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Most RV roofs are made of rubber, lasting up to 20 years with proper care and maintenance. However, dirt accumulates over time, which can result in deterioration. To prevent damage, it’s important to clean your RV’s roof regularly.
To clean a dirty RV roof, it is best to use an RV cleaner made for your roof type; some alternative products like Simple Green also work. Clean the roof in sections, rinse and wax it, or use a special protectant to leave a protective coating. You should clean your RV roof every three months.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to clean an RV roof. I’ll also share some of the best materials to use and what you should avoid. Let’s get started!
Warning! Don’t use petroleum-based products such as Dawn dish soap on your RV! Learn why here.
A Step-by-Step Guide for Cleaning an RV Roof
Wondering what the best way to clean your dirty RV roof is? Cleaning your RV roof is an easy DIY task with a bit of knowledge and the right tools. However, it can be intimidating for first-timers. Luckily, once you learn the ropes, you’ll realize it’s an easy job.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Ensure Your Safety
Cleaning your RV’s roof involves climbing on the top, stepping on the roof, and brushing the surface to remove dirt. The risks involved include falling off the roof or even through the roof if it’s old and brittle.
Use a stable ladder to climb onto the roof, and wear shoes with solid traction so that they will grip the surface. If possible, work with someone else, and ask them to stay at the bottom in case you need assistance.
2. Inspect and Evaluate Your RV’s Roof
Before cleaning, check the roof for potential damage. This can include cracks, rust, or signs of wear and tear. If you are uncertain about what to look for, I have another article where I talk about how to find a leak in your RV roof; I especially recommend you to read the first part, where you learn to check worn seals.
Repair or seal the cracks to insulate the roof and prevent water damage. Remember that this will be a perfect time to reseal those cracks and that you, in most cases, can put on new sealant on top of the old one, but more about that in this other article.
Your RV roof’s material is also one of the crucial considerations when cleaning because it will determine the most suitable cleaning materials to use. As such, below are the most common materials on RV roofs:
- Rubber: EPDM rubber is the most common RV roof material. It’s flexible and offers excellent resistance to UV radiation. TPO rubber is also popular because it doesn’t fade or chalk. Aside from regular cleaning, they need resealing to a certain point every 1 to 5 years to guarantee optimal performance.
- Aluminum: While it can dent, aluminum doesn’t easily break. However, cleaning can be cumbersome, and the dents are easily visible.
- Fiberglass: These roofs have tiny glass strands that bond through a plastic resin. Fiberglass is durable and rust-proof, which makes cleaning relatively easy. Nonetheless, extreme heat can result in thermal splits, which you should look for before cleaning.
If you are uncertain about what type of roof you have and you want to figure it out, I have made this guide where you learn how to tell them apart.
4. Sweep and Rinse the Roof
Before cleaning the RV roof with your chosen cleaner, sweeping and rinsing it is important. Sweeping the roof will help eliminate dust, loose dirt, and debris. If you wet the RV roof’s build-up without sweeping it off, you could create a muddy mess, which could be difficult to remove.
After sweeping, give the roof a good rinse. You can use a hosepipe for this job, but you’ll need one long enough to reach the roof.
5. Apply an RV Cleaner
Applying the RV cleaner is the most crucial step. You can use various cleaning products, and one to consider is a specialized RV cleaner.
Here are three products that work well on all RV roof materials and types so you don’t have to think twice:
|Product Name and Amazon affiliate link
|RV Roof Cleaner
|Dicor Rubber RV Roof Cleanser Spray
|303 RV Wash & Seal – Clean
|RV & All-Purpose Cleaner
RV cleaners are specially formulated to clean motorhomes, and most have unique formulas to suit specific materials, such as rubber or fiberglass.
RV cleaners are available in different types, including the following:
- Spray: RV cleaners in spray bottles are best for light cleaning. You can spray it directly on the dirt and scrub or brush afterward. There’s also no need to mix or dilute it, making it a great time-saver.
- Concentrate: For stubborn dirt or thick grime; concentrates are best. Their powerful formulas require mixing and dilution, but they can do much of the heavy lifting for you.
- Rinse-free: As the name implies, these cleaners don’t need to be rinsed with water once you’re finished. All you need to do is apply the product on the roo surface and leave.
Aside from RV cleaners, you can also use other materials that can be equally effective for removing dirt on the roof. Hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and even Simple Green can be very effective. I’ll discuss these products in more detail further on.
Some of these alternatives can contain harsh chemicals, so protect yourself when cleaning.
7. Scrub or Brush the Roof
After applying the cleaner, it’s time to do the manual work. Scrub or brush the roof in sections.
Start in one area and work until you cover the rest of the roof. This can also help you to work safely since you won’t have to step on a wet portion of the roof. I suggest working in 3 feet by 3 feet (36 x 36 inches) sections to be systematic with the cleaning.
Clean in a circular motion, paying attention to the heaviest and most stubborn dirt or grime. Apply enough force but avoid excessive pressure. This is especially important if you’re working on a roof made of a fragile material.
Choosing the right kind of brush is also important. A long-handled mop or brush is best if you’re working from the ladder and don’t want to step on the roof. Meanwhile, use a brush with soft or medium bristles for general cleaning. Avoid stiff-bristled brushes, as they can be too harsh on the surface.
8. Rinse Your RV Roof With Water
After applying the RV cleaner and scrubbing or brushing the RV roof, you should rinse the cleaning product off. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you’ve used a rinse-free product.
Using a hosepipe is the most effective way to do this. Don’t forget to rinse the sides of your motorhome and any cleaner that might have dripped onto the sides.
