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Next month, our RV turns sweet sixteen. We can hardly believe it ourselves! We’re gratified to hear how often people are amazed when they find out our rig is that old, and how new it still looks. We do have a couple of advantages though.
First, we bought our RV brand new, which means that it’s been maintained to our own high standards its entire life. Second, it’s a quality brand – Newmar. Third, we’ve always used high-quality products to keep its appearance looking good.
Did you know that some RV parks and campgrounds don’t allow RVs that are older than 10 years? But they’ll almost always waive that rule if your RV looks like it’s well maintained and in nice condition. Ours has never been turned down!
Today, we want to suggest a handful of RV wash and wax products to keep your rig looking tip-top. Let’s get to it!
How Often Should You Wash Your RV?
Regular washes are your best bet if you use your RV frequently. If you only take your RV on occasional trips, washing it a couple of times per year or after each trip should be fine. But for those who frequently use their RVs, or travel full-time, we’d suggest washing your RV more often… at least every month or two.
If you live in or often visit Florida, Georgia, or other nearby states where lovebugs are active, you might want to wash your rig even more frequently. If you’ve driven through a swarm of them, the remains of lovebugs can damage the paint on your vehicles: exposure to the sun can cause their bodies to turn acidic, potentially causing permanent damage to your paint!
You’ll also want to wash your rig more frequently if, when not using it, it’s left in an unprotected storage area, even if it’s been a while since you’ve used it. Dust, dirt, rain, and sun can combine to do a number on the finish… even when its just sitting still. Those who live in areas with other elemental problems (parked under trees, dusty area, etc) will want to wash their RVs more often as well.
And it should go without saying that after driving on roads that have been sanded (or worse yet, salted!) during wintry conditions, you should wash your rig off as soon as possible to prevent corrosion and rust. That’s also when it’s especially important to use high-pressure water under the chassis, in the engine compartment, wheel wells, etc.
That obsession with cleanliness is why we carry a small pressure washer with us at all times!
- The Karcher Promise: Cleaner. Quicker. Best-in-class cleaning performance.
- Bonus $30 DirtBlaster Spray Wand Boosts Cleaning Power by up to 80%
DIY vs. Professional RV Wash and Wax
The decision to perform the task yourself or hire a professional to wash and/or wax your RV can involve many factors. RV parks and campgrounds may decide for you with policies that state that only licensed professionals can clean and wax RVs onsite. In this instance, you have no choice but to hire a professional or wait until your RV is in a different location.
If you find yourself with the freedom to choose, consider whether you have the resources to do the job appropriately and whether you’re physically able to handle the labor.
Obviously waxing is a far larger and more labor-intensive job than just washing alone.
Professionals are quick and efficient because they detail so many RVs. If you’ve never done the task, it can be an exhausting and tedious job. Not having the appropriate resources can also lead to scratches or damage to your RV’s protective coatings.
Washing your RV yourself is highly cost-effective, as long as you have the correct supplies… and some stamina. Hiring a professional to clean your RV can be pricey, especially if you have to purchase a permit to have your RV washed in a park, so DIY can mean big $ savings, especially if your rig is on the larger size (professionals usually charge by the foot).
How to Wash and Wax Your RV
If you’ve decided to wash and wax your RV yourself, the first step is to determine where you’ll do it. You need to find a site where you won’t be violating any rules by washing your RV… and where you’ll have access to a steady water supply. A few buckets of water won’t do the trick – you’ll need a lot of water, especially for a large RV. We’ve actually washed our rig many times at a DIY car wash with a tall vehicle bay. Bring lots of quarters!
Gather all of the tools you’ll need to complete the job – cleaning supplies, soft-bristle brushes with extendable handles (or lambswool, which is required for some newer finishes), buckets, and a ladder, if available. You’ll want easy access to these items so you can be efficient with your time.
You’ll want to wash the RV from the top down, starting with the roof. If it hasn’t rained, and the roof is just dusty, you may be able to get away with just rinsing the dust off. But more than likely you’ll need to give it a bit of scrubbing, too.
Using the same gentle wash you’d use on the sides of the RV, work in sections to clean and then rinse the roof. Be careful around any objects penetrating the roof (skylights, roof vents, antennas, etc) to ensure you don’t damage the sealant. And, of course, work slowly and carefully… you don’t want to risk slipping from this height!
Once the roof has been cleaned, it’s time to do the sides, front, and rear, one section at a time. Spray the surface to wet the finish, and remove excess bugs, grime, and loose dirt. Keep in mind that using a pressure washer at this point may be quick to work off surface grime, but it can also take off vinyl decals and important seals. Only use a pressure washer if you know what you’re doing with it. Don’t hold it too close, or too long in any one spot. If you’re not comfortable with that, a hose with a spray nozzle will do.
With the surface wet, start at the top of the rig and work your way down, using a generous amount of soap and water. Be sure to wash every surface thoroughly, and pay attention to the hard-to-reach areas. Rinse any remaining soap off the rig, again starting from the top and working your way down. Repeat this process all around your RV.
Two common situations that require a little extra effort and attention are when you’re working in direct sun (which you should try to avoid as best you can), and washing in an area with very hard water. In both of these situations. you’ll be working hard to avoid allowing water to dry on the RV’s finish. That’s especially true in hard water areas, which can leave awful water spots when dry.
