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Dewinterizing and Spring Cleaning Your RV: A Checklist

Amy Leal-profile-image
Amy Leal
February 20, 2024

TL;DR: Prepare your RV for spring adventures with essential dewinterizing steps: inspect and clean the exterior, flush and sanitize the plumbing, ensure the electrical and propane systems are operational, and tackle spring cleaning. Avoid costly repairs and enjoy a safe journey.

Dewinterizing and Spring Cleaning Your RV

The winter months are harsh on your RV, and its systems need a wake-up call before hitting the road again. Skipping this step could lead to serious consequences. Imagine turning on the faucet only to have antifreeze spew out, or worse, experiencing a cracked water line due to frozen water. By diligently following our dewinterizing steps, you'll avoid costly repairs and ensure a safe and comfortable journey.

Prepare Your Tools and Supplies

Before tackling dewinterization, gather all the necessary tools and supplies to avoid delays and frustrations. Here's a handy checklist:

  • Essential tools: Adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, bucket or container, funnel, gloves, and safety glasses.
  • Cleaning agents: RV-safe water system cleaner and bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach per 15 gallons of water).
  • Squeegee
  • Long-handled car wash brush—the MATCC 62 Car Wash Brush is a favorite.
  • Optional items: Paper towels, cleaning rags, RV wax and polish.

Get Your Timing Right: When to Dewinterize

Rushing the process before the weather warms up can lead to freezing temperatures damaging your RV's plumbing system. The ideal time to dewinterize depends on your location and climate. Aim for a consistent stretch of warm weather above freezing, typically around mid-spring.

RV Roof and Exterior Inspection and Maintenance

Winter can be tough on an RV exterior. Inspection and cleaning of the roof, skin, windows, and tires should be part of your dewinterization process

  • Check roof for:
    • Torn or damaged membranes
    • Proper sealant around vents, antennas, and other roof penetrations
    • Signs of leaks or water damage
  • Inspect siding and seals for:
    • Faded, cracked, or peeling paint or sealant
    • Gaps or tears in the caulking around windows, doors, and other openings
    • Loose or missing screws or rivets
    • Signs of water damage
  • Check awnings and slide-outs for:
    • Tears, rips, or holes in the fabric
    • Smooth operation and deployment
    • Presence of mildew or mold
  • Inspect tires for:
    • Proper inflation (check the owner's manual for recommended pressure)
    • Signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, bulges, or uneven tread wear
    • Tire age (tires should be replaced every 5-7 years, regardless of tread depth)
  • Wash and wax the exterior:
    • Use a mild RV-specific soap and water.
    • Apply a coat of wax to protect the paint and sealant.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. Star Brite 71500 RV Wash & Wax is a popular 2-in-1 product.

Steps for Dewinterizing Your RV's Interior

Winter storage can leave musty odors and potentially harmful mold or mildew growth. Opening windows and doors allows fresh air to circulate, Cleaning and dusting removes dust and allergens accumulated during storage.

Complete a thorough inspection of your RV’s interior. Leaks from winterized plumbing or melting snow can lead to water damage and costly repairs. Testing all faucets and appliances ensures their functionality and helps identify potential issues before they cause significant damage.

Inspect for signs of pest infestation.Mice and other rodents often seek shelter in RVs during winter. Pack rats are a serious problem in dry climates. They love to chew wiring and insulation. If you didn’t set traps when you winterized the RV, set them now.

Most seasoned campers recommend taking care of RV spring cleaning at the same time you dewinterize. Recruit your partner or the kids to help out and make it a fun weekend project.

Spring Wake-Up Call for the Plumbing System

Winter may have left its icy mark on your RV's plumbing system. This section will guide you through the process of flushing the water lines and freshening up the holding tanks

Before you begin, consider how you winterized your water heater. If you bypassed it and didn't fill it with antifreeze, you can inspect the anode rod and remove drain caps before flushing. However, if the water heater contains antifreeze, save the inspection for afterwards.

Before you do anything with water, close the black and gray water tank valves. You don’t want any surprises. Next, determine your flush strategy. If you have a city water hook-up available, it simplifies the process. You can remove the winterizing kit (if installed) on the pump before or after the flush. If you use the freshwater tank, you’ll need to remove the kit before filling it or using the pump.

Flush Away the Winter

  • City Water Connection:
    • Connect your RV to the city water source.
    • Open all faucets (hot and cold) simultaneously, including the outside shower.
    • Turn on the fresh water source.
    • Hold down the toilet flush pedal until the water runs clear.
  • Freshwater Tank:
    • Fill the freshwater tank with water.
    • Turn on the pump and open all faucets (hot and cold) throughout the RV, including any outdoor shower.
    • Hold down the toilet flush pedal until the water runs clear.

