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How to Clean a Horse Trailer - Keep Your Trailer Good As New With These Tips

Written by Rachael Kraft - Updated August 2022

When your brand new horse trailer is delivered right to your door, it’s spotless, sparkly, and squeaky-clean. As you look at your trailer for the first time, you’re excited to take a trip and start using it right away - but at the same time, you don’t want your trailer to ever lose that glorious new-trailer smell.

Inevitably, after a few months of traveling to the mountains for weekend trail rides or heading to equine shows and competitions, your trailer starts to get dirty. And that dust and dirt can build and build if you don’t clean your horse trailer regularly. 

And while horse trailer cleaning might not be the most exciting task, it’s one of the most important things you can do to make sure your trailer lasts a long time. If you regularly clean your gooseneck or bumper pull trailer, it’ll keep your trailer in top notch conditions and you’ll always be ready to hit the road and head to your favorite equine activities. 

In this article…

Don’t Skip Horse Trailer Cleaning - Why You Should Deep Clean Your Trailer Often

horse trailer cleaning Walking into a recently cleaned horse trailer and smelling that fresh, clean aroma (rather than that lovely horse and hay smell), isn’t the only reason why you should clean your horse trailer. Trailer cleaning, when done regularly and consistently, keeps your trailer in that “like new” condition for longer, and it also reduces the likelihood and frequency of expensive repairs.

When you look over every little nook and cranny of your horse trailer as you do your regular horse trailer cleaning, you’ll notice when things start to wear down, or if there’s any small repairs you need to make. Catching these small repairs early can save you lots of money on big repairs in the future.

It can also keep your horses safe in the trailer as well. As you’re cleaning, you’ll notice if there’s any sharp objects or edges that could hurt your horse during travel, and you’ll be able to fix them before your horse bumps up against a sharp edge, cuts himself, and has to go to the vet.

And, trailer cleaning keeps your horses healthier as well.  Sanitizing your horse trailer can prevent your horse from picking up diseases and it eliminates all the funguses and bacteria that could get into your horse’s respiratory tract and cause problems during travel.

A clean trailer floor and a clean horse trailer are also so much more inviting to your horses. Having a clean trailer can make loading easier. You might even find that your horses are much more eager to walk into a clean, bright trailer and travel much better than before.

Where Do I Even Begin!? I Don’t Know How to Clean a Horse Trailer…

But, even knowing all the benefits of regularly cleaning your trailer, it can be hard to find the motivation to get started. Since horse trailer cleaning can seem like such a big task, you might look at your trailer and think, “where do I even start!?”

If you’ve never cleaned your horse trailer before and don’t know where to begin, don’t worry - we’ve prepared all the essential tips and tricks to help you clean your horse trailer better than ever before. So grab your favorite cleaning music and your rubber gloves, and let’s get started! Here’s how to clean a horse trailer:

How to Clean the Exterior of Your Horse Trailer

how to clean a horse trailer Start with the exterior of your horse trailer. Giving your trailer a good exterior wash not only makes it look shiny and new, it also helps protect the paint and metal trailer frame from aging too quickly.

Cleaning your horse trailer exterior is much like cleaning your car or truck. Take a bucket of water and add some automobile cleaning soap. Using a wash mitt or a microfiber cleaning cloth, carefully wash the entire exterior of your trailer. Pay special attention to the wheels, corners and edges, tires, and the inside of the wheel wells. 

Just like you would if you were cleaning your car, work from the top down. It’s a good idea to gently spray off the roof of your trailer before you begin so the dirt and dust from the top of the trailer doesn’t seep down onto the trailer walls you just cleaned. For the best results, make sure to rinse as you go.

Then once you’ve finished rinsing off your cleaned trailer exterior with a hose, it’s time to dry your trailer. We recommend buying a couple microfiber cleaning cloths - these are the best towels for horse trailer cleaning because they are durable but gentle on the trailer surface, and won’t leave scratches like some other towels.

After your trailer is all dry, it’s time to wax your trailer. You should wax your trailer’s exterior every 6 months to make your trailer last longer and to preserve that “brand-new” look.

To keep the exterior of your trailer clean, it’s best to avoid leaving your trailer outside in the hot sun. It’s much better to store your trailer indoors to prevent color fading and sun damage for your trailer tires as well. If you don’t have space to store your trailer indoors, consider buying a trailer cover that fits tightly around the trailer and covers all areas, including the trailer tires. This will help prevent damage, keep your trailer in excellent shape and make trailer cleaning much easier.

How to Clean Your Horse Trailer Living Quarters 

Since your living quarters area is like a mini-house, clean it just like you would clean your kitchen, living room, and sleeping areas in your house. You can use regular household cleaning products to clean this part of your horse trailer.

trailer cleaningIt’s also a good idea to keep a small handheld vacuum in your living quarters area to suck up crumbs and food particles during your trip. This will help prevent ants and mice from sneaking into your trailer.

