Traveling in an RV can be insanely fun, but when it comes to the so to say behind the scenes of owning an RV, things may not be as pleasant. Among the backstage activities of owning an RV, a big place is occupied by cleaning.
You need to keep clean all the components of your RV, including its body, slide-outs, ladders, your satellite dish, and the awning.
Today, we’d like to dive a little bit deeper in maintaining the latter. More specifically, we want to talk about homemade RV awning cleaners, whether they are worth it, and how you should use them.
Homemade RV awning cleaner recipes
Why use a homemade RV awning cleaner?
With so many cleaning solutions available out there, why would you even want to bother making your own solution? Making your own mixture doesn’t necessarily cost less, so what’s the benefit here?
The main reason why you would want to avoid a commercially-made cleaner is that manufacturers often fill them with bleach or other harsh chemicals. While these can be very effective at RV awning cleaning, most contaminations do not require such harsh solutions.
These chemicals can easily damage your awning if treated carelessly. And if your RV awning is so messy that you need to use bleach on it, then maybe you should just replace your awning altogether.
The financial benefits of making your own RV awning cleaner aren’t always evident, and we think that keeping your awning safe and sound is more important than saving money. However, in most cases, you will probably save money because homemade RV awning cleaners are made from ingredients that are readily available in the majority of households.
RV awning recipe suggestions
Make a mixture of one gallon of warm water and one quart of white vinegar. This solution should work well with either vinyl or fabric awnings.
Make a mixture of a gallon of warm water and a quart of white vinegar. Add one squeeze of dish soap. This solution can again be used on either vinyl or fabric awnings.
Make a mixture of one part of hydrogen peroxide to six parts of water. This mixture will work better on vinyl awnings. Adjust the mixture to the size of your awning.
This solution can be a bit harsh, so you should test it on a small patch to see how your awning reacts to it. To do this, spray a small area of the awning with the mixture and let it sit for about 15 minutes. If the awning’s color hasn’t faded or changed, then you may proceed with this solution. Otherwise, do not use this method.
Mix one part of hot water, one part of washing soda, one part of borax, and two parts of bar soap. The consistency of this solution should be a semi-liquid soap when cool. Adjust the solution to the size of your fabric. This mixture can be used on either vinyl or fabric awnings.
Mix a small amount of water with baking soda to make a paste-like solution. This recipe works well with fabric awnings.
For very stubborn mold or mildew, mix 2-1/2 gallons of water with a 1/4 cup of bleach. While bleach can easily treat stubborn stains, you should only use this solution once every few years. Bleach can easily damage your awning, so make sure not to overdo it.
How to clean your RV awning?
You may have prepared a very effective solution for awning cleaning, but it won’t do a good job if you don’t know how to clean your RV’s awning properly.
If you don’t know how to clean awnings, below is a step-by-step guide of RV awning cleanup.
RV awning types
It’s important to know what kind of an awning you are working with since caring for one type of an RV awning isn’t the same as for another.
RV awnings are usually made from either fabric or vinyl. Fabric awnings are commonly called canvas or acrylic awnings. Vinyl awnings feel plastic-y, so it shouldn’t be difficult for you to find out what kind of an awning you have. The awning label should also tell you what your RV awning is made from.
There are several key differences between these awning types, which we will overview below.
Fabric awnings are usually made by a company named Sunbrella. Their breathable outdoor textile is designed to dry quickly and have a high tolerance for UV rays. Sunbrella fabric awnings also usually have a finish that is resistant to water- and oil-based stains.
The repellent finish can fade over time, which will make the once quick-drying awning into a damp mess. If left untreated, a fabric awning can become permanently soiled and might even begin to leak.
Vinyl awnings are usually made mildew-resistant, but this doesn’t mean that they are immune to mildew growth. If you don’t take care of your awning regularly, mildew can form on the dust and dirt that collects on the awning’s surface. Vinyl awnings are much easier to clean than fabric awnings, but only if you take care of them properly.
Cleaning your RV awning
Now, let’s overview the step-by-step process of cleaning an RV awning. Along the way, we are going to throw some tips specific to awning types.
Step 1. Prepare your cleaning tools
First of all, prepare tools for cleaning your RV awning. What tools to exactly use will differ a bit depending on your awning material.
Generally, vinyl awnings do not handle abrasive, harder brushes as well as fabric awnings. Vinyl awnings are coated with a mildew-resistant finish which is rather easy to scrub off with a hard brush.
Conversely, fabric awnings can take a little harsher treatment. But they have a water-repellant finish, which may also come off from harsh scrubbing.
