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RVs Can Get Pretty Dirty: Is Washing Allowed at Campgrounds?

RVs Can Get Pretty Dirty: Is Washing Allowed at Campgrounds?

An RV can get pretty dirty as it rolls down the road and keeping it clean is part of good maintenance. Allowing dirt, salt, and grime to build up on your rig can lead to black streaks, rust, scratches, a dull finish, and overall aging. We’ve written posts on keeping RVs clean (since we clean ours a lot!), but is washing an RV at a campground an option?

In this post, we’ll answer that question and give you some great tips for keeping your RV clean no matter where you travel.

Is Washing RVs at Campgrounds Allowed?

While some RV parks and campgrounds allow RV washing on individual campsites or at a special location in the park, many others strictly prohibit washing your rig anywhere on the property. If you want to wash your RV while you’re camping, your best bet is to call the RV park and ask about their policy in advance.

At some locations, there may be a fee to cover water usage and probably to discourage too many campers from washing their rigs there. At other locations, washing your rig right at your campsite may not be allowed but you may be able to move it to a wash bay or specific area where washing is allowed.

Over 20+ years of full-time RVing, we’ve always tried to keep our rig as clean as reasonably possible. We’ve washed it in more RV parks and self-service car washes than we could possibly count. One time we actually washed our motorhome in a cul-de-sac in an industrial park, using our on-board water supply. Needless to say, we were not heading to a boondocking spot at the time. 😁

Now that we’ve taken delivery of our first brand new rig in over 18 years — an Outdoors RV Creekside 19MKS Titanium Series towed by a new GMC Sierra turbodiesel pickup truck— the excitement of “NEW!” has us washing more often again.

Campgrounds that allow RV washing let us get our rig clean and shiny.

After getting especially dirty driving most of the way across the country in just three days, we called this lovely campground in Wisconsin to ask if they allow RV washing. When they said “Sure” we made our reservation and promptly got to work as soon as we arrived. There’s something about a brand-new rig, sparkling clean after a fresh wash, that makes us gearheads smile extra big. It’s also good maintenance to get the grime off the finish.

How to Clean Your RV If Washing Is NOT Allowed At a Campground

If you can’t wash your rig at a campground or RV park, there are other ways to keep your rig looking good as you travel.

Do-It-Yourself Car Wash With High or Outdoor Bays

As many campgrounds prohibit RV washing, it’s sometimes easiest to do the job at a location specifically dedicated to vehicle washing. Many car washes have at least one or more tall bays that can accommodate RVs. Others have an open-air wash lane at the end of the building that can handle vehicles of just about any height.

If you’re going to pull into one of these locations, you’d better be well aware of your RV’s height. If you don’t already know how tall your rig is, consider our finger officially wagged at you, and get up on your roof to figure it out ASAP. Not sure how? Watch our video:

We’re not embarrassed to say that we’re pretty obsessed about keeping our rig clean. It’s that meticulous attention to detail that kept our Mountain Aire in great shape for so many years. We’re not about to change gears now that we have a new RV, and we’ve been enjoying the simple pleasure of washing the brand-new finish on both our truck and RV whenever they need tidying up.

PRO TIP: Car washes with signs that say “No Bucket Washing” don’t work for us most of the time. When we want to get our rig really clean, a bucket & brush wash are the only way to do that. We prefer places with “No Bucket Washing When Others Are Waiting signs, and we try to go during off hours so we’ll be able to comfortably take all the time we need without feeling rushed.

Check out our post on “how to find an RV wash near me” so that you can get your rig clean on your way to or from your camping trip.

RV washing at a car wash

What a great name for a car wash—Spiffy! We often stop at a DIY car wash with tall bays when we’re eager to get our rig clean, but finding a nearby campground that allows RV washing proves challenging.

Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer — When Your Rig Isn’t TOO Dirty

One of our favorite cleaning products is Meguiar’s Quik Detailer. When your rig needs a spot cleaning or isn’t TOO dirty, you can clean and shine it all at once with this quick easy-to-use option. We’ve been using it on our RV and car for years, and can’t overstate how much we love it.

Meguiar's Ultimate Quik Detailer - 24 Oz Spray Bottle, G201024
  • NEW POLYMER CHEMISTRY: Provides an easier wipe off and slicker finish
  • ACHIEVE A JUST-WASHED LOOK: This quick spray detailer safely and quickly removes dust and surface contaminants between washings

California Duster — For Cleaning/Dusting Between Washes

If your rig has gotten dusty or full of pollen and you’re not at a campground that allows washing, we recommend keeping a California Duster on hand. We’ve used one on our car and RV for years and love how well it works.