Final Touches

  • Once the water runs clear, close all faucets.
  • Disconnect from the city water source if used.
  • If you used the pump, fill the tank with fresh water.
  • Fill the freshwater tank with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach per 15 gallons of water.
  • Pump the solution through the entire system until you smell bleach at each faucet.
  • Let it sit for several hours, then flush thoroughly with clean water.
  • Install a new water filter for fresh, clean drinking and cooking water.
  • Check for leaks at all connections.

Congratulations! You've successfully flushed and prepared your RV's water system for travel. Don’t forget to add a holding tank treatment to keep the gray and black water tanks smelling fresh. We love Unique Digest-It!

Rebooting for Spring: Dewinterizing Your RV's Electrical System

Just as winter's chill affects the plumbing, it can also impact your RV's electrical system. For a seamless transition to warmer months, follow these steps to ensure your electrical system operates safely and efficiently.

  • Turn on the main breaker.
  • Check all electrical outlets and fixtures for proper function.
  • Charge RV house batteries and test them for proper voltage.
  • Turn on and test all appliances.
  • Replace any air filters.

Finally, check and test fire extinguishers. Don’t forget to test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries as needed. If it’s time to replace these safety items, we suggestt Kidde plug-in alarms with Smart features.

Rekindling the Flame on Your RV Propane System

The propane system is the heart of your RV. Unless you store your RV in temperatures lower than -44 degrees Farenheit, you won’t need to worry about frozen lines, but that doesn’t mean you can skip dewinterizing.

Safety First

  • Switch off all propane appliances.
  • Make sure no open flames or sparks exist near your RV while working with the propane system.
  • Turn on your leak detector and listen for any telltale sounds that might indicate a leak.

Inspection and Testing

  • Open the valve on your propane tank fully. Sniff for any leaks coming from the valve or regulator.
  • Soap Bubble Test
    • Apply a soapy water solution generously to the valve and regulator. Look for bubbling or spurting.
  • Rodent Patrol
    • Examine wires and hoses for signs of rodent damage.

TLC for Propane Appliances

  • Clean and Clear:
    • Give your propane appliances a thorough cleaning to remove any dust or debris accumulated during winter storage.
  • Test the Spark
    • Light each appliance to make sure you have proper ignition.

Double-Check for Optimal Performance

Once all propane appliances are functioning correctly, confirm that they operate flawlessly in their gas mode. After testing the refrigerator in gas mode, turn it off and leave the doors open. This allows it to reach room temperature before transitioning to its electric mode for further testing.

If you suspect a leak, act swiftly. Immediately turn off the propane supply. Don't hesitate to seek assistance from a certified RV service technician for inspection and repairs.

Your RV Spring Cleaning Checklist

Tackling spring cleaning alongside dewinterization offers double the benefits. Not only will you revitalize your RV's systems, but you'll also refresh its interior, which means one less project to complete before you hit the road.

  • Floors: Vacuum and wash floors thoroughly. Don't forget to vacuum under furniture.
  • Upholstery: Vacuum or steam clean upholstery and carpets. Treat any stains with a suitable cleaner.
  • Cabinets and Drawers: Empty, clean, and organize cabinets and drawers. Discard anything expired or no longer needed.
  • Windows and Screens: Wash windows inside and out. Remove and clean window screens.
  • Kitchen: Clean appliances, countertops, sink, and cabinets.
  • Bathroom: Clean and disinfect the toilet, sink, shower, and bathtub. Check for leaks and replace any worn-out caulking.
  • Linens and Bedding: Wash all bedding, towels, and curtains. Replace any worn-out or damaged items.

You don’t need a lot of fancy cleaning supplies for interior spring cleaning. Baking soda, vinegar, and a gentle detergent make a great cleaning trio.

Dewinterizing and spring cleaning may seem like tedious tasks, but if you Invest the time and effort now, all you’ll need to do for the first trip of the season is load up the RV and drive. Plus, a clean RV just runs better. So grab your cleaning supplies, put on some tunes, and channel your inner Marie Kondo - your RV will thank you!

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 8000 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Amy Leal-profile-image
Amy Leal
I’m a free-spirited travel and lifestyle writer who loves the RV life. I spent several years living in my vintage Holiday Rambler and exploring the beautiful United States. Today, I live in a casita on the Sea of Cortez and take shorter road trips. I’m excited to trace new maps with stories of Mexico’s sun-soaked magic and the joy of roaming without borders.