Can I Wash My RV with Dawn Dish Soap?

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Can I wash my RV with Dawn dish soap? You might assume the answer to this is a simple yes. The brand touts its ability to wash the grease from a baby duckling so it must be gentle. However, some online forums claim it is possible to strip the coating and leave a film on the outside of your RV with Dawn dish soap.

Others disagree and use Dawn liberally. A test area is always a good idea with any product before using it on your RV. A product manufactured for cleaning your RVs surface might be a safer option. There are, however, other areas of your RV that are fine to use dishwashing soaps and these are the most inexpensive way to get your rig clean.

As an RV owner, it’s important to maintain your rig on the inside and outside whether it’s a brand new Class A or a used camper van. Using the proper products will keep it looking new for years to come.

Can I Wash My RV Roof with Dawn Dish Soap?

There seems to be consensus in many RV forums that indicate Dawn can be used to clean your RV roof. The top of your RV roof should be cleaned at least four times per year and more frequently if you are traveling. Make sure and do your own roof inspection during those times and look for cracks, holes or damaged areas.

Your RV roof is really the most important part of the whole unit. Damage to the roof can escalate into larger problems in the rig if a leak isn’t detected and fixed in a timely manner. Be sure and check around vent seals as well.

It’s also a good idea to know if you can safely walk on your RV roof. Check your owner’s manual or have a discussion with the RV manufacturer or dealer before you climb on the roof.

In order to clean your RV roof correctly, you should also know what type of roofing material you have. Rubber is the most popular RV roof coating material. That rubber material can be either Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) or Thermal Polyolefin (TPO). In addition, your EPDM roof should be sealed every three to four years. Getting it checked on a yearly basis will keep small problems from exploding into big ones.

Don’t use a harsh or abrasive cleaner for your EPDM roof as some could dissolve your EPDM rubber membrane. Also avoid using citrus-based cleaners, mineral spirits or cleaners with petroleum distillates which can cause damage. EPDM roofs have less solvent and oil resistance than TPO.

A fiberglass roof requires much the same kind of maintenance as a rubber one. You don’t want to damage the roof’s protective coating with harsh chemicals. Look for non-toxic, biodegradable solutions without harsh abrasives.

Can I Wash My RV Roof with Dawn Dish Soap?

Can I Wash My RV with Simple Green?

Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner’s biodegradable formula is considered a good option for cleaning your RV rubber roof. It does not contain harsh chemicals and won’t leave behind residue. Simple Green Wash & Wax is a good option to clean the outside of your RV. Again, it’s gentle but will help get rid of bugs, dirt, and grime.

Of course, your awning needs to get a good cleaning on a regular basis as well. A good soaking with Simple Green can help clean grease and heavy soiling. Just apply the cleaning solution to both the top and bottom of the awning with a spray bottle, then roll up the awning for about five minutes, and then rinse. Doing this task on a warm summer day will ensure the awning is dry before you roll it back up.

For mold or mildew, you can use a diluted bleach or vinegar and baking soda solution. Let the solution sit for 10 minutes and then scrub and rinse.

Can I Pressure Wash My RV?    

Can I Pressure Wash My RV?

Using a high pressure washer on your RV should be avoided as it can cause damage to paint, decals, seals, and caulking. A pressure washer with reduced pressure might be ok but be sure to keep your eye out for any areas that might be susceptible to damage. A snow foam cannon attachment for the pressure washer is a great option. It produces a thick foam to wash your RV.

A light pressure washing on your RV awning will also ensure that all the chemicals you applied will be rinsed off.

What is the Best Soap to Wash an RV?

Mild soap and water are a great, and inexpensive, way to get your RV clean. Some recommended RV cleaners include Simple Green, Star Brite, Gel Gloss, Reliable 1, and many more which can work wonders on your rig. Be sure and read the directions carefully and use the appropriate cleaner for your fiberglass or aluminum RV.

Store bought solutions such as Valterra’s RV Awning Cleaning, can help to remove dirt, mold, mildew, and tree sap and can condition the fabric of your awning. Be sure to find a cleaner that is made specifically for awning fabric. Avoid solutions that are oil-based, caustic, or abrasive. Homemade cleaning solutions include Dawn dish soap, bleach, and water. Some manufacturers recommend bleach and some do not. Check with your manufacturer before proceeding with a bleach solution. Removing all the cleaning solution is vital to keeping your awning from being damaged in the process.

Will Dawn Dish Soap Remove Black Streaks?

Will dawn dish soap remove black streaks from a camper or RV?

Just where do those black streaks come from anyway? Dirt collects on the RV roof and when it rains, the dirt runs down the side creating streaks. If you wash your RV often, those streaks should not become a problem. If the streaks remain on the RV in the elements, such as heat and bright sun, it might be more difficult to get them off. They can actually bake into the surface making it nearly impossible to remove.