A California Duster can keep your RV and tow vehicle looking great between washes. It works best if the surface has a nice coat of wax on it, but will improve the appearance of any dusty vehicle. Just be aware that it’s best for use only if you haven’t driven in the rain since the last time you washed your rig. As the name implies, it’s for dusting, not washing.

If you’re concerned that a California Duster could scratch your car or RV, it might help put you at ease to know where we first heard of them — being used to keep Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other exotic cars looking their best at several of the many auto shows we’ve attended. If they’re safe for use on expensive luxury cars, they’re safe for our rig, too.

The Original California Car Duster California Car Duster 62443 Standard Car Duster with Plastic Handle, Red 25 Inch
  • The Original California Car Duster literally works like magic
  • Removes dust quickly, without scratching paint

Clean Your Windshield, Windows, and Mirrors

It’s important to keep your windshield and mirrors clean. Washing the rest of the rig may be (mostly) cosmetic, but being able to see clearly while driving is a safety issue. That goes double when traveling East in the morning, or West late in the day, when sunlight can make a dirty windshield especially difficult to see through.

If you’re in a place where you can’t fully wash your entire RV, you can almost always give your windshield and windows a good cleaning without violating any campground/park rules. Here’s our video about cleaning RV windows and mirrors super fast without the need for any window cleaner.

Commercial Truck/RV Wash?

In the past, we’ve talked about sometimes using truck washes that also wash RVs. But we’re not going to specifically recommend them here… or condemn them either. We’ve had some very good experiences at truck washes, but we’ve also had some sub-par situations.

All it takes is one aggressive jerk worker with a long-handle brush who doesn’t care about your rig to leave a bad taste in your mouth. ‘Nuff said. Not saying we’d never go to one again, but read reviews, use your judgment, and go with what makes you comfortable. Caveat emptor.

How to Wash Your RV At a Campground

When RV washing is permitted at a campground or RV park, it’s great to be able to take advantage of it, especially when you travel full-time. We’ve washed our rig in lots of parks, and we’ve got some guidelines to follow to make sure you’re a good neighbor.

Be Respectful of Others

This includes not only your neighbors at the campground but the campground owners and staff. When park policy allows you to wash your RV on-site, it’s important to consider nearby neighbors, water usage, and product choices.

Because soap and other washing supplies generally end up on the ground, we use biodegradable options whenever possible. We also want effective high-quality products that get the job done. Meguiar’s is one of our go-to brands.

When it comes to neighboring sites and RVers, you may want to avoid washing your rig at a campground where you’re packed in like sardines. Spraying water and soap into your neighbor’s campsite isn’t likely the definition of a “good neighbor.”

If the park doesn’t have a dedicated wash bay, it might be a nice idea to wait until your nearby neighbors are away from their site for the day, if possible. Choosing not to wash your rig at a campground at all unless you have appropriate space is even better.

Use a Dedicated Wash Bay Where Applicable

If there’s a dedicated wash bay/area for RVs at a campground where you’re staying, be sure to do your washing in that location. Even at parks that have a wash bay, it’s important to follow their rules and to be conscious of what you’re doing as you go about the task.

There may be restrictions such as using an automatic shut-off nozzle at the end of the hose to prevent excessive water use. Remember that people who disregard the rules are the reason we all lose privileges like these. It’s no different than RVers who ignore proper etiquette when overnighting at a Wal-Mart, causing them to ban overnight RV stays. Bad behavior affects all of us. Be a good RVing citizen.

Have the Appropriate Cleaning Products On Hand

No matter where you wash your RV, you’ll want to have items on hand to get it nice and clean without scratching. After more than 20 years on the road full-time, we’ve accumulated lots of favorite cleaning gear. Here are a few must-haves for washing your rig at a campground… or anywhere else.

Biodegradable Washing Soap

In our post on the 5 best RV wash and wax products, we highlighted our all-time favorite car and RV washing soap, Meguiar’s Gold Class. Not only does Meguiar’s do a fantastic job (as noted by the condition of our motorhome after more than 18 years on the road full-time), but it’s also biodegradable.

Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash Soap, Ultra-Rich Car Wash Soap and Conditioner for Car Cleaning, Car Wash Soap to Clean and Condition in One Easy Step, 1 Gallon Car Wash Soap
  • ONLY ONE STEP: Meguiar's Gold Class foaming car wash soap simplifies your car cleaning routine by combining cleaning and conditioning into one easy...
  • CLEAN AND PRESERVE: Featuring an advanced formula, this powerful car shampoo and conditioner not only cleans your car, but it’s also gentle enough...

