During a hot day in the great outdoors, it's nice to rest in the shade beneath your RV’s awning. But it’s not so nice to look up and discover that discolored stains and growing tears are taking over your awning. Properly caring for your awning is an integral part of extending its lifespan and preserving its functionality. Over time and with frequent use, RV awnings can collect ugly mildew and mold spots, bug juice stains, and the occasional splatter of bird droppings. To avoid these common eyesores and keep your awning ready for whatever adventure lies ahead, make sure you are taking the time to properly care for your RV awning.
There are two types of fabrics used to make RV awnings: vinyl or acrylic. It is important to know what material you are working with, because they each require slightly different cleaning methods. It can be a good idea to routinely hose down your awing and wash off the dirt that collects, especially after extended use. And always let it dry completely before returning it to the travel position. Frequently doing so is a smart preventative measure that will help you avoid having to buy commercial cleaners to remove deeply-embedded stains. Fabric guards and surface protectants are also available to help you fight off stains and keep your RV awning looking new. You can clean the components and hardware of your awning with whatever you use to clean your RV's exterior.
Acrylic: Also called fabric or canvas, acrylic awnings are known for their water resistant properties and fast-drying capabilities. When cleaning an acrylic awning, you want to make sure to avoid scrubbing it as much as you can. Heavy scrubbing wears away and removes the water retardant finish, leaving you with a damp awning that can begin to leak over time. To clean, apply a solution of soft soap and water, letting it soak into the fabric. Then, thoroughly rinse your awning and give it plenty of time to dry. For tougher stains, blot a commercial cleaner onto the problem spots with a soft sponge or cloth. Give the cleaner time to activate and then rinse it off thoroughly. Remember, when it comes to acrylic, the less you scrub the better.
Vinyl: Pesky mildew stains often form on vinyl awnings from the dirt and dust that collects, and they can be difficult to remove. This issue is particularly troublesome in hot and muggy climates. Because vinyl is prone to collecting mildew, it is important that a vinyl awning never be stored away when it is damp or wet. To clean, apply a solution of soft soap and water, let it soak in, and wipe your awning down with a scrub brush. Then, rinse thoroughly and allow plenty of time for it to dry before closing it. For tough stains, make a solution of diluted white vinegar or baking soda and water, and coat the moldy spots with it. Let the solution sit undisturbed for several minutes before gently scrubbing it. Then rinse down your awning and let it dry completely.
Repairing Damaged Fabric
If you notice damage to your RV’s awning fabric, you may not need to get an entirely new awning. But you will have to address the tears, holes, and rips in your existing awning if you want to avoid a costly new replacement. There are a variety of easy and relatively inexpensive ways to repair and patch up an awning. It’s best to do repairs after the awning has been cleaned. Don’t overlook even the tiniest tear, because it could develop into a big tear that will likely end up costing you.
Tape: Using tape to repair torn fabric can be a quick and inexpensive fix, especially since you probably already have some laying around the house. Duct tape or Gorilla tape is sufficient and can be found at any hardware store. Tent repair tape is also an option which can be picked up from a camping supply store. There are even tapes designed specifically for either acrylic or vinyl fabrics, often available at any RV supply dealer.
Sewing Awl: Sewing up a tear can sound challenging, especially if you’re not very skilled with a needle and thread. But stitching can be simplified with a handy, easy-to-use tool known as a sewing awl, like the speedy stitcher. This method works great for canvas materials and can be a long-lasting fix for small holes and rips.
Patches: For a quick, no-sew fix, awning repair patches can be used to close up holes and cover tears. These patches can come in a variety of application methods from adhesive-backed patches to heat-press patches. Tear-aid repair kits are a popular adhesive option for a solid awning patch job.
Silicon Caulk: To repair your awning using silicon caulk, just put a dab on your finger and smear it lightly over the rip or tear. Let it dry before repeating the process on the opposite side of the awning. For light-colored fabrics, use a white silicon caulk. For darker fabrics, use a clear silicon caulk. Make sure the caulk is able to dry before closing up your awning!
Whenever you’re examining your RV awning, don’t just pay attention to the fabric, but to the hardware and components as well. Ensure that they are functioning correctly to avoid any camping injuries. Don’t wait until you are questioning the structural integrity of your awning before seeking a solution to fix it. Nothing puts a damper on an outdoor adventure quite like an awning coming down on your head. Instead, just routinely inspect the hardware for bends, dents, and any warping that can occur.
Tips for a Longer-Lasting Awning
- Make sure you pitch your awning so that rain water can run off properly. Water that pools on top of your awning can cause extensive long-term damage.
- If wind gusts are too strong, put your awning away in the travel position. A set of de-flapper clamps can also help to stabilize your awning during windy days and help prevent tearing and rips.
- Don’t store your fabric awning when it is wet! Give it time to dry before closing it or you risk mildew stains and foul odors.
- Pick a hot day to clean your awning, and if possible, do it in a dry place.
- Avoid oil-based acrylic cleaners or cleaners with high concentrations of bleach as they can be harmful to vinyl surfaces.
Storing away your awning properly and routinely cleaning it are the best ways to ensure that it looks good and lasts long. Take time periodically to care for your awning properly and it will save you money in the long run. Wouldn't you rather spend your time making these delicious Campfire Paninis instead of fixing your awning anyway?