As plants begin to grow new leaves and buds after a long winter hibernation, take a cue from Mother Nature for a fresh start of your own. We’re talking about a refresh that will have a positive impact on your quality of life–a spring cleaning. While spring cleaning looks a little different for van lifers than apartment dwellers, it is equally important for road warriors to set a good foundation for the season ahead.
A spring cleaning will make your van interior space feel larger. Downsizing and reorganizing belongings will also make your daily life easier and more efficient. A good deep clean will eliminate any problems that could cause less-than-optimal health, like dust and mold. Preventative van maintenance will help keep your trusty home on wheels in mint condition.
If you’re feeling inspired to give your camper van some TLC, read on for our area-by-area spring cleaning checklist. A clean van equals a happy camper, after all.
What makes spring cleaning different from regular van cleaning? Spring cleaning is an invitation to do a deeper clean-up job, tackling tasks you normally avoid. Ride the wave of motivation to check van maintenance jobs that are only required occasionally off of your to-do list. You’ll also declutter, reorganize, and generally refresh your space so you’re left with a van that feels brand new.
Spring cleaning is no small feat, so you’ll need to pace yourself. Do one area or project at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed. You can set aside time on weekends or get productive on weeknights after work to make use of dark hours when you’d probably just be watching TV. Speaking of TV, you can do some of these tasks with the company of a show or movie on your laptop or a podcast on your phone–the hours will fly by. However you choose to break up your spring cleaning, write out a realistic schedule with several blocks of time.
You don’t have space for anything unnecessary in your van, including unhelpful or redundant cleaning products. If you are building your van clean-up kit for the first time, we recommend a good multi-purpose cleaning solution. Natural and pet-safe castile soap can be used for cleaning, laundry, and the body. Because it is highly concentrated, you only need to keep one bottle on board, diluting it with water to create larger amounts of soap to use. Pair this with a few rags and a small collapsible bucket, and you can tackle most surfaces in need of suds. Lysol wipes are another convenient option for wiping down surfaces in a pinch.
You’ll also want a broom and dustpan. A small handheld vacuum cleaner is optional but beloved by van dwellers for its ability to get crumbs and dirt out of tough-to-reach crevices. Dawn dish soap is a top choice for sanitizing your RV holding tanks. If you wash your van exterior at self-service car washes that provide all the cleaning and conditioning products, you won’t need to store anything extra in your van.
Start your spring cleaning in an area that gets a lot of wear and tear–your van kitchen. Empty your fridge and clean it thoroughly with a warm soapy solution. If you find mold, Lysol wipes will remove it and disinfect the surface. Take this opportunity to throw away any products that have been lurking in your fridge for too long. Just be aware that “best by” dates are only guidelines for when items are at their peak quality. If it looks and tastes fine and has been stored properly, you don’t need to toss out a product that is past the listed date (the only exception to this rule is baby formula). Replace your refrigerated foods, taking the chance to do any reorganizing that could make your life easier. Empty cabinets and wipe away dust with a damp cloth before replacing the items neatly. Clean the exterior and interior of all of your appliances with a soapy mixture and take care to scrub away any dried splatters. Finish by wiping your counters and sink to a polished sheen.
Your van bathroom, while small, can be a big cleaning job. That’s because you’ll want to clean and disinfect all of the surfaces and appliances including the sink, toilet, and shower. Pay attention to any signs of mold as this space gets a lot of moisture, especially if you have a wet bath. When cleaning your van toilet, keep in mind that products designed for household use are often harmful to RV sewage systems. For example, bleach can dry out rubber seals and cause long-term damage. If you don’t want to buy a product specifically made for RVs, white vinegar and a soft sponge will do the trick. While you should be cleaning your toilet often, a dedicated spring cleaning task would include lubricating the toilet’s seal with a product designed for this task. This will keep the system operating correctly so odors can’t escape the black water tank. Then continue with your regular process for emptying and cleaning your RVs holding tanks.
Van dwellers often gravitate towards the minimalism of the lifestyle, so much so that we wrote a blog post about why van life and minimalism are a match made in heaven. However, even the most steadfast minimalist is bound to have accumulated some things that they don’t need or want over several months. While you remove objects from cabinets and closets to clean and dust the surfaces, take the opportunity to decide what you truly want to keep. That REI jacket you got on sale that you never wear because it doesn’t layer comfortably? Gone. Redundant items? Removed. Well-intentioned gifts that are just taking up space? Don’t be afraid to add them to the donate pile, knowing that you will improve your quality of life by having only what you need. Besides getting rid of spare items, you can also rotate out seasonal clothing and gear. If you have a home base or a friend or family member with a bit of space in their garage, swap out the skis for your bike and leave a small box of winter clothing behind. If you don’t have this option, you can still reorganize your storage so spring clothing and gear are in the most accessible spots in your closet and gear garage.
The General Interior
Go beyond your usual weekly cleans by focusing on any hard-to-reach areas in need of dusting, sweeping, or some suds. Remove everything from your cabinets and drawers and wipe down the surfaces. Take stock of whether your existing layout is working. Then reorganize according to your lifestyle. If you’re not sure how to do this, write down what you do every day to get a general sense of which items need to be in the most accessible places and which items should be grouped together. As you clean, take advantage of warmer spring days to open your windows and air out the space. Spring is also the perfect time to refresh all of the cloth surfaces in your van. If possible, remove and wash window treatments and cloth furniture covers. At the very least, give them a good vacuum. Wash all of your linens, thoroughly vacuum any carpets, and air out anything you don’t want to wash like decorative cushions and down comforters. This will help remove any dust or allergens that could have accumulated over the past months so you can breathe easily.
The Exterior and Van Maintenance
The easiest way to keep the exterior of your van clean is to frequent self-serve car wash stations that are large enough to accommodate vans and provide all of the tools and cleaning solutions you’ll need. You should also wax your camper van around twice a year to keep it in shipshape condition. If your awning is looking dirty or stained, you can also give that some attention. Throughout the van interior and exterior, check for damage to seals and seams to get repaired or fix yourself. Before you embark on your spring adventures, you should also do all of your regular van maintenance tasks, including checking the engine and tires and getting fluids and filters changed. Twice a year, you should get your brakes inspected and your tires rotated. Don’t wait if this maintenance is scheduled before your spring cleaning. However, if it’s about that time when you start your cleaning mission, you can continue the productivity by getting these tasks taken care of.
Reward yourself for all of your hard work by sprucing up your van interior a bit. Now is the perfect time to try out a new layout or design scheme. If you’re happy with the overall look and feel of your space, you can still multiply the spring feeling by buying a small houseplant or two. Then light a candle and sit back to enjoy your handiwork. For more cozy tips, check out “How to Make Your New Camper Van Feel Like Home.”
If it’s time to upgrade your entire rig, visit RecVan to browse our wide variety of camper vans with the industry’s most innovative features for comfort and utility.