Make your RV awning last for a very long time with some basic maintenance. RV awnings are a critical piece of equipment, especially for long term camping. The shade cools down the space around the RV and more importantly, it creates a welcoming outdoor area for sitting, barbecues and lounging. A few basic maintenance steps along with general precautions will ensure the awning remains in great shape for a very long time.
Know Your Awning
For many awnings, less is more in terms of cleaning and maintenance. Check the owner’s manual for your awning material and coating. Awnings are either made of vinyl or acrylic and most come with a coating to shed water. If your awning is less than a few years old, the coating will be fresh and water should roll right off.
Living in humid and moist climates can lead to moisture penetration and cleaning is sometimes required before the awning is rolled up for long periods of time. Rolling it up clean and dry is critical for preventing mold growth during storage. Plan for a sunny day when cleaning to allow the awning to dry.
Cleaning with a soft bristle brush and soap and water is fine for most awnings that are really dirty. Only spraying with water however works well for new awnings and prevents damage to the coating. You want to clean hot spots that have organic material embedded in the RV. Otherwise, avoid scrubbing too hard as it removes the waterproof coating and makes the material more vulnerable in the future.
UV Damage is a Real Threat
The awning is made for shade but at the same time, sunshine is the biggest factor in deterioration over time. UV rays are hard on all fabrics and eventually, they will break down protective coatings and age the fabric. If you’re awning is brand new or only a few years old, it’s not a big deal but you can still add an awning cover to shield the rolled up fabric. It will still receive UV rays when rolled up without a shield or cover of some sort.
Awnings that are sun baked for months at a time will require some attention. Do an inspection before rolling up the awning and check for UV damage. In most cases, you will see the delamination on the fabric. Products like awning guard exist to add a new layer of sun protectant over the specific wear spots. This is a good way to keep and older awning functioning for a few extra years before the fabric requires replacement.
Re-Treating the Fabric
Your first year or two will see little wear because the awning is treated with a fabric guard. Pour a cup of water on the awning as a test and it should bead up and roll away. If the water penetrates the material however, it means the factory coating is wearing off and the awning now requires a fresh coat of treatment. Spray on treatments are easy to find through most RV supply stores or you can order online. Some are mild treatments that will last for a few months while others are more industrial and long lasting. You don’t necessarily have to buy something with an RV awning label either. Look for commercial fabric guards specific to vinyl or acrylic and buy one to treat your awning. Follow the instructions carefully to ensure it cures properly and evenly across the entire fabric surface.
Dry and Store
Always make sure the awning is dry before rolling it up for storage. If you are relocating and plan on using the awning the same or next day, a small amount of moisture is ok but for long term storage, dry it out completely. Storing the awning with moisture will cause mildew, mold and potentially, permanent damage.
When you roll the awning, take your time and really make sure it’s rolled tightly and fully secured to the RV. Failing to secure straps can cause it to catch the wind while driving. It will pull on materials and in a worst case scenario, will rip the awning away from the RV exterior body.
Make it clean, dry and secure and the awning will stay in great shape for many years. Roll up the awning if you know a major storm is approaching because severe winds are a threat. Set your awning at an angle to prevent water from pooling and keep the top clear of snow and debris. Most awnings are not designed to handle a large weight load. Excess weight may damage the hardware supporting the fabric.