Caravans are difficult to clean because they’re tall and bulky, not to mention all of the windows, ladders, potential solar panels, roof vents, and other equipment. Many people have tried wet wipes, hoses, pressure washers, or letting nature run its course. If you’re wondering how you can make your caravan look shiny and new, you’re in the right place.
You can’t use a pressure washer on a caravan because the pressure (PSI) is too high. It’ll shred the window seals, loosen the caulking, and damage the fiberglass. Some pressure washers are strong enough to cause wood rot and paint damage. Instead, use a garden hose with a nozzle sprayer.
This article will also teach you the following information about using a pressure washer on a caravan:
- Several reasons you shouldn’t ever use a pressure washer on a caravan
- Tips for cleaning it without damaging the seams, caulking, or paint
- Recommended PSI if you’re adamant about using a pressure washer
Does a Pressure Washer Damage a Caravan?
Pressure washers are designed to push out tons of water through a small area, building pressure as it releases through the nozzle. This process is beneficial for most applications, but it’s a terrible choice for caravans. Trailers, motorhomes, and other recreational vehicles are made out of fiberglass, wood, and many materials that can’t handle the pressure.
Here’s why pressure washers are bad for your caravan:
Pound-force per square-inch (also known as PSI) is a measurement of pressure. Higher PSI increases the pressure, which is often too much for a caravan. You should check the pressure of your garden hose, pressure washer, or any tool you intend to use to clean your caravan. You might be surprised by how high or low they go.
Some pressure washers come with strong soap that strips decals, logos, and paint. While it’s uncommon, these disasters aren’t unheard of.
If you’re using a hose or pressure washer with a soap tank, ensure you’re using soap rated for caravans and motorhomes. The last thing you want is to ruin the paint when trying to clean it!
Why Risk It?
RV Daily ranks pressure washers as their number one choice of what not to do when cleaning a caravan. You likely invested a lot into your trailer or motorhome, so why risk damaging it? Even if it doesn’t do any harm on the first cleaning session, the pressure loosens and dries almost every part.
Are you still thinking about using a pressure washer to clean your caravan? Think again! They can reduce the value of your caravan by tearing it apart, and some damage is irreparable. The good news is you’re well informed about why you shouldn’t do it. In the next section, we’ll break down five potential problems you’ll experience if you give it a shot.
What Happens if You Use a Pressure Washer To Clean It?
Let’s assume you bought a pressure washer and are considering using it on your caravan despite the previously mentioned issues. Your best bet is to get a refund or use it for other projects because the repair costs you’ll likely incur will overshadow the pressure washer’s price.
So, what will happen if you use your new pressure washer on your caravan?
- The seams will eventually rip and fall apart. Whether you’re spraying the window seals or caulking, both of them will crumble. Pressure washers are strong enough to cause cracks that peel the seals in no time. Even if they’re left intact, the pressure removed the glue, so it’ll fall off eventually.
- You’ll probably tear the awning near its edge or top. Awnings are often a make-or-break situation for caravan owners. If you use a pressure washer on the awning, it’ll rip along the seams. You also might cause the awning’s edge to fray, leading to slow deterioration.
- Any water that penetrates the surface will rot the wood beneath it. Moisture gets under seals, finding its way into the cabinets and drawers throughout the caravan. It’ll grow bacteria, leading to mold, mildew, and wood rot. The worst part is it’s hard to detect water droplets behind counters and cupboards, so you won’t know until it’s too late.
- Old fiberglass will crack and warp, especially on the roof. Caravans are often made with fiberglass to reduce weight and improve flexibility. While it’s an effective choice for those benefits, it’s quite brittle against a pressure washer. Old, sun-bleached caravans stand little chance compared to anything over 500 PSI.
- Your pressure washer can tear logos and decals apart, not to mention the fact that it dulls the paint. Many brands, such as Itasca, Coleman, and Jayco, have decals attached to the caravan’s exterior. They look bright and shiny when they’re new, but sunshine and pressure washers wreak havoc. You’ll be left with an outline of what was once a nice sticker.
As you can see, there’s no reason you should use a pressure washer when cleaning a caravan. They can’t take the constant beating, even if they’re brand-new. You’ll strip the colors in a few washing cycles, depreciating the value quicker than ever. There are countless risk factors that make pressure washers even more dangerous for some caravans.
Increased Risk Factors for Pressure Washing Caravans
You’ve probably seen dealerships and maintenance people cleaning caravans with pressure washers, so why can’t you do the same? According to Horton Common, many caravan cleaning companies focus on completing the task as quickly as possible without worrying about the long-term adverse effects.
Let’s examine a handful of risk facts that could make using a pressure washer worse:
- The age directly impacts how it fares against a pressure washer. There’s no denying the correlation between aging and deterioration. As caravans get older, they lose their structural integrity. Proper maintenance skills will limit degradation, but pressure washers can worsen your problems.
