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Owner’s Guide: How to Clean RV Awnings

When the winter cold breaks, you start looking at your RV and thinking about where to go this summer.

First things first, that RV needs a thorough spring cleaning. It’s more than just airing it out and running a vacuum through the vehicle.

You’ll need to check the tires and brakes, not to mention seal the roof. The fresh water tank and lines will need to be sanitized. Don’t forget about the oven and fridge.

You can look forward to days of obligatory safety checks. Then you’ll be scrubbing, wiping and disinfecting. In the middle of all of that, it’s easy to overlook cleaning your awning.

You may not even know how to clean RV awnings properly if you’re a new owner.

Even if you’ve never cleaned one before, it’s an important step that will save you money. It’s much cheaper to clean it than replace it.

Let’s dig into the mysteries of awning cleaning.

RV Awning Basics

You need to know what material your awning is made of before you pull out a hose or fill a bucket with soapy water.

Most awnings are either made of vinyl or an acrylic weave. The distinction isn’t a minor one. Vinyl and acrylic require different cleaning methods.

Pro Tip: Many people refer to acrylic weave as “canvas” because of the resemblance, but it’s not canvas. Canvas is made of natural fibers. Don’t try to clean acrylic weaves the way you would clean actual canvas!

How to Clean RV Awnings Made of Vinyl

If you make a regular habit of cleaning your awning, vinyl or acrylic, you shouldn’t ever need more than a garden hose.

Extend the awning completely and rinse it off with the hose. Just take care not to hit the awning with a narrow jet of water. Think gentle rain, not power washer.

The object is to clean off dust or dirt, not make it clean enough for surgery.

If your awning hasn’t been cleaned on a regular basis, you may need to step it up to soapy water and soft bristle brush. Use a mild soap or an RV awning cleaner. Make sure to avoid abrasive, oil-based or corrosive cleaners, such as those with bleach.

A bit of firm pressure should remove most set-in grime. Rinse the awning.

Always let the awning finish drying before retracting it.

How to Clean RV Awnings Made of Acrylic

Before you get creative, use a soft bristle brush to knock loose dirt and dust. Hose off the acrylic fabric and let it dry.

If you see residual dirt, then take things up to the next level. As with the vinyl, prep a bucket of cool-warm water with a mild soap. Apply the soapy water to the top of the fabric and leave it to soak for around 10 minutes.

Use your hose to rinse off the awning. Let it dry and check it again.

Only if you’re still seeing dirt, grime or some staining should you move up to scrubbing. Use a soft bristle brush and cool soapy water. Use gentle pressure and move the brush in a small circular pattern.

This should remove most set-in grime. Rinse the awning and let it dry completely.

Try to keep scrubbing to a minimum. Manufacturers apply a coating that repels water. Scrubbing will shorten the life of this coating.

How to Clean RV Awnings with Mildew or Mold

Acrylic weaves breathe well and dry quickly, which limits mildew issues. Vinyl has excellent native mildew resistance.

Neither material is immune to mildew.

Mildew or mold can grow if you roll up either material while it’s still wet and dirty. It’s also more likely to grow in high humidity areas, like the East Coast and much of the Gulf Coast.

There are commercial products to remove mildew and mold from awnings, but there’s a cheaper, DIY approach that also works well.

White vinegar will kill mildew and around 80% of mold species.

Pour some undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle or a garden sprayer for larger awnings. Spray down your entire awning with the vinegar. This might feel like overkill, but you can’t be sure where the spores landed.

Allow the vinegar to sit for 5-10 minutes.

Prep a bucket of cool, soapy water. Use a brush to scrub the awning. Remember to use a softer brush and gentler scrubbing for acrylic weaves.

Rinse the awning with clean water and let it dry. If you find mildew remnants, you can repeat the process and let the vinegar sit on the awning for longer.

Both mildew and vinegar can leave an unpleasant lingering smell. Baking soda will help with both.

Weather permitting, sprinkle some baking soda onto the dry awning. Let it sit there for several hours, or even all day, and it should reduce the odors. Brush the baking soda off before rolling up the awning.

Post-Cleaning Protection Tips

If you do end up scrubbing your acrylic awnings, you need to be mindful of damage to the waterproofing coating.

You can wait until it rains to see if the coating still works. The other option is to apply a sealant. A professional-grade, exterior fabric guard should do the trick.

Vinyl awnings usually develop leaks at the seams. There are numerous seam sealing products available to deal with this problem.

Worried that freshly cleaned and sealed awning will get damaged during your trip? You can actually get RV accessory insurance to cover it. Just make sure to get pictures of the awning before you leave home.

Parting Thoughts

Knowing how to clean RV awnings is only half the battle. Regular maintenance is the real key to prolonging the life of your RV awning.

It prevents scrubbing damage to the waterproof coating, which extends the awnings life. You’re less likely to find mold or mildew. Most importantly, you won’t get stuck with doing an expensive replacement before your big trip.

Do you have questions about how accessory insurance protects your awning while you travel or need a quote? Contact us today.

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