We’re often asked about winterizing our campers. We have two campers. One is a big camper that sits in an RV park at a lake in the next state over from our base camp (a/k/a our house). The other is a 25′ micro lite that we keep parked in my mom’s driveway that we take out whenever and as often as we can. Winterizing, as I’m sure you can imagine, is pretty much the same for both of them.
First Thing’s First…
Clean – It almost seems like it’s not enough to say “clean” since it seems obvious. Remember when you’re cleaning you don’t want to leave pleasant scents behind that attract bugs, mice, squirrels and chipmunks (just to name a few). So stick with using simple soap & water or bleach & water solutions and avoid strong smelling cleaners or pre-moistened, anti-bacterial wipes.
- Wipe down all visible surfaces, paying special attention to those surfaces that are contacted often by hands.
- Sweep, mop & vacuum all floors, paying special attention to edges and corners where crumbs could collect.
- Wipe down all non-visible surfaces. This includes inside cabinets, drawers, the microwave, oven, fridge, freezer, etc. A good rule of thumb is if food or hands touched it, wipe it down. Remember you’re not just trying to remove food particles or chemical smells but you also want to remove YOUR smell.
Move Out – This sounds funny, but what I mean is “pack” or whatever you have to do to get certain things out of the camper while you’re not occupying it for a long period of time. You will have the most success of keeping bugs and animals out of your camper in your absence if there isn’t anything there to entice them to stay.
- Remove all food. It seems obvious that you should remove things that will spoil from cabinets or the fridge/freezer, but if you live somewhere where freezing could occur you should remove non-perishable cans and jars as well so they don’t expand when freezing and explode.
- Remove all linens. Pack up those towels, sheets, blankets, pillows, rugs, etc. Put them in a tote box and take them home. I have seen with my own eyes a mouse get into a sealed tote box and nothing makes for a cozier winter than a tote full of fluffy warm bedding.
- Close up tight! Make sure all windows and doors are closed.
Prevent Lines From Freezing – Some folks run anti-freeze through all their lines and some just blow their lines out. We blow our lines out and sometimes pour a tiny bit of anti-freeze into the drains for anything water caught in traps that could freeze and expand. If you have any inline water filters, remember to remove and bypass before starting.
- The best instructions I’ve ever seen were written by Mark J Polk for KOA and can be found here: http://rvservices.koa.com/rvinformation/rvmaintenance/step-by-step-rv-winterizing-checklist.asp
Now for the debatable stuff…
Put Out Deterrents – Now I say debatable because people who use deterrents usually swear by them and people who don’t (like me) presume they don’t make a difference. I will say I strongly believe that you WILL wind up with some bugs and mice, maybe even another kind of rodent. They come in because they can. They are looking for sustenance. If they find sustenance, they will stay. If they don’t, they will move on. If you’re looking hard enough you will find a couple droppings making you aware of their presence before they departed. I’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs so I can’t say these things truly do or don’t work. I’ve never seen a mouse or other rodent in my camper, but have occasionally come across a couple mouse dropping and the occasional gnawed on acorn. I would urge you to just keep in mind that if it won’t make them go away, it also won’t deter them from coming in in the first place. So if throwing a cotton ball soaked in peppermint oil into a mouses nest doesn’t make them go away, it also won’t keep them from building that nest in the first place.Below I’ve listed some of the deterrents I’ve read about and some I’ve used. I’ve provided my experience (and some photos) so you can make your own decisions when it comes to deterrents.
Irish Spring Bar Soap – The below photos aren’t mine and I honestly never tried this purposefully to deter rodents or bugs, but I can tell you that I had some Irish Spring bar soap in my camper in a cabinet once and found it looking just like the photos below! Now you know why I never tried it. LOL
Peppermint oil – This is one I’ve tried over and over. I’ve set out cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil and sprayed surfaces down with a peppermint oil/water solution. The reason I’ve tried this one so much is because I also heard spiders don’t like peppermint oil. I can tell you from firsthand “saw it with my own eyes” experience that spiders don’t give a crud one way or another about peppermint oil. The spiders we have at the lake will literally walk right over wherever I’ve sprayed with the oil.
Bounce dryer sheets – This is the first year I haven’t laid out dryer sheets in my campers. Every other year I have. While I’ve never found mice that have stayed and nothing destroyed, etc., I have found the occasional excrement on a dryer sheet. I’m not sure how well they’re working if mice walk across them and poop on them, unless they’re using them as a puppy pad – potty training mice! HAHA Even though I’m not convinced it works I’ve been nervous to jinx myself by not using them until this year. I’ll update everyone once we open them up in the Spring as to how well it went without dryer sheets.
Moth balls outside – This one I haven’t tried before but do know someone who literally flooded the entire outside perimeter of their camper. (You could smell it a half block away. LOL) The bad news is it didn’t work. They had a dead mouse in their toilet bowl, mouse droppings all over their countertops and some damaged cushions from their chewing.
Steel Wool – Steel wool RUSTS! I found this out the hard way. I placed steel wool in corners of the slides in hopes rodents couldn’t get in passed it. We had a rainy spring causing the air in the camper and outside to be humid and the wool rusted, leaving stains on everything it had come in contact with.
There are a number of reasons for winterizing, but the main reason is to ensure you don’t have lines freeze, causing damage to certain functionality in your camper, and also to try to keep pests out so they’re not leaving excrement all over and destroying your habitat to create their own. There’s a video below if you want to check out our antics while we closed up and winterized our lake camper.