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Beyond the basics—Extra tips for winterizing your RV

Some folks use antifreeze to keep their RV pipes from freezing while stored over the winter. Other RVers use their air compressor to blow water from the lines and then pour a bit of antifreeze down each drain. So … after the antifreeze or compressed air, you’re good to go, right? Wrong! Here are a few extra tips for winterizing your RV.

Winterizing RV tips

Refrigerator

  • Clear and defrost. Remove all food and condiments from your refrigerator and freezer as part of your winterizing process. Your RV’s freezer should be defrosted and wiped dry. (One way to make defrosting easier is this: Before your first camping trip of the season, line the back and sides of the freezer with thin, plastic cutting boards. Use scissors to trim and shape the plastic so that pieces fit up against the freezer walls. When it’s time to defrost, carefully remove the plastic and dump the accumulated ice into the sink.)
  • Clean and dry. You can use Dawn dish soap (or any mild soap) and warm water to clean the interior of the refrigerator. Wipe down all the shelves, drawers, and side panels inside the fridge. Then dry with a soft towel.
  • Prop open. Make sure the door(s) to your refrigerator and freezer are propped open. Some manufacturers supply a special bracket that securely holds the doors open an inch or two, allowing for air circulation. This prevents mold from forming inside the fridge and freezer.

If your refrigerator doesn’t have an “open door” bracket, find another way to prop the doors open. Friends of ours use a pool noodle. Other campers I know pull a shelf part way out of the fridge to keep the door ajar.

  • What about the light? If the refrigerator’s doors are ajar, won’t the light stay on and drain the batteries? To make sure this doesn’t happen, simply remove the fridge’s light bulb or turn off the power to the refrigerator.
  • Odor control. The final thing I do to winterize our RV refrigerator is to place fresh, open boxes of baking soda into the freezer compartment as well as the refrigerator. The soda will absorb odors to keep your fridge smelling clean and fresh. Note: My neighbor swears by activated charcoal to remove odors from her RV’s fridge. She places a few briquettes in a glass bowl and then sets the bowl inside her fridge. If you have leftover charcoal from the BBQ season, you might want to try this.

Humidity control

Moisture absorber. You can purchase DampRid almost anywhere. Better yet, you can use this product in your winterized RV because it doesn’t require electricity. A DampRid moisture absorber is made with two basic parts. The top of the device is filled with small, white crystals (calcium chloride) that attract water molecules from the air. Once the crystals are saturated, they will begin to adsorb, and the resulting gel collects in the bottom part of the DampRid container.

I recently discovered that my dollar store sells a DampRid generic product for just over a dollar apiece. DampRid removes excess humidity from the air and keeps our interior RV areas from smelling musty. I place one moisture absorber container in the bedroom, one in the bathroom, and one in the living/kitchen area of our RV. I also use a hanging humidity absorber in our RV’s closet.

Caution: Keep moisture-absorbent products away from pets and children. Also make sure you place the product on a secure, flat surface. If the gel spills, it’s quite a mess to clean up! So, be sure to remove the products before you take your first camping trip next season.

RV washer

  • Clean and dry. I run the “tub clean” cycle in our RV washing machine as part of my winterizing process. Once the cycle ends, I dry the tub interior with a soft, absorbent cloth. (This must be done prior to adding antifreeze or purging the water lines with a compressor.)
  • Prop open. I use a pool noodle to hold the washer door open while the RV is in storage. Like the refrigerator, air circulation will help to prevent mold from forming.

Pest prevention

  • Seal openings. Yes, we’ve had mice problems in previous RVs. It’s not fun! At. All. In order to discourage mice from coming into our RV, we’ve sealed up every crack and opening with caulk and aluminum or copper wool. Steel wool will also work, but it can rust.
  • Clean, clean, clean. I sweep, dust, and mop the entire RV. (Well, parts I can access, anyway.) Ants and mice are champion crumb-finders, and I don’t want to provide anything that remotely looks like a vermin welcome snack. Bonus: The RV is clean for our first camping trip next season.
  • Eliminate potential nesting material. Just in case a really determined mouse somehow gains entry into our RV, I’ve taken extra precautions. (Did I mention that we’ve had mouse problems in the past? It’s not fun!) I remove everything that a mouse might consider potential nesting material. Yes, this means the toilet tissue, paper towels, and even dish towels come out of the RV. I remove other towels, pillows, and other fabric-made items, too. It all comes out—anything (and I mean anything) that a mouse might see and think, “Hmmm. I’ll bet I could chew that up and make a fine little nest for my babies.” (Can you tell I really, really don’t like mice?)
  • Insect spray. As a final precaution, I spray an insecticide around all the RV’s baseboards, windows, and exit doorways. This keeps spiders and other creepy crawlies from hibernating inside our rig, so we aren’t greeted in the spring by their newly hatched offspring.

Shades

In order to prevent fading of our RV’s interior fabrics and wall coverings, I make sure to pull down all the window shades in our rig. (Bonus: Potential thieves cannot see inside the RV’s windows either.)

