Washing an RV is the biggest job on any RV owner’s to-do list. It’s a daunting task and I tend to put it off but I can’t wait any longer. In the past, I’ve hired someone to wash and wax her but that’s really expensive and I don’t have a spare $500 laying around.
Make sure it’s OK to wash your rig where you have it parked. Many parks don’t allow washing your RV. Some allow it but charge you an additional fee.
Wash and Wax Your Airstream or Other RV Step by Step
Some of this may seem like common sense but if you’ve never done it before I hope these tips will help you do the best possible job. I’m going to add in a lot of tips for Airstreams but most of this will apply to any RV.
Washing an RV – What You’ll Need
|What you’ll need to wash|
-water hose with a nozzle
-Dawn dishwashing liquid or automotive wash of your choice
–a soft brush with an extension handle
-7/16 socket (Airstream)
-Philips head screwdriver (Airstream)
|What you’ll need to wax|
–Walbernize Super Seal (Airstream) or
-wax appropriate for your RV
-soft rags, old t-shirts work great
When washing an RV, wash the entire roof first. It’s dirty up there and whenever there is moisture or rain all that dirt washes down onto the rest of your rig. I have a step ladder and an extension pole on my brush. Do not climb on top of your Airstream unless you know what you’re doing. You’ll leave footprints (dents) in the Aluminum and you’ll be very sad. Also, make sure your awnings are in when you’re doing the roof.
My ladder and I are both too short for this job but we make it work. Once your roof is washed and rinsed you’re ready to move on to the shiny parts.
Most Airstreams have sacrificial rock guards on the front end. The lower rock guards are made of stainless steel and the upper guards, which cover the windows, are tinted plexiglass. These guards open and you should clean under them. They tend to accumulate dirt and debris and those covered windows get really dirty too.
To open the upper rock guards you’ll need a standard Philips head screwdriver. Your center guard is held down with these two rubber latches. Pull them upward to unlatch them.
Now you can lift your center window guard and tighten the knobs on both arms to hold the guard up. With that out of the way, you can access the screws holding the other window guards in place.
There are two screws you’ll need to loosen. These screws don’t come out, you just turn them 1/4 turn and you’ll be able to pull the guard free on that side. The guards are hinged so you’re not removing them completely and be really careful not to push them open too far or you will put a crease in your aluminum behind the hinges.
Now for the lower rock guards. You’ll need a 7/16 socket to remove the cap nuts. There are three on each panel and there are washers behind them. Put them in a safe place until you’re ready to button them back up. Where the uppers swing outward the lowers are also hinged and swing toward the center.
Now that you have access to all the places, start washing. When washing an RV, wash a section at a time from the top down and rinse before the soap dries. I wash a portion then replace the water with clean, soapy water so I’m not smearing more dirt all over the existing dirt. Make sure you put your awnings out while you’re washing so you can wash under them. After you wash under the awnings retract them again so you can access all the areas you need to clean. Once you’re finished washing you can either let it air dry or dry with soft towels. Air drying may leave water spots so I use towels to dry my Airstream.
Airstream lower rock guards are stainless steel so caring for them is a bit different. I use Barkeeper’s Friend to clean them. I use Walbernize to wax them and then polish them up with stainless steel cleaner intended for appliances.
Now it’s time to wax. Waxing should be done in the shade or on an overcast day. If the surface is too hot, the wax will dry really fast and it just doesn’t work as well.
I read several different things about applying Walbernize Super Seal including using a spray bottle. I tried it but the nozzle got clogged and I needed more coverage so I switched to rags. I used microfiber. If you’re waxing an Airstream, aluminum has a grain and you’ll be applying the wax and removing it with the grain which is mostly from side to side not up and down or in circles. The endcaps are done parallel with the seams. You don’t need to wax the white part of the roof.
I folded one rag in quarters then squirted the wax on very liberally. Again, starting at the top with the awnings in, I worked a section at a time. Wipe the wax on, give it a few seconds then wipe it off with the dry rag. If I noted a scratch or water spot I went over that spot again with a little pressure and rubbed it off again.
I worked my way around the trailer in the shade as the sun moved throughout the day. I switched my rags out four times as they were getting too wet and dirty. I finally ran out of daylight and had to finish this morning. Don’t forget the aluminum propane tank cover. I did the windows too since I was getting it on them anyway. I used about 1/3 of the bottle of Walbernize.
It was a workout but I saved myself $500. There are few things so satisfying as standing back looking at your shiny rolling home or feeling that smooth, freshly waxed aluminum…
…or checking those tasks off your list.
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