Cleaning an RV Inside and Out with Free Printable Checklists. Let's face it. Cleaning an RV is not something most people love doing. It is, however, one of the most important things you can do to care for your RV and help you maintain the value of your RV for as long as possible.
Whether getting your RV ready for the Spring or storing it in the Fall/Winter, we've got the tips and tricks you need to get the job done quickly as possible.
Cleaning an RV
Thanks for following along with the next installment of our RV Basics series! Here we show you how to properly clean your RV (inside and out) as quickly and painlessly as possible - I know you've got better things to do with your time, right?
Cleaning an RV is the perfect opportunity to spot-check and glance over the RV to ensure there aren't any issues such as cracks, leaks, and other unforeseen issues.
One challenge is that you can't just use any old products to clean the inside or the outside of your RV. For example, did you know you shouldn't put bleach in your septic system? It may clean and disinfect your holding tank, but it will also kill the good bacteria that you want in your tank to break down the waste and make it leave your RV as efficiently as possible. So this rules out using a cleaner with bleach to clean the toilet.
After years of owning an RV, we have a basic routine for cleaning. While some of this may be redundant or obvious to many of you, we are covering all of the bases to make sure anyone of any level will have the information they need to clean quickly and efficiently - with the proper tools and supplies.
Check out our FREE checklists at the bottom of the page - it's perfect for those of you who want a reminder of what needs to be done, need help staying organized, or love the feeling of crossing stuff off a list 🙂
Recommended Tools and Products
Here are our recommended RV cleaning products and tools. We are ONLY recommending products that we actually use. This advice is from years of RVing.
- Bugs N All - breaks down bug residue, removes black streaks, degreaser.
- Griot's Car Wash
- Griot's Foaming Surface Wash + BOSS Foam Cannon
- Griot's Poly Gloss
- 303 Touchless Sealant
- Squeegie with Extension Pole
- Microfiber Wash Mitts
- Wash Mop Stick Kit
- Extra Large PFM Edgeless Drying Towel
- 8 Foot or Taller Step Ladder
Use no bleach or formaldehyde-based products to clean your toilet - bleach kills the microbes that break down the waste in the blackwater tank.
Since there is not a lot of room to store stuff in an RV I keep it simple with only a few products that can be used in multiple places. Most of the interior cleaning products I keep in the RV, the exterior products we store at home unless we're headed out on a longer trip then we take the essentials with us.
- Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Toilet bowl cleaner + toilet brush
- Sprayway Glass cleaner - the BEST glass cleaner!
- All-Purpose Cleaner - Mrs Meyers, 7th Generation, or Method are my favorite brands. You can use an all-purpose cleaner on almost everything plus your floors!
- White Vinegar + spray bottle to make your own cleaner
- Toilet Brush
- Rubber Gloves or disposable gloves
- Sponge with non-scratch scrub side
- Microfiber cloths
- Paper Towels
- Swiffer Duster
- Broom and Dust Pan - I use this collapsible one as its easier to store.
- Mop - I use 2 different kinds of mops. When we're on the road, I use my Rubbermaid Reveal with diluted all-purpose cleaner, and when at home, I grab my Bissel Steamer for an extra good clean.
- Vacuum Cleaner - Here is a great smaller vacuum cleaner that I've been using in our RV for a few years.
💭 Helpful Tips
- Always work from top to bottom whether you're cleaning inside or out.
- Always have your tools and supplies ready to go before you get started - especially if you have to get on the roof or be on a ladder. This will make cleaning much more quick and efficient - and safe.
- ALWAYS follow your manufacturer guidelines for cleaning your RV.
- Don't get on the roof alone. Always have a partner or helper to provide security and help to get things on and off the roof.
- Use the opportunity to check for insects, webs, and nests. Also, look for deterioration and other signs of damage to the interior and exterior surfaces.
- Ensure that insurance coverage is valid and up-to-date
Cleaning The Inside
I don't know about you, but our RV gets so MUCH dirtier than our brick-and-mortar home. Between sharing a tiny space with your family and pets, trekking in who-knows-what from the outside, and picking up a lot of dust and dirt as you travel down the road - things get dirty FAST!
Tip: Always work from top to bottom.
Open the Windows
Open all windows, doors, and vents to air out the RV.
Remove Decorative Pillows and Rugs
If you have any decorative pillows, throws, rugs, and even curtains, make sure to take them outside and shake/beat the dust out of them. Leave them outside to air out. Wash anything that is machine washable.
Tip: I only buy machine washable rugs or indoor/outdoor rugs that can be hosed off outside if needed. Any other type of rug is quite impractical in an RV - especially if you have pets or kids!
Pick up Clutter
I know this seems obvious, but by first getting the clutter out of your way, your cleaning will go MUCH faster. I have kids - I know 🙂 Everything in its place, then get started on the next step.
Always get the dust out of the way first.