9. Wax the RV Roof or use specialized RV roof protectant
Unfortunately, cleaning and rinsing your RV roof isn’t enough. Waxing is essential as it leaves a protective layer to prevent premature wear and protect it from sun damage. Wax can also make the roof look shiny and glossy.
You can also choose to use a specialized RV roof protectant if you have an EPDM rubber roof; I would recommend getting the Camco Rubber Roof Cleaner & Protectant (Amazon affiliate link), which includes both a cleaner and protectant.
Extending the lifespan of your RV is another benefit of regular waxing. A wash-and-wax combo can prevent the paint from peeling or cracking, providing you use the right products.
If you’d like a visual demonstration of how to wax your RV roof, here’s a helpful video:
The Best Products for Cleaning Your RV Roof
Do you still need to buy the most suitable cleaning product for your RV roof? Here are my top recommendations:
Many of you are curious about using Simple Green, and the good news is that it’s one of the best RV cleaners. It has a non-toxic and non-biodegradable formula, which makes it a safe choice. It’s also concentrated, so it’s tough on dirt and grime.
For the best results, I recommend starting with a ratio of one part Simple Green and 10 parts water. More about simple green here.
Specialized RV Cleaners
The market is teeming with options for specially formulated cleaners to clean RV roofs. Look for those from trusted brands, read reviews, and learn from the real-life experiences of other people.
Remember to check the label and see if there are hazardous ingredients. Also, religiously follow instructions on using such cleaners and, most importantly, ensure they work with your RV roof material.
I don’t personally use bleach and never have; it is just not a big thing in Sweden; why? im not sure, but you can if you want to.
The mere mention of bleach can put some people off because it’s corrosive, which can cause eye and skin irritation. Make sure you mix equal parts of bleach and water. Most importantly, be cautious when using it. Wear a face shield, gloves, and clothes that protect your skin.
Hydrogen peroxide works as a mild antiseptic and is an effective RV roof cleaner. It’s excellent for removing mold and mildew, including the stains they leave behind. However, using it in high concentrations can leave unsightly streaks. Ensure that you dilute it with enough water to avoid this.
If you have stubborn tree sap on your RV’s roof, you can remove it with ice. Ice cools and hardens sap, making it less sticky and easier to remove.
Leave the ice on the affected portion of the roof for 10 minutes, and then remove it. Unfortunately, ice is not a practical solution for large areas of tree sap and works best as a spot treatment.
You can also try natural cleaners, although they typically work best on light dirt or grime. White vinegar and baking soda are among the most common natural household cleaners for an RV roof. Create a cleaning paste, leave it for a few minutes, and scrub it lightly off the roof. Rinse the roof when you’re done.
What You Should Avoid
Now that you know what you should be doing when cleaning your RV roof, here’s what you should avoid or do with caution:
You can use a pressure washer, but it is important to do so with caution and read up a bit more about it before just blasting water everywhere! I use one when I have it available but you can read more about it here
The downside of using a pressure washer to remove thick or stubborn dirt can include damaging the surface. It can leave dents on the roof and can also destroy the seals and gaskets on the edges, forcing water into places where you don’t want it.
While you can use a pressure washer, proceed cautiously, and choose the lowest setting. However, some people might think that it defeats the purpose.
Dawn Dish Soap
I’ve seen many RVers use Dawn dish soap when cleaning their RV roof. It might work effectively, but it will remove the protective coating or wax. Hence, it might make the roof more susceptible to UV damage, and it contains petroleum distillates that cause swelling and could void your warranty.
Aside from petroleum-based cleaners, you must also avoid those with citric chemicals, especially if you have a rubber roof. The chemical reaction can be a nightmare because the rubber can swell and detach from its foundation. In addition, the discoloration can be a problem with citric-based cleaners.
Removing tough stains on the roof is easy with mineral spirits. However, it’s another material I can’t recommend. It’s a petroleum distillate, which makes it damaging for rubber. Similar to the materials mentioned earlier, it can also cause swelling and deterioration, minimizing the lifespan of rubber roofs.
How Often Should You Clean an RV Roof?
On average, you should clean your RV roof at least once every three months. Meanwhile, if you actively travel, you should clean more often, at least once a month. Such is also the case if you park your motorhome under trees or expose it to other elements that make it prone to dirt and grime.
But don’t wait too long before you clean the roof. If it’s showing signs of potential damage or starting to look unsightly, it’s best to be proactive. You should also read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the frequency of cleaning.
The Importance of Keeping Your RV Roof Clean
Cleaning your RV roof regularly involves a lot of hard work. However, it’s crucial for proper care and maintenance.
Here are some of the reasons you should clean your RV’s roof:
- Cleaning helps maintain its aesthetic appeal: From tree sap to bird waste, your RV’s roof can have all kinds of dirt, making it look unsightly. Stains and discoloration are common if you don’t clean the roof regularly. Regular cleaning helps keep your RV looking clean and as good as new.
- It helps prevent future costly damage: Not cleaning your RV’s roof can result in costly repairs in the future. It’s one of those instances when you can say that prevention is better than cure.
- It slows down the oxidation process. Keeping the roof clean can be a good solution for slowing oxidation. Oxidation is an effect of sunlight exposure and can make the roof’s material deteriorate and corrode it.
- Cleaning helps remove mold and mildew: If the roof is made of rubber, mold and mildew can spread to the other parts of the RV. This can produce allergens and irritants, which might pose health risks.
Cleaning your RV’s roof may not be a glamorous part of owning a motorhome, but it’s a must. Luckily, it’s easy when you have the right tools and a bit of knowledge. The most important is to pick the right cleaner, which should match the roof’s material. Pay attention to your safety because you’ll work on a slippery surface.