Mold is not only hard to clean, it can also cause damage to your RV’s awning. That’s why you want to clean it off as soon as possible, and take steps to prevent mold in the first place.
Antimicrobial products, vinegar and baking soda, and sometimes bleach can all be used to get mold off of your awning, and storing your awning when it’s dry will help prevent it from forming.
You got your camper so you could get closer to the great outdoors and your camper’s awning is a large part of that experience. While it’s busy shielding you from the elements, it’s also busy collecting leaves, mold, and the other dirty things that come from living outside.
I’ll walk you through how to clean mold off of RV awnings as well as other stains so you can go back to enjoying nature instead of fighting it.
Cleaning Methods For RV Awning Materials
There are two main materials used for awnings, Vinyl and Acrylic. They are very different in construction and require different methods of cleaning.
How to Clean a Vinyl RV Awning
Vinyl is a non-porous material that is naturally mildew resistant, and is a common material for RV awning construction. You can scrub vinyl with a soft brush since you aren’t having to dig dirt out of a porous surface, and while it is a bit hardier than other materials it isn’t strong enough to withstand frequent pressure washing.
Another benefit of vinyl is that you don’t have to let cleaners soak on the surface for quite as long because it is non-porous. This means that bleach will actually be effective at killing mold and mildew on vinyl almost instantly.
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How to Clean an Acrylic RV Awning
You know how to clean vinyl awnings on RVs now, but another common choice for awning material is acrylic. This fabric differs from vinyl in that it is woven, and therefore porous. Porous materials are harder to clean because they hold dirt and microbes and they often have a waterproof coating.
In order to do a deep clean on acrylic you can’t scrub it like you would a vinyl awning – you have to rely on the cleaner soaking into the fabric. For this reason rolling up the awning with a cleaner applied is the best method to use so you don’t have to do as much scrubbing. If you do have to scrub, use a stiff-bristle brush to get the dirt out from between the woven fibers.
It’s also a good idea to apply another layer of waterproofing spray after you’re done cleaning to keep your acrylic as protected as possible, even if you didn’t do any scrubbing on it.
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How to Clean and Remove Mold from an RV Awning
If mildew is a thunderstorm, mold is a hurricane. Black mold is one of the most costly and widespread issues in humid areas, but you don’t have to live in Louisiana or Alabama to get mold on your RV’s awning.
Like mildew, mold forms in dark and damp environments – which makes a wet, rolled-up awning the perfect breeding ground. Mold penetrates deeper into the surfaces it invades which makes it more damaging than mildew and harder to get rid of.
To Bleach or Not To Bleach
If you have an acrylic awning with mold on it the last thing you want to do is reach for the bleach. Mold loves porous surfaces because its roots will burrow deep into the material, which is exactly where bleach can’t reach it.
Bleach will get rid of mold stains on the surface making it appear like the problem is gone, but the roots will remain below and the growth can rebound in as little as a few days. Thinking you’ve taken care of your mold problem with bleach only to open your awning later and discover it’s back with a vengeance is a buzz kill!
If you have a vinyl awning you can use bleach to successfully knock out mold. Apply a diluted water and bleach mixture directly to the affected area and wait 10 minutes. Using a soft brush, scrub away the mold and rinse the area to remove any bleach residue.
So how do you remove mold from RV awnings without using bleach? Store-bought antimicrobials are going to be your best bet for that large annoying mold issue that just won’t go away. It will also cure the small patch that you want to knock out before it becomes a big problem, and everything in between. You can find antimicrobials online and at home improvement stores like Home Depot.
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Vinegar and Baking Soda
You probably spend a lot of time outside under your awning, and you’re not thrilled about using super harsh chemicals around your living space. Fortunately there are several green ways to take out mold that are safe for both you and your awning.
Vinegar and baking soda can take on mold without having to rely on heavy chemicals. You’ll want to soak the affected area with vinegar and then scrub it out with baking soda, you may have to repeat the process a few more times to get it all clean.
How to Clean and Remove Mildew from an RV Awning
Mildew is a common problem for RV awnings, particularly those that get rolled in and stored while they are still wet or damp. Mildew is not as big of a problem as mold as it tends to be more on the surface of the awning and it is more easily cleaned up. Having said that, mildew can still do damage and a small growth can turn into a big problem if it isn’t addressed quickly.
Mildew on a vinyl awning can be cleaned with diluted bleach, vinegar and baking soda, or a store-bought antimicrobial. For the bleach, you’ll want to spot-treat affected areas by spraying diluted bleach on it and letting it sit for 10 minutes. Then you can scrub off the mildew and rinse off the bleach.
For an acrylic awning you can try soaking the mildewy spots in bleach, but because of the porous nature of acrylic there is a possibility that the bleach won’t be able to penetrate deep enough to get it all. This is generally more of a problem with mold than mildew, but it’s something to consider.
Just like with the hydrogen peroxide, the bleach can discolor the area it is sprayed on if it’s left for too long and can have other negative effects as well. If you’re wondering how to clean mildew off of RV awnings without harsh chemicals, your best bet is going to be vinegar and baking soda.
Soak the area with a generous amount of vinegar, then use a stiff brush for acrylic or a soft brush for vinyl to scrub the mildew out. You may have to put in a bit of work into scrubbing but this is a green way to clear out mildew with items you probably already have on hand.
When all else fails or you would rather start with the failsafe, store-bought antimicrobials are extremely effective against mildew. The instructions vary by brand but you can rest assured that you have something that will get the job done right.
