Cleaning Mold & Mildew from a Pop Up Camper

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There aren’t many days of summer left. Soon the kids will be back in school and the family vacations will not be as frequent until next summer comes around.

We had a pop-up camper when my kids were younger and I loved it. It was very comfortable for our family of four. We had a lot of fun and a lot of happy memories.

We cleaned our camper (or as my husband says: “camp trailer”) thoroughly at the end of summer and freshened it up again at the beginning of the season.

Where I live, rain isn’t constant but we have enough of it that we would occasionally get mold or mildew in our camper, I think no matter what you do, you are bound to get some. We have a large RV now and I still find a little mold where it’s occasionally gotten damp inside.

So when it’s time for you to roll away your pop up camper and if you’ve found a little mold or mildew, don’t panic, here are some cleaning guidelines you can follow.

Cleaning Inside the Camper Surfaces

This isn’t going to be hard; you’ll be using some common household cleaning products and a little good old fashioned elbow grease.
A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • To avoid a repeat of mold growth, be sure to dry all surfaces thoroughly before folding up and storing your camper. Do not store it away if any part of the camper is damp or wet.
  • While cleaning, if an item can be removed from the camper, take it outside to clean it.

Cleaning Hard Floors, Vinyl Surfaces, Counters and Tables

The method listed below uses bleach. Be careful, when spraying bleach that you don’t get it on any fabrics or carpets where it could bleach the item. If you are concerned, you can always put a towel or sheet down to protect other surfaces.

To get mold off of hard surfaces like the floor and counters, add to bucket 1 cup bleach to 4 cups water. Put on your cleaning gloves and with a scrubbing sponge or scrub brush and an old toothbrush – get to cleaning.

Completely rinse surfaces with clean water then use a towel to dry surfaces when finished.

Note: Bleach is highly alkaline; it is caustic and can burn your skin. Bleach can remove mold and staining with little scrubbing.

Bleach must be completely rinsed off surfaces you’ve cleaned to avoid damage.

Fabric Surfaces that can be Machine Washed

Some cloth surfaces like curtains and removable seat covers can be removed and washed in the washing machine:

  1. First take 1/ 2 cup borax and dissolve it in about 3 or 4 cups of hot water.
  2. Add the dissolved borax water to the washer along with your regular detergent, and then fill the tub. Use cold water.
  3. Add items to be washed and let soak for 20 minutes or so before running it through a wash cycle. Use a wash cycle that is appropriate for the fabric you are washing.

Note: Borax, like bleach is alkaline, but is not as caustic as bleach. Borax can remove stains without bleach. Borax helps get rid of mold and inhibits mold growth.

Borax is a disinfectant and kills germs and bacteria.

You may have to repeat before the mold is completely removed. If there is any staining left try washing with Oxiclean or oxygen bleach.

Dry according to manufacturer suggestions.

If you are washing slip covers, regardless of what the manufacturer states on the label, I would let these completely air dry (out of the sun) instead of putting them in the dryer.

Once, without thinking, I put mine in the dryer and they shrunk. They never fit the cushions right again.

Fabric Seat Cushions

For seat cushions that don’t have a removable cover, combine the following in a spray bottle.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to spot check first for color fastness.

  • 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid
  • 1 teaspoon borax
  • 1 quart warm water

Spray both sides of the cushions with a small amount of the mixture; be sure to spray along any decorative edging.

Scrub lightly with a soft-bristled brush and let sit on the cushions for 15 to 20 minutes.

  • I have used a clean toothbrush to gently brush the mixture into and around decorative edges, trims, etc.

While you’re waiting, this cleaning solution can also be used to clean tables and counters if you haven’t already used the bleach mixture above, rinse when finished.

When the 20 minutes are up, use a rag and clean water on the cushions then let them air dry. This may take a day or two to completely dry out before putting them back in the camper.

Note: If you have a rug shampooer or a shop vac; I would seriously consider using its attachments to suction out as much of the water from the cushions as possible.

Another thing you may want to consider is to put a protectant on the cushions such as scotch gard. Use what best fits your fabric type.

Cleaning Mold from the Camper Canvas

Now it’s time to tackle the exterior canvas of your pop up camper. This is going to be a little harder to get the mold out for one important reason: you can’t use bleach on the canvas.

Why not, you ask? The canvas has been treated with a water repellent protective coating and using bleach can permanently damage the canvas causing it to leak. To avoid damaging your canvas, you will have to use other methods of cleaning mold.

You can always check your manual for cleaning instructions or check with the manufacturer. We also provide some cleaning instructions below.

Sun Dry Thoroughly

The first step to cleaning mold from pop up camper canvas is to open up the camper and let it dry in direct sunlight for a day or two or more. The hotter and stronger the sun, the better, so hopefully you have some sunny days left.

By leaving it in the sun to dry, this will help any kill active mold spores and also dry the mold that is already there.

Brush Canvas Vigorously

Once the canvas has dried thoroughly, take a stiff broom or brush, and brush the canvas to remove all dried mold. Vacuum when you’re finished, take your time and make sure to get in all the creases.

Any active spores left behind can begin to re-grow later so don’t want rush this step.

Mild Soap and Water

Using a mild soap like Ivory soap and warm water works well and is safe for cleaning the camper canvas.

Mix together a small amount of Ivory soap to water in a bucket and start cleaning the canvas – inside and out. Go over the section you cleaned with clean water, wipe down.

Leave outside in the sun to dry with windows and doors open.

Don’t forget, you can always check with the manufacturer for the best and safest cleaning method.

Waterproof the Canvas and Seams

Weather and not-so-good road conditions can effect the camper seals and body moldings. Check these when cleaning your camper.

Once your cleaning job is complete (and your pop up canvas has completely dried again), be sure to apply a waterproofing product to the canvas (if necessary) or a seam sealer to the seams if necessary.

How to Cut Down on Mold

Here are some ways to help cut down on any mold or mildew problems you may have:

  • Condensation is bound to happen. When in use, always open vents and windows to prevent condensation while cooking or showering. If you do see condensation, wiping down with a clean cloth.
  • It’s only common sense that you don’t want to store anything away wet. Make sure your camper is completely dry before storing and that there are no damp items like a wet sponge, for instance, left in the sink.
  • You can also use space saver bags for curtains, sheets, and other storageable items. These take up little room and seal very nicely, keeping everything inside dry.
  • If you have a carport or something similar to put your camper under, great, but do not store with a tarp directly over the camper, this will restrict airflow and could cause mold growth.

If you’re new to the world of camping, I hope you had a wonderful time and enjoyed all your excursions. And I hope you took lots of pictures to remember the fun you had!

Now that we’ve gone over how to clean mold from your pop-up camper, let me just say it’s worth it to keep up on the cleaning. Camping with family and friends is and always will be a great way to spend a vacation!

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