RV Awning Maintenance

2/9/2022 – Good Sam Extended Service Plan

Some RV awnings are made of fabrics that are resistant to rot and mildew, while others need special care to prevent this type of damage. Rot and mildew result from moisture being trapped in the fabric.

Although instructions published by manufacturers of rot and mildew resistant awning fabrics claim that their awnings can be rolled up wet if necessary, even these awnings should be unfurled and allowed to dry thoroughly as soon as possible. Here are some simple tips for cleaning your motorhome or fifth wheel's fabric awnings and checking for leaks.

Cleaning RV Fabric Awnings

To clean the fabric, carefully follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. The following are typical recommendations, although the procedures may be different for some brands:

  1. Periodically (as the need demands) loosen hardened dirt with a dry, soft brush.
  2. Hose off dirt, both top and bottom.
  3. Using a mixture of 1/4 cup of dish soap and 1/4 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of warm water, wash both the top and bottom sides of the fabric. Caution- the bleach must be diluted or it will damage the awning fabric.
  4. Roll up the awning for anywhere between five minutes to two hours (depending upon the stubbornness of the dirt) to allow the cleaning solution time to work on both sides of the fabric.
  5. Unroll the awning and rinse thoroughly.
  6. Allow the fabric to air-dry completely before rolling it back up. Caution- Never use a strong detergent or stain remover on the awning because it will destroy the fabric's water repellency. Avoid use of hard-bristle brushes, petroleum-based chemicals, and abrasive or caustic household cleaners on the awning fabric.
  7. To remove stubborn mildew, wipe the affected areas with white vinegar, which will kill mildew. Rinse the fabric with clear water. The fabric may require a second washing and rinsing after this cleaning procedure.

Checking for Leaks in Fabric Awnings

Leaks in fabric may be the results of several causes.

  • If the leaking occurs after washing, the cause may be insufficient rinsing. Rinse more thoroughly and allow the fabric to dry, and then check for water repellency.
  • If water drips through the needle holes in the stitching, use a commercial seam sealer (available at canvas and RV supply stores) or apply a layer of paraffin wax to the top of the seams.
  • A pinhole leak can develop if a spot of water repellent material on the top of the fabric has flaked off. To fix the hole, apply a small dab of VLP (vinyl liquid patch) with the end of a cotton swab. By gently rolling the VLP around the hole, the paint will melt and fill in the pinhole with a perfect color match. Be sure to allow the VLP to dry before rolling up the awning.
  • If a leak develops through the fabric where a pool of water has collected, lower one of the support arms to encourage drainage.

Make sure you make cleaning your awnings part of your regular RV roof maintenance.

Livingston , B. (2002). RV repair & maintenance manual(4th ed.). Ripon Printers

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