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Cleaning an Old Camper

Are you stuck with a camper that has seen better days? If you’re looking to get rid of it and clean it out but need help figuring out how to do it, then you’ve come to the right place.

This how-to guide will walk you through the process of cleaning out your junky camper, whether you’re looking to get rid of the whole thing or just some of its parts. Read on to find out what steps you need to take to properly clean out your old camper in Chicago.

Research and Planning

Before you start cleaning out an old camper, it is important to do some research. Find out what model of camper you are dealing with, how old it is, and what parts may be salvageable.

You can look up information about the camper online, or if you have the owner’s manual, it will likely include all the necessary details. Additionally, you can research the laws in Chicago regarding the disposal or donation of old campers.

Researching Camper Models

Before you start cleaning out your old camper, it’s important to plan out what you’ll do and how you’ll do it. First, decide whether you’re going to keep the camper or get rid of it altogether. If you’re keeping it, consider what items you need to bring in to make it livable, such as furniture, appliances, and more.

If you’re getting rid of the camper, then you need to figure out how to dispose of it properly. Some junkyards and scrapyards will take campers for free or for a small fee. You can also try to donate the camper to a charity that accepts motorhomes.

Good, Cheap, or Fast

Have you heard of the “iron triangle of service?” It’s a concept used to describe the constraints of any service-related project. It consists of three factors: quality, cost, and speed. The idea is that any service project must work within the constraints of these three factors to be successful.

It applies to more than just service and can be applied to any project. Quality refers to how well a project is completed and its end result. Cost is the amount of money invested in the project, whether that be for materials, labor, or anything else. Speed is how quickly the project is completed.

It’s important to note that all three of these factors are interdependent; if you want to increase one, you will have to reduce or sacrifice another.

An Old Camper

So, you can have cheap and fast, but you’ll end up with low quality. Or choose good and cheap, and you’ll spend a lot of time, and time for many of us, also equals money. Finally, you can choose fast and good, but it will cost you.

In this post, we’re going to give you three ways to clean out and get rid of a junk camper in the Chicago area. We’ll start with the easiest way to get rid of a junky trailer and move progressively through to the most labor-intensive, which will also take the most work.

You can:

  1. Sell “as is.”
  2. Strip it down and sell the parts.
  3. Convert it for another use.

Fastest — Sell “As Is”

If you’re looking to clean out and offload an old, junky camper in Chicago, you can simply pick up the phone and make a call. We’d like to think that your first call would be to us at JunkRelief.

We’ve made getting in touch with us as easy as possible. Reach out online and let us know how we can help you. It helps if you take a couple of photos and upload them to the page so we can have a good look at the size of your camper.

You can make a Skype call, text, or call us locally at 312-800-1940. We also have an online chat feature where we typically reply within a few minutes. We’ll take a look at your project, give you a comprehensive quote, and ensure there are no surprises, hidden fees, or extra charges when we arrive.

Junk Relief Representative

Another quick way to get rid of your old camper is to donate it in exchange for a tax receipt. There are several organizations that will pick up and take your old vehicle (or camper) as long as it meets their donation requirements.

National organizations that accept vehicles for donation include:

You can also call one of Chicago’s local scrap yards and arrange for them to take your old camper and pay the value of the metal portion of the camper. Most of these yards will give you a flat rate based on estimated scrap metal inside.

Once you have a plan in place, start by sorting through all the contents inside the camper and removing anything of value that you’ll want to keep.

Slow — Strip it Down and Sell the Parts

Cleaning out a junk camper and selling the parts involves quite a bit of work. This can be time-consuming but necessary, and you may be surprised at how much the individual parts are worth.

Abel Zimmerman Zyl, a tiny house designer and founder of Zyl, is confident “there’s a market for that.” He believes that many tiny housebuilders repurpose parts from old trailers and are looking for the parts and pieces of older campers.

The two main areas of an old camper that may have sellable parts are the interior and exterior.

There are two parts to this job — remove and sell all parts that are worth something and also make a pile of items that are strictly junk and will need to go to the landfill. If you have a place to park your camper and can work on the project over time, you’ll benefit from a process of removing, cleaning, selling, or driving to the dump.

Stripping Down a Camper Van

Here’s a list of websites that both sell as well as buy used camper parts. You can check these resources to get an idea of what your camper parts are worth:

Interior Parts

Furniture: If the furniture in your camper is still in good condition, you can remove it and sell the pieces.

Old Camper Furniture

Examples of furniture you can sell include:

  • Accent chair(s)
  • Bench seats and cushions
  • Dining table
  • Mattresses
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Bath cabinets

Appliances and accessories: If the appliances in your camper are still functional, you can sell them online or at local appliance stores. Make sure you include all the necessary cords and accessories when you package up the appliance for sale.

Taking Out Camper Appliances

Examples of appliances and accessories you can sell include:

  • Fridge and parts
  • Oven, range, hood fan, and parts
  • Microwave and parts
  • Dishwasher and parts
  • Countertop
  • Washer and dryer and parts
  • Water heater and parts
  • Furnace and heater(s)
  • Vents
  • Mirrors

Freshwater and plumbing parts and accessories: You can strip down the plumbing parts from your junk camper and find a market for even the smallest parts.

Stripping Camper Plumbing Parts

Examples of plumbing parts and accessories you can sell include:

  • Toilet
  • Shower stall, door, and taps
  • Kitchen sink and taps
  • Bath sink and taps
  • Fresh water tank and fittings
  • Water pump and fittings
  • Water hoses and pressure regulators

Electrical parts and accessories: Pulling out the lighting and electrical parts will also give you a surprising amount of goods for sale.

