Sammy FairclothSee other Advice articles filed in ‘General caravan advice’ written by Sammy Faircloth
Have you ever collected your caravan from storage and found that it is covered in green algae, black smears and leaves?
There is probably also a dull tone to the paintwork.
This is a perfect time to give your caravan a good wash and polish, ready for the touring season.
What products to use?
There are many cleaning agents to choose from, such as Autoglym, Fenwick’s, Care-avan and Muc-Off, to name but a few.
They all vary in price and performance, so it comes down to personal preference when choosing which one to buy.
If you are unsure, visit one of the many national shows and speak to the experts to help you make an informed decision.
For this article, Autoglym kindly invited me to their Training Academy, to observe the different steps involved in a professional clean.
The stages discussed below are based on using Autoglym cleaning agents. For other firms’ products, follow the instructions on the packaging or container.
And check out our caravan cleaning products group test here!
Stage 1: preparation
It really is all in the preparation.
First, position your caravan so there is room to walk around it.
Ideally, one end will be lower than the other, to allow water to run off more easily. Lower the corner steadies for stability.
It is recommended to start from the top down and by top, I mean the roof section.
This is where the algae and dirt are most likely to gather, and where leaves accumulate.
Although some caravan manufacturers believe that it is safe to walk about on your van’s roof, I would advise against this, because it does become very slippery when wet and it is a long way to fall.
Safety is paramount, so use a good, sturdy stepladder or invest in a work tower.
Stage 2: clean
Hose down the entire caravan with cold water to remove any loose debris, such as moss, leaves and grit – the last thing you want to do is grind grit into the paintwork when cleaning.
Avoid using a pressure washer, unless you can control the water pressure. Using too high a pressure will remove silicone from around areas such as the TV antenna and could also damage window seals, resulting in water ingress.
Spray on a caravan cleaning product in sections and rub in using a sponge or brush. Do not allow it to dry.
Don’t forget to open windows and skylights to reach those hidden areas.
Wash off with clean water and move on to another section, until the whole of the caravan has been covered.
Then use a flexible silicon blade to remove any excess water, except on the windows, which should be dried with a microfibre cloth.
Stage 3: polish
If your caravan looks dull and lacks shine, it will need a polish.
The dullness (or bloom as it is called in the industry) is caused by the paintwork oxidising in the sun’s UV rays.
Polishing products also have a cleaning action, which is used to correct the oxidisation. This only needs to be done once a year.
Pour a small amount of polish onto an applicator and apply a thin layer to the paintwork in overlapping circles.
Try to avoid rubber seals and textured plastics/trim.
To polish out any marks or scratches, just increase the pressure.
Once applied, the polish needs to be left on for 15-20 minutes, then buffed up with a Hi-Tech Finishing Cloth.
Stage 4: wax
The final stage is waxing. This is not the same as polishing – they achieve different results.
Wax has no cleaning agent in it and is used purely for the protection of paintwork and to act as a barrier to keep the dirt out and the shine in.
This is a similar procedure to polishing, whereby a thin layer is applied, followed by buffing.
However, it is recommended to leave the product on for 30 minutes between application and buffing.
It can sometimes be difficult to see which areas have been waxed as you go along, but a good way to check your progress is to wet a small area.
On the waxed side, beads of water will run down, while the non-waxed side will have what is termed as sheeting.
Windows and wheels
Most modern caravan windows are made of acrylic, which is a material that is susceptible to scratching.
Be aware that the tiniest piece of grit can cause a lot of damage.
There are many specialised caravan window cleaning products on the market, which are kind to acrylic.
Simply spray onto the window and wipe off using a microfibre or cotton open-weave cloth.
Avoid using any kind of cloth that has lint in it, because this can be abrasive.
Finally, don’t forget the alloy wheels. A quick spray with Autoglym Instant Tyre Dressing will give your alloys that real showstopper look.
There are many different types of equipment, from microfibre cloths to soft sponges.
A telescopic water-fed brush is great for hard-to-reach places.
Soft bristles avoid damage to paintwork and windows.
Once a year, give your caravan the full works.
This takes time and elbow grease, but pays off.
Not only will your caravan be protected from bugs, bird mess, tar, algae and leaf rot, it will be easier to clean next time.
It also prolongs the life of the exterior and adds to its resale value.