Keeping your roof clean can also keep your sidewalls clean.
By S.B. Jackson
Black and white streaks, the RVer’s version of barnacles, are a by-product of dirt and grime buildup, mixed with moisture, which has spilled down the sidewalls of the RV. There is no easy way to remove streaks; however, the best way to prevent these unsightly blemishes is to regularly wash the roof.
Now I don’t say this lightly, because while crawling around one story above the ground may be matter-of-fact to some people, for most of us it’s an episode straight out of “Fear Factor.” However, getting up there and washing away dirt and grime is the only way to avoid the backbreaking task of scrubbing away streaks that can permanently stain the sidewall surfaces.
It goes without saying that if you are on medication that can cause dizziness, or suffer a condition that can leave you feeling weak or light-headed, traipsing around the motorhome’s roof is not recommended. Hire someone to act in your stead, or bribe a friend using burgers and a beer — just hold off on the beer part until after the roof has been cleaned. (Editor’s note: We cannot stress strongly enough that if you have any reason whatsoever — be it physical, mental, or medical — to be nervous about working on your motorhome’s roof, don’t do it! Hire it done. Just make sure that whoever cleans your roof is extremely careful while up there.)
Schedule roof cleaning for a cool part of the day. If the vehicle is equipped with a roof access ladder, be sure to conform to the weight limits on that ladder. It can be a real pain to climb up and down the ladder each time you need a different item. A more efficient system is to enlist the assistance of a helper on the ground who will transfer implements up to the top of the roof via a bucket tied to a rope.
Start by sweeping the roof surface with a broom to remove loose dirt and debris. Carefully examine all seams and seals for signs of weakness or cracking and double-check that all bolts are securely in place. Raise the television antenna, and if you have a satellite dish, put that in the up position so the surfaces under those components can be cleaned.
A variety of items you already have on hand can assist in streamlining the task of washing the roof, such as a mop for swabbing the surface and a bristle brush for deep cleaning. Secure the hose to a stationary object using a rope, and wear kneepads for comfort while crawling around. A power washer can be incorporated to get mold and green slime off the surface, but if you plan on using one, exercise extreme caution around rooftop components, sealants, and all the hardware to avoid damage from excess water pressure. To wash the surface, use a gentle soap that is approved for application on the roof material. While the roof is wet or soapy, be extra cautious when moving about. In fact, it’s advisable to stay on the dry surface and work your way toward the ladder.
If you have not attended to the motorhome roof and streaks have built up over time, you may want to use a cleaner designed specifically for the removal of streaks to assist you in the elbow grease department. There are almost as many streak removal products on the market as stars in the sky, so it will take some footwork for you to decide which type of product works best. Test the solution in a small, inconspicuous area before using a full application. Once you are confident the product will work, follow the usage directions to the letter. Keep in mind that some tougher stain-fighting agents may also remove wax.
After the roof has been cleaned, it may be necessary to spray off the top of the awning tracks, or even to clean the awnings themselves to remove the overspray. Rinse away all excess roof grime from the sidewalls of the motorhome before it dries. To do this, you may also want your ground-side assistant to be equipped with a hose to keep the sides hosed down while you clean the roof (this will keep the roof runoff from staining the sides). Once the roof surface has dried, reseal as necessary and allow the new sealant ample time to dry. Replace any bolts that appear rusted or worn.
Sometimes a difficult problem can be resolved with the simplest of solutions. Start today by making the motorhome roof part of your regular maintenance routine, and make streaks down the sidewalls a thing of the past.