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Reprinted from the Post Register, Idaho Falls, Idaho, June 2, 2000.

It's now time to hit the road.   Unfortunately your motor home is dirty from months of nonuse and neglect.   Although your RV is sure to accumulate road grime and bugs along the way, no one wants to start out in a dirty coach-you are going to have to get it washed before you can experience the freedom of the open road.

Rather than put off the inevitable, you may be surprised to find that the task is not as difficult as you think.  When washing your motor home, there are two choices: do it yourself or have some one do it for you.

If you are determined to do it yourself, here are some tips from Washguy.com founder Lance Winslow.  First, you'll need a brush with soft bristles.  Preferably, find one with an 18-inch width.  The normal truck-washing brushes you find at RV shops are only 12 inches wide.  Having an extra 6 inches of width will cut your scrubbing time by a third.  Anything over 18 inches becomes too heavy and doesn't allow you the same leverage while brushing, plus it gets heavier once you dip it in the soap bucket.  A brush that is too wide will teach you that there are muscles in places you didn't even know you had.

You will also need a bucket.  It is better to use a bucket that the window washers use, since it is rectangular.  A five-gallon pail is not the weapon of choice because you will have to keep dipping your brush in one side, twirling it and dipping in the other side -- while your soap is accumulating on the driveway.  A rectangular bucket, which is standard equipment in the window washing business, is perfect and can be purchased in any janitorial supply house, along with a soft-bristle 18-inch brush.  Also pick up a lamb's wool soap square (one foot by one foot) or a soap mitt.

Although it may seem easy to go behind the sink and use dishwashing soaps, this will tend to deteriorate the gel coat on your coach.   "Most motor coach and trailer manufacturers recommend that you do not use clothes detergents or dishwashing soaps.  The best soap is one that is specially made for gel coats," says Winslow.

Your local motor home supply shop will have what you need.  Campers Choice carries a soap called "Good Sam's" and you can find other good soaps at Camper's World.  Another choice is an automotive detail supply company such as Pro Chemicals, Auto Magic or One Step.  You can also order online from www.starbrite.com or www.monsterproducts.com.  Boat detail supply companies also often specialize in gel coat soaps and polishes.  Most marine soaps and waxes work well on motor homes.  If you can't find special soap, the next best thing is Protect-All soap or Zip Wax soap at your local automotive supply store.  Now that you have all the proper and safe supplies, you can start.  Try to wear no-slip deck shoes.  Be sure to shut all windows, sunlights and vents on your coach.  It is important to open all portable awnings to prevent water from getting in between and causing rotting, and to thoroughly clean them.

You should begin by rinsing the top of the motor home.  Spray water to remove all debris, leaves, stagnant water and dirt.  Fill the bucket with water.  Use two or three capfuls of soap per bucket.

Spray the rest of the motor home to make sure it is all wet.  Wash the sunny side first.  If you have access to de-ionized water or reverse osmosis,use it.  When you get to rims, handles and window borders, use the soap square of mitt and try to hand-soap these areas.  When you are done soaping the first side, immediately rinse.  Raise the brush and hit it against the driveway in a vertical direction to get all the soaps and water off.  Wrap a big terrycloth around the brush and ie it to the handle and dry off the side.  Dry the windows before the towel gets too wet.  When cleaning rollout awnings, be careful not to push too hard.   Short, quick strokes are best.

When drying the side of the coach or trailer, lay the towel as flat as possible and use the distance from your elbow to your hand to move the towel in a horizontal diagonal direction across the surface to dry the largest area possible.  Flip the towel over to a dry side often while.  Dry as high as you can reach comfortably and dry the rest with the towel tied to the brush.  Repeat the process for all sides; you can take your time and move slower on the shady sides since there is no problem with water spotting in the shade.  Expect the entire wash to take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours including the chrome drying and touch-up detail work.

You may not be able to wash your coach in your driveway due to space requirements, personal physical limitations, park restrictions or lack of time.  You still have many options. You can take it to a coin-operated car wash that has extra-long hoses and at least one high bay and wash it yourself using their facilities and supplies.  If it is purely a physical reason or if you hate to wash it yourself, you can take it to a truck or carwash, hire a mobile service, or go to a carwash fundraiser at a school or church.

If you intend to take your coach to a truck wash, there are several things you should know.  Most truck washes use hydrofluoric acid, which can cause instant and permanent damage to the pigmentation of your paint and deteriorate your gel coat.  Even though gel coats are ten times thicker than the average clear coat on a car, you still need to be careful with it.  The other problem is hydrofluoric acid will kill a good wax job and turn aluminum hubcaps white.  Be sure to ask the operator of the truck wash if they use acid in their wash.  If they cannot guarantee to wash your coach without acid, go somewhere else.  If they can wash it without acid, you will pay approximately $1.25 to $2 per foot.  If you have stripping that is peeling in any way, forget the truck wash since the high pressure will worsen the situation.  Whatever you decide, be prepared to wait in line for your turn.  To find a truck wash near you, go to www.truck.net.

Carwashes are often good sources for washing a motor home.  Try to go on a Tuesday, since that is the slowest day of car washes.   Ask for a hand wash and usually they will oblige.  If you go on a peak Saturday or Sunday, they may tell you they are not interested due to space problems and they are too busy.  Expect a carwash to charge $40-$50 for even a small motor home and remember to tip the crew.  The workers usually rely on tips and only make minimum wage, so they will appreciate it.  Be nice to the manager of the car wash since they are not really set up for motor home type washing and they think they are doing you a favor.  Plus, by being nice they will tend to put their best help on your motor home.

If you want to hire a mobile washing service, you will often find them in the phone book under "Automotive Detailing."   There are also companies that offer services online and deliver the wash to your home, business, RV park, or storage yard.  One such service is The Car Wash Guys at www.carwashguys.com.  Winslow likens the service to the online grocer concept:  "You place an order on the Internet and they deliver the wash to you."

Whatever you decide, stop procrastinating and just wash it.  After all, it's time to hit the road and it's a big continent.

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