Small spaces can become cluttered and messy pretty quickly, which is why I’m compiling this list of 20 tips and tricks for cleaning your RV.
No one likes cleaning. Ok, some people do, but the majority of us just see it as something that has to be done from time to time. The cleaning regimes in tiny houses certainly don’t take as long as they do in terraced houses.
But they are just as important!
Mess can build up in a smaller area much quicker, and I’m not just talking about dust or dirty dishes. Whether you’re living in a van full time or just head out on the road once every couple of months, you’ve got to be on top of the game and keep your vehicle in good condition both inside and out.
We don’t want you to panic, however. Keeping your camper clean is easy if you know how and have a few life hacks up your sleeve. Check out our 20 tips for cleaning your RV below and start as you mean to go on!
Featured Image Credit: @gabriellenelson_
1. Keep on Top Of Mould & Mildew
One of the most important things to look out for when cleaning your RV is also one of the topics that people feel the most ashamed of. No one ever wants to talk about mould or mildew; it’s annoying, but it’s more common than you realise.
Mould and Mildew occur in places that don’t have enough air flow. In campers and RVs, it’s most common under your bed and in ‘garage’ storage areas in the back of the van.
In most cases, a good antibacterial spray and a bit of elbow grease will get rid of any pesky mould. You can also buy mildew sprays that kill the mould, making it easier to wipe off and destroy once and for all.
Dry-Mat anti-condensation underlay under your mattress can help to combat the problem, as can small hols in cupboards, doors, and fixtures to let air flow around your camper.
2. Check Inside The Door Seals
Places where leaves, dirt, and moss can fall are always areas to tie into your cleaning regime. Rubber seals attract dust and dirt like a magnet, and they can easily dry out if you’re driving through arid conditions like deserts.
Give your seals a good clean with a mild detergent, the kind that you might use on your dishes, for example. If you’re worried about cracks forming due to hot temperatures, then make sure you lubricate them with a little bit of rubber care. Don’t go for anything fancy, the cheap stuff will do the same job.
3. Keep A Dust Pan & Brush Handy
I still can’t believe how much dirt hides on my van floor, even after living in it for three years. I walk around my tiny house barefoot a lot, so I sweep up regularly. But even so, bits of dust, dirt from outside, sand, and other annoying particles that are usually so small you can’t notice them start to build up pretty quickly.
Sweeping your floor regularly helps to keep your space looking nice and tidy, and it’s important to sweep in the places that you can’t see too. I’m talking behind your toilet, under your sink, and in your shoe cupboard.
4. Buy A Cordless Vacuum
For those hard to reach places, get yourself a cordless vacuum that you can charge up from either an inverter or a 12V socket. You don’t have to spend mega money to pick up a decent one, but make sure it comes with either a flip-out nozzle to get into all of the hard-to-reach places or extra attachments.
The main culprit areas where food, dirt, and dust collect is in corners. And no matter how many times you try to brush them, you’ll never get everything out of there. A vacuum can sort this problem out in no time and is also useful for cleaning up delicate areas like inside your electrical cupboard.
5. Wash Your Body & The Floor At The Same Time
This is my favourite tip on cleaning your RV, and it’s one that I use on a weekly basis. We don’t have a shower in our van, but we do have a bowl that we fill with warm water to do a body wash.
The water and soap that falls off our bodies onto the floor is what we then use to give the floor a good clean. It’s a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ situation, putting spilled water to good use!
6. Don’t Bother With The ‘RV Friendly’ Branded Products
You might want to start off cleaning your RV with the proper products, but you’ll soon realise that they’re burning a hole in your wallet. Most jobs can be done with hot water and a little detergent, and household cleaners are more than fine for getting rid of dirt and grime.
I’ve used Fairy Liquid on just about everything in my van, including cleaning the outside of it too! It says on the bottle that it cuts through grease and grime, and I take that to mean any grease and grime that I find on any surface.
If in doubt, just use warm water and an eco-friendly cleaner such as the Method spray range. They’re made from natural plant-based sources and smell nice too.
7. Regularly Empty Your Grey & Black Water Tanks
It’s not a nice job, but emptying your grey and black tanks will keep your tiny home smelling much nicer. Most of the best campervan toilets have a seal that keeps smells inside, but that doesn’t stop them from escaping when you come to use them for your ablutions.
Be thorough when cleaning your tanks too. Cassette toilets and removable water tanks are best as you can properly disinfect them and give them a good scrubbing if needs be. Household washing powder is good for using inside your chemical toilet as the enzymes help to reduce smells and break down your solid waste.
8. Disinfect The Inside Of Your Bin
Onion skins, garlic, and other off grid cooking essentials can really make your bin whiff. Taking the top off a stinky bin can soon make your comfortable tiny house smell like a garbage dump, and no one can relax in an environment like that!
Remember to give your bin a good clean with soap and water before you put a new bin bag in it. You can also buy bin deodorizer and special powders to help combat smells if you’re in a hot and stuffy environment.
9. Clean Both Sides Of Your Windows
Cleaning your RV windows is important for a number of reasons. Grime can build up in window surroundings and eat away at the housings over time. Smudges are also the worst, the places where you’ve thought a mark was on the inside and left a horrible greasy streak with your thumb.
All of these things can cause distractions while driving, so make sure that you clean your windows manually from time to time both inside and out. Use a microfibre cloth and some window spray in smaller campers, or get yourself a decent squeegee on a stick for doing the windshield on a large van or RV.