Whatever kind of brush you are using, you need to mount it on a long pole to reach the top of your awning, which would be much more difficult with just a brush.
Step 2. Prepare your cleaning solution
Next comes preparing your cleaning solution. You may use any of the recipes provided above, depending on what ingredients you already have. Don’t also forget that some cleaning solutions may work better with a specific awning type.
You may also opt for a commercially-made cleaning solution if you don’t have the necessary ingredients or if you for some reason don’t want to make a cleaning solution yourself.
However, make sure that you aren’t using an abrasive or oil-based cleaner since they can easily stain or damage your awning. And avoid chemical-based solutions unless you know nothing else will work.
To apply the solution to the awning conveniently, pour it into a spray bottle. You may also wet your brush and rub the solution into the awning, but we think that using a spray bottle is going to make things more convenient. If the top of your awning is difficult to access, you may need to use a combination of both methods.
Step 3. Prepare your awning for cleaning
Give a rinse to your RV awning. This will help you remove lighter mildew or mold from its surface and will leave only those stains that need to be treated with a cleaning solution. Aside from that, rinsing will clear the awning of dust and leaves.
If you have an awning stabilizer kit, use it to help you with the cleaning process.
Step 4. Apply the solution to the awning
Before using any solution, you should do a test on a small spot to see how the awning reacts to the mixture. Your cleaning solution shouldn’t discolor the awning or leave a residue behind. If you will be using solutions containing bleach or other toxic chemicals, make sure to do the cleaning away from grass or plants.
Apply the solution to the awning – both the top and the underside – with your chosen method. Apply as much as needed to saturate the awning. For tight areas or crevices, you may use a toothbrush to easily scrub in the mixture.
With the underside, you should be able to fairly easily apply the solution with a spray bottle. As for the top, you may need to use a long-handled brush to reach the areas beyond your reach. When using a brush, make sure to be gentle not to damage the awning or its finish.
After applying the solution to both sides of the awning, roll up or retract it. This can help the solution to spread across the entire surface of the awning. Let the awning sit like this for 15-30 minutes before extending it.
Step 5. Gently scrub the awning
After extending the awning, you need to gently scrub the awning to remove any mold or mildew stains.
If stains come off very easily, then a very gentle scrub may suffice. If stains don’t seem to come off, gradually increase the pressure on the brush until the mold comes off. If you can’t seem to remove the stains, then you may not be using a strong enough cleaning solution.
Step 6. Rinse the awning
After you’ve removed all mildew or mold stains from the awning, rinse its both sides with a hose. If the water doesn’t run down the awning easily due to its slope, dip one of the awning’s corners to help it run off.
Step 7. Let the awning dry
Before retracting the awning, let it dry for a couple of hours. If you retract the awning while it is wet, you may again cause mold or mildew growth, which would make your efforts pointless.
Protecting your awning
After you’ve completed the cleanup, you will need to apply a protective coating to the awning anew since it may have been damaged by the mold or mildew, as well as worn off during the cleaning process.
There are many protectant products on the market, but a particularly popular choice are the solutions of 303 Products.
For a fabric awning, you may go with their 303 Fabric Guard. It is claimed to restore stain repellency and water protection to factory levels.
If you have a vinyl awning, then you may opt for the 303 Aerospace Protectant. This solution adds fading and UV protection to the awning, as well as imparts dust- and stain-repelling properties to it. It is also claimed to restore faded colors.
No matter what kind of a protectant you choose, make sure that it is soil-resistant, water- and stain-repellant, and durable. And make sure that you aren’t using a vinyl protectant on a fabric awning since they are formulated very differently.
How often should you clean your RV awning?
It depends. You should at least clean your RV awning once a year before putting your RV away for storage. But you will be able to limit yourself to one clean only if the awning hasn’t gotten dirty during the year.
You should check the condition of your awning after every trip. The more often you travel in your RV, the more frequently you will need to do an awning cleanup.
Your parking habits will also have an impact on the frequency of cleaning. If you park beneath trees or don’t protect the awning from rain and humidity, it will likely get covered with dirt and mildew.
Another thing you may be wondering about is how frequently you should use awning cleaners. We’d say that you should do this as little as possible in order to avoid any damage to the awning, as well as to make the cleanup easier and quicker for you.
The best way of avoiding deep cleanings is to give a frequent rinse to your RV awning. If you remove dirt and dust from the awning often, you can prevent the growth of mildew on its surface.
Of course, the awning may get contaminated no matter how frequent your rinses are, and you may need to use a cleaning solution occasionally. But it’s better to expose your awning to cleaners once a year than once every month.
If you liked this article take a look at our other RV how-to guides here.