How to clean a camper trailer – 9 complete steps to follow

Camping Guides - Cape York Trip

We all love going on off-road adventures and driving through big puddles of muddy water or red dusty tracks of Cape York or Gibb River Road in Kimberley.

At some point, all holidays come to the end and clean-up time must follow. We have been there many times and would like to share our knowledge with you to make this cleaning task a little bit easier.

How to clean a camper trailer?

After a Cape York trip!
After a Cape York trip!

As a rule of thumb, it is always best to clean your trailer immediately after a 4WD trip or beach drive, but this is not always possible.

Usually, we go on a long three to four weeks trip and often there is no access to running water. In a case like this cleaning is the first thing we do after our return.

#1 Prepare the right cleaning equipment and products

Cleaning a camper trailer after coming back from a dusty trip is not a half an hour job. You need to prepare some additional cleaning equipment and get products to help you with this job.

Red dust, if left for too long, makes a chemical reaction with the steel and rubber causing red stains that are difficult to remove.

Cleaning equipment

  • Soft floor brush
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Hose
  • Vacuum
  • Foam gun or sponge
  • Bucket
  • Old tooth brush (optional)

Cleaning products available on eBay

* links above will take you to eBay

#2 Unmount unecessary gear

To get easy access to all parts of your trailer remove all gear that is attached temporarily like gas bottles, water or fuel cans, and any other third-party equipment that you took for the trip. This will provide easier access for any nooks and crannies.

#3 How to clean rusty color from the camper trailer body?

From the experience, we can tell that the front and back of the trailer are the most affected by the dust and any dirt coming from the road. Cleaning it with a standard car washing liquid will not do a good job, and you will still get some rusty looking stains that are difficult to remove.

We tested two products with our camper trailer and both did a good job.

CT-18 Superfoam (available on eBay) removes any Aussie dirt, grime or mud from the trailer. It is gentle to the paintwork and is biodegradable. The way it works is you apply to foam by using a foam gun or sponge, let it soak for a while (don’t let it dry!) and then you spray it off. Use the below table as a reference to apply the required amount of the product.

Wash TypeDescriptionCT-18 Application
Standard WashFrequent wash, no stains or long term dirt1 part of CT-18 with 4 parts of water
Medium washSome old grime and stains, quite dirty1 part of CT-18 with 6 parts of water
Heavy-duty washVery dirty, old red dust or long term stains1 part of CT-18 with 9 parts of water

AC 40 Truck Wash (available on eBay) removes road grime and dirt from all surfaces like plastic, rubber, chrome, aluminium and paintwork. It is also biodegradable and free rinsing. Spray with a foam gun or apply with a sponge. To avoid streaking it is recommended to apply from the bottom-up and don’t use it in sunlight.

It is a concentrate, so you should dilute it with water.

After the first wash, it’s good to check for any small nooks where red dust was still visible and with help of an old toothbrush clean it up.

Wash TypeDescriptionAC 40 Application
Standard washFrequent wash, no stains or long term dirt1 part of AC 40 with 50 parts of water
Medium washSome old grime and stains, quite dirty1 part of AC 40 with 25 parts of water
Heavy-duty washVery dirty, old red dust or long term stains1 part of AC 40 with 1 part of water
Travel Spiced Life

For trailers or caravans, it is not recommended to use a high-pressure washer as the water may penetrate through the seals and break them.

How to clean a camper trailer?
How to clean a camper trailer?

#4 How to clean checker plate?

The checker plate is located in the front of the camper trailer, thus being fully exposed to any dirt coming from the vehicle towing it. We noticed that this part is especially vulnerable to dust intake causing long-lasting rusty stains if left for too long without cleaning.

To clean it use CT-18 Superfoam or AC 40 Truck Wash with a heavy-duty application. You may repeat the process two or three times if your stains are long term, but eventually, they should clear out. In some places, iron from red dust reacted with metal and we used Autosol Aluminium Polish paste (available on eBay) to remove it completely.

How to clean a camper trailer? - Remove gas bottle to have easy access
How to clean a camper trailer? – Remove gas bottle to have easy access

#5 How to a clean camper trailer water tank?

As a rule of thumb keeping the water inside the trailer water tank for too long is also not a good idea. It’s recommended, to fill the water tank right before a trip and once back home empty the tank entirely. This will prevent any algae growth when the camper is not in use.

