It’s that time of year again… the mornings are getting lighter, the evenings longer and planning for the first trip of the year is well under way. But, what about your caravan or motorhome? It’s time for the de-winterising and annual deep clean. The easiest way we find to do it is to first create a list of the jobs to be done and make sure you have all the bits and pieces you need for the tasks. Our “go-to” shop for cleaning supplies is OLPRO, it’s easy to order everything for the season for both cleaning stuff and loo stuff. We have been using them for at least a couple of years now and haven’t come across any problems and have genuinely been satisfied with their products.
OK, so where to start…
As we don’t have power or running water where we store our caravan, some things might be a little easier if you do.
Pipes and Drains
I usually start by mixing up a solution of citric acid in water to pump into the water heater to perform a descale. If you look at your kettle and see the limescale buildup it will give you an idea of what is probably happening in your water heater too. I normally mix 1Kg of citric acid powder in 20 litres of water which gives a 5% strength solution. As this takes a couple of hours to do, its one of the first jobs we start so we can get on with other things. We connected up the container to the caravan water inlet, shut the drain down valve and pump the solution into the water system. We would need to leave this solution for about an hour, but to help speed it up we turned the water heater on. After 15 minutes I ran some water through all the taps into a jug and poured this back into the water container outside. We repeated this every ten minutes to ensure that all the solution had been pumped through all the pipes. After an hour, we turned the heater off and kept running the solution through another three of four times. It was now time to flush the system through by turning on the taps and letting it run through the sink drains to outside. When the container of solution was empty we replaced it with one of the 25 litre containers containing fresh water and pumped that through for a short while, letting it sit in all the pipes for 30 minutes. We continued pumping the fresh water through the system until the first container was empty. I connected up the next container and we repeated the process until another 25 litres had flushed through. As all the piping is PVC we were only really concerned about flushing through the hot water side and particularly the water heater.
Once all the fresh water had been pumped through, tasting the water told us it was fresh with no hint of citric acid. We then opened the drain taps to drain the system down. So now, hopefully the inside of the water heater is as clean and shiny as the kettle.
The guys at Meridianstar supply food grade citric acid in various sizes. We bought two 1Kg bags, so we have 1Kg spare for next time. Citric acid can be used to de-scale other food equipment… baby steralisers etc. so we don’t have any worries about after taste or introducing chemicals into our water system. They were also pretty quick in delivering too, it arrived 48 hours after ordering. (you can read the original article “Citric Acid Trip“)
Next – waste-hog and aqua roll. When we use the waste-hog, every time we empty it I always put about 50ml of OLPRO Fresh & Clear drain and pipe cleaner into the waste-hog it stops it smelling and I don’t have to worry storing it inside the caravan. For a through clean, 100ml and filling the container with 20 litres of fresh water and leaving it standing for a while, occasionally swilling the mixture around. I do the same with the aqua roll. We can now get on with other jobs.
Sue usually tackles the loo next while I take care of the loo cassette. Over winter I drain down the toilet header tank so usually have some of the fluid I drained out in a container I can put back in the header tank. As we use the Top & Bottom Plus for both the toilet header tank and cassette, it’s an easy matter to replenish everything. I usually double the recommended amount of fluid for the first fill up of the season. After that we just use the recommended quantities.
Next… Inside, well that a bit of a mystery to me as Sue disappears inside with a load of cloths, a bucket of water and a container of Inside & Out 7 in 1 caravan cleaner. You can find all the chemicals in the OLPRO Shop under “Essentials – OLPRO Chemicals.
The lack of running water is a bit of a pain, but we found a way round it. I put a few litres of water in a plastic tray that allows me to use a long extendable handle brush that is designed for cleaning vehicles, I pour in some of Sue’s Inside & Out 7 in 1 caravan cleaner (Yep it really does what it says on the label) and commence cleaning the roof. We usually take a couple of pairs of steps with us to help. Dipping the brush in the tray of foamy water easily allows me to clean the roof without laying or stretching too far. Now here’s my trick for rinsing it off. I use a garden pressure spray – the type that allows you to put in 3 or 4 litres of weed killer and pressurise it with a pump handle. I have found that 3 litres of water will easily rinse the roof off. (Note: I only use this spray for washing off the caravan!) Once the roof is done, it’s usually time to nip back and swill the warthog and aqua roll about and pump the citric acid solution round the heater again.
TOP TIP: I use the pressure spray to rinse off the windows BEFORE I wash them, it helps wash off the dust that might cause scratched in the polycarbonate.
