Keeping your RV clean and removing grime can be a challenge. The sheer size of the vehicle and its exposure to the elements can cause your RV to become very dirty over time. It’s hard to keep your balance on a ladder while you’re scrubbing down your RV, but what else are you supposed to do to keep it clean?
Some RVers use a pressure washer to quickly and efficiently remove road grime. This is a great tool so you can get to the hard-to-reach places near the roof.
If you decide to use a pressure washing system for your RV, it’s important to use proper safety precautions. Remember that pressure washing is very different from washing with a standard hose. Your pressure washer cannot be used like a standard garden hose, or it could do damage to your RV. Here’s what you need to know.
Can you pressure wash an RV?
Most pressure washers are NOT suitable for use with an RV. Only ones that are made specifically for low pressure washing, or made specifically to be used on an RV, should be used for this purpose.
Using too powerful of a machine could unintentionally (and unknowingly) do serious damage to your RV (e.g., smash a hole in your fiberglass roof) , which could ultimately cost thousands of dollars to repair.
How do you pressure wash an RV camper?
The first step to detailing an RV camper is to find a device made for low pressure washing (typically electric models) or RV cleaning. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Some tips:
- Avoid using the pressure washer for roof cleaning or for cleaning the tires, as the high pressure water could do damage to these sensitive parts.
- Avoid aiming the pressure washer at a 90-degree angle, especially at sensitive areas like caulking. Aiming at a 90-degree angle forces the water to hit the camper at its hardest pressure, without giving the water an easy way to bounce off.
- Keep direct pressure off of seals, vents and window caulk.
- Stay away from decals.
- Never use the pressure washer on your RV awning.
- Do not get the pressure washer up close to the RV camper.
- Consider your RV when trying to decide whether pressure washing is right for it. Older models that are in need of fixing up or fresh caulking could be uniquely damaged by the pressure washing experience, compared to a new RV, which may be more capable of withstanding direct hit from high-pressure water.
- Do not pressure wash your RV air conditioner.
- Do not spray while on a ladder.
When using a pressure washing RV wash device, use the following steps:
- Mix the detergent into the water in the tank. Use detergent made specifically for RV washing, or a mild soap.
- Spray the water at the RV in a sweeping motion, starting at the top and working down to prevent streaking.
- Spray soap at a low pressure using a foam cannon attachment for your pressure washer, then allow the detergent to soak in for 5 minutes.
- Scrub the soap on the RV with a long-handled scrubber.
- Spray to rinse the soap, maintaining a distance of at least 3 or 4 feet.
What is the best PSI for pressure washing an RV?
A gas-fueled pressure washer can reach up to 3,000 PSI, while an electric pressure washer will reach 2,600 PSI. Models specifically designed for RV pressure washing will only reach 1,100 to 1,300 PSI. Low pressure washing devices not specifically made for use on RVs may go higher.
This is another important reason to purchase an RV pressure washer – they’re designed not to reach a higher PSI than an amount that is supposed to be safe for your RV.
How much does it cost to pressure wash an RV?
If you’re paying a professional to pressure wash your RV for you, you could end up paying between $2 and $5 per linear foot, depending on the business doing the work, the size of your RV and other factors.
Before paying a professional to power wash your RV, ask questions and make inquiries to ensure that this professional is qualified to get the work done. Some good questions to ask include:
- What kind of pressure washing device are you using?
- What safeguards do you have in place to ensure you won’t do damage to the vehicle?
- Do you have references?
If you’re going to do the work yourself as a DIY project, renting a power washer from a home improvement store can cost about $100. However, unless the unit you’re renting is specifically a low pressure device, it’s not advised to be used on your RV.
Safety guidelines for personal use
When you’re using a pressure washer for a clean RV, follow these safety guidelines.
- Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using the pressure washer. Pay close attention to safety instructions.
- Wear safety gear including safety goggles, boots, gloves, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Note any tripping hazards in your path when using the pressure washer, to avoid falling down while using it. Remove tripping hazards whenever possible.
- Never use the tool for anything that it was not designed to do. For example, never clean something that it was not designed to clean, as it could cause damage.
- Do not turn the spray nozzle on yourself (like to clean your shoes), and never aim at anyone else.
- Never spray bare skin (again, keep it away from yourself).
Potential issues from pressure washing your RV camper
Before you use a pressure washer on your RV, you should be aware of the specific problems that you could cause.
Damage to your motor home’s door and window caulking
Caulking is rubbery, sticky and not permanent. It wears away through months of exposure to cold air and heat. It must be replaced on a regular basis, often every few years. High pressure water aimed at your RV could take the caulking off much more quickly than the effects of time and weather.
Although the caulking that may be removed by the RV can be replaced, you’d need to know that the caulking had been damaged. If you’re unaware that the damage has occurred, water could penetrate your vehicle without your knowledge – and cause a great deal of damage over a long period before the leaks are caught.
Leaks from RV Roof
If the pressure washer is used on the RV roof, the high pressure water could cause water penetration, leaks and water damage. This can also lead to future leaks when the RV is not being washed.
Damage to Paint and Decals
Your RV’s paint and decals may not be an important part of the RV’s functionality, but inadvertent removal of the paint and decals could impact your RV’s value. It’s best to leave the paint and decals intact!
Our recommended power washers and cleaning products for RV
If you’re going to use a pressure water or foam cannon for cleaning your RV, we recommend the following products.
- Sun Joe SPX1000. The Sun Joe SPX1000 is a low pressure portable pressure washing system that reaches only 1450 PSI. Sun Joe products are one of the most frequently cited products that people prefer for RV pressure washing.
- MTM PF22.2 Foam Cannon. This well-rated foam cannon is made from quality materials and is rated for auto-detailing. This foam cannon has made our top product list for years for truck washing, RV wash, and auto detailing.
Waterless cleaning options: Alternatives to RV Pressure Washing
You can clean your RV with little or no water at all, by handwashing your RV and using an RV wax product. Simply wipe down the surface with a microfiber cloth, spray it with wax, then wipe away with a separate microfiber cloth. You’ll need many cloths to get the work done, as the cloths will continue getting dirty. It’s important to change rags as they get dirty, otherwise you’ll spread the dirt around on the RV, scratching the fiberglass surface without actually cleaning the RV.
When you’re done, your RV should be as shiny and beautiful as it would be if you had used water to clean it!
Jamey has been testing and reviewing top pressure washers for 7 years. He worked as a commercial pressure washer at a rendering plant for 3 years and all up has been using commercial and residential pressure washers for 15+ years. He is also a mechanical engineer and while working in the mining industry designed several turn-key light industrial vehicle wash pads.