You might think that those beautiful motorhomes you see driving down the road have a full paint job, just like your car or truck. But if the dominant color on a motorhome is white, off-white, or gray, chances are the white is plain fiberglass, and the graphics (swoops and swirls) are vinyl decals (not paint).
Vinyl is cheaper than paint. And in the RV world, particularly with older rigs, “full paint” is a luxury for higher end coaches.
The problem with decals is that while they look nice at first, they don’t tend to age well. The UV rays of the sun often cause them to crack and fade. Well-intended attempts to make them shiny by applying wax actually cause them to deteriorate more quickly. Wax can also leave gray streaks and splotches. Many cleaning products will cause them to peel.
Our problem was that our 2004 Fleetwood Southwind looked pretty good but had UGLY FADED decals that made the entire vehicle look kind of shabby. So, I went to the Internet for advice on how to clean them. I was told to use:
- Mineral oil
- Vegetable oil
- 303 UV Treatment and Sealer
- Rejuvenate Plastic Restorer
- Various other brands of cleaners and wax, and even
- Peanut Butter!
I tried some of these decal treatments (but not peanut butter) on small, inconspicuous spots. But none of them cleaned the decals very well, and the ones that worked didn’t look good for long. The best of the bunch was Rejuvenate, but even that didn’t look very good.
The solution, it turns out, is both cheap and easy!
- Green-backed scrub sponge. I used Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges that we bought at Costco (but available almost anywhere)
- Rejuvenate Restorer Wipes. I used eight wipes for two coats of sealer.
Step 1 – Saturate the sponge with water.
Step 2 – Scrub small sections of the faded decals with the green side of the sponge using medium pressure. I found that this worked best when I kept the sponge really wet, and I wasn’t shy about using lots of pressure to clean the dirtiest areas.
Step 3 – After completing a section, squeeze out the sponge and use the soft side of the sponge to rinse and wipe away the loosened dirt and oxidation.
Step 4 – Repeat on other sections of your decals and allow them to dry.
Step 5 – When the RV is dry, apply Rejuvenate to the clean decals. I found that I needed two wipes per side of our 37-foot Southwind, and put on two coats (a total of eight wipes). The Rejuvenate added a bit of shine, and will, I hope, help protect the decals from further damage.
Please understand that this process will clean the decals, but it won’t fix cracks or any other physical deterioration. But as you can see, the before and after pictures are pretty dramatic.
All in all, this job took me two days, and a total of about three hours. I could have done it in one day except that it was very hot. I got tired of scrubbing (and sweating), and I also didn’t want to apply Rejuvenate to the decals in full, hot sun. The total cost was less than $30.
If you try this, please leave a comment to let us know how it works for you. And if you have a have another method, we’re eager to hear about that, too!