Dirty Business: How to Clean Your Used Campervan and Prep for Your Buildout

Home sweet home!

Unless you’ve saved up enough to put a down payment on a brand new vehicle your used Home on the Loose will most likely have disgusting remnants and reminders of the previous owners hidden in the cracks and crevices of your vehicle. An essential part of your build should be to make this vehicle your own. You have years to add your own filth to your campervan. It’s time to give your new baby a bath and then start detailing. 

Phase One: Exterior Cleaning Treatment

1) Thorough spray down and initial rinse: Get out the garden hose and a gentle spray nozzle and get everything wet. Channel your inner child and make sure to spray your wife, kids, the neighbor’s dog, innocent passersby. Just make sure to smile really big and they probably won’t punch you. 

2) Apply a soap and wax combo. Use a shammy and sponge, don’t neglect the roof and don’t wax anything you would like to see out of/shine your headlights through later! Dump your wash water a few times as it becomes grey.

3) Water Rinse: Garden hose and inner child again, you should see your new baby start to shine now.

4) Use Armor-All Detail Spray for the black trim. If you are converting a Sprinter, this will bring the black back to your trim. (ours was looking brown/grey)

5) Marvel at the shiny!

Note: Shiny obscured by shadows and crappy photography.

Phase Two: Interior Prep and Cleaning

Now that the outside is looking good, it’s time to turn your attention to the disgusting interior of your future home. Take a deep breath, don’t picture letting your kids and beloved spouse live inside this nasty metal box for months at a time. (You’re picturing it now aren’t you? Just stop it!) Say to yourself: “I will eradicate the filth from this vehicle and make it mine.” Take a few more deep breaths (preferably nowhere near that unidentified dust ball near the passenger seat) and then begin.

7) Remove bulkhead

Remove side panels (save these to use as templates later)

Remove subfloor (this triggered my first van ride to the home store. For a Sprinter you need Torx 30 and Torx 45 bits to get the bolts holding the subfloor down out. Save the subfloor panels to be used as templates later.)

Rip out the nasty felt product that’s been under the subfloor for the past 6 years

You will now have a (mostly) empty cargo area with a ton of gross dirt, dust and other unidentifiable debris that’s been hiding under the subfloor. (as well as five or six quarters. Score!) Next up will be sessions with the shop vac and a major interior dusting.

Pull out the shop vac and suck up all the nasty. Remember to vacuum the compartments under the seats and in all the little nooks and crannies of the walls.

Fill a bucket with hot water, a few drops of Castille Soap and a few tablespoons of vinegar. Use a cloth to wipe down any surfaces to get rid of the last of the nasty.

Invite your family out and let the kids roll around in your now clean van. Pat yourself on the back that you have made this great space to now fill with your own personal brand of funk. (It’s okay because it’s yours.)

See you out there!


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