleaning procedure. If you are seeing that there is dirt, debris, and leaves, then it is best to try to get rid of as much of this before you continue doing anything else. Remove what you can by hand and then try to shake a bit of dirt or dust out of the fabric.
Using a dry brush, go along the awning fabric and remove as much as you can before getting it wet. If you get your fabric wet before doing this, you are going to end up smearing a lot of dirt - making the cleaning process more difficult. Once most of the dirt and debris have been removed - give the fabric a thorough spray with clean water using your hose.
4. Connect Sprayer to Hose
One of the best ways to get your cleaning solution into your awning fabric is to connect it to a hose. If you have a hose attachment that allows you to connect the solution, this is going to be a great way to make the cleaning process more thorough.
5. Thoroughly Spray the Awning Underside
With your sprayer hose and solution equipped, start to spray the mixture thoroughly into the underside of the awning. Make sure that whatever solution you chose is fully embedded into the fabric so that it can properly soak.
If you do not have a spray hose attachment for your solution - no problem. Instead, just use the spray bottle on its own. Go along the underside of the awning material and spray evenly across the entire fabric. Give it a spray every 6 inches or so (this applies to awning cleaner products as well).
6. Roll Up the Awning and Wait
Next, what you are going to want to do is roll up your awning and let it sit for around an hour.
You want to give the cleaning solution enough time to fully soak into the fabric.
7. Unroll and Scrub Fabric (Optional)
If your RV awning was not too dirty and you were just doing a routine cleaning procedure, you can skip any thorough cleaning. However, if you have got a lot of dirt, mold, or mildew built up in your fabric, you are going to want to get all of that out by scrubbing the awning.
You can use a simple sponge for most awnings or a scrubber for excessively dirty materials. After the solution has soaked properly, unroll the awning and begin scrubbing the fabric - especially in areas where you see stains, mold, or mildew.
8. Rinse Awning Thoroughly
Now that your RV awning is clean, you want to give it a final thorough wash to remove any chemicals that were used from the fabric. If you have a pressure hose, this is always a great tool to utilize - just make sure to put it on a soft setting and not use it too close to the material to not rip the fabric. Lastly, let it dry before you roll it up!
About THE AUTHOR
Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.Read More About Anthony Day