One of the most effective ways you can customize your RV is to set a nice looking carpet on it, giving your rig a nice clean, sophisticated look. If you do add one it’s going to get dirty after some use. No need to put up with a dirty carpet though as I’ll show you how to clean RV carpet.
What is So Different about RV Carpeting?
Carpeting for RVs is similar to those in homes. They come in an assortment of colors, sizes and styles, which allows for custom RV interior decoration. While the features may vary, they still get dirty, usually from melting tar or oil drippings. Those are not the typical dirt problems with residential carpets, so an RVer needs to clean them differently.
What is Residential Carpet Made From?
Residential and RV carpets today usually consist of synthetic fiber. If the carpet is not synthetic it is natural wool fiber. The most widely used synthetic fibers are polyester, polypropylene and nylon.
- Nylon makes up 70% of synthetic carpet fibers. It is resistant to oil, heat and stains, and it comes in various colors and styles. Type 6.6 nylon is the best.
- Polypropylene is second in popularity to nylon and is also durable. It is not as durable as nylon though.
- Polyester is known for its fade and stain resistance. Polyester can also be processed in different ways so it becomes more durable.
A Successful Cleaning Job
The key to cleaning motorhome carpets is to know what type of dirt or stain is on it and apply the proper cleaning solution. With stains, the key is to apply the solution as soon as possible. The longer the stain is on the carpet the harder it becomes to remove.
Equipment and Chemicals
There are a lot of carpet cleaning solutions available. You can shop for these online and you just need to apply them according to the directions. No matter what the product is, the key is to apply the solution as soon as possible.
Aside from commercially available products, you can also use the following as carpet cleaners.
- Dry vapor steamer
- Air compressor
- Shop type vacuum
- Upright vacuum
- Hot water extractor
You can get these supplies at any car detailing chemical supplier. You can also look these up in janitorial equipment suppliers. Once you’ve got the equipment you can start cleaning the carpet on your RV.
Carpet Cleaning Basics
The first thing you should do is vacuum the carpet. This is going to remove surface dirt, soil and grime, making it easier for other cleaning solutions to work. The nice thing about vacuum cleaners is they remove dirt without damaging the carpet.
Only a high quality vacuum cleaner should be used. If the carpet has light dirt you can vacuum once and it’ll be enough. If it’s very dirty use a two step approach. Start by vacuuming the carpet with a shop vacuum. Vacuum the carpet and also under the furniture.
When you’re done, use an upright vacuum equipped with a beater bar. Using this approach don’t be surprised if it removes a good deal of the dirt and you only need to do a small amount of cleaning.
In many cases a vacuum cleaner is all that’s needed. In case it is not enough you can use carpet chemicals or other wet cleaning solutions, but only if they are necessary.
Hot Water Extraction
Here you spray hot water on the carpet to remove dirt. After spraying the water is quickly removed by a wet vacuum, during which the soil gets removed as well. The extractor must be portable and with a good capacity.
The extractor size depends on the size of the RV / trailer. A 36 foot fifth trailer that’s carpeted usually needs a 12 gallon extractor. For the best results the water temperature has to be between 180 and 195 degrees F.
Also known as dry cleaning, you use a rotary floor apparatus with an absorbent pad. You turn the machine on and spray the solution on the carpet. The soil is extracted from the pad. You can use the bonnet dry or with a wet cleaning solution.
Carpeted RV Ceiling
You can use a hot water extractor, but that is only practical if it’s really dirty. Since that rarely happens it’s better if you use a dry vapor steamer and a microfiber towel.
Metal furniture should have protection as it will rust if wet carpeting solutions are used. You can speed up the drying process by opening a vent so moisture escapes. Do not use the furnace to dry it.
There are a ton of carpet stain removal solutions. The most common RV carpet issues are oil, tar and grease so you’ve got to choose a solution that is designed for it. Citrus solvent solutions will do nicely.
An oxygenated or organic stain remover is appropriate for pet, urine and blood stains. Enzyme cleaners are just as effective.
For red stains you’ll find red wine and red Kool-Aid effective as well as 5% sodium thiosulfate solution. Sodium thiosulfate solution is available in photography shops. Do note that the solution has to be heated if the stain has been on the carpet for hours.
A 10% oxalic acid solution is the antidote for rust. If that solution doesn’t work, try a rust spotter or a 5% hydrofluoric acid solution.
Most of the adhesives on your RV carpet are the remains of carpet masks which hadn’t been removed. A citrus based adhesive remover is a good choice, and many say it’s more effective compared to solutions based on petroleum.
If the stains are so bad they can’t be removed, the best solution may be dyeing. There are dye solutions available, and you can apply this if you have the skills, otherwise get a professional to do the cleaning for you.
The process is the same as when you clean a car interior. It’s probably going to be easier as RV upholstery is more durable compared to those in a car. You can use the usual leather cleaning products.
The question now is whether it is cheaper to have the carpet serviced or do it yourself. There are no hard and fast rules here so you have to calculate both the money and time it is going to take to finish the job.
If you do opt for a service center, don’t settle for something cheap as they might not use the right chemicals and equipment.
RV Carpet Cleaning Machines
If you are constantly having the carpet serviced on a regular basis, consider buying carpet cleaning equipment. Along with cleaning solutions you’ll no longer have to wait until a service center is available to do the cleaning.
Cleaning Equipment for your RV
You don’t need to buy fancy gear. A vacuum cleaner will suffice and/or a pressure washer. Just look for a vacuum cleaner that comes with several attachments so you’ll be able to clean not just carpets but the rest of your RV.
When buying carpet cleaning supplies, do some comparisons with the price, features and capabilities. This will tell you if the cleaner is worth buying or if you should get something else.
Understanding the Dangers of Carpet
With so many things to maintain on an RV the carpet is sometimes ignored. That is dangerous because dirt and grime gets stuck on carpets. As dirt accumulates it attracts bacteria that could spread diseases. Since you spend a lot of time in the RV you’ll be more susceptible to illnesses.
Your RV’s interior is exposed to a lot of possible health hazards especially if you’re not thorough when it comes to cleaning. The time you spend cleaning and tidying up that carpet is going to pay off.
Keeping It Clean
Cleaning the RV carpet is only the first step. While you’re cleaning it you should also take a look at the rest of your RV, including the exterior and interior. For the most part a vacuum cleaner and steam cleaner is all that is needed to tidy up RV carpets.
Tips and Warnings
- Schedule a carpet cleanup once a month, more often if you park in dusty environments.
- Use only products and equipment that are proven effective for carpets.
- If liquid spills on the carpet, clean it immediately.
- Do not use harsh cleaning solutions on carpets as it could damage the texture.
- Do not use more cleaning chemicals than is necessary.
- Start the cleaning process with the vacuum. It does a good job in removing most of the dirt.
- Make sure you’re well stocked with cleaning supplies so you don’t run out at an inappropriate time.
RV carpet and upholstery cleaning is often left to professionals, but you can do it yourself with the right equipment and approach. Not all RVs have nice clean carpets, so having them gives your ride a nice aesthetic.