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Many an RVer has cursed the black streaks that accumulate on the sides of their rigs. But there are ways to deal with RV black streaks, and the best way is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. In this post, we’ll look at the oh-so-handy product (the RV black streak remover), and how to deal with those stubborn black streaks that you may have now. More importantly, we’ll show you how you can keep those black streaks from forming, so you won’t have to deal with them again in the future.
Let’s get right to it!
- 1) What Causes RV Black Streaks?
- 2) How Can I Prevent RV Black Streaks?
- 3) What’s the First Thing To Try To Remove RV Black Streaks?
- 4) What If Washing Isn’t Enough? What RV Black Streak Remover Should I Use?
- 5) Dealing With Stubborn, Baked-On Black Streaks
- 6) No One Likes Dealing With RV Black Streaks!
What Causes RV Black Streaks?
RV black streaks have a few different causes, but they’re generally caused by water, (especially hard water).
Water from rain and air conditioning units tends to run down the sides of the RV. Once the water dries, what’s left behind are the dirt and various minerals and pollutants that were in the water (especially what it picked up as it ran across the roof of your RV). That dirt and debris are the basis of those black streaks that stain the sides of your rig.
If RV black streaks remain on the surface of your RV for a long period of time, they literally bake in and can actually become oxidized into the surface, so that even when you remove the black streaks, an outline of those streaks remains… like a faint shadow.
How Can I Prevent RV Black Streaks?
Generally, RV black streaks build up and cause staining if an RV isn’t washed frequently, and/or if it sits outside without protection for lengthy periods of time.
We’ve read that RV black streaks are inevitable on older RVs, but we couldn’t disagree more. Our motorhome is 17 years old and there’s not a streak to be found on our rig. We’re full-timers, so our RV has only rarely been in storage in our 17 years of ownership. This means that it spends 24/7/365 (or thereabouts) outside in the elements.
We’ve never had to deal with black streaks because we haven’t allowed them to accumulate.
Here’s what we do to prevent RV black streaks.
Wash and Wax Your RV Regularly
We wash our motorhome regularly. That’s probably the most important preventative, in fact.
We give it a thorough wax job about once a year, but we keep the rig as clean as possible throughout the rest of the year. We have a few tools that we use toward this end, and we’ll share them with you here.
First, you can check out our post on the 5 best RV wash and wax products, and you can also check out our annual RV maintenance and spring cleaning video for additional details:
After washing, we use a water blade to squeegee the water off of the surface of the rig, thus dissuading the formulation of streaks. This is ESPECIALLY helpful when you’re washing your RV in an area with hard water, as the more you leave behind, the more hard water spots will form… which can lead to more pronounced black streaks forming.
One Pass Water Blade
- Patented T-Bar edge removes over 90% of standing water
- Included Pole Adapter gives extended reach
We also dry the surface using a soft drying chamois cloth.
Cleantools Drying Chamois
- ABSORBENT. Spend less time drying and more time enjoying life
- SOFT & SAFE. Easy on your hands and easy on your car
With 20 years of experience washing and waxing an RV under our belts, our favorite wash and wax products are these from Meguiar’s. We use them exclusively for the cleaning of our motorhome.
Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash
- ONLY ONE STEP: Designed to both clean and condition your car in one easy step
- ADVANCED FORMULA: Cleans without stripping wax protection
Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax
- 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!
Keep Your RV Roof Clean, As A Way To Prevent The Need For An RV Black Streak Remover
You may have seen our post offering the complete guide to your RV roof. In that post, we discussed the different types of RV roofing and how to best care for each type of roof, including keeping them clean.
Among the benefits of keeping your RV roof clean is that it helps to prevent black streaks. This is because dirt, debris, minerals, etc. accumulate on the roof and then wash down the sides of your RV when it rains. As that water dries/evaporates, the dirt, debris, minerals, etc. are left behind to stain the sides of your rig.
So, keeping your RV roof clean helps substantially to prevent the formation of black streaks.
Store or Cover Your RV During Long Periods of No Use
During periods when your RV isn’t being used (which for many includes the winter months) unless your rig is stored indoors, it’s a good idea to cover it.
Now – we’ll admit that there are pros and cons of RV covers, and we wrote about it in the post we just linked to, but buying the proper type of RV cover can be very helpful toward the preservation of your rig’s paint and appearance.
If you’re in the process of researching the possibility of covering your RV, our post on RV covers may be helpful.
What’s the First Thing To Try To Remove RV Black Streaks?
As we mentioned, the best defense against black streaks on your RV is to mount a good offense and regularly clean it. However, if you’ve already got some stubborn stains to deal with, or if you’ve purchased an older RV that has black streaks you’d like to remove, we’ve got a couple of suggestions.