This is where having a helper can be especially important. When we’re in a hard water area, we work in sections, with one washing, and the other rinsing, making sure to keep the just-washed-and-rinsed section of the rig good and wet. We then stop washing and rinsing that section and go into squeegee-and-chamois mode. One of us uses a silicone water blade on a pole to get water off the high areas, while the other follows with a high-quality synthetic chamois to dry the lower sections.
We know it can be hard to avoid washing your RV in direct sun. We often start by washing on the shady side in the morning, and work our way around the rig, following the shade as the sun moves across the sky. That helps to prevent the soap and rinse water from drying too quickly and leaving spots and streaks… and keeps us from being burned to a crisp, too!
What RV Wash Soap Will Get Your RV Sparkling Clean?
We’re partial to Meguiar’s products as a whole (they’re high quality, reasonably priced, and readily available), and we like their Gold Class Car Wash. But, honestly, any wash soap that’s designed to be used on a car is fine. You just don’t want to use dish soap or other products that may be too harsh for your RV’s finish and likely suds up more than needed, causing you to waste extra water getting them rinsed off.
A good-quality car wash product should also improve the “sheeting” action of the water, helping it to rinse off quickly and not leave spots (though the hardness of the water you’re using AND the amount of heat/sun will play a role as well).
- ONLY ONE STEP: Designed to both clean and condition your car in one easy step
- ADVANCED FORMULA: Cleans without stripping wax protection
Best RV Waxes to Keep Your RV Looking New
Selecting a quality RV wax not only keeps your rig looking good and protects the finish, but also makes future washings easier, saving you time and energy.
But there’s more to consider when waxing an RV, because of its size. That makes it more important than ever to buy a wax that goes on, and comes off, easily. The last thing you want to do is use a wax that takes a lot of effort to apply, only to find out that it’s also a huge pain to remove it.
1. Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax
As we mentioned above, we’re partial to Meguiar’s products and have used several of their waxes over the years. The Ultimate Liquid Wax is our current favorite. It goes on easy, comes off easy (seriously, it comes off as easily as it goes on), provides a beautiful shine, and the finish lasts a long time.
It takes very little product to get good coverage, and their instructions tell you to apply it in a thin layer. As a result, a 16oz bottle is enough for us to wax our entire 43′ motorhome… twice!
- IMPROVED FORMULA: Improved formula delivers a glossier finish, increased protection and more water beading action in one easy step
- EASY TO USE WAX: Easy spread on and wipe off application – even in full sun!
After this product, all of the others we’re including are combined wash-and-wax products. You can either use them that way as an in-between-dedicated-waxing product to help extend the life of your protective finish, or you can use them as the wash before applying Meguiar’s wax. Your choice.
2. Gel-Gloss RV Wash and Wax
If you’re looking for a great wash and wax combo to clean and protect your RV, look no further. Gel-Gloss RV Wash and Wax contains carnauba wax, which will help protect your RV for years. It will also leave no streaking or water spotting behind.
The 128oz version of this concentrated cleaner produces 16 gallons, plenty to wash even large RVs multiple times.
- Cleans and waxes in one step
- Contains caranuba wax for great protection
3. Starbrite RV Wash and Wax
This concentrated formula comes in 16oz and 128oz bottles. Starbrite has created this specially-formulated product to target grime, bug debris, dust, mud, and whatever else you pick up on the road.
This wash and wax is safe for your RV’s entire exterior surface and won’t harm or damage decals. The UV inhibitors will help protect your RV against sun fading. The Starbrite RV Wash and Wax saves time and money by doing two jobs at once.
- Cleans and enhances shine in one step; PTEF polymers enhance shine and add UV protection to help prevent fading;
- Concentrated formula is tough on dirt yet economical to use; a few capfuls cleans a full-size RV
4. Thetford RV Wash and Wax
The versatility of Thetford RV Wash and Wax makes it a good choice if you have lots of toys. If you want to wash other vehicles such as a car, motorcycle, boat, ATV, or snowmobile, Thetford RV Wash and Wax can clean and protect those as well.
This two-in-one product cleans and protects your RVs surfaces and leaves behind a non-oily, anti-static, and water-repellent finish. Black streaks, bugs, bird droppings, and other dirt and road gunk won’t stand a chance against this product. Before you know it, you’ll be posting an Instagram-worthy picture of your clean, shiny RV.
- [VERSATILITY]: Premium RV Wash & Wax works on cars, RVs, motorcycles, boats, ATVs, snowmobiles and more, cleaning and protecting the surfaces
- [PERFORMANCE]: Cleans black streaks, dried bugs, bird droppings, dirt, road film and much more
5. Waterless Wash Wax All
If you’re really interested in saving time (and water), but need to get your rig sparkling clean, then maybe a waterless RV wash & wax is for you. Waterless Wash Wax All is a great option if your RV isn’t filthy dirty. You literally just spray it on and wipe it off. No water. No elbow grease.
Now if you’re leery about the waterless washing concept (or if your RV is covered with a LOT of dirt and/or grit)… you can use it AFTER washing: just spray it onto the wet RV and then wipe it off to wet wax as you dry your rig.
- SIMPLY THE BEST WATERLESS CAR WASH. Gently Cleans and Protects while leaving a Non-Stick UV Protective Coating on All Vehicle surfaces. Also,...
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Protecting your RV investment doesn’t have to be complicated. With a few relatively inexpensive products and a bit of elbow grease, you’ll protect your RV’s surfaces, and they’ll shine for years to come.
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Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.