A clean awning will not only look good but it will also last longer and function better. For more tips and in-depth information check out How RV awnings work
The outdoors can also wreak havoc on your camping furniture, transferring mold, mildew, food and other messes to your clothes. You can find out all the ways to clean the grime from your camping chairs in this great article from Laid Back Camping.
Using Bleach on an RV Awning
You’ve seen me talk about using bleach for cleaning various different things, but while bleach can be used to clean an RV awning you should proceed with caution.
Bleach has an extremely high pH, making it corrosive to just about everything it comes in contact with. You should never use undiluted bleach on an RV awning otherwise you can degrade the material and shorten your awning’s lifespan significantly.
You should dilute bleach to at least one cup per gallon of water, and spot treat the location using a spray bottle. Make sure the area you are applying it to won’t have its color bleached out. It would be great if you use bleach to kill the mold, but you may have a giant white spot left behind if you leave bleach on for too long or it isn’t diluted enough.
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How to Store Your Awning to Prevent Mold and Mildew
As I mentioned, mold and mildew love dark, damp climates to grow so one of the best things you can do to prevent them is never storing your camper awning wet. It can be downright impossible to avoid sometimes for a number of reasons, but keeping your awning dry in storage is the first and best line of defense that you have.
If you do have to roll in your awning while it’s wet you should try to unroll it to let it air out as soon as you can. You can also give the awning a quick scrub down with soap and water to try and disturb any mold and mildew particles that may have settled, then let the awning dry completely.
Most awnings are quick to dry by nature, but if you’re in a rush and need to speed up the process you can try rolling it in little by little, running a towel down the exposed part on the roller, and getting the water drops off.
If you’re storing your RV over winter it couldn’t hurt to unroll the awning once to inspect and clean it, just to make sure any microbes that do settle on it don’t have as long to hang out and grow.
Common Awning Dirt and Stains
Dirt, sand, and other grit are the easiest to clean off. Even if you manage to get mud caked on your awning (which would be an impressive feat and I would love to hear that story), you shouldn’t need more than soap or detergent and water to clean it off. Bird poop is another thing that comes off easily with soap and water if you happen to find yourself parked under a tree with messy inhabitants.
Birds aren’t the only threats to your nice, clean awning from trees, sap can put you in an especially sticky situation that soap and water alone can’t handle. For fresh sap or sap that has been warmed by the sun you can try using a heavy duty grease remover like Spray Nine. Dried sap is harder to remove, but rubbing alcohol is one of the best things you can use to take the stick out of sap.
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Leaves and Foliage
No one likes to roll in their awning while it’s wet, but sometimes you don’t have a choice due to high winds, traveling, etc. When leaves fall on your awning, get wet, then get rolled up they tend to leave brown stains that look bad and can be a pain to get out.
One thing you can try to get leaf stains out is a magic eraser. The melamine foam of the magic eraser acts just like an extremely fine grit sandpaper, and you don’t need any special cleaners or chemicals to make it work. Just wet the eraser and put in some elbow grease, and those stains should work right out.
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OxiClean and Dawn
If for some reason that doesn’t work, you can try adding 4oz each of OxiClean and Dawn dish soap to one and a half gallons of water. Spray the awning top and bottom with the solution, then immediately roll up your awning. Let the awning sit like that for 30-45 minutes, then unroll it and scrub it off with water. You can also try using bleach in place of OxiClean.
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Some people have dedicated their careers to developing the perfect cleaner for RV awnings, and those products have made it onto shelves from RV shops like Camping World to outdoors shops like Bass Pro.
When the home remedy doesn’t cut it, sometimes the best thing you can do is try the professional product. B.E.S.T. and Camco both have excellent awning cleaners that you can find online through Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, and many RV stores as well.
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Bugs and Insects
Leaves and pine needles aren’t the only things that will discolor your awning – you can also get some awful stains just from bugs. It’s easier to get leaves off of your awning than bugs when you go to roll it up, and these pesky beasties can build up stains over long periods.
You can try the magic eraser, the cleaner combo, or the awning cleaner and one or all of them will probably work great to get the bug stains out. There’s another option you can add to your arsenal for bug stains, however, and you probably have it right in your bathroom: hydrogen peroxide.
Anyone who is from Florida or the southernmost areas of the Southeast US knows about lovebugs, and while their origins remain a source of conspiracy theories, getting them off your car with hydrogen peroxide is no secret.
For your car you just soak the area with a hydrogen peroxide based cleaner for about 30 seconds then the bugs wipe off, and it works just as well on your RV’s awning. The only thing to keep in mind is that hydrogen peroxide can potentially bleach any colors in your awning if left on for too long, so you may want to try it with shorter soaking times to be safe.
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Now that you’ve gotten your RV awning looking great it’s time to give your outdoor living space some charm. Creating a cozy atmosphere for social evenings and quiet times around the camp is easy by installing some lights on your RV awning. Check out our detailed article to find out how.
No matter what kind of stain or grit you’re fighting, prevention is always going to make your life easier in the long run. You’ll want to do a deep cleaning of your awning at least once a year. As soon as you start to notice it getting dirty, make time to bust out the scrub brush.
Speaking of scrub brushes, the type of material your awning is made out of is going to have an effect on the kinds of cleaners and sponges, brushes, etc. you want to use on it.
Cleaning your RV awning is part of general RV maintenance, but one that often gets overlooked. By cleaning it as soon as you start to notice stains you can prevent a bigger problem from occurring, and no matter what you use to clean it just make sure you never store your awning when it’s wet if you can avoid it.