Tackling the sides is much easier and done in the same manner. Brushing the sides and rinsing off with the pressure sprayer. As each side is finished, a wipe down with a microfibre cloth to dry it off stops any watermarks appearing. The next thing to tackle is the plastic around the lockers and the Fiamma awning bag. We have found the best way is use a slightly more concentrated solution of Inside & Out and use a small brush… it’s a bit like a big tooth-brush really, I think we got it from a bike shop it was meant for cleaning mud off bikes. It makes short work of cleaning the textured plastic surrounds of the hatches and the zipper on the awning bag. It’s also great for cleaning inside the upper and lower awning rail tracks.
Time to go back to the start and empty out the warthog and aqua roll and pump some clean water through the heater to flush out the citric acid solution. In all it usually takes us the best part of a day to do a through spring clean on the caravan. As we usually hook up the car to the vehicle to pull it forward so we have more room, I also take the time to check out the tyres looking for cracks in the walls on both the outside and crawling under the van on the inside. We can also check all the road lights are functioning (although after changing over to LED’s for the road lights I haven’t had any issues at all) and I also do a basic safety check on the earth system, checking for continuity. It’s also a good idea to check out the gas pipe for the CADAC BBQ that we use to plug-in to the external gas point. I also take the time to spray some grease on the steadies and wind them fully up and down a couple of times. A quick inspection of the 13 pin plug and a quick light spray with Boeshield T9 to keep in tip-top condition.
So, that’s it, all set for the first trip!
OK, so how much water do we use? Well we take three 25 litre containers with us. On has only 20 litres of water with the citric acid powder added making a 5% solution, The other two are full of clean water. One is used to rinse through after the using the citric acid solution, the second for actually cleaning the caravan
Caravan Chronicles Shopping...
I am often asked where to buy some of the products we use. Here are the links to the products. If you click on the links and purchase any of the items, a few pennies will go to helping the cost of running CaravanChronicles.com
OLPRO – we do like there stuff and as it’s a bit of a one-stop-shop for us, it’s easy to buy everything we need for the season in one go www.olproshop.com They also have lots of other camping and caravanning related items too.
Citric Acid 1 KG– we found that Meridianstar are competitive and delivery time is really quick.
Silverline 723890 Telescopic Cleaning Brush 1.32 m-2.14
Boeshield G2870 T-9, 4 Oz. Aerosol Can( It’s flipping expensive but I have had a can for over 10 years now)
Like many other people using caravans we have permanently removed the filter from our caravan as it serves no point except to enrich someone else every time it is replaced. We gave up drinking water from the taps in our caravan preferring to either buy the 5 litres bottles of water from a supermarket or filling an empty container with water from a tap on site.
Lyn Beard said:
Tip on Cleaning Blue Filter
We remove our filter (blue filter) at the end of the season and place it in a container using Milton Sterilizer which is diluted as described on the bottle and left over night and the filter is washed thoroughly in cold water, dried off thoroughly, and stored in a air tight container until the start of the season.
John Aldridge said:
Simon, the link in the paragraph “Outside” leads to a 404 error (think it should be http://www.olproshop.com/products/olpro-inside-and-out-caravan-cleaner).
Simon Barlow said:
Well spotted, I have had a couple of issues with links. Hopefully its all sorted now.
We always remove the water filter and never bother with replacing it. IMHO it tends to lower the wate3r pressure inside the caravan plus if you forget tore move during a winter storage, it coudl casue some serious damage, but that is just us.
Dave Croker said:
When you do your descaling of the hot water system, do you leave the external filter on or do remove this first?
Simon Barlow said:
Our caravan wasn’t fitted with an external water filter, however if it was I think I’d remove it first then install a new one (if its the disposable type) ready for the season once I’d completed the flushing out process.
Simon OLPRO who are located about 2 miles from where we live do not have stock of the drain cleaner at present so link does not work.
We have used white vinegar previously to clean the hot water boiler and it is a lot cheaper than the citric powder. I have been told no necessity for doing this with the ALDE heating system, but I am not sure on this point.
Thanks for some helpful tips.
Simon Barlow said:
Thanks for the head-up on the drain and pipe cleaner.
We did think of white vinegar but when doing research about descaling came across a number of articles about descaling the coffee machines you see in Starbucks & Costa (other coffee outlets are available) and they all recommend citric acid as an approved method by the manufacturers of the machines. Having once done a kettle with white vinegar I could still taste it weeks afterwards, but with the citric acid method I’ve not been able to taste it. I know there is some debate about if the water heaters need descaling or not, but I look at it this way. The water heater is basically a big kettle with an electric element in it, just like my kettle and that does need doing from time to time, so I figure that the water heater must collect limescale in the same way. I can’t see that it would do any harm even if it didn’t need doing… plus I know all the water pipes are really clean too!
BTW I don’t think the ALDE system has an element to heat up the hot water boiler so descaling it may be unnecessary.
Simon Barlow said:
Must have an electrical element…. unless it’s a gas only unit.