Batteries

  • Disconnect. If your RV will be stored for an extended length of time, you’ll want to disconnect the batteries. That way, they won’t lose their charge over time. Yes, it happens.
  • Trickle charger. We bring our RV batteries home and plug them into a trickle charger. This keeps them charged and ready, so if we decide to take a spontaneous trip, the batteries are ready to go. Friends simply remove their RV batteries and charge them a day or two before their first trip of the season.

These are the extra things I do as part of our winterizing process. Can you add to my list? Do so in the comments, please.

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Ask Dave: How should I winterize the RV to use it part-time in the winter?

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Jim Johnson
7 days ago

Does your rig have a black tank flush connection? If so, one more place to winterize.There will almost always be a vacuum break in the line, so some pressure is typically needed to fully displace any standing water. You cannot use your rig’s fresh water pump. I prefer to use my air compressor rather than use an external pump and anti-freeze.
I suggest doing this immediately after your final cleaning of the black tank so you can also drain that water before adding antifreeze through the toilet.

Impavid
21 days ago

After turning your water heater by-pass valve to by-pass the water heater, drain the water heater tank and check the anode rod (if you have a Suburban WH). Suck some antifreeze through the system making sure you have AF in the water pump or it could freeze and crack. As well don’t forget any outside plumbing like an outdoor shower and besides the P-traps add AF to the toilet bowl.

Larry Lee
22 days ago

Before we became fulltimers and snowbirds, I would empty the tanks, remove all filters, blow out the lines, install the antifreeze, and then blow the lines out again in order to avoid having the antifreeze sitting in the pipes for 4 months. It was easy to do that last step because I already had the air compressor sitting right there begging to be used. The last item was putting antifreeze in all the traps and washing machine.

Larry Lee
22 days ago

When using antifreeze to winterize remember to remove any water filters in your system before injecting the antifreeze. This includes the refrigerator filter if you have one.

Larry Lee
22 days ago

Do not use a trickle charger all winter on your batteries. Either use a timer to only allow your trickle charger to operate 1 or 2 hours daily or (better) buy a battery minder and get rid of your trickle chargers entirely. Also, if you already have an old style battery charger, you can use that IF you put it on a timer for an hour each day.

Robin Deane
22 days ago

Be careful with DampRid liquid that has been collected in a tub. I had a tub of DampRid in my lavatory in the bathroom. It got knocked over, and it ate the finish off the lav. Also, when you run the rv antifreeze through your pipes, be sure to flush the toilet until it runs into the bowl (protecting the ball valve) and also through the shower head. These can freeze as well.

Ron T.
22 days ago

Some people obviously winterize where it isn’t really winter. Here in Wisconsin there’s no need to de-humidify as the outside relative humidity in winter will always be lower than 45%!

Armor Top
22 days ago

Living in Northern PA we have simplified the “winterizing” procedure. As early as possible in November we load the motorhome with our personal items and head for Southern AZ and don’t return until late April.
When we stayed home for Covid, I discovered that the DampRids made for hanging in closets sucked up the most moisture. The one in the refillable containers seemed to freeze up.

Dennis
22 days ago

Gail, expounding on the “mice thing”. I store in a barn with dirt floors. Mice always find a way in. I put old beach towels over all furniture, I store all my bedding in lockers (closets) and most importantly I put a squirrelinator brand trap on the kitchen floor with 6 mouse snap traps inside the squirrelinator cage trap. This keeps all caught mice safely contained inside the cage trap and if a wayward squirrel wants to make a meal out of them-he gets trapped also. One year a squirrel made it inside and “stashed” all the mice caught into various hiding spots. Stunk!!!!!! The Class A is 24 years old with no interior varmint damage.

Don H
22 days ago

Please note that the quantity of water that DampRid or similar products remove from the air is very small. If you really want to keep the rig dry, put a dehumidifier in it! You’ll be amazed at how much water is REALLY in the air.

Joseph Bulger
22 days ago
Reply to  Don H

We also use a dehumidifier and drain it to the gray water tank. The tank level usually goes to a quarter tank in 3 weeks at 50% interior humidity. That’s a lot of water that I use to water the flowers.

dale rose
22 days ago

I didn’t see any mention of making sure that the switch is put into the “Off” position, and not left on “automatic.”

Gary
22 days ago
Reply to  dale rose

Which switch?

Tom
22 days ago
Reply to  Gary

I think dale is referring to the switch on the refrigerator.

Gary Broughton
22 days ago

I go south in the winter to winterize, but there is still maintenance and cleaning.

Bob p
22 days ago

I find one thing wrong in your process. In the first paragraph you state using antifreeze or compressed air to blow water out of the lines, then pour antifreeze down each drain. Then you tell how to defrost the fridge and put the removed ice in the sink that you just put antifreeze in the drain, counter productive!

Kenny
22 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

How much water would be in a defrosted fridge? Antifreeze would take care of that little bit.

Joseph Bulger
22 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

I did not take it as consecutive step by step instructions.

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