- Worn exteriors make caravans less likely to stay intact when using a pressure washer. Whether you didn’t take care of the caravan or you bought it from a third-party seller who wasn’t maintaining it, wear and tear make pressure washers horrible choices. Dust, dirt, sunshine, and mold eat the seals, leaking to cracks that break on contact.
- Many caravan materials are designed to handle high-pressure hoses. As you hopefully read in the previous section, caravans use a lot of fiberglasses to build the exterior. The roof and sides are typically made of wood and metal with a fiberglass panel. These materials invite rust and corrosion.
- DIY installations are less durable than most stock builds. If you or a third-party service installed solar panels, roof vents, new windows, and other modifications, pressure washers could shred the sealant. Unless you were precise and didn’t miss a spot, you’ll likely ruin the coating with a pressure washer.
- Fluctuating PSI can make it an unpredictable process. Some pressure washers have adjustable pressure settings, while others don’t list their details. If you don’t know the PSI or it varies based on numerous factors, it’s best to avoid them at all costs. Fiberglass, caulking, and paint require low-PSI hoses.
Many people use pressure washers to clean cars, trucks, SUVs, sidewalks, asphalt, and everything in between. It might be a significant letdown to know you can’t use them for your caravan, but you’re not out of luck. If you want to know about a couple of alternative solutions, read on.
What Can You Use To Clean It Instead?
If you can’t use the new pressure washer you bought, what can you replace it with? There are very few cleaning supplies that won’t damage your caravan. Companies often use lightweight materials to lower the overall weight, which is why they’re not made of metal. Unless you purchased an all-metal caravan, such as an Airstream, you wouldn’t be able to use a pressure washer.
Here’s what you can do instead:
Use a Garden Hose and a Sponge
Garden hoses are the best choices for cleaning a caravan because they offer very little pressure. You can use attachments to adjust the PSI, making them a favorable selection for old and new caravans. Regardless of its condition, your caravan won’t crumble apart if you use a soft automobile sponge, a bucket, and soap.
Consider Wet Wipes for Small Areas
If you don’t want to spend an hour cleaning your caravan every time you get back from a trip, you could keep a package of wet wipes on hand. Use them to wipe the mirrors, windows, wheel wells, and other small parts of the caravan. They’d take too long for a deep cleaning session, but wet wipes are great for people who camp without going off-road.
Visit a Self-Cleaning Station
Self-cleaning stations can be found in big cities and towns near your favorite campgrounds. Make sure you call ahead of time to check for availability. Many of these stations have pressure washers, but the PSI is low enough to prevent damage. It’s similar to that of a garden hose with a spray nozzle attachment.
These three methods will keep your caravan clean for many years to come. Stick to a routine of monthly cleanings, wet wipes after or during each drip, and visit a self-cleaning station at the beginning and end of each camping season. This schedule will prevent long-term deterioration and corrosion.
How To Clean a Caravan’s Exterior With a Garden Hose
The good news is you can quickly clean your caravan in less than an hour, especially if you have people to help you with the project. You’ll need a car washing sponge, soap, warm water, and a five-gallon bucket. Use warm water to stir the soap with the sponge. Your garden hose will be the rinsing tool.
Follow this step-by-step process to clean your caravan:
- Spray the whole caravan, working from the top down the sides. Make sure you cover all of it so you can remove dirt and debris. It’s best to start at the top of the caravan, so everything drips off. If you start at the bottom, you’ll muddy the surface, doubling your work and wasting time.
- Use warm water and soap to sponge the roof, then choose a side and continue the process. Emu Caravan Repairs recommends using dishwashing liquid since it’s tough enough to fight stains without damaging the seals. A tablespoon is more than enough to clean your whole caravan from front to back.
- Rinse the caravan with another layer of water, ensuring you remove all of the soap. It’s crucial that you don’t leave soap suds all over the walls or roof. They’ll stain and eat away at the sides of the caravan. Climb a ladder (if you have one) and spray it from the top down both sides to get rid of everything.
- Immediately dry the caravan with towels and fans to prevent water spots. It would be best if you washed your caravan on a sunny day, but make sure it’s morning or evening, so it’s not beating down on the caravan’s surface. Sundried water leaves spots. Instead, use a few towels and fans to get the job done.
- Clean the rims, tires, and awning when you’re done. Use the same tire and rim cleaners you use for your commuting vehicle. Caravans have similar tires, even if they have six or eight of them. You should take time to check the air pressure and fill them accordingly once you clean each tire.
By following this cleaning routine, you can ensure your caravan looks fantastic when you’re finished. It takes longer than using a pressure washer, but there’s no doubt it’s safer and more effective in the long run.
When Can You Use a Pressure Washer on Your Caravan?
