Look at any selection of caravans or motor caravans and you’ll find a mixture of sheet GRP (glass reinforced) panels, aluminum panels, GRP moldings, acrylic-capped moldings, glass windows, acrylic windows, rubber surrounds, cast metal side skirts, alloy awning rails, vinyl decals, tires and so on.
Unfortunately, apart from good old soap and water and elbow grease there just isn’t one ‘magic bullet’ cleaner that can handle all those combinations.
That means most owners understand they’ll have to buy several different cleaners for the job in hand – especially as some types of cleaner react badly with certain body components.
Read the manual:
To ensure that owners aren’t faced with unexpected damage, several caravan manufacturers are now advising owners about recommended care procedures and cleaning products. If an owner’s manual lacks detailed guidance, don’t hesitate to seek advice by calling a customer helpline before using unfamiliar products. You’ve got to establish what cleaners to use.
Methylated spirits is a great glass window cleaner – brilliant on splattered insects and birds’ you-know-what. But never use methylated spirits on a caravan’s plastic windows. Meths can create a fantastic finish, but a while later you will experience ‘crazing’ – loads of small cracks all over the surface. And there’s no cure.
Molded body parts:
The reason these shine so much on new caravans and motor caravans is that they’re usually coated with acrylic. So any cleaner you use to maintain the shine MUST be suitable for acrylic surfaces. Kitchen and bathroom cleaners usually detail this fact quite clearly on the packaging.
Tools for the job:
My dad swears a bucket, water, soap, a sponge and a garden hose is good enough for his Bailey Ranger 500/5. With a chamois leather thrown in for good measure! But having watched the professionals in action you might want to invest in some specialist equipment like:
• A high-pressure hose – fantastic for stripping away heavy grime, but can damage a caravan, blast away sealant and brake fittings.
• A soft bristle brush on a pole – often sold at caravan shows.
• Purpose-made wheel brush – stiff plastic fiber bristles are best.
• Open weave cotton cloth – gaps in the mesh capture minute particles.
• Microfiber cleaning cloth – really great all-around cloth, but can be expensive.
With most older caravans, a bit of hard graft is the only way to keep them in tip-top shape. But new caravan owners are often presented with a bit of an advantage by way of a ‘body panel sealant’.
Often offered as an ‘extra’ at some caravan and motorhome dealers, the process involves the application of a treatment which dries on the vehicle’s surface and creates a barrier against bird lime, streaking, and general dirt.
Once applied, a treated vehicle is usually guaranteed for several years and apart from occasional washing, the owner has little else to do to keep his caravan clean. And when it rains, self-cleansing effects can occur.
Owners can opt to do this job themselves, but it is painstaking. Autoglym, A Glaze, Mer Products, and Smart Wax all offer sealants of varying degrees of effectiveness.