10. Keep Your Roof Clean
People always forget about the roof of their RV. It’s a prime location for leaves, dirt, and bird poo to collect, all things that might make your roof panelling go rusty or mouldy if you don’t keep on top of them.
If you don’t have a ladder on your back door, then it’s a good idea to keep a set of folding ladders in your rear storage area for nipping up onto the roof. Again warm water and a sponge will be fine in most cases, but stick a bit of washing up liquid in your bucket to get rid of any tough stains.
11. Wipe Down Your Solar Panels
Solar panels need to stay clean if they’re going to work properly. You might see advertisements for special ‘streak-free’ cleaners online, but water and a sponge will do the job perfectly.
Give them a wipe every time you go up to check your roof, or more frequently in dusty areas. I use a sponge and move it around with a stick. Very hi-tech stuff!
12. Deoderize Your Fridge
The fridge can be the biggest culprit of all for creating nasty smells in your camper. Add a fridge check into your routine when cleaning your RV, or maybe give it a spruce up whenever you do a big shop so new items aren’t sitting in old smells.
I always remember my mum having a little egg-shaped deodorizer that sat in the fridge. It combatted smells and helped to keep everything fresh. If you have room for one of these, then that would do the trick. Just don’t try to put it in an omelette…
13. Regularly Change Your sheets
It’s always a good idea to cook with your doors open, but I know that’s not always possible. Coats, clothes, and bedding can pick up foody smells when you cook, especially in an RV where the bed is near the kitchen.
There’s not much you can do to combat this bar cooking outside all of the time. My advice would be to keep the windows by your bed open, crack a door if you can, and change your sheets whenever they smell. Use the nose, it never lies.
14. Use A Wire Brush To Get Rid Of Rust
It’s not just the inside of your van that needs some TLC once in a while. Rust can eat away at your RV without you even realising it. I mean, who regularly decides to stick their head underneath their van to have a look at cogs and gears for fun?
The underneath of your chassis will more than likely be pretty darn thick, so don’t worry about rust so much that you start to get sleepless nights over it.
Think of this as another element of ‘housekeeping’. Go around with a wire brush two or three times a year. You can even go over rusty areas with primer such as Zinc 182 (my favourite product name of all time).
15. Patch Over Rusty Areas With Primer & Paint
Primers like Zinc 182 and Hammerite ‘straight to rust’ paint can help to combat rust. They don’t completely eliminate the problem, but they put a pretty good band-aid over it and stop it from getting any worse.
Not only does this help to keep your van running for longer, but it also looks better. If you’ve got flakey wheels, then a combination of a scrub with a wire brush, primer, and then silver spray paint can make them look as good as new in no time.
16. Give The Engine Some Love
How often do you check your oil or the water in your radiator? Do you ever scoop out the leaves and dirt that might have fallen underneath your bonnet/hood during a storm? The engine is your RV’s brain and heart all in one, and you’ve got to keep it healthy and in good nick.
It’s too easy just to concentrate on the inside when cleaning your RV, but you’ve got to think about all of the bits that keep your mobile home running too. Be thorough, and your vehicle will thank you in the long run.
17. Open Your Doors & Air Out Your Camper
I keep saying that cleaning your RV doesn’t have to be difficult. One of the easiest ways you can keep the space smelling fresh is to give the whole thing an airing out once in a while.
On a nice day, open all of your doors and let a good breeze blow through your camper. Do this in the cab too, and you’ll soon smell a difference. It’s a chance to disrupt any stale air that might have gathered in hard-to-get-to places and also a means of removing any cooking smells that might be lingering at the time.
I do this whenever I can, and I’ve usually got a couple of windows open at all times anyway as I like a home to feel aired, no matter how big or small.
18. Give The Walls A Lick Of Paint
Whether you live in your van fill time or are cleaning your RV for a rare trip away, a lick of paint can do wonders to freshen up the interior. No matter how careful you are, cooking stains and dirt from kicked-off shoes are bound to make marks on your walls.
It’s little things like this that can make a tiny space look tired, and make you feel like you’re sitting in a rustbucket.
If your walls are white, then you can pick up a cheap pot for around $5 from your local store. Give them a good clean and then lick of paint, before standing back and admiring your new clean surfaces. If they’re not white, then try to match up the colour as best you can. Or, just paint them white…
19. Destroy Decorative Dust
Ever heard the term ‘decorative dust’? It’s what people who are too lazy to dust call the dust bunnies and layer of ‘dead skin cells’ that form on their mantlepiece and behind their TV.
Dust allergies are very common, and dust can build up pretty quickly in a tiny home. The best thing about living small is that you don’t have to spend hours cleaning because there aren’t that many surface. Going over everything in my van with a duster takes around two minutes, if that. It keeps the air fresh and reduces coughing and sneezing.
20. Consult A Mechanic About Cleaning Any Lines
The final point to consider when cleaning your RV is one that you might need a mechanics help with. Fuel tanks and lines can sometimes develop condensation or get air trapped in them if left for a long time.
These will need cleaning out to keep your engine and the associated parts working correctly, but it’s probably something that you’re not going to want to do yourself as it can get quite messy. These kinds of thing can come up in an MOT check or yearly service, but speak to a mechanic sooner if you think you spot a problem.