Before using any type of specialized streak cleaner, we’d suggest trying to remove the streaks with a product like the Meguiar’s Gold Class Car Wash linked above.
Using a soft fiber car wash brush on an extension pole can be very helpful, so you don’t have to climb up a ladder to reach them. We use these:
Carrand 10″ Bi-Level Soft Fiber Car Wash Brush
- 10 inch bi-level brush head
- Use for flow-thru or dip brush
Mr. LongArm Pro-Pole Extension Pole
- Fluted fiberglass handle for a comfortable grip in any climate
- Medium duty pole with 1-1/16-Inch composite fiberglass handle
Power Pressure Washer
One of the tools we’ve found helpful in keeping our RV looking new over the years is an electric power pressure washer. This allows us to use a higher-pressure wash of the rig’s surface as well as the roof and engine and generator bays, while also saving water!
- The Karcher Promise: Cleaner. Quicker. Best-in-class cleaning performance.
- Bonus $30 DirtBlaster Spray Wand Boosts Cleaning Power by up to 80%
PRO TIP: be VERY careful when using a pressure washer on your RV. Getting the spray nozzle too close to a soft surface (EPDM/TPO roof membrane, Dicor/caulk seals, slide toppers, or awning fabric) COULD damage them.
Professional Wash Stations
We are boondockers at heart, and we spend lots of time in areas of the desert or forest where dust and dirt can easily accumulate on our rig. It goes with the territory, and simply means that we need to get to the business of washing the RV when possible.
For the first 12 years of our RV ownership, we washed our rig ourselves… exclusively. But about five years ago, after hearing lots of fellow RVers raving about professional truck washes, we decided to try one out for ourselves. And wow – did we love that pampering! For about $40, we’ve been able to get our rig professionally washed & dried, and it was well worth the cost.
Here’s our video showing you exactly how it happened – and why we found it worthwhile.
Of course, a place like a truck wash isn’t going to be able to do anything to remove existing black streaks from your RV’s finish. But knowing that a quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive wash is available may help you to keep those streaks from forming in the first place!
PRO TIP: our 2005 Newmar was built before some of the newer, deep-gloss finishes started being used on RVs. As such, it’s more resistant to light scratches/hazing that can occur with brushes that are commonly used at truck washes. Coaches from about 2008 and newer often have a softer clearcoat finish that MAY be more prone to scratching if not washed gently… so be aware!
What If Washing Isn’t Enough? What RV Black Streak Remover Should I Use?
If you’ve tried to remove your rig’s black streaks by washing and scrubbing, and the stains persist, you may have no choice but to resort to a dedicated product designed to remove RV black streaks.
Reliable 1 Super Spray All-Purpose Cleaner As RV Black Streak Remover
Since we don’t allow black streaks to form on our RV, we don’t have personal experience with this product. But Reliable 1 gets very good reviews from RVers who’ve had to deal with the plague of the dreaded RV black streaks. It’s safe, non-toxic, and biodegradable, so it won’t cause harm!
Dealing With Stubborn, Baked-On Black Streaks
If, after all of the above, your RV is still left with hints of black streaks showing, you may need to step things up a bit. If the streaks were left on the finish for an extended period, and/or if your RV was left out in the sun for a long time, they may be baked into the surface as oxidation. While the steps/products above may have helped minimize them, they won’t address the oxidation that’s occurred.
Instead, you’ll need to use a product that’s able to remove the oxidation from the fiberglass gelcoat or clear coat paint finish. Because most of those products are abrasive and, if not used correctly, can leave scratches/swirls in your RV’s finish, we recommend Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound:
- REMOVE PAINT DEFECTS: The ultimate product for removing oxidation, scratches, water spots, and blemishes without scratching
- BEST CAR SCRATCH REMOVER: Cuts as fast as harsh abrasives restoring surface clarity without scratching or swirling
It’s exceptionally suited to removing RV black streaks WITHOUT causing scratches/swirls. Once removed, just be sure to thoroughly wax the treated area to protect the finish (the Ultimate Compound will have removed any/all protective finishes that were on the surface). We really like Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid wax (available on Amazon), because it goes on easy (use only a very thin coating)… and comes of the same way! No hard scrubbing required, and the finish lasts a LONG time.
No One Likes Dealing With RV Black Streaks!
While they are annoying (and all-too-common), black streaks on your RV can be dealt with fairly easily. And, with some more regular washing, can even be prevented. We hope the tips and products we’ve outlined above help you to achieve your perfect “RV black streak-free” nirvana!
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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.