First, I want to say I hope everyone had a wonderful and joyous Easter (or other spring holiday).  If your family is anything like mine, Easter is the start of the year’s camping preparation and planning season.   Now planning for us is deciding where and when we can take time to enjoy the summer.  Most often for us it is camping and boating or canoeing.  Or camping and motorcycle riding or camping and elk watching or just being outside.  Planning is easy.  Generally we plan a whole lot more than we can actually do!

Now, preparation is a whole other story as my kids will tell you.  It is more in line with what my mother called “Spring Cleaning”.  We clean EVERYTHING top to bottom, and, when I say top to bottom, I mean it.  We start with the outside and scrub and clean and wax the outside and check the caulking and all compartments and equipment, lights and batteries and anything else I can think of.

Wait, do I hear the kids whining already?

Inside, I am just as bad or even worse.  We clean top to bottom and that means scrubbing the ceiling, walls, cabinets and floors.  And that means taking everything out of the unit or at least moving it out of its storage area and cleaning.  We also very carefully check for any evidence of water damage, mouse damage or other winter problems.

Ok.  Now I am sure the kids are whining and crying in the background….

The biggest problem with water and mouse damage is the mold and mildew and other health problems that they can cause.  Mold and mildew can cause everything from allergic reactions with hives and breathing problems to milder, hard to identify problems like headache, cough, and a general lethargic state.  I am sure most of you have heard of the problems that plagued some of the flood and water damage victims of floods and hurricanes, when mold and mildew got into the walls.

Now, mouse damage is often overlooked or just taken as a cleaning problem.  What a lot of people forget is that these small animals are often carriers of disease.  In fact, in America many states have found rodent populations carrying such diseases as the Hanta virus and other deadly problems.

The cotton rat Sigmodon hispidus is a hantavirus carrier that becomes a threat when it enters human habitation in rural and suburban areas.
The cotton rat Sigmodon hispidus is a hantavirus carrier that becomes a threat when it enters human habitation in rural and suburban areas.

So, I want to discuss how you can and should clean your camper if you have any of these damage problems.  First off, you have to get rid of the source of the problem.  You can’t clean if the water continues to come into the unit or if the mouse family is still living in your camper.  Once you have gotten rid of the source, you can start your real cleaning.

Mold and mildew damage should be cleaned first when they are damp.  If you wait, the mold and mildew will produce spores, and, when you touch them, they will spread anywhere the air can carry them – in other words, all through your camper.  Spray the area with a mix of bleach and water (test the area to make sure the mixture will not damage any finishes).  I like a mixture of about 1 cup of bleach in a gallon of water.  Other cleaners that work well are commercial preparations like Ascend or any good disinfectant.  The idea is to kill the mold and mildew and stop them from spreading.

The rodent damage should be cleaned in the same manner with the same disinfectants.  Once again, you want to keep the items from drying out and spreading in the air.  Place any bedding or nesting in plastic bags and dispose of them.

I also think, at a minimum, you should be wearing long sleeves and well dressed as in jeans and socks and shoes.   Shorts and flip flops are not well dressed.  Please wear gloves (Playtex works well) and a face mask or “dust mask” is a great idea; you can often find them in places like Lowes or Home Depot in the paint area or protective equipment.  Discard the gloves and mask when you are done, saving them only keeps a potential source of what you were trying to get rid of around.

Now the kids are running away to hide!

Now, don’t forget to disinfect your water tank and lines for the new camping year as well as making sure your grey and black tanks are good and clean.  Make sure the water heater and refrigerator and furnace are all clean and no rust, or debris are around the area of the flame or the vents.

And once all that the work is done, crack open a cool drink of your favorite refreshment and sit down and relax.  Being ready and clean will make things so much easier for the rest of the year.

And the kids?  They will come back soon, and, hopefully, they will have forgotten now much work it is to do spring cleaning then next year you can con them into it again.  Or you can just do what I do… BLACKMAIL them.  I just tell them if they don’t help clean, they don’t go camping.  If you work them hard enough, they don’t have enough breath to whine!

Your Obedient Servant,

Gary Smith, Jr.

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