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How To Clean Your RV… And Keep It Clean!

I love a clean home. But there are plenty of things I’d rather be doing than cleaning. My non-RV friends always laugh when I complain about cleaning. They say, “But your RV is so small, how long can it take?” 

Well, okay. Yes, I can clean our tiny home on wheels quicker than I could clean our former bricks-and-sticks home. But, because so much activity is concentrated in a small space, every day, everything needs to be cleaned more frequently – from cabinet door handles and wall switches to the bathroom sink and shower, floors, everything. And the dust! Right?

Clean Smarter, Not Harder

Over the years, I’ve looked for shortcuts to keep our home clean with a minimal amount of time and effort. Here’s what I’ve learned: The secret to a clean home is not cleaning more. The secret is taking steps to prevent dirt, grime, and clutter from accumulating, so you can get away with cleaning less. And another thing: It’s a lot easier to keep up than it is to catch up. 

Keep floors cleaner. Place mats at your entry – one outside and one inside – to absorb moisture, trap dirt, and minimize tracking. And clean the inside mat regularly. Our inside mat is a leather strip mat I purchased 6 years ago – the only cleaning required is shaking it out. It’s also a good idea to remove shoes upon entering your RV because your shoes not only track in dirt, they track in germs. 

Pick up daily. An uncluttered home looks a lot cleaner than a cluttered home – and it’s easier to clean and keep clean. Find a place for everything, so it’s easy to put everything in its place. Make it a habit to do a quick pick-up each night before going to bed. Your future self will thank you.

Make it easier on yourself. It’s much easier to clean up drips and spills when they are fresh, rather than waiting until they harden. So, for instance, rinse the bathroom sink after brushing your teeth and wipe out the microwave oven right after using it. Line refrigerator drawers with a few layers of paper towels, line the bottom of your oven with foil, and replace as needed.

Establish routines. I recommend getting into the routine of cleaning your RV from front to back (or back to front) and focus on cleaning one area at a time. That way, you don’t miss anything. It’s also good to have a travel day routine. For example, after removing everything from the kitchen counter, I clean and disinfect it. I also sweep or vacuum before pulling slides in. Another good practice for full-timers is to do a deep clean in the spring and fall. Part-timers may be able to get away with one deep cleaning each year.

Clean high, then low. Don’t try to defy gravity – clean from top to bottom. Start with dusting, then clean horizontal surfaces and finish with the floor. 

Choose The Right Cleaning Products and Tools

RV cleaning is not a whole lot different from house cleaning. But with limited storage space and specialized cleaning challenges, having the right cleaning supplies and tools makes quicker work of even toughest cleaning jobs. 

Say buh-bye to bleach. Many cleaning products contain bleach, which can be a problem for RVers. Bleach kills the enzymes and good bacteria that keep our black and gray tanks from being smelly. I’m a big fan of a non-toxic solution for cleaning and disinfecting from Force of Nature. It’s a multi-purpose cleaner and EPA-registered disinfectant that kills 99.9% of germs, even SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. And you make it yourself using water, vinegar, salt and electricity.

Don’t underestimate the cleaning power of water. With a ph of 7, H2O is neutral, making it one of the safest chemicals for cleaning any surface. In fact, H2O dissolves more substances than any other chemical! Quick story: Years ago, my dog got into a package of fig newtons and chocolate energy bars that a house guest left in his room. There was sticky brown goo all over my off-white Berber carpet. With just water and a clean, white towel for blotting (plus a good amount of patience), I was able to clean up the mess.

Make friends with microfiber. Microfiber is a synthetic material that effortlessly removes dust, dirt, grease – and germs – from any hard surface. Note that there are different types of microfiber cloths for different uses, the difference being mostly in the weave. Microfiber window cloths, for example, feature a tighter weave than multi-purpose microfiber cloths. I recommend buying multiples of each type because you need to wash microfiber items separately from other items.

PRO SECRET: Fold your microfiber cleaning cloth in half one way and then again the other way so it’s now a smaller square with eight separate cleaning surfaces (four on each side). 

Pro Tips and Solutions For Common RV Cleaning Challenges

Now that you’ve got the right cleaning products and tools at the ready, it’s time to tackle some of the top RV cleaning challenges we all face.

Dusting – Spritz a microfiber cloth with water to get it just slightly damp. A damp cloth does a much better job of collecting dust than a dry cloth which just moves dust around. Start dusting at the highest point and work your way down. For big jobs, like dusting the dash in our motorhome or cleaning window sills and tracks, I use the vacuum dust brush attachment (that’s the round attachment) first and then finish up with a microfiber cloth if needed. 

Carpet – The best way to extend the life of your carpet is with frequent vacuuming. Use the power head attachment with your central vac system or a regular vacuum cleaner with power brush. I learned from experience that handheld vacuums are not powerful enough to clean deep down into the pile where dirt lodges. It’s also a good idea to have your carpet professionally cleaned once a year. And if you spill a glass of red wine, spaghetti sauce or whatever, reach for the can of SpotShot you should have on hand. It’s one of the best carpet stain removers on the market; most others leave a residue that attracts dust and dirt, making the original spot seem to reappear. Just be sure to blot (don’t rub) the stain from the outside in to avoid spreading it.  

