Keeping the van clean is difficult, because it’s permanently on the road, the road is dirty and constant exhaust fumes both mine and others sticks to the van. The van being aluminium is quite difficult to clean especially from soot and grease and it’s an ongoing struggle. However, I found something called melamine sponges which seem to help out in certain ways.
I originally bought them as Doktor Power Magic Eraser cleaning pads from JML of all people. They weren’t on a JML stand, they were hanging up in Asda Living and were only £3. It’s one long block of sponge and you cut it to size, so you get 3 hand sized sponges out of it. I like to try anything once so I bought them at that price to see how they were. I used the first one on the ceiling as it was grimy from years of smoking and road dirt and cooking and exhaust fumes and I was totally gobsmacked by the results.
Just as they say, you only need warm water, I used lukewarm. And a light stroke of the sponge soaked and then rinsed out just swiped straight through the dirt. I’m rarely so shocked at anything but at this I was. Small but hard dried on grease droplets above the cooker were more difficult, but I found that using my thumb and pressing the sponge on the spot then spinning it brought it straight off.
I had completed the whole ceiling of the van in a few hours and then I started on the walls which are plywood coated with some durable, waterproof material like plasticised paper. In the same way as the ceiling the sponge just took the dirt right off simply and easily and without fuss or effort. I tried it on fabric and it was effective on there too and I also tried it on glass and I have never seen the bathroom mirrors so clean.
The final test was the woodwork which was again greasy with cooking and smoking and general road dirt. The sponge just lifted the dirt as if it was surface dust. I had to rub moderately hard on some areas such as around door handles which also attracts grease from hands but it came off without much effort. In 3 days the entire interior of the van was done, simply and easily and without a single chemical in sight.
The one caveat I’d offer is that the first time I used a sponge my finger ends were very sore the next day and I ended up with wicklows on 3 fingers on one hand and 2 on the other. The second time it wasn’t so bad and now I don’t get them at all, but I guess if I was recommending these to anyone I’d suggest using household gloves with them to protect your fingers. It’s only an uneducated guess, but the guess is that tiny fibres come off as you use it and get lodged down the sides of your fingernails. Why it only happens the first couple of times I don’t know.
I used all of the 3 sponges because what I found was they slowly but surely crumble as you use them. They go hard and compacted, then they split, then bits fall off easily until there’s barely anything left of them. They’re much like the way a bar of soap disappears, it’s really odd, but given that it was £3 for a sponge that cut into 3 pieces and completed half the entire interior of the van without using chemicals of any kind then that’s damn good value to me.
After finding out exactly what they were made of I found that they are cheap anyway from the internet. I found a Chinese supplier on Amazon and if I was prepared to wait 10 days for delivery I could get 100 sponges for £9.99. Bargain! They’re only small, about half the size of each third of a JML sponge, so 6 of these in one of the JML ones. But paying £3 for one in Asda Living means 50p each of the size of the smaller ones. Paying £9.99 for 100 smaller ones, or as each one is about half the size of a JML sponge lets say 50 comparatively sized sponges then that’s only about 20p each. Less than half price. Consider that currently JML are offering there’s on sale for £12 for 2, down from £20! lol
Anyway I got my pack within a week and set about cleaning the rest of the van. I had started on the outside of the van as well when I decided on a way I could show you how effective these pads are. I have been stripping all the external doors: lockers, toilet, gas etc and renovating the locks, cleaning the plastic frames and resealing the inserts. As they’re 14 years old I wondered how to make the yellowed plastic fittings white again and I had heard of some specialist chemicals that helped, but apparently these harm the surface of the plastic irreparably.
So out of curiosity I tried a bit of sponge and guess what? Yeah you guessed it, it cut right through the yellow stained plastic which even Cif and Flash and a light household bleach type cleaner could not clean. I did the first fridge vent at the top but left the bottom one while I took a photo of the difference. It’s absolutely astonishing I think for something to work so well when several chemical based cleaners have failed.
Sadly the black marks you see on the aluminium are from the putty type material that is used to seal the vans joints to prevent leaks. It’s an oily type stuff and the sponges can’t get that off, neither can they get anything other than surface exhaust smoke off where the tail pipe was lost and exhaust was blowing directly onto the side skirt.
So if you have general cleaning inside to do or your external plastics have yellowed over the years try this stuff out, it truly is amazing.
I got mine from Amazon and here’s the link but for some reason they are not for sale here at the moment. Keep checking back or try one of the other suppliers of which there are many on Amazon.