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How To Clean Pop Up Camper Vinyl In 3 Easy Steps

This post was updated on May 10th, 2024

Jayco popup camper at a campsite - how to clean pop up camper vinyl
Wondering how to clean pop up camper vinyl? It’s a relatively simple process. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Korey99, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How To Clean Pop Up Camper Vinyl In 3 Easy Steps

If you own any type of pop up or pop-out trailer or truck camper, you get to enjoy a lightweight and simple way to camp. These so-called “soft sided” campers forego the heavier walls of hard sided campers and bring more light and fresh air into an RV.

However, with these types of campers, you also get to experience a whole new set of maintenance jobs. Because the walls or pop up sections of a camper are made of flexible materials separate from the other hard sections of the camper, they do require special care. This leaves many RVers wondering how to clean pop up camper vinyl or canvas.

Pop up camper vinyl and canvas

What makes these campers different from other campers and trailers is that the walls are made of either canvas, vinyl, or a combination of both. Older pop up campers (envision the classic Jayco or Starcraft campers) used canvas for the pop up material. While canvas is inexpensive and breathable, in wetter climates it has a tendency to mold.

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These days most pop up campers’ walls are made of either a ripstop fabric or vinyl. While vinyl is more expensive than canvas or fabric, it works better for a camper or trailer that is exposed to various types of weather.

Vinyl sheds water and dries more quickly than canvas or cloth. Vinyl is also more resistant to wind and freezing temperatures. However, vinyl can become stiff and is more susceptible to cracking in colder temperatures. Vinyl will soften when you run your heater or are camping in warmer temperatures.

Replacing any portion of a vinyl wall or pop-out section can be pretty expensive and time consuming. Keeping vinyl clean and pliable is the key to keeping it lasting as long as possible.

So how often should you clean your camper’s vinyl walls? Any time you see the walls coated in dirt, bird debris, leaves, or any kind of mildew or mold, you should wash them right away before collapsing the walls. It’s also good to wash the vinyl after several camping trips regardless of what condition the vinyl is in. This allows you to regularly inspect the vinyl for tears or necessary repairs.

How to clean pop up camper vinyl

1. Scrubbing vinyl

Person using a soapy sponge. - how to clean pop up camper vinyl

The best way to clean vinyl is with a simple, homemade solution followed with a commercial vinyl conditioner. Start by filling a one gallon bucket with water and mixing in a 1/4 cup of Dawn dish soap. If you see any dark marks or grease stains on the vinyl, add in a capful of bleach.

Using a soft-bristle brush or a sponge such as Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, dip it in the water and gently scrub the vinyl in a circular motion. Repeat each section as necessary.

If you notice any mildew that can’t be removed with the sponge, pick up a mildew cleaner that is safe for vinyl such as Star Brite Mildew Stain Remover.

2. Rinsing and drying vinyl

how to clean pop up camper vinyl

With a bucket of fresh water, use a sponge or microfiber cloth to rinse the soap and bleach off the vinyl. You can also use a garden hose on a gentle spray. Do not use a power washer on vinyl since the harsh spray can tear the fabric.

Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry the walls or let them dry naturally. Wait for the walls to dry completely before collapsing down the popup section of your camper.

3. Conditioning and protecting vinyl

303 protectant being used
303 Products

Conditioning vinyl on a camper will not only retain the integrity of the fabric, but will also protect it from UV rays and premature cracking. Several brands such as 303 Marine Vinyl Protectant or Meguiar’s Marine/RV Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner & Protectant will give your RV’s vinyl a protective coating and a newer look.

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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