Travel is a dirty business. Bugs, mud, road grime, tree pitch, bird droppings – the elements are out to get RVers wherever we turn. Especially since we live not only in our trailers, campers and motorhomes but, often as not, outside and around them. It’s an ongoing battle to keep everything clean and looking like new. Over the years, we’ve tried just about every tool and product on the market. Here are some tips, as you get ready for summer travel.
Let’s start with a bucket, but not just any bucket. The Grit Guard bucket features a big grate in the bottom that allows sand and grit to fall through, instead of turning your wash mitt or brush into a piece of sandpaper. Great idea. Add soap and water. No worries.
Of course you need to rinse off the chunks first, and the soap later. The hose is obvious. At home, the standard garden hose is best. On the road, the extremely compact flat nylon RV hose is the answer (if the campground allows). Sprayer nozzles help direct the water and concentrate the power. Carrand makes the Water Snake (available only at Wal-Mart) that attaches to most flow-through poles and redirects the adjustable spray in any direction – great for getting under the frame and on top of the cab.
We have used Joy dishwashing detergent for years, at the risk of stripping the wax off our paint. It works, but several companies have products specifically for washing vehicles. ProtectAll, Surf City Garage, Meguiar’s, Thetford, Turtle Wax, Mothers, Eagle One and Armor All are all excellent products.
If your RV is really dirty, then you can’t clean it with just a hose. You need to carefully take a soapy mitt or brush and physically remove the dirt. Rags work, but companies like Emgee/ CleanTools and Carrand make special products that vastly improve and speed up the job. Most wash mitts are made of some combination of natural wool, polyester and nylon. Carrand has a wash glove that adapts to all wood, metal and plastic poles for a longer reach. The Truck & Cap Window Washer by C.A. Roberts gives us a 48-inch reach to clean between the cab and camper, and the other end has a built-in dual squeegee.
Wash mitts and gloves are important, but for big jobs, a brush works wonders. Many models are flow-through, on which you can attach a hose. Most adjust to any length handle with a twist-lock fitting. Our favorite by a mile is the Carrand Deluxe 10-inch Flow-Thru Brush. The huge soft head carries loads of soap and water, and the click-lock handle is easy to adjust. For travel, the 48-inch Carrand Dip-n-Brush is very compact.
So you’ve rinsed the big stuff off and washed thoroughly with a soft brush or mitt. Maybe a bug sponge will help with the guts on your grille. If you’ve done a good job with the soap and rinse, grab a California Original Water Blade. The Water Blade’s patented T-Bar silicone edge easily removes 90 percent of all water from most surfaces in seconds. The Blades come in two sizes, regular and a large 18-inch model – great for big surfaces like RVs. A clip will adapt the Water Blade to most extension handles for a long reach. The new ultra flexible Jelly Blade is handy for drying those tight curves.
The old bath towel may still have a place, but for most of the 10 percent of water a Water Blade leaves, The Absorber is next in line. Made by Emgee/CleanTools, The Absorber is the perfect tool for final detailing and lint-free windows, and it can be washed and reused seemingly forever. Some of ours are more than 10 years old. Surf City makes a durable Nano-Detail microfiber towel that also leaves the windows without a mark.
When it comes to glass, there are some tricks we’ve learned. A good coat of Rain-X really does keep bugs, ice, wet snow, road grime and yes, even rain, from sticking on the windshield. After that, almost any spray glass cleaner will work. Often just water is fine. The 20-inch-long handle combination squeegee and scrubber by Carrand makes reaching the middle of truck and RV windshields easy.
We all know how difficult it is to get the inside of a windshield clean. Now there are several products that make the job easier. The inShield Wiper slips on the back of your hand, making hard-to-reach corners a breeze. Interchangeable wipes attach to the hook-and-loop surface of the pad.
The Reach & Clean wand by Invisible Glass is a multipurpose cleaner with interchangeable cleaning pads that attach to a wand. It can also be used with an extension handle.
California Car Duster has introduced its Versa Duster, with interchangeable pads for windows and dusting.
For cleaning the tires and wheels, there are several products by Mothers, Armor All, Meguiar’s and Turtle Wax that will remove some of the brake dust and road grime from rims with just a hose, but what it really takes is a stiff brush and elbow grease. We have found that a bead of Soft Scrub and a stiff natural bristle brush works the best. Carrand and Clean Tools offer a selection of specialized wheel and tire brushes.
Once the tires are clean and dry, there are many products that will put the “new” back on old rubber, although most tire manufacturers only recommend mild soap and water. We have used Original Armor All for 35 years. But Vinylex by Lexol, Mothers Protectant, Turtle Wax F21 and Beyond Black by Surf City Gargage also give us the look we like – all of these brands even offer products that protect the tires against UV rays.
The trick is, you can’t just spray it on and walk away. To get that new-tire look, you need to wipe it on and buff it off.