Pulling Out Camper Electrical Parts

Examples of electrical parts and accessories you can sell include:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Power panel
  • Transfer switches
  • 110- and 12-volt adapters, volt connectors, and outlets
  • Surge protectors

Exterior Parts

Doors, windows, etc.: If your camper has exterior doors and windows that are still in good shape, you can take them off and sell them. You can find buyers for vintage doors online or even at local salvage yards.

A Camper Van Exterior

Examples of parts in this category that you can sell include:

  • Moldings
  • Body parts
  • Fender skirts
  • Mirrors
  • Small doors and hatches
  • Vinyl and rubber inserts
  • Vinyl caps

Small parts and accessories: There’s a treasure trove of small parts on the outside of a camper that can be worth money.

Disassembling Camper For Parts

Examples of small parts and accessories you can sell include:

  • Porch lights
  • Tail lights
  • Steps and rugs
  • Towing bar
  • Brakes and accessories
  • Hitches and wiring
  • Vents and roof supplies
  • Satellite and TV antennas
  • Relays and controllers
  • Generator
  • Jacks, blocks, and chocks
  • Hardware, locks, levels, gas fittings
  • Covers and RV awnings
  • Tires

Once you’ve emptied your old camper of all your personal belongings and removed the major fixtures and finishes, you can begin stripping down and cleaning it out. You’ll want to:

  • Disconnect the utility lines and plumbing systems
  • Disable the brakes
  • Disconnect the battery and propane tanks
  • Detach any awnings

Be sure to wear protective gear when doing this work, as there are many ways you or your clothing can get snagged and damaged.

Slow — Clean Out and Repurpose

The most time-consuming way to clean out a junk trailer is when you’re looking to repurpose it. While this will consume many evenings and weekends, it can give you a tiny second home that you can use for yourself or rent out to recoup the money you invested in the project.

While cleaning out an old camper can be daunting, it doesn’t have to be! Like all big projects, you “eat the elephant one bite at a time.”

Begin by removing all items that are inside the camper, such as mattresses, bedding, furniture, and anything else that is inside. Once these items are removed, inspect the interior of the camper for any damage or wear and tear.

This is important as it will give you an idea of what kind of repairs or renovations may need to be made before the camper is completely cleaned out. If there is any visible damage, such as water damage, mold, mildew, or rust, then make sure to address this before moving on to the next step.

You’ll also want to invest in a few boxes of heavy-duty garbage bags. If the fixtures and fittings in your old camper are going to be replaced, you’ll need to rip them out and make sure they end up on Facebook Marketplace or at your local landfill.

Once you’ve checked for any damage and cleared out all of the items from inside the camper, then you can move on to cleaning out the exterior of the camper. This includes checking for any pest infestations or other forms of damage.

First, seal any potential entry points in the camper, such as cracks in windows, doors, or walls. You can use caulk or expandable foam insulation to fill any holes or cracks. It is also important to check around pipes and wires and seal them with a steel mesh.

Second, you can use rodent-repellent sprays inside and outside the camper to keep mice and other rodents away. Repellents are generally made with natural ingredients like peppermint oil that have proven to be effective in repelling rodents.

Finally, you can use traps or baits around the camper to capture any mice that may already be present. If you do choose to use traps, be sure to place them in areas where children and pets won’t be able to get to them. Additionally, always wear gloves when dealing with traps and immediately dispose of any trapped mice.

Cleaning a Camper Van

Here are some easy steps to help you get started deep cleaning your camper. You’ll want to do this whether you are selling the whole camper or repurposing it:

1. Start by removing any old furniture and items that may be in the camper. This will help create a more spacious area to clean.

2. Deep clean the fridge, freezer, oven and stovetop, microwave, and counters. Pull forward any of the appliances so you can clean the backs and sides where the grunge likes to collect. Use these highly-recommended products:

  • Dawn Powerwash Spray
  • BLUELAND’s Multi-Surface Cleaner

3. Wipe down every surface in the bathroom with one or a combination of the following:

  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Toilet tank cleaning wand
  • Mold and mildew cleaner

4. Clean all the windows and mirrors with glass cleaner.

  • RV window and mirror glass cleaner

5. Polish any metal surfaces, such as handles, light fixtures, and cupboards, with a special metal polish.

  • Flitz Multi-Purpose Polish and Cleaner Liquid

6. Wipe down any fabric surfaces, such as curtains and mattresses, with a slightly damp cloth, vinegar, and hot water mixture.

7. Vacuum the entire area, including the floors, walls, and ceilings. Make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.

8. Mop the floors with a disinfectant cleaner to remove any dirt, dust, and germs.

Of course, many old junk campers aren’t just full of junk on the inside. There’s typically lots of garbage and useless items piled up around the camper.

The same rule of thumb applies to items that have been stored around an old camper. Sort the irredeemable from anything that has value and can be sold.

Create a pile to go to the dump, a pile of things that can be recycled, and a pile of items that can be sold. Anything that can be sold, even if it’s just for coffee money, is less work for you and saves you the cost of traveling and disposal fees.


Joe Weidman

Joe is a Chicago native, born and raised in Elmhurst. He founded Junk Relief more than 10 years ago and has worked with more than 20,000 homeowners and businesses throughout Chicagoland. His passion for starting a business in junk removal stemmed from seeing the need to do things differently. He prides himself on his company's model to provide unexpectedly professional service.


If you’ve got junk in Chicago or the Chicagoland Suburbs, we can help. CALL US or TEXT US at (312) 800-1940.


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