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What You Need to Deep Clean an RV Awning

RV awnings tend to get gunky over time for a number of reasons. One of the most common ones is putting away the awning wet, allowing mold and mildew to grow on it. Its best to avoid doing this if possible, but it frequently isn’t. Awnings also can just collect dirt and particles from the air and trees that can stain over time. It’s always a battle to try and keep it clean, but today, we’re sharing our tips on how we clean RV awnings. Let’s dive in!

Cleaning RV awning
Make sure your RV awning is completely dry before you close it to prevent mildew from forming.

How to Clean an RV Awning

There is no one-size-fits-all all awning solution for cleaning. Depending on your awning type and the type of grime you are trying to remove, you will need to use different techniques. Unfortunately, we have not found any technique that does not involve some elbow grease.

You will need a bucket and a long scrub brush, at minimum, but we also use a portable pressure washer. The general technique for cleaning an awning is much like cleaning any vehicle, except cleaning the underside, which can get you really wet!

Choosing an RV Awning Scrub Brush

There are many hard-to-reach spots on an RV awning. A brush with a telescoping handle like this one can ensure you clean each section of your awning. This brush is also ideal because you can angle the head of the brush into different positions. This helps you clean around the curled edge of the awning.

Trailersphere Easy squeegee customized…
  • NEVER ROLL YOUR AWNING WET OR DIRTY: The key in controling stains…
  • LONG REACH: Extendable, modern and sleek aluminum heavy duty…
  • DUAL ACTION MICROFIBER PAD: a mop is only as good as the pad that…

Any telescoping handle with a good automotive brush head will do however. Having both a stiff bristle and soft bristle brush head can be helpful.

Forgrace 12″ Car Wash Brush with Soft Bristle Auto…
This is my favorite auto brush style as it makes it easy to reach corners and less likley to scratch.
RV awning cleaning
Get a brush that extends and rotates to get every part of your RV awning.

Choosing an RV Awning Cleaner

Once you have your brush and bucket you next need a cleaner. Now there are tons of products marketed specifically for cleaning awnings, and you can just jump right to those, but first I want to give you a brief overview of cleaning chemicals and when to use what. Amazingly there are only a few types of cleaning chemicals that pretty much all store brand cleaners are just combinations of.

  1. Acids: These are used for removing mineral deposits, rust, and other similar stains. Common acidic cleaning agents include vinegar (acetic acid), hydrochloric acid (used in toilet bowl cleaners), and citric acid. Cleaning vinegar is my favorite acid to use, and in certain situations, I have used it on awnings with great results.
  2. Bases (Alkalis): These are effective at dissolving grease, oils, and other organic substances. Examples include sodium hydroxide (found in oven cleaners) and ammonia. We don’t recommend using bases on awnings.
  3. Solvents: Solvents are used to dissolve a variety of substances and are especially good at tackling oily or greasy stains. Common solvents used in cleaning products include alcohols (like isopropanol), acetone, and glycol ethers. Solvents can be particularly helpful if you have tree sap stains on your awning. Isopropyl alcohol or simple green are good cleaners for tree sap stains.
  4. Detergents: These are surfactants that can remove dirt by reducing the surface tension of water, helping it to wet surfaces and lift dirt. Detergents are found in products like dishwashing liquid and laundry detergents. The very first step I use in cleaning an awning is a detergent. It might sound weird, but I use Dawn dish soap for all my main detergent needs, including washing vehicles.
  5. Abrasives: These contain particles that help scrub and remove tough dirt. They are often found in powders or pastes used for scrubbing surfaces like sinks and tubs. We don’t recommend abrasive cleaners, but a plastic brissle brush or a pressure washer are considered abrasive cleaning methods.
  6. Oxidizers: These chemicals, such as bleach (sodium hypochlorite), are used for their ability to break down stains, sanitize, and bleach colors. When other cleaners don’t lift stains, we go for some simple oxy-clean solution sprayed on the awning and let it sit for a while.