If you’ve let your aluminum wheels become scratched or pitted, there are some great tools and products that will give them back a blinding shine. Polishes by X-Treem Products, Griots Garage, Flitz and Mothers work well. Flitz and Mothers have drill-powered buffing wheels to speed up the process. The Mothers PowerBall MD Mini is specifically made for taking scratches out of aluminum.
Everything is spiffy now. What about a good wax job? There are so many choices but, for ease of application, we especially like The Wax Shop Super Glaze and Turtle Wax Platinum Series waxes which don’t leave a white powdery residue on rubber trim.
Power buffers can greatly speed up a big job, but they can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. An orbital buffer takes most of the danger out of burning holes through the paint, but large buffers won’t reach into tight curves. Griots Garage offers a 3-inch electric orbital buffer that is extremely versatile for getting into small areas, yet still powerful enough to polish the whole RV or vehicle. Mothers offers a full-size PowerBall that is used with an electric drill. If you don’t use a PowerBall or some other orbital buffer, reusable Lexol Application Sponges are ideal. The old bath towel returns as a soft terry cloth to finish the job.
Turning our attention to the inside, there is leather and vinyl. For leather, Lexol has been a longtime favorite. Lexol Cleaner is used first, followed by Lexol Leather Conditioner. For dust and static-free cleaning the dash and other plastic parts, Lexol Vinylex is excellent. Floor mats can be renewed with almost any good carpet-cleaning product. Coleman white gas camping fuel or mineral spirits (paint thinner) will remove stubborn grease stains.
On to the engine. What seems to work best for us – if the engine isn’t trashed – is a little Simple Green or similar cleaning product and a hose. Then the old standby; take a rag and wipe off the dirt. A product like Lexol Vinylex will give hoses and other plastic or rubber parts a new look.
If you use a selection of the products mentioned here, by now you will likely have made 15 trips to the garage and back to your RV. A cool tool to help avoid this is the Bucket Taxi. It has big wheels that roll even on gravel, and little pockets for stuff like a wheel brush and a Water Blade. The center carries a full bucket of soapy water.
And to keep your cleaning supplies conveniently together and ready to use while on the road, Surf City Garage has a travel carry case designed especially for RVers. This Toolbox holds eight high-quality Enthusiast Grade interior and exterior detailing products as well as two of its Nano-Detail Polishing Cloths.
There are also several products that can help prolong the intervals between washes. Original California Dusters come in several sizes, and they pick up dust like a magnet. Carrand also makes a dust glove that does the same. Meguiar’s offers its Ultimate Wipe, and Emgee/CleanTools makes a damp Glosser in a resealable pouch. Thetford has a moist Protectant with carnauba wax in a resealable pouch. California Car Duster has just introduced a MicroFiber Magic wheel duster to remove that coating of brake dust.
Of course, most of the cleaning can be made easier by simply covering our truck and trailer with ADCO’s custom or universal-fit RV covers or Covercraft WeatherShield covers when we’re not on the road. When the RV is under one of these fitted covers, the most it might need is a quick pass with a California Original Duster.
So now you know many of our secrets. The only product missing is the one that hasn’t hit the market yet. We’ll keep an eye out for it, for sure: Instant Elbow Grease in a spray bottle!
ADCO Products Inc., (800) 541-2326, www.adcoprod.com.
Armor All Products, (800) 222-7784, www.armorall.com.
C.A. Roberts, Truck & Cap Window Washer, (800) 469-2500, www.ca-roberts.com.
Carrand Companies Inc., (800) 527-3465, www.carrand.com.
California Car Duster, (800) 282-8828, www.calcarduster.com.
Covercraft, (800) 247-8012, www.covercraft.com.
Eagle One, (800) 682-6994, www.eagleone.com.
Emgee/CleanTools, (800) 654-3933, www.cleantools.net.
Flitz Metal Polish, www.flitz-polish.com.
Griots Garage, (253) 922-2400, www.griotsgarage.com.
Grit Guard, (866) 592-5925, www.buygritguard.com.
Lexol/Summit Ind., (800) 241-6996, www.lexol.com.
inShieldWiper, (630) 450-5541, www.inShieldWiper.com.
Meguiar’s, (800) 545-3321, www.meguiars.com.
M&G Products, (623) 537-0880, www.buckettaxi.com.
Mothers Polishes, Waxes, Cleaners Inc., (800) 221-8257, www.mothers.com.
Protect All Inc., (800) 322-4491, www.protectall.com.
Stoner Inc., (800) 227-5538, www.invisibleglass.com.
Surf City Garage, (866) 970-SURF, www.surfcitygarage.com.
Thetford, (800) 543-1219, www.thetford.com.
Turtle Wax Inc., (708) 563-3600, www.turtlewax.com.
X-Treem Products, (800) 9XTREEM, www.xtreemproducts.com.