The Guide to RV Cleaning (Winterization Edition) 

Avatar photo

The last cleaning before winterizing your RV. Savvy RVers know that this pre-winterization clean is the key to an easy de-winterizing process come spring. Do it right, and de-winterization is as easy as flushing your system and stocking your shelves. Do it wrong, and you could be shampooing your RV’s upholstery to get the rat pee smell out. 

So let’s avoid that – and other – harmful side effects of improper cleaning before storing your RV for winter. As a full-time RVer myself, my winter preparation looks a little different than it will if you plan to store your RV for the off-season–but RV cleaning before winter will be the same (full-time RVer or not). 

Why Is Winter RV Maintenance and Cleaning Important?

Having a clean RV is more than just a good habit; it’s a way to protect your property, so it will last you for years to come. And, if you live in it full time like me, it’s also about protecting your health

Everyone knows that certain types of mold can make you sick, but did you know that roach dropping in a closed environment can irritate asthma? Or that certain rodent droppings when breathed can cause severe respiratory illness?

Yeah, that’s why cleaning your RV regularly is a good idea. 

How to Clean Your RV’s Exterior and Interior in 11 Easy Steps

Because my life is busy, I section my pre-winterization cleaning into three separate phases and complete them in a week. 

  1. Focus on the exterior working top to bottom. 
  2. Declutter: If it doesn’t have a home, it doesn’t stay in the camper. 
  3. Divide and conquer the interior one room at a time.

Let’s break down each phase into the steps you can follow to clean your RV. I’ll also include the basic tools and cleaners we use.

Save up to $1,200/year on RV storage & parking

Phase 1: Cleaning Your RV’s Exterior

We’re going to go step by step from top to bottom. 

Step 1: Clean Off Your Roof

Tools needed:

Leaves, tree limbs, and other debris find their way onto your RV during the fall. Now is the time to take the broom and sweep it all off. After you’ve done that, get a push broom, and remove dirt and the finer debris. Use the water hose to rinse, and you’re done.

There are also rubber roof cleaners that you can use to maintain your roof and keep it from chalking. 

Two benefits of the Thetford Protect All Rubber Roof Cleaner are that you don’t have to rinse it and it’s biodegradable.

If you have solar panels on your RV’s roof now is a good time to clean those too. Dirt buildup impedes sunlight absorption and diminishes the panels’ effectiveness.

Step 2: Wash the Exterior with a Mild Detergent – not Abrasive Cleaners

Tools needed:

  • A soft-bristled brush with extending arm
  • Buckets
  • Ladder (Optional)
  • Water hose
  • Mild detergent (we use Dawn dish soap)
  • Hyperactive children (free labor)

Cleaning the outside of our RV means I gather the kids together, fill up a couple of buckets with dish soap and water, and let them go to town! They loosen all the dirt, and I come by with the hose to rinse. It’s a team effort

When washing the exterior, the extended arm for the brush makes it easy to reach the high spots. But you can also use a ladder for those out-of-reach areas, like the RV’s roof.

If you prefer to wash and wax, choose Meguiar’s One Step Marine/RV Polish, which removes oxidation and leaves a gel coating to fill scratches and protect the fiberglass.

Step 3: Washing the Windows

Tools Needed:

  • Ladder
  • Windex (or window cleaner)
  • Squeegee (if you prefer)
  • Shop towels

If you’re a full-time RVer like me, you need any vitamin D you can get during the winter months, so clean those windows and let in the light. Using shop towels, I wipe off all the dust and pollen. Then use a squeegee for streak-free shine.

Congratulations! Your RV’s exterior looks awesome. Now let’s take a look inside.

Phase 2: Declutter

As with any living space, things find their way into your home that you never intended on keeping. And if you live in your RV full time, it can feel like your space is shrinking. 

That’s why before I clean, I declutter. 

Step 1: Put Things Where They Belong

When we started living in our camper full-time two years ago, I made a rule. Everything must have a place. 

It’s been a great way to simplify our lives and keep our camper clutter-free. But inevitably, stuff gets brought in that doesn’t have a place. 

When you put everything back in its place, you see the misfits that don’t have a place.

Step 2: Organize the Misfit Items

Yep, now you deal with those misfits. I like to organize them into three categories:

  • Trash (throw away)
  • Keep (find a place)
  • Give away
  • Store (got to be special)

Great. Now everything has a place. And everything is in its place. 

Phase 3: Interior Cleaning

When you walk in, it can feel overwhelming to think about every little thing that needs deep cleaning. Just take it one step at a time.

Step 1: Start Laundry

Put all your linens through the laundry. By washing these before storing them, you remove allergens that can smell up a small space if left alone. 

Step 2: Clean the Bathroom

Give extra attention to the toilet. Instead of cleaning just the bowl, scrub down into the waste pipe to remove any waste buildup. Then run hot water to rinse, and add the chemical treatment to the tank (if you’re staying that winter. 

The shower drain also gets the VIP treatment. I run the zip drain cleaner tool down into the drain to pull up any hair caught in the drain. 

Step 3: Clean the Kitchen Appliances

After you put away the dishes and wipe the counters, it’s time to open your refrigerator and clean out any perishable foodstuff. Then, remove any remaining goods and wipe down your shelves. 

If you’re storing your RV, then you don’t want to keep any food in there. But I’d still leave a small opened box of baking soda to absorb unwanted smells. You’ll also want to defrost your freezer.

Next, wipe out your microwave. If you have replaceable filters in it, now is a good time to change those. Likewise, if they’re washable, then clean them. 

Finally, set your oven’s self-cleaning cycle. And don’t forget to bend down and scrape out the burnt mess when it’s done. 

Step 4: Vacuum the Living Room

Here’s where the right tools are going to save you time (and a backache). If you have carpet in your RV, go ahead and vacuum it. Then using a handheld vacuum, shop vac, or hose attachment from your vacuum, carefully vacuum your RV furniture, removing cushions where possible and getting into all the cracks.

Just like washing all the linens, this helps remove potential allergens.

Step 5: Clean the Rooms

By this time you’ve vacuumed, and the laundry should be done. Make up the beds and hang the curtains (or store them in plastic containers). 

Since we stay in our camper year-round, I switch out our summer clothes for our winter clothes. This gives me a chance to make sure the closets get vacuumed out. 


Starting the winter fresh with a clean RV is a boost to your mental and physical health. It also brings you peace of mind if you plan to store your RV because you know that everything is where it’s supposed to be. And it’ll be ready for you when you get back. 

Now that you’ve taken care to clean it. You need to find a safe place to store it. That’s where Neighbor can help. is a peer-to-peer storage marketplace where you can find safe, affordable storage close to your home. 

Related Posts