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Ask Dave: How do I clean my slide room seals and topper on a permanently parked RV?

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Dear Dave,
I know this is not a typical pull-type RV; however, I have two questions related to the slides. The toppers on the slides are really dirty from sitting in a park. Also, the seals along the sides are black in some areas even though they are supposed to be white! My question is: What product is best to clean them? The second part of this is that one topper is loose and rain pools on it. How can they be tightened properly? It looks like the same mechanism as on our 2008 Lexington motorhome slide. Any help would be appreciated. —Dave, 2010 Hampton

Dear Other Dave,
You did not give a floor plan length. However, your Hampton is generally classified as a “park” model, which is exactly why your seals and toppers are really dirty.

Cleaning an RV’s slides and seals

I would start with a good cleaning using Dawn dish soap (blue), which should help to get any sap or sticky substance off the rubber seals. After that, I’d use ProtectAll All-Surface Care Cleaner, as it is a final cleaner and conditioner. Plus, it has UV protection built in.

Most slide room mechanism manufacturers recommend extending and retracting the slide room once a month these days. I don’t know that you have to do it that much. However, it is a good idea to periodically do this as it will give the seal a little “workout” and reduce the likelihood of it getting hot and sticking to the sidewall material. I have seen units that have been sitting all summer at a local campground that had the rubber gasket somewhat melt to the sidewall and tear apart when retracted.

Cleaning an RV’s slide topper and awning

As for the topper, this is a typical awning fabric that you should identify the type of material. You will be amazed at how many “experts” there are when it comes to the maintenance of an RV. There are probably two dozen awning cleaner products on the market.

There are three main awning providers today: A&E, Carefree of Colorado, and Lippert. A&E has a proprietary cleaner called A&E Canopy Cleaner; Carefree has their version called simply Awning Cleaner; and Lippert just recommends 1/4 cup dish soap with 5 gallons of water. This is what I use. Once again, I like Dawn dish soap (blue).

It is best to clean the top of the awning thoroughly with a soft brush and long handle. For your slideroom awning, I would use a ladder and approach it from the front and sides. Retract the room so the soap and water can coat the underside of the awning and let it sit for five minutes. Then bring the room back out and rinse it off. If you have mold on the underside you will need to address those spots with a little more soap and a stiffer brush.

Types of awning fabric

Awning fabric comes in either acrylic or woven vinyl material. Exposure to weather can make both materials start to deteriorate. A&E in the past recommended conditioning the fabric with either Acrylife for acrylic or A&E Canopy Clean. I do not see those products being offered, but do believe some type of conditioning would help with weatherproofing as both fabrics are of a breathable nature.

Lippert or Carefree do not list any type of conditioning recommendations. However, since your topper is exposed to the elements all the time, I think it would be a good procedure. There are other products on the market such as 303 Protectant which I also believe would be worth the effort. Also, ProtectAll All-Surface Care Cleaner mentioned above, which lists vinyl as one of the materials it is recommended for.

Tightening the fabric

There is not an easy adjustment to tighten the fabric. Rather, the awning tube needs to be taken off and rolled tight. It should only be done by a trained technician. There is extreme tension in the springs and, if not held in position very securely, can literally take off spinning and cause harm.

An alternative is to put something between the awning fabric and the top of the room. We have used swim noodles tied into a triangle, and I have seen some creative PVC pipe contraptions at campgrounds. They look like a long ladder. I like the idea they can be broken down for traveling, if not glued. Make it shorter on one end and have that to the side you want the water to run. From the photos I see online, your awning rail actually sits up higher than the roof, so it would be tough to get water to jump over that rail.


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When was the last time you inspected your slide out seals? Do it now!


Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

Read more from Dave here

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