Saturday, September 30, 2023


Washing your RV when on the road

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you pull your rig in the wintertime, you know the drill: Doesn’t matter what color your rig was when you started out, it’s probably an entirely different one at the “other end” of the road. It’s one of those cosmic humor things – RVs are designed to attract dirt. The standing joke about RVs coming back from Alaska is they’re all “chocolate brown.” But how and where do you wash your dirty RV?

dirty road
deltaMike on

If the “end of the road” for you means your back yard at home, then it’s just a matter of getting up the gumption to wash the rig. But for those on the road, washing the RV while traveling can become a big issue. In the Desert Southwest and many parts of California, where water is a bit on the scarce side, there are plenty of RV parks that just aren’t allowing guests to wash their rigs in the park. Most do-it-yourself car wash bays are just too small to accommodate a rig. What’s the answer?

There are some possible alternatives

One RVer says he looks around for a large shopping center with, say, a “big box” store and politely inquires of management if he might wash his rig out in a distant corner, using his own water. “Some say fine, others no,” he explains. Where he gets a “yes,” he pumps water from his own tank supply and washes his unit down. If you try this, and your rig is muddy, be sure to station your rig close to a water catchment so you can run the muddy water down the drain and not leave a mess on the asphalt.

Double check with the RV park manager. Some say they’ve seen signs posted that rig washing is not allowed. But sometimes, on checking, they find that for a few extra bucks management will allow the rig to be washed.

In areas heavily visited by RVs, like Quartzsite, Arizona, you may find folks that will come and wash your rig for you. They bring the water and the labor – you provide the money. Oftentimes there’s a pretty spendy price tag for the job. So make sure you understand exactly what the cost is, and what services will be provided, before you give the nod.

Truck washes* for your dirty RV

Several RVers have commented favorably about outfits that wash 18-wheelers. No, we’re not talking about an oversize “suds-it-yourself” outfit, but, rather, you roll your rig in the bay and somebody else does the dirty work on your dirty RV. One firm that’s widely commented on is the Blue Beacon Truck Wash franchise. One source mentioned that they’ve had good success at the chain, but they ask for (and receive at no extra charge) a “heavy rinse,” because experience has told them without it, they don’t always get all the suds off.

And here’s a “do it before you get it dirty” thought: Going heavy on the wax if you do your own washing at home may stand you in good stead down the road. Some comment that heavy wax on the rig makes the dirt come off easier down the road.

*Read this recent caveat from Kate Doherty about truck washes, and note the comments from readers about Blue Beacon.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Thom R
1 year ago

We have washed our rig with our own water in the back row at truck stops a couple times. I carry enough hose to reach all around, yeah the pressure ain’t the greatest but we make it work. I never leave home without a couple bags of microfiber towels and plenty of quick detail spray.
No BB for me, thank you…

Dave Green
1 year ago

Truck washes are hard on decals. Ours began fading after a Blue Beacon wash. Never again!

Joseph Eafrati
1 year ago

Truck washes can be disastrous, I read where a person had his motorhome washed and it ruined the paint. What he explained was they washed a semi that had pigs in it and they used acid to get the smell out. When he pulled in there was still some acid in the line and it ruined his rig. Just check with them and have them run water through the line first.

Judy G
1 year ago

In the Southwest, at least, there are mobile RV wash businesses. Some come with there own water, power wash equipment, and will come right to your RV site. Inquire at the park office.

1 year ago

We watch for spray-hose car wash bays as we travel and find some that are big enough for our trailer. We usually rinse-off the trailer with the low-pressure stream that comes out without the trigger being depressed. That rinses off the dust but not the film that builds up. But it’s better than nothing. We follow up with the deionized water rinse that’s at much lower stream and pressure.

Dawn Adamson
1 year ago

We use Blue Beacon truck washes all the time. They do a good job and usually only runs around $60 to wash the fifth wheel and the truck.

1 year ago

We recently pulled into an RV park down a long dusty gravel road in North Dakota. Our tow car had gone from black to brown and the back of our diesel pusher was covered with dirt. The owner promptly came up to us with a leaf blower and blew clouds of dust off the car and the RV radiator. Good trick when washing not an option.

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