Using a disposable duster or another favorite method, start at the top - things high up - and work your way down. The dust falls as you go along, so you'll get more accomplished with this method.
Clean and Sanitize Countertops
Wipe Down Walls
Look for stains and soiling and wipe down any spills with an appropriate cleaner.
Wipe Down Cabinets
Dust and Wipe down/wash the exterior of your cabinets.
After the "dust settles" (no pun intended) 🙂 vacuum the floors using any attachments you need to get into those tiny nooks and crannies that all RV's have.
I usually don't bother with my broom and dustpan except for quick pick-ups. It's just easier to use the vacuum and get a really good pick up of dirt and dust when needed.
Vacuum Vent Screens
This is a great time to vaccum the vent screens. I know after a trip we always have bugs stuck in our vents (and window screens, see below.)
Vaccum Window Screens
Using a soft attachment go ahead and vaccum the window screens while the windows are open.
Unlike your home, washing the windows is easy in an RV! If you've never used Sprayway Glass cleaner, I highly suggest you do. It's seriously the best window cleaner. I use it in my house and RV.
After you get all the crud off floors, immediately mop using a natural cleaner appropriate to your floor. Some RV's have vinyl tile, some real tile, some even stone.
I have two different mops that I use - my Rubbermaid Reveal has a refillable reservoir that you can fill with any cleaner appropriate for your flooring. It also has a washable microfiber pad which is super convenient.
The other mop I have is actually a Bissel Steamer. I use this when I want a good clean. I leave this mop at home since it's not as easy to store as the refillable mop I first mentioned.
Now is a great time to change or clean your air conditioning filters, check the fire extinguisher, and change any batteries in your smoke detectors or Carbon Monoxide detector (if needed).
Wash and Put Away all Dishes
Getting rid of the clutter is the first step in cleaning the kitchen. Get it picked up and organized, and you're good to go!
Clear the Clutter and Organize
Clear any clutter that's accumulated, and take this time to re-organize the inside of your cabinets if needed. Since space is at a pre
If you've never organized your cabinets before, you might want to make this a whole separate day 🙂
Clean Appliances and Refrigerator
Clean the inside and out of your appliances - refrigerator, stove, microwave, coffee pot, etc.
Scrub and Sanitize Sink
Clean the inside of your sink. Be careful with using a super scratchy brush or sponge - RV sinks are notorious for scratching easily.
Clean the outside and inside of your cabinets to get any spilled liquids or food.
Wash and Sanitize Countertops
Since food is being prepared on the countertops, I like to wipe mine down first, then follow up with an antibacterial wipe to get any germs. Since there is so much variance in the types of countertop surfaces, I recommend using the appropriate cleaner recommended by your manufacturer.
Test your appliance and make sure all appliances function appropriately.
Things get really dusty in an RV - FAST. This is especially true of the bedroom with all its bedding, pillows, etc. It's an allergy haven.
Remove Bedding, Pillows, and Rugs
Remove all bedding and wash. Remove any pillows and rugs. Take outside and shake out/beat them and air them out. Wash anything that is machine washable.
Dust from top to bottom getting all nooks and crannies.
Vacuum the Mattress
Many people don't think about this, but you really need to vacuum the mattress regularly to remove dust mites, dandruff, etc. This is particularly true in an RV where it collects A LOT of dust.
Flip the Mattress
To help preserve and protect your mattress longer, you should flip it every so often. When I do a deep clean, I just flip the mattress then. Once you flip, you might want to vacuum the topside.
You can help protect your mattress by using a mattress pad or cover.
Vacuum the Floor
Vacuum the floor last, and if you have a carpet, you may want to go over it a couple of times just in case. It's such a small space that this won't take long.
Remove Washable Items
Remove towels, rugs, and washable shower curtains and liner.
Remove any of the washables like towels, rugs, shower curtain, and shower liner.
Dust from top to bottom. This will go quick since RV bathrooms are so tiny.
Please check to see if your RV manufacturer has any special cleaning instructions before cleaning your shower or tub.
Our recent RV actually had a sticker attached for cleaning recommendations. It specially stated no abrasive scrubbing and gave instructions on how to keep the surface shiny.
Cleaning an RV Toilet
Cleaning an RV toilet is my personal favorite (sarcasm) 🙂
When cleaning an RV toilet, you cannot use any chemical that will kill the good bacteria in the black tank. One of the worst offenders is BLEACH - commonly use for cleaning toilets! Always remember that you can't flush anything down the toilet except waste and products specifically made for RVs or those that can be proven to break down quickly when exposed to water.
I usually use a toilet cleaner with all-natural ingredients and a toilet bowl brush. I also use antibacterial wipes on the seat and surrounding areas and then toss them in the trash. I never use toilet bowl cleaner with chemicals of any kind.
Cleaning The Outside
Cleaning an RV outside requires some extra organization. Prepare your cleaning supplies, assemble the ladder, make sure your hose works, get all tools together.
