Motorhome Cleaning – how to get your van spick and span

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Motorhome cleaning inside and out takes the best part of a day if you want to do it right. To make the job easier you’ll want to use the best products.

The thing is that you can’t just use household cleaning products for certain jobs on motorhomes because the chemicals are too harsh and can damage rubber and plastic.

So, on this page we’ll take a look at some of the things we and our van life friends use that have proven to be good value for money, do the job well and are safe to use on your RV.

There are products to clean both the inside and outside of your camper, as well as our recommended cleaners for the water tanks and toilet cassette.

It’s time to get your RV looking great again…

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The best products for motorhome cleaning

The best products to clean the outside of your motorhome

The first thing to consider when it comes to cleaning your camper or motorhome is where to do it. If you’re lucky enough to have your own driveway you’ll obviously want to do it there. We have no such luxury and usually end up taking the van to Gav’s parents for the day.

You could ask, why don’t you just take it to a car wash in town? Two reasons…

Firstly, the cost. Most hand-wash places will want at least £20 to clean a van-sized vehicle – and that’s just the outside. Secondly, the pressure washers they use are so powerful they can be damaging to the seals on a motorhome, especially if your van is an elder of the tribe like ours.

For these reasons, we decided we’d rather spend a few hours every couple of months or so doing it ourselves. And on a nice sunny day it’s fun anyway!

The average car cleaning shampoos don’t quite cut the mustard with vans. Yes, they will do the job but what we’ve found is that motorhomes tend to get black streaks from the window trims, gutters and seals. Normal car shampoo doesn’t seem to be so effective at removing these.

We’ve found Dirt Busters Wash and Wax to be the best shampoo as it includes a cleaning solution specifically designed to tackle those blasted streaks! And it’s not just us saying this. Read the reviews on amazon and you’ll find most folks score it 4 or 5 stars.

We use a telescopic-handled squeegee brush to wash the higher parts of the van and the over-cab windows. A collapsible bucket is a handy way to save space if you’re going to be storing it in your van.

telescoping brush for cleaning motorhomes

How to remove black streaks from your motorhome

So, if the shampoo doesn’t get rid of all the black streaks what’s the alternative?

We’ve found a quick rub with ‘Silky‘ will remove most of the more embedded black marks. We were quite amazed the first time we used it as it took out the streaks with little effort. Rub in, leave a few minutes then buff off.

Silky will also take out scratches – which are inevitable on motorhomes if you ever have to drive along narrow, hedge-lined country roads like we do.

silky motorhome cleaner for black streaks

Fenwick’s offer an alternative black streak remover spray or if you’re more eco-conscious you might want to go for ‘Vistal’ cleaner and restorer. More expensive but better for the environment.

Cleaning the inside of your motorhome

When it comes to the inside of the van there’s just as much ‘work’ to do. (We say ‘work’ in inverted commas because, to us, no time spent on the van is work; it’s all fun!)

We’ve got a little hand-held vacuum cleaner. But it’s not just about keeping the floors clean and dirt-free. In a campervan or motorhome the water tanks also need cleaning: the fresh and waste water tanks, as well as the toilet cassette.

We always use ‘Puriclean‘ to kill off potential bugs in the fresh water system at the start of the travel season (spring time) or if we’ve not used the van for a while. Simply put a teaspoon or two into the water system, leave for an hour or so, flush through and your tank is free of the nasties.

puriclean - for cleaning and purifying water tanks on motorhomes

RELATED CONTENT: How to prepare your motorhome for the summer season

An alternative to Puriclean is Pro-Kleen Fresh Water Tank Cleaner. We’ve not tried this one but the reviews are excellent.

We were recently given some Elsan products by an elder of the tribe who has sadly given up his caravanning adventures. We’re well pleased with them and say, “Thank you Ken,” if you’re reading this! He gave us Elsan Toilet Chemical Bags and some Elsan Fresh Water Tank Cleaner.

How to stop bad smells from your van’s waste water tank

Back in 2017 in the first journeys in our old van we’d get a few miles up the road and notice a bad whiff. We soon figured it was coming up through the sink plug from the waste water tank.

Putting the plug in stopped the smell getting into the van. But we thought it was a good idea to clean the waste tank. We tried household Jayes Fluid (probably not a good idea) and one or two other general drain cleaners.

The best thing turned out to be cheap, full-sugar Coca Cola! (We bought Asda’s own brand). We poured a 2 litre bottle down the plug hole, let it swish around in the tank for a couple of hours while driving then drained it. Voila! No more smells! This keeps the tank smelling clean for 2 to 3 months. Then simply repeat.

Of course, it’s always best to regularly empty the waste water tank rather than leaving water in there for any length of time. This is something which must be done before the winter time (you don’t want water freezing in any pipes or tanks over winter).

RELATED CONTENT: How to winterize your motorhome to stop burst pipes and rodents getting in

The best way to clean your motorhome’s upholstery

The other thing to consider cleaning inside the van is the upholstery…

The previous owner of our van had a dog – a lovely long-haired Collie called Kiera. We loved her to bits but she left hairs everywhere! (You’ll know what we mean if you travel with your pooch).

Shortly after buying the van, Gav’s young son, Isaac, was drumming his hands on the sofa one evening – just passing the time. (We must have forgotten to bring his gadgets!) Plumes of dust were rising into the air…

We all had a go and before long the van was full of dust clouds!

Suffice to say we stripped off all the upholstery covers and cleaned them in the bath back at home, stomping up and down on them with our bare feet, as if pressing grapes like in the old days. You should have seen the colour of that water! The sponge mattresses were given a thorough bashing as well.

vanish oxy action carpet and upholstery cleaner for motorhomes and campervans

So, what do we use now to keep the upholstery clean? Nothing fancy – just good old fashioned Vanish Oxy Action Spray and a good brush to clean spillages straight away. We’ve had no more dust clouds since.


We hope this page has given you some ideas about how to keep your motorhome spick and span inside and out.

Remember to check out our other Motorhome Gifts and Accessories pages for gadgets, kitchen utensils, clothing, and cosy hab area items.

And if you’re new to van life, check out our road trip essentials page to see the things we always have in our van.

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