If you purchased a pressure washer and you’re worried about damaging your caravan, you can use it for other purposes. The seams, seals, and fiberglass aren’t to be touched, but you can clean four parts of your caravan with anything below 1,500 PSI (some surfaces can handle stronger pressure, but it’s unnecessary).
Use a pressure washer to clean everything below.
- You can clean the tires with a pressure washer. Spray the tires, wheel wells, and rim with the pressure washer. Follow it with a soapy soak, then rinse them off with the pressure washer again. Always dry the tires, rims, and wheel wells when you’re done using a pressure washer.
- Feel free to use it on all of the windows, but make sure it doesn’t hit the doors or seals. Most windows are durable enough to handle high PSI ratings. You might not need a pressure washer for windows, so only use it if there are stains that won’t seem to come off with a regular garden hose.
- Spray the propane tank holders for maximum effectiveness. Does your propane tank have a storage spot on the back of your caravan? Remove the tanks and pressure wash the metal holders. Pressure washers can remove fresh rust, dirt, and debris from the area, preventing corrosion and stains.
- Pressure washers are very effective against tough stains on awning carpets. If you have an awning carpet, you can stake it to the ground and pressure wash it. Note that you should only try this if your awning carpet is made out of polyurethane fabric since it’s designed for high-pressure hoses.
Unfortunately, most pressure washers are far too strong for cleaning the rest of your caravan. Don’t stray beyond these four areas, or you’ll be disappointed by the results. If you’re curious about PSI recommendations, review the following subheading.
How Do You Know if the PSI Is Too High To Use?
Good Life RV suggests avoiding pressure washing your caravan with anything more than 1,300 PSI. However, it’s not worth sitting on the edge of a potential disaster, so we recommend steering clear of pressure washers above 500 PSI. You can use this PSI on any part of your caravan without dealing with the aforementioned problems.
Garden hoses often range between 30 to 80 PSI, so they’re far below this recommendation. Even if you add a nozzle, it won’t go near the limit. The Green Mount Watering Wand is an excellent example of a high-pressure nozzle attachment. It’s perfect for caravans because it’s extended and has sixteen settings.
Regardless of which attachment you use, you should get enough pressure to strip dirt and grime without damaging the paint. Some people put their thumb over the hose’s opening to increase the pressure, which works like a charm.
Tips To Keep Your Caravan Looking Good Between Washes
Are you tired of cleaning your caravan every week? There’s a lot you can do to lengthen the time between washes. Never leave your caravan under a tree when you’re camping in the wild; Sap, trees, needles, and pests cause all sorts of issues. Below, we’ll dive into a list of tips to make your caravan look better for longer.
- Bring wet wipes with you wherever you go. You’ve already read the benefits of using these helpful wipes. Toss a package of them in your glove compartment to use during road trips. You’d be surprised how gross the grille and windshield get when you run through bug swarms.
- Always use a caravan cover. You can choose customized dimensions or a one-size-fits-all cover that protects your caravan when it’s not being used. These covers let you park it almost wherever you want without getting too dirty.
- Park your caravan strategically. Ideally, you’d park it on a level surface without trees, birds, or bugs nearby. If you’re forced to park it near any of these things, use the caravan cover mentioned above. Bugs and animal feces can strip the paint off the caravan relatively quickly.
Even though cleaning isn’t the most exciting part of owning a caravan, it’s essential. Whether you intend to sell it in a few years or keep it for many decades, you can’t let the paint deteriorate or watch the seals dry out.
Taking a Caravan Through a Self-Cleaning Pressure Washing Station
Now that you know you can’t use pressure washers on caravans, you’re likely wondering how self-cleaning motorhome and trailer stations exist. Contrary to popular belief, those stations don’t use real pressure washers. They incorporate pressure to remove stains and clean the caravan, but they don’t have incredibly high PSI ratings.
You can take a caravan through any self-cleaning station as long as it’s less than 500 PSI. Most stations have a hose listing that indicates the pressure, so you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Ask a worker if you’re unsure about the results. You shouldn’t risk using a high-PSI station, though they’re few and far between.
The primary reason self-cleaning stations don’t use high-PSI pressure washers isn’t they don’t want to be held accountable for potential damages. They’re great for washing cars, trucks, motorhomes, caravans, and more. The stalls are often well over 15 to 20 feet or 4.57 to 6.1 meters (some of them don’t have tops to prevent vehicle height limitations.
When you drive through the self-cleaning station, keep these things in your mind:
- Make sure you have enough room to walk and spray on both sides of the caravan. The hoses often have long attachments.
- Check the time limit. Most of these self-cleaning stations stop at 20 to 30 minutes. A few of them don’t have limits, but they’re slightly more expensive.
- Drive to the location with a car before bringing the caravan. You should know the dimensions to prevent accidents. Some places have a small turning radius.