Every autumn it’s worth cleaning your caravan before winter sets in. This is especially true if you are planning to lay the caravan up for a few months. If you get on top of things now, the caravan will have a greater chance of remaining in good condition for years to come.

One of the problems with a British winter is that the conditions are perfect for mould and algae to grow on any unused caravan surface. If there’s already dust, mud or greasy fingerprints on a caravan, this gives mould spores and algae something to grip on to, before merrily starting a little colonisation programme. By spring you could end up with a major cleaning task, complete with the dreaded black streaks marring your lovely caravan’s appearance. Anything growing on the surface of your van will also be likely to sneak into any nooks and crannies and potentially grow under window seals.  

Plenty of people seek to prevent trouble by buying caravan covers. Unfortunately this can backfire if there’s any dust or dirt on the surface of the van, because the wind can blow the covers onto the dirt, scouring the surface of the caravan’s panels or windows in the process. You can solve this problem very easily: just clean the caravan and let it dry thoroughly before you put the caravan covers on.

Which cleaning products are safe to use on your caravan? Is it okay to just get busy with washing-up detergents, or a car shampoo and a long-handled mop?

Well, no. Actually there are plenty of specialist caravan cleaning products that will do a far better job. Not only will they leave your caravan gleaming, but the chemicals in them won’t prove too harsh and won’t discolour the van. The best products will also leave a waxy film behind after cleaning, which with a bit of luck will help any rain-dissolved dirt and dust simply slide right off!

There’s a good choice of brands out there, so we collected a few rival products together on the Practical Caravan test bench to find out which are the best caravan cleaners to buy. We tested the MudBuster Caravan & Motorhome Exterior & Interior Wash & Wax, costing £8.99 for a litre, the Fenwick’s Caravan Cleaner Concentrate, costing £8.99 for a litre, the Blue Diamond Perfection Caravan Cleaner at £8.49 per litre and the Silky Cream Cleaner at £3.99 for a tub. But this review will focus on the Care-avan Hi-Tec Shampoo, priced at £7.50 for a litre.

With endorsements from Bailey Caravans, The Swift Group (including Sterling and other brands), and Roma Caravans, this is a cleaner that you can use safe in the knowledge that a gleaming shine won’t be at the cost of exposing your van’s most vulnerable bits of trim to excessively harsh chemicals. 

The product’s softly-softly approach is noticeable in use. If you follow the instructions to the letter — wet the area first, then apply the cleaner with a sponge, and finally rinse off — thorough cleaning is certainly possible. But it’s slower going and requires more effort than with other brews here. Streaking and well-established grime on smooth aluminium required numerous repeat applications to be shifted fully. On the bright side, that litre bottle, used at the correct dilution, makes a massive 500 litres of solution.