In addition to a good biodegradable car wash soap, the following items will make washing your rig easier, whether at an RV park, a car wash, or even at your home.

Quality Hose Nozzle

If you want to be prepared to wash your RV anywhere, a durable hose nozzle is a must. We use the following high-quality aluminum model, which has helped us keep our rig clean on the road for years.

Bon-Aire Original Ultimate Aluminum Hose Nozzle ( Colors may vary )
  • Durable, five-pattern spray nozzle turns any standard garden hose into multifunction spray tool
  • Engineered with aircraft-grade aluminum, stainless steel, fiberglass and comfort-grip soft rubber to withstand years of use

Soft Car Wash Brush or Mitt

Because RVs are so tall, a good soft-fiber car wash brush on an extendable pole is generally needed to wash them. We washed our 43′ diesel pusher with a setup like this (as seen in the featured image of this post) and it worked like a charm for many years.

NOTE: Some newer paints, especially on high-end motorhomes, specifically call for lambswool wash mitts, not brushes of any kind. Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s guidelines to properly care for the finish on your rig.

Carrand 93086 10" Bi-Level Soft Fiber Car Wash Brush , Yellow
  • 10 inch bi-level brush head
  • Use for flow-thru or dip brush
Mary Moppins 13" Pure 100% Lambswool Wash and Pad Holder
  • Includes 4-Way Swivel Pad Holder attaches directly to acme threaded pole
  • 100% Pure Lambswool (recommended by Tiffin and Newmar)

Extension Pole

Mr. LongArm 3208 Pro-Pole Extension Pole 4-to-8 Foot
  • Fluted fiberglass handle for a comfortable grip in any climate
  • Medium duty pole with 1-1/16-Inch composite fiberglass handle

Silicone Water Blade

This is one of our absolute favorite tips. For years now, we’ve used a silicone water blade on a pole to squeegee excess water off our rig, which is particularly helpful in hard water areas. The blade removes lots of water quickly and easily, it will absolutely not scratch the finish, and the pole makes it easy to reach high areas. We follow up with a high-quality synthetic chamois to dry the lower sections.

There are lots of water blades out there, but this is the only one we’re currently able to find with an attachment for use on a pole, which is included.

Water Blade 18" Y-Bar Extension Pole with Telescopic Handle
  • Patented Y-bar edge whisks away water
  • Faster than a chamois and quicker than a towel

This is our favorite chamois by far.

CleanTools The Absorber Synthetic Premium Drying Chamois Cloth for Car: Super Absorbent, Scratch-Free and Washable | 27-Inch x 17-Inch, Blue, Large (PN: 14942-42149)
  • EXCELLENT ABSORBENT. Spend less time drying and more time enjoying life.
  • SOFT & SAFE. Easy on your hands and easy on your car.

PRO TIP: Whenever possible, try to avoid washing your rig in direct sunlight. We often start by washing the shady side in the morning and working our way around the rig, following the shade as the sun moves across the sky. This helps to prevent the soap and rinse water from drying too quickly and leaving spots and streaks. It also keeps us from being burned to a crisp in the hot sun… and leaves a nice break for lunch at the half-way point!

While we’ve always washed our RV pretty regularly, we generally made an annual ritual of thoroughly washing and waxing it each spring. Waxing such a large area can be a LOT of work, especially if you use wax that’s hard to apply or remove.

Turning once again to Meguiar’s we found the greatest wax an RVer could ask for. It glides on with virtually no effort and comes off just as quickly and easily. A little also goes a long way, so one bottle can easily do the largest motorhome more than once. Oh… and it does a fantastic job. If you haven’t tried it before, you’ll be super happy when you do. You’re welcome! 😄

Meguiar's G210516 Ultimate Liquid Wax, Durable Protection that Shines, Towel and Pad Included - 16 Oz Bottle
  • 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

When we sold our motorhome last year after traveling and living in it full-time for more than 18 years, it was still in great shape. As you can see, we’re already working to keep our new rig just as nice.

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John S.

Saturday 8th of June 2024

What an appropriate post to show off the new rig.*

By the way I like the "Peter John" license plate.

Take care,

John S.

P.S. *RIG is now shorthand for 'Outdoors RV Creekside 19MKS Titanium Series towed by a new GMC Sierra turbodiesel pickup truck'.


Sunday 9th of June 2024

👍😂 "rig" is definitely shorter than the full name, that's for sure!

Luc Coulombe

Saturday 8th of June 2024

Greetings guys. In respect to wax, I agree that Meguiar's product are very good but since our RVs are basically built like boats (gelcoat over Fiberglas) wouldn't it be better to use marine wax instead of automotive?

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use 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.

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