Laminate floors – As with carpets, frequent cleaning will keep your laminate wood floors looking like new. Sweep or vacuum regularly, then damp mop with a microfiber mop. I’m currently using a Norwex mini-mop system that I’m really liking. But I’m also a big fan of the far less expensive Libman Wonder Mop, a string-type mop with microfiber cloth strips. Believe it or not, using just water with your microfiber mop will eliminate dirt and grime as well as 99% of germs. The key is to use only a damp mop as you don’t want to over wet your floor which could cause warping. Turn on your Fantastic fans and open windows to help your floors dry quickly.

Shower – A safe and effective alternative to a bleach-based shower cleaning product is one with hydrogen peroxide such as Kaboom Foam-Tastic that sprays on blue and turns white when the surface is clean. And you know what cleans soap scum and water spots from glass shower doors faster and easier than anything I’ve tried? A wet Brillo pad. (And no, it won’t scratch the glass.) To clean debris that collects in the corners of the shower door track, try using an old toothbrush. 

Toilet – Instead of commercial toilet cleaner, I pour about ½ cup of baking soda in the bowl followed by ½ cup of distilled white vinegar. While that mixture is foaming like crazy, I brush the inside of the toilet bowl and around the edges at the top of the bowl. Then just flush. I spray the top and bottom of the seat and lid and the outside of the toilet with my Force of Nature cleaner and disinfectant and wipe with a paper towel that I toss in the trash (along with the germs). 

Mirrors and windows – Use a microfiber window cloth designed for cleaning glass – just spritz some water on it and wipe. Let any small streaks evaporate on their own. For really dirty windows (inside or out), our go-to cleaner is Blue Magic Streak Free Crystal Clear Foaming Glass Cleaner. 

Window screens – The easiest way I’ve found to clean window screens is with the dust brush attachment for our central vac. Also, once or twice a year, I remove all of the screens and wash them outdoors using a bucket of slightly sudsy warm water and an old washcloth. Then allow them to dry completely before replacing them. (I also use the dust brush attachment to periodically clean the fan screen in the bathroom.) 

Electronics screens – Did you know that microfiber was originally designed for clean-room applications in the electronics industry? Cool, right? Before cleaning any electronics, be sure to turn them off. Never spray anything directly on your computer, tablet or phone screen. Spritz a microfiber window cloth with a little water just to dampen it and use that to wipe using light pressure. This will remove fingerprints, smudges and grime plus germs. You can also clean a flat screen television the same way. But never, ever attempt to clean your television screen with anything else and especially not a commercial glass cleaning product. 

Kitchen cabinetry and wood trim – In addition to regular dusting and wiping as needed, it’s a good idea to deep clean wood cabinetry and trim every so often. I mix ¼ cup Murphy’s Oil Soap with a gallon of water and dip a cloth in the diluted solution to wipe surfaces clean. Then wipe dry with a clean soft cloth. Pay special attention to the area around drawer and cabinet pulls which tends to get pretty grimy.

Microwave/convection oven – If you have a regular microwave oven, cleaning is really easy. Fill a microwaveable bowl with water and microwave it on high for 5 minutes. Residual steam will make it easy to wipe clean. Cleaning a microwave/convection oven is not so easy, especially if you frequently use it as a convection oven like me. I discovered that wetting a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser does a really good job of cleaning hardened-on grease spots and food debris.

Soft furnishings (sofa, mattress, curtains) – This is not a pleasant thing to think about, but your mattress harbors dust mites, dead skin, dirt, and other debris. Vacuum every month or so with the upholstery attachment. Use that same attachment along with the crevice tool to remove accumulated dust and debris from your sofa. After vacuuming, wipe away dirty smudges with a damp microfiber cloth. Awhile back, I researched the best way to clean the windshield curtains in our motorhome. People who tried washing them often reported that they shrank. I settled on having them professionally dry cleaned. If I remember correctly, it cost less than $50 and they came out beautifully. But do be sure to get a few quotes because the first place wanted several hundred dollars! 

Clean Your RV... Then Organize It!

Author

Donna Smallin Kuper

Donna Smallin Kuper is an award-winning organization expert and bestselling author. She has been featured on the CBS Early Show, The Daily Buzz, and Fox & Friends as well as numerous other television and radio programs around the US. Her tips regularly appear in magazines like Better Homes & Gardens, Readers Digest, and more! And Donna is a full-time RVer – she really knows her stuff! Find more of her tips and tricks on her website at www.unclutter.com.

One Response to “How To Clean Your RV… And Keep It Clean!

  • I have a bed bug bag on my mattress. It keeps any bugs out. After my dad getting an infestation in his apartment. He got them from the apartment next to his when they went through the wall through the electric sockets. We found out you can get them very easily.

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