Dawn dish soap is probably not the best product to use for this task. Use a product such as Reliable 1 which is made for this task. The solution is concentrated and can be diluted to wash your RV. It can also be used full strength to help get the black streaks washed off.

Can Dawn Dish Soap Remove Tree Sap?

Most of the time you want to have your rig in the shade when you camp. However, tree sap is a tough trade off to keep your RV out of the hot sun and ease the work of your air conditioner to help cool down your RV in the summer. Dawn dish soap can be used to remove tree sap. The grease-cutting properties will help dissolve the sap.

Rubbing alcohol can also be used to spot clean your metal trailer. Use a rag moistened with alcohol and rub the sap. If it does not come off, lay the moistened rag on the spot to let the alcohol soak in. Be sure and wash it off with soap and water once the sap is removed.

Other products that can remove tree sap include turpentine, Clorox Clean-Up spray, peanut butter, and Formula 409.

Can I Pressure Wash My RV Roof?

As noted earlier, high pressure can be hard on the materials that make up your RV roof. Using a soft or medium bristle brush is a better option. It may take more elbow grease, but you can also save yourself from roof damage. A high pressure spray on an older roof can be even more of a problem. If you use a pressure washer, be sure not to set the pressure too high. Less than 1200 psi is recommended.

A long handled, soft-bristled scrub brush and a spray bottle of your favorite cleaner is probably the way to achieve the best results when cleaning your RV roof. If your brush attaches to a hose, that makes it even easier to have fresh water and to clean as you go.

Clean your RV roof in segments starting away from your ladder. That will help you avoid standing on the wet roof. Always be careful when cleaning your RV roof. Cleaners and chemicals can make the roof slippery and create a fall hazard.

Where Can I Go to Wash My RV?

Where Can I Go to Wash My RV?

There are a number of options that you can use to wash your RV. If you are on the road, some campgrounds will allow you to wash your rig, but you may have to pay a water usage fee. Check with the office before you get started. Some parks would rather guests not muddy up both yours and your neighbor’s site and some just don’t want a higher water bill.

Thankfully, we were able to get our rig washed every few weeks at our last work camping gig in Port Aransas, Texas. The salty air on the gulf very quickly contributes to rust and decay on any vehicle in that environment and we were there for 8 months. We were able to utilize a company that came to our site to wash and detail our rig.

You will likely pay several hundred dollars for the service, usually charged by the foot, as well as the water usage fee from the campground. These types of companies are excellent at detailing all kinds of rigs and could include waxing, undercoating protection, and much more. The cost could be well worth not having to do it yourself and keeping the rust at bay.

Regular car washes are usually not an option for RV owners. The size of the bay and the ability to maneuver around are usually a hindrance. Blue Beacon truck washes are a good option if your rig is too tall for a car wash. These are built for large commercial vehicles and can easily accommodate a large RV. The cost to wash an RV is around $40 and can be found in most areas of the US. We use these often and see other RVs doing the same.

Of course, a garden hose, a bucket of warm water, a soft cloth or microfiber towels, and some elbow grease will go a long way toward removing stubborn dirt and stains and getting you to a clean RV and off to your next adventure.

Related Reading:

How to Clean the Outside of a Camper Trailer

9 Easy Tips for Cleaning Your RV Rubber Roof

Homemade RV Awning Cleaner

Can I Use Flex Seal on My RV Roof?

Best Sealant for RV Windows – Leakproof Your RV!


about the author

Terri Nighswonger – Author and Full Time RVer

Terri Nighswonger and her husband Todd have been RVing and work camping for six years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and their Minnie Australian Shepherd, Remi.

In Addition to the RVBlogger team, Terri has written for RV Life and RV Camping Magazine and is always excited to talk about her passion for RVing and her knowledge and experience in work camping.

Writing is Terri’s passion, but she also loves hiking, kayaking, walking her dogs, and anything she can do outdoors.

They originate from the Midwest but plan to enjoy the West for a few years, wintering in Arizona and summering wherever the road may lead.

Full Time RVer Terri Nighswonger

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3 thoughts on “Can I Wash My RV with Dawn Dish Soap?”

  1. I’ve pretty much spent most of my morning reading most of your blogs.
    I MUST say that they were read with amazed interest.
    There isn’t a day that you shouldn’t learn something.
    KUDOS my friends.

  2. Caution for bare aluminum siding/roofing on RVs (Airstream) and trailers when utilizing Truck Washes. Many use a acid wash that will discolor bare aluminum, especially where it runs down the siding. I made this mistake recently and my siding is discolored as a result.

  3. I made the mistake of using Simple Green to wash a fiberglass boat. I washed one side at a time. By the time I finished washing one side, I hosed it off. When it dried streaks now run from top to bottom on that side of the boat. And it doesn’t matter what I do to try to remove them, short of taking it to a fiberglass body shop. I DO NOT recommend Simple Green.
    Tim Lercbacker


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