Thats all there is to cleaning chemicals! Knowing these is important to choosing which to use for any of your cleaning needs. We personally like to use each cleaning type independently to best determine what works. Below I will share our cleaning process, but if you prefer to use a commercial blend cleaner there are a few to choose from.

The Camco 41024 Pro-Strength Awning Cleaner is a combination cleaner claiming to remove the grime build-up on our awning but doesn’t degrade the fabric.

Camco 41024 Pro-Strength Awning Cleaner – 32 fl….
  • Restores the appearance of RV awnings
  • Removes mold stains, dirt, tree sap and road grime
  • Safe for all fabrics

Star Brite products also is known for high quality chemicals and we use their boiler fluids that have worked well.

STAR BRITE RV Awning Cleaner – 32 OZ (071332),…
  • Powerful formula removes tough stains from fabric and vinyl…
  • Ideal for use on leaf stains, bird droppings, dirt, bug deposits…
  • Safe for all RV exterior fabrics; won’t discolor or stain

Step-by-Step Process:

Ok here is our process for cleaning awnings.

  1. Position Awning And Wet -Finding the right position so you can reach the awning is important. If adjustable, dropping the awning all the way down can help. In other circumstances, we have cleaned from the roof (BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL IF YOU DO THIS). You want to wet the awning with water as well before applying cleaner.
  2. Start With Detergent – We always start with dawn soap or an automotive soap and scrub it in. I personally like to apply it directly to the scrub brush. Work the awning in sections, letting the soap sit for a bit, then rinse. If you have one, you can rinse with a pressure washer (from a distance, it can rip the awning). The pressure washer can add an abrasive cleaning element. Evaluate how clean it has gotten. If stains presist, move on to the next chemical.
  3. Use Acid Next – After an initial clean with detergent you may be happy, but if not a different cleaner might be required. We use 30% cleaning vinegar you can get at most stores. Use a spray bottle to wet the awning where stains remain. Let it sit a minute, then scrub again. I always wear goggles when spraying acid.
  4. Tackle Remaining Stains – At this point, your awning should be pretty clean, but if you have stubborn spots, we try another cleaning method. If you have tree sap stains, try isopropyl alcohol. If a general discolored look remains we tend to make a solution of oxyclean and soak letting it sit 5-10 min before scrubbing one last time.
  5. Scrub in Sections – When cleaning the top side, fully extend the telescoping brush handle and work in small sections until you clean the whole side. For the underside, fold or roll back the awning fabric into its housing or support structure. This step allows access to the previously hidden underside. It makes it easier to reach and clean in sections. Slide-out awning toppers can be tricky to clean due to their location and limited accessibility. Fully extend the slide-out awning to expose the surface for cleaning.
  6. Rinse Thoroughly – Completely wash off any soap or product to prevent it from molding, fading colors, or harming the fabric. 
  7. Let It Completely Air Dry – Your awning must be entirely dry before you close it. Closing it before it dries can cause mold or mildew to grow, so don’t close it too soon.

Pro Tip: If your RV awning is looking raggedy, use our guide on How to Easily DIY Repair Or Replace an RV Awning.

Awning cleaning product
The right cleaning product can make all the difference when washing your RV awning. We tried 303 wheel cleaner once and it worked ok, but we don’t recommend as it can leave a residue.
How Easy is it to Replace RV Awning Fabric? - Replacing A&E Awning & Slide Topper with Tough Top

Pro Tip: Protect your RV awning by discovering How To Open An RV Awning The Right Way.

It’s Time to Give Your RV Awning a Bath

Washing your RV’s awning is crucial for maintaining its appearance and preventing dirt and build-up damage. Regular cleaning also helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew, ensuring the awning remains functional and extending its lifespan. So grab your soap and scrub brush and give your RV awning the bath it deserves.

When was the last time you cleaned your RV awning? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Wednesday 1st of May 2024

I have been using The Magic Eraser Mop. Seems to work great, with little elbow grease.