We usually start with the awnings, then move to the roof. After the awning dries, we close it up then start on the sides, front, and back.
Extend the awing and rinse the top and underside. Wash the awning using your chosen soap and a long-handled soft bristle brush.
Dry the awning by first draining any excess water. Leave the awning extended fully until it is completely dry.
- Review your manufacturer's recommendations for the weight limit on your roof.
- Be very careful as soap and water can be slippery. Wear shoes with good grip on wet surfaces.
- Work in small areas from one end to the other to help keep you from walking over soapy areas.
- Have someone with you to help if you need any assistance.
- Always step with care - look before you step forward or backward. There are a lot of things to trip over on the roof.
- If your RV is small enough and you have a tall enough ladder and a long handle brush, you may not need to get on the roof to wash it.
Cleaning The Roof
Rinse the roof off, then start washing. Start at the front of the RV and work your way back. We use a long handles soft-bristled brush to wash the roof. Wash in small areas so you can avoid having to step in slippery soap. Rinse after you are done washing each area—Squeegee excess water to quickly get it off the roof.
Make sure to wash all the equipment and skylights on the roof carefully - air conditioners, vents, satellite, antenna, etc.
Again following your manufacturers directions treat your roof with the appropriate protectant.
While you are on the roof, this is the ideal time to spot check and inspect for cracks, damage, and other issues. It is easiest to do this when the roof is dry and clean. Use the proper sealant for your roof and make any repairs if needed.
Walls, Front, and Back of RV
Working from top to bottom, rinse the RV sides, front and back. Work one area at a time.
Start by rinsing the area. Then, using your chosen soap and a non-abrasive brush/soft chamois on an extension handle, or micro-fiber mitts, begin washing at the top working your way down. Rinse after washing, then dry with a squeegee and large microfiber towel.
Note that your exterior RV finish may include slats, vinyl stickers, or paint. Each one needs to be treated differently. Please consult your manufacturer for the appropriate cleaning tools and products for the exterior of your RV.
Tip: Pay particular care to the front of the RV. This is where all the bugs end up - as well as rock chips. The enzymes from the squashed bugs can deteriorate your exterior graphics and paint.
You will want to take particular care in washing your windshield for those of you with a driveable RV. For safety reasons - you want to be able to see where you're going, right? We have found the product Bugs 'N All to be very effective at breaking down the bug splatter on the front of the RV. Spray it on and let it work for a few minutes. Scrub stubborn areas, and then rinse thoroughly.
Once the RV is nice and clean, it's time to protect it. There are several ways to protect the finish of your RV. We have used two different methods that have worked reasonably well without a lot of manual effort.
The first product we tried was 303 Touchless Sealant. After you finish washing an area of your RV, before drying the area, quickly spray the area with the sealant. Then immediately rinse the sealant off the surface and dry the area with a large microfiber towel.
We usually work a 3-4 foot section at a time and then move down the side of the RV. This is a fairly easy process, and the protection seems to last about 6 months.
The other process we have been using lately is using Griot's Garage Foaming Canon and Surface Prep and Poly Gloss product. The foaming cannon connects to a pressure washer, and the surface prep product gets sprayed onto the surface to break down the dirt and grime. You let the foam stand on the surface for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
You will have to treat extra dirty areas with extra care and some scrubbing.
Once the rig is clean, you can switch to the Poly Gloss product and repeat the procedure to foam the Poly Gloss on, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it off and dry the surface with a squeegee or microfiber towel.
Tires and Wheels
Save the wheels and tires for last as they are usually the dirtiest.
Rinse first to get the major dirt off, then using a microfiber mitt. Wash with car wash and water. Hand dry whit a microfiber towel. There are many products out there to clean and protect your wheels and tires.
Most tire manufacturers state to wash with gentle soap and water and NOT use anything else on the tire. We do use wheel and tire covers made of vinyl to protect the rubber from damaging UV rays.
- Flush and disinfect the water system following your manufacturer's guidelines.
- Organize the storage compartments
- Vacuum storage compartments
- Check for damage, insects, nests, and webs. Repair anything as needed.
📋 Free Cleaning Your RV Printable Checklist
Just to help you stay on task and get organized, here are our free downloadable pdf checklists for cleaning your RV. One is for the inside and another for the outside. Happy Cleaning!
Get our FREE downloadable and printable RV Cleaning Checklists (Interior and Exterior Checklists) by joining our email list below.
RV Basics How-To Series
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RV Hacks: Cleaning an RV Inside and Out with Free Printable Checklist. Let's face it. Cleaning an RV is not something most people love doing. It is, however, one of the most important things you can do to care for your RV and help you maintain the value of your RV for as long as possible. Whether getting your RV ready for the Spring or storing it in the Fall/Winter, we've got the tips and tricks you need to get the job done quickly as possible. #rvhacks #rvliving #rvhowto #rvcamping #RVbasics #RVtipsandtricks #seekingthervlife