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How to Give your RV a Bath

Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
July 2, 2021

TL;DR: Preserve your RV's beauty with proper washing techniques. Follow steps for each section - body, awning, and wheels. Maintain your RV's shine with consistent and thorough washes. Cheers to a sparkling RV after your next adventure!

How to Give your RV a Bath

Washing your RV is an essential part of RV ownership. Dirt and debris such as bird poop, road salt, bugs, and road tar can cause damage to your RV’s finish if left on there too long. Not to mention, most RV owners want to keep their RVs looking shiny and clean. There are several options to help you to accomplish this task. Unfortunately, most campgrounds do not allow RVs to be washed on-site using water, but if you have access to an outdoor hose, you can easily wash your RV at your own home. There are also manual car washes that have bays large enough for RVs or semi-trucks.  After your next trip home from a national park or Harvest Hosts location, it may be time to wash your RV. Get comfy with your favorite drink and let’s brush up on some RV washing basics. Be sure you:

  • Follow the correct steps for washing your RV
  • Use the correct cleaners
  • Use the correct tools
  • Wax to protect your gel coat
  • Consider professional cleanings
  • Wash and wax regularly

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Follow the correct steps for washing your RV

All RVs are made of different materials, depending on the type, brand, and year. Some RV exteriors are created from multiple types of materials, so it’s best to consult your owner’s manual for information on how to properly clean these. Other resources online can assist with your specific RV as well.

Although it may be tempting, you must always wash your RV manually and never run it RV through an automatic car wash. These not only have height restrictions, but they also us cleaners and tools that can cause damage to your RV.


Washing your RV is a much more detailed process than washing a car. The entire body will need to be washed and waxed on all sides. Be sure to thoroughly wash your undercarriage and roof as well. Put your slides out to clean the top, bottom, and sides of those as well.


Be sure to put out your awning and thoroughly hose it off and use an awning cleaner if necessary. Scrubbing your awning can damage it, so be careful. Be sure to let it dry before rolling it back up.


Wash your wheels thoroughly, especially to remove dirt and salt. Different types of rims require different cleaners. Take care not to scratch your rims. While you’re there, be sure to inspect your tires for any wearing, cracks, or punctures.

Use the correct cleaners

There are many types of cleaners available for different RVs. As stated above, different materials have different requirements. For example, washing a metal Airstream would require different products than washing a fiberglass motorhome. Check with your dealership or owner’s manual to see what products are best for your RV. Never use dish soap. This will strip the clear or gel coats off of your RV and leave them more susceptible to damage.

Be sure to purchase appropriate cleaners for all parts of your RV such as tires, awning, windows, and all other individual parts. Consult your owner’s manual or the dealership to ensure you understand what materials make up each part of your RV. 

A quality waterless cleaner can be an easier and more efficient tool for cleaning your RV. Waterless cleaners can be sold as individual products, or as entire kits to help you clean your entire RV. Many times a waterless cleaner is suitable for use at an RV park and will help save you water at your house. These all-in-ones are a popular choice among the RVing community, especially for those who travel often. 

Use the correct tools

Different materials require different tools. Thoroughly research ahead of time to figure out the best tools for your specific ZaRV. The all-around best tool to use is a soft bristle brush. These can be used on fiberglass, metal, decals, and paint. Microfiber can work well for Airstreams, but not be tough enough for a fiberglass body. Never use hard bristle brushes on windows and never power wash an RV with decals.

Wax to protect your gel coat

Waxing your RV can seem like an extra, unnecessary step, but waxing is an excellent way to further protect your RV from the elements. When paint damage occurs, a repair paint job for an RV can cost thousands of dollars. Waxing your RV is a small investment to keep your RV looking nice and staying protected. Be sure to thoroughly wash your RV first, and then apply either a liquid, paste, or spray wax to complete the job. Check to see what type of wax is best for your RV.

Consider using a professional service

If all of this sounds overwhelming and time-consuming, consider hiring some professionals. Ensure the company you work with is experienced with RVs and will clean the nooks and crannies not found on a regular vehicle. They may bring their own cleaners or you can provide the appropriate cleaners for them.

Wash and wax regularly 

RVs are manufactured with a protective gel coating that helps remove dirt easily and protects your RV’s finish. It also reduces damage from the sun, roads, and weather. Regularly washing and waxing your RV will continue to reduce damage and keep your RV looking shiny. Whether you choose to do this yourself or use a professional service, take care of your RV’s exterior regularly to keep it looking its best.

Washing your RV can seem like a daunting task, but don’t put it off any longer! Your RV needs your help to stay looking its best and to stay protected on the road. Be sure to follow these tips for your RV’s next bath time.

What are your best tips for washing your RV? Do you have any favorite products? What process do you follow? Tell us about it in the comments below!

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,657 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!
Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
Sam is a seasoned traveler and RVer of 4+ years. She loves adventures of all kinds and spends as much time on the road as she can. When not exploring in her RV or writing about her travels, you can find her reading a good book, cooking a delicious meal, caring for her plants, or hiking with her dogs.