We bought our camper trailer second hand and discovered that the water in the tank was green. If it happens to you follow the below steps.

  1. Empty the water tank – there is a plug somewhere at the bottom of the tank. Somethimes this step is unnececery and you can use cleaning tablets on ‘old’ water.
  2. Fill the water tank with a fresh water.
  3. Add CleanOxide Water Treatment Tablets or similar product- follow the product instruction.
How to clean a camper trailer? - Sometimes you need to clean water tank as well
How to clean a camper trailer? – Sometimes you need to clean the water tank as well

#6 Clean camper trailer underbody

Similar to cleaning the camper trailer body, use CT-18 Superfoam or AC 40 Truck Wash with the required proportions.

First, spray the bottom using the foam gun (preferable). If you don’t have a foam gun, you can use a pole-mounted cleaning brush and a bucket but it could be difficult to reach every area.

Let it soak for some time so any mud, road grime or oil will be dissolved. Rinse it with a hose after.

As the last step check the underbody for any rust or damage. If there is some damage to the paint, remove it and apply some Cold Gal Spray Paint to protect the metal from rusting.

#7 Clean the wheels and tyres

The easiest way to clean wheels and tyres is with a Mag Shine spray. It will remove and brake dust, road grime, grease, oil and dirt from a mag or any type of wheels, leaving a shiny surface every time.

Make sure you prepare the wheels for cleaning first. Use a hose to spray the wheels inside and outside to remove any old dirt and mud. Then, use Mag Shine. Spray the product, and leave it for three minutes and then hose it off.

#8 Wax after cleaning

Waxing the trailer body after the cleaning is an important part especially if you are planning another 4WD adventure or beach driving.

After the cleaning has been done, use CT-20 Wash ‘N’ Wax to add an additional protective film and sheen. This will protect the trailer against rust and corrosion.

#9 How to clean canvas and prevent any mould build up?

Taking good care of the interior is as important as cleaning the trailer outside. Trailers that have canvas are especially vulnerable to get mould growing inside.

Mould forms in wet and moist conditions, so it is vital to remove any moisture sources inside the trailer. Never leave any half-dried clothes or wet items inside the camper trailer. Especially after a rain, make sure to ventilate the inside to remove and moisture.

Steps to clean mouldy canvas in camper trailer

  1. If cleaning it outside – wet the entire canvas with the hose to remove any leaves or dirt. If cleaning from inside, use a wet sponge or cloth.
  2. Use Stimex Tent Cleaner (500 ml) (available on eBay).
  3. Depanding on the grade of defilement, disolve the product in a 3 to 10 litters water bucket.
  4. Use a hard brush to apply the product.
  5. Let it penetrate the canvas for some time (10-15 minutes).
  6. If outside – rinse it enterely with a hose. If inside use a sponge or cloth with a clean water.
  7. Make sure to rinse the product enterely from the canvas.
How to clean a camper trailer - finally job done!
How to clean a camper trailer – finally job done!

How to clean a camper trailer – Summary

When we returned from our Cape York trip, we really struggled with the clean up as the red dust reacted with the camper body. But with proper products, handy equipment, and some muscle power we managed to restore the camper to its previous glory.

If you have any product suggestions or you want to share your camping trailer cleaning tips please leave a comment below.

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  1. David Krieser says:

    Thanks for this article. It is really sound advice. My wife and I are starting an around Australia trip that will go over 4 months. Any advice on where along the way we will be able to do this? Thanks again

  2. Hi David,
    It is a very broad subject as everybody starts from a different place.
    We have already created Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland travel guides with all important information and places to stop.

    In the future, we are planning a series of articles about different ‘Around Australia’ itineraries.
    Please subscribe and stay tuned.

  3. Thanks for the advice about removing stuff like gas bottles or water cans from the camper trailer to allow access to the nooks and crannies. This is a sound bit of advice for new trailer owners. Especially since I’m sure my husband will mount a whole load of things on it for when we go out.

  4. It’s great that you discussed that trailer cleaning requires cleaning equipment and products to get done. My friend wants the best cleaning products for his trailer. I should advise him to turn to a provider that offers the ideal trailer cleaning products for his unit.

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