RV Awning Maintenance: How To Clean Off Tree Sap
RV awnings bring shade everywhere you go, but they’re exposed to some pretty rough conditions. Between the forces of wind, rain, pollen, bugs, dirt, and tree sap, these awnings need to be cleaned from time to time.
Most debris can be removed fairly easily, but tree sap is one of the hardest substances to deal with. It’s very sticky and can seep into the fibers of an RV awning. Plus, if it isn’t dealt with quickly, tree sap can dry and turn hard. Average cleaners aren’t usually up to the task, so you need a plan of attack when it comes to getting tree sap off your awnings.
We’re here to help you do just that! Even though a sticky and dirty awning might look intimidating, there’s a pretty simple process you can follow to get it cleaned up. Below we have a step-by-step guide to help you remove stubborn sap from your beloved RV. Roll up your sleeves and get ready to work.
Gather supplies and lower awning
First things first—you need to prepare yourself for the cleaning process. Gather all your cleaning supplies and get the awning in a suitable position. In most cases, this includes extending the awning fully and lowering it so it sits at an angle to the rest of the RV.
Some good cleaning supplies for this project include:
- A bucket
- A garden hose
- A scrubbing brush attachment or long-handled sponge
- Your cleaner of choice
- A small ladder
Move the RV to a suitable cleaning location and close all your doors and windows to prevent any water from leaking in. Now you can focus on the actual cleaning process.
Perform a surface cleaning
Tree sap is one of the hardest materials to remove from an RV awning. As such, you should focus on getting the rest of it clean before focusing in on the problematic areas.
Perform a general cleaning of the surface. Sweep off the awning with a broom or similar long-handled instrument. After that, a simple rinse of water will wash off the majority of the loose pollen, dirt, and dust.
Now you have a wet and fairly clean surface to work. Once you’ve gotten through the top layer of grime, your cleaning products will be more effective.
Choose an RV-specific cleaner
Let’s talk about RV awning cleaners. Even though we may be tempted to use standard household cleaners, they don’t always get the job done when it comes to getting rid of stains. Dish soap and vinegar are popular choices, but they often aren’t strong enough to be effective against sap.
In some cases, standard cleaners can even cause more harm than good. For instance, bleach can cause permanent stains on the surface while power washers can wear down the fibers of the awning.
For these reasons, it’s best to choose a cleaning product that was specifically designed for RV awnings. Some popular choices include:
- B.E.S.T. 52032 Awning Cleaner
- Camco 41024 Pro-Strength Awning Cleaner
- Valterra LLC V88542 Awning Cleaner
Most of these are concentrated cleaners that need to be diluted with water before you use them. Be sure to follow the specific instructions for your cleaner of choice before you apply it to the stains.
Apply cleaner and let it soak
Now it’s time to bring out the big guns. Mix up your cleaner and apply it to the surface of the awning. Don’t worry too much about scrubbing it in at this point because the cleaner needs time to sit and dissolve the sap before it can be useful. Once the entire surface is wet, roll up the awning and retract it into the RV. Rolling it up ensures that the cleaner soaks in and doesn’t evaporate.
Let it sit for at least 5 minutes or for as long as the cleaning product indicates you should. Then you can roll it out again and get ready to attack the sap stains. They should be easier to remove now that they have been soaked and softened.
Scrub RV awning
In most cases, the sap will only be in a few places. There’s no need to scrub the entire awning unless there’s a deep layer of grime you want to remove.
Generally, you can just focus your efforts on the areas with stubborn stains. If you have a vinyl awning, you’ll want to use a soft brush/sponge to rub the area. If it’s made of acrylic instead, you can use a stiff-bristled brush.
Rub the area firmly, but don’t dig in with more force than necessary. You could damage the material if you use too much pressure.
Rinse and let it dry completely
At this point, the hardest part is over. Now you just need to rinse the RV awning with clean water and stretch it out to dry.
Try to do this cleaning on a warm sunny day so that everything will dry thoroughly. If you feel it’s necessary, you can also apply a waterproof treatment to the fabric once everything has dried. This will restore any coating that was stripped away during the cleaning. Just make sure you’re using a product that’s suitable for your awning fabric.
How to prevent sap on RV awnings
It is possible to remove tree sap from RV awnings, but it’s best if you can prevent it from making contact in the first place. There’s no way to be 100% effective, especially if you camp in heavily-wooded areas. However, we do have a few tips to help your RV avoid tree sap stains.
Use an RV cover
First of all, you can always use an RV cover. If you store your RV outdoors for long periods of time, a cover will protect it from all kinds of debris, including sap. You can also retract the awning whenever it’s not being used so it will be protected from any droppings. If you store your RV in your yard during the off-season, you can also try to avoid trees that might drip onto it.
Choose parking spots carefully
You can minimize the risk of sap stains by choosing your parking spots carefully. Of course, some RV parks and campgrounds are completely enclosed by trees, so you can’t avoid it entirely. However, under some circumstances, you can position your RV so that it’s not directly under a tree’s branches. Check RV LIFE Campgrounds to learn more about campsites before you stay.
Clean the awning regularly
Most sap stains are hard to get rid of because they’ve had time to solidify and sink into the fabric. If you treat them early, they’re much easier to get rid of. You can use hand sanitizer for spot treatment, but just be careful that you don’t get it on the vehicle’s paint. You can also wash your RV regularly so that sap doesn’t build up on the roof or awning.
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.
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