How to Clean the Canvas on a Pop Up Camper

If you've purchased a pop up camper, you're probably familiar with the fact that it gets DIRTY. Fast! Knowing how to properly clean it is essential.

pop up camper parked in the woods

How to clean pop-up camper canvas? Yeah, we figured why try to come up with a fancy opening sentence when we could just get straight to the point, right? Or maybe we just couldn’t think of anything better. Oh well, as we both know you clicked on this post to get the details on how to clean the canvas on a pop-up camper.

Now, not all pop-up campers will come with canvas, as some will come with vinyl (some will also come with a combination of both). It’s also worth mentioning that before you begin cleaning the canvas, you should refer to the owner’s manual of your camper to follow any specific washing guidelines that are presented inside.

We’re also going to get into many different variables, so to speak, that come into play when you engage in this process. So, without further ado…

How to clean pop-up camper canvas?

Here’s the good news, it’s not rocket science to go about this process. This isn’t something you’ll need to call your local repair shop for. Cleaning the canvas on your pop-up is actually a rather simple and leisure cleaning activity. Well, it does depend on what you’re dealing with, but we digress. Let’s break this down:

Dealing with debris and dirt: Dirt, leaves, small branches, and other such debris should be swept off with a dry broom. Hopefully, no large branches damage and puncture the canvas as then you have deeper issues than just cleaning off debris.

Dealing with a more thorough cleaning: Once the canvas is clear of small debris and dirt, it’s time to get the soap and water out to start the real cleaning. Really, this is a matter of rinsing the canvas, washing the canvas, and then rinsing the soap off.

Here are some tips and pointers to keep in mind:

  • Wash the camper over gravel or concrete (not required by any stretch as you can wash it in the middle of your yard if you want to).
  • Use a mild cleaner that you’d find in your home.
  • Use either a sponge or a soft scrub brush for the actual cleaning.
  • As you would with a vehicle, have a water hose nearby for rinsing.

Drying the canvas

How to clean pop-up camper canvas is one thing, but what about drying the canvas? First things first, it’s very important to allow the canvas to fully dry before the pop-up is stored as this is going to prevent the build-up of mold and mildew. Moisture control is everything so allow the canvas to fully dry.

However, how do you do that? It’s pretty easy as you just have to allow Mother Nature to do her thing. After the canvas has been rinsed thoroughly, leave the pop-up camper up to allow it to fully air dry. Once it’s dry, you can then store it.

What about cleaning vinyl?

As noted earlier, you may have a pop-up camper with vinyl instead of canvas. The process of cleaning is not all that different, in all honesty. When dealing with vinyl, you’re going to want water, a sponge, and a mild liquid detergent. If you need something a bit more powerful, you can use cleaning products that are specifically designed to handle vinyl.

Also, a quick note is to avoid using a scrub brush on the exterior side of the vinyl as it can compromise the integrity of the material.

What happens if the canvas does end up having mold or mildew on it?

At the end of the day, preventing mold is all about controlling moisture. Mold can’t grow without moisture. As mentioned, a little bit ago, never store your pop-up while it’s wet as it needs to be allowed to dry completely before that. Yet, mold can also begin to grow if the camper has been left out in the elements for too long.

So, let’s just say the canvas on your pop-up does have mold on it. What can you do to address it? Well, for starters, addressing it is important as mold can ruin your canvas and can create a very unpleasant smell. There are many solutions that can clean and get rid of mold.

  • A mix of one part water and one part rubbing alcohol
  • A mix of one part vinegar and two parts water
  • A few teaspoons of tea tree oil in water (an expensive method)
  • You can opt for bleach, but the above methods are less abrasive

Time to waterproof

Rain on the tent in the jungle
Photo by Frame Harirak / Unsplash

Okay, let’s review. How to clean pop-up camper canvas? Check. How to dry canvas? Check. How to clean mold from the canvas? Check. Now, what if you want to add a waterproofing agent to the canvas of your pop-up? You better believe that you can do that too.

There are actually quite a few different products on the market that can waterproof canvas. So, your options aren’t exactly limited here. Several Flex Seal products, in fact, can work great for canvas. The line of products from the brand such as Flex Seal, Flex Shot, and Flex Seal Liquid can create protective barriers to keep water and moisture out.

Again, though, search the market if you want to go in a different direction. There truly are a number of different waterproofing sprays and such that you can use on canvas.

Final thoughts

How to clean pop-up camper canvas isn’t a very tricky subject matter, is it? Regarding how frequently you should clean, it really just depends. If you wanted to just do it once a year right before you take it out for the first time, that’d probably be perfectly acceptable.

As we mentioned, though, if you notice mold or mildew, it’s wise to tackle it right away. That’s not something that you want to wait for. A pop-up camper offers a lot of nice conveniences, so it’s only right that you keep it looking nice and fresh. But, then again, it may be overkill to wash it every single week.

Just make sure you allow it to dry before storing and you won’t have too many issues regarding cleaning!