Believe it or not, not using your living quarters for a time actually makes it age faster than using it often. When your mini-fridge and water system in your living quarters is left unused for a while, bacteria and mold can build up in certain areas. That’s why it’s important to do certain repairs and cleanings yearly. Make sure you do these things yearly:

  • Check your refrigerator - since dust and dirt can build up in your fridge’s burner, this will need to be cleaned regularly.
  • Check the seal on top of your air conditioning unit - sometimes this piece can age out and start leaking.
  • Sanitize your freshwater system every year to prevent algae accumulation.
  • Clean the holding tanks underneath your trailer to avoid buildup (this should be done after every trip).
  • Clean and test your heating system to make sure it’s working properly.

To keep your trailer’s living quarters area in the best shape possible, it’s important to have a routine maintenance schedule and regularly check for leaks and issues then correct them as soon as possible. And, like we said before, to keep your living quarters area clean, use it as much as possible!

How to Clean Trailer Floors

Your trailer floors are probably the dirtiest part of your horse trailer, which means they need the most love and attention during your trailer cleaning process. It’s also important to make sure you have clean trailer floors because trailer floors that are weak and rotting can cause a serious safety hazard for your horses.

clean trailer floorsThis is especially common in aluminum trailer floors. Horse urine and rust can cause aluminum to become brittle and cause small holes in the metal floor. When this happens, the floor could give out and your horse could fall through the floor during travel. This is extremely dangerous, and this does happen with aluminum floors. That’s why it’s best to stay far away from trailers with these types of floors.

Here at Double D Trailers, we never put aluminum floors in our trailers. Instead, we use pine lumber boards or Rumber flooring to create a strong and sturdy floor that will keep your horse safe during travel. Pine lumber boards are a great option, but we have to admit that our favorite floor material is Rumber flooring.

This material is the best floor material for your trailer because it eliminates the need for rubber floor mats. Rumber flooring is a combination of rubber and plastic composite material, making it tough, but flexible enough to be comfortable for your horses. And, it’s super easy to clean - making it a favorite among Double D customers as well.

In order to clean trailer floors, you’ll need to remove everything from your trailer interior - all the extra hay, tack, rubber mats, and supplies inside the trailer. Get everything out of the way and inspect your trailer floor, looking for any damage or issues that need to be fixed.

Then, sweep out any hay, dust, or debris that remains. During this step, make sure to open all your trailer windows so dust can escape. It’s also a good idea to wear a mask during this step to protect your lungs from inhaling dust and debris.

After you sweep out all the dust and debris, grab a bucket and add bleach to water (it’s best to use a mixture of one part bleach to 10 parts water). Generously mop out your trailer using the bleach water mixture. It’s a good idea to mop twice - the first time, giving it a good scrub to get rid of all the dirt and grime, and the second time, mopping gently and generously dousing your trailer in clean bleach water.

Let the bleach water dry on your clean trailer floors. Then, raise the front end of your trailer a little bit to create a slight incline so water can drain out of your trailer. Now, use a pressure washer or a hose on full pressure mode to rinse off your trailer floors. Make sure to get the corners and edges of your trailer floors where debris tends to build up.

Now, just let your clean trailer floors dry completely - and don’t forget to take a few minutes to admire all your hard work - before putting your equipment, trailer mats, and hay back into your trailer.

Pro tip: We also recommend sprinkling a little bit of baking soda onto your trailer floors in the area where your rubber mats will go. Baking soda is great for soaking up nasty smells and it works like a charm in horse trailers to neutralize the acid in horse urine and eliminate foul smells.

how to clean trailer floors

Don’t Forget To Clean These 4 Important Things…

Now that you know how to clean the three biggest areas of your horse trailer - the living quarters area, your trailer exterior, and your trailer floors - it’s time to keep cleaning! Don’t forget to clean these other areas in your trailer that could easily be looked over. 

#1: Horse Trailer Roof And Window Sills

horse trailer cleaning As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to start by cleaning your horse trailer roof when you clean your horse trailer exterior. This is an important step in your horse trailer cleaning process because cleaning your trailer roof keeps it in top condition. And trailer roof repairs can be very costly.

Brad Heath, owner of Double D Trailers, says, “most folks don’t take good enough care of their trailer roofs. I always recommend buying a trailer cover. These can cost $200 to $400 dollars but really, it’s one of the best investments you can make. It covers your trailer’s roof, window seals, and tires and protects it from sunlight that can cause your trailer to age faster.”

Investing in a trailer cover can save you lots of money down the road as well. If your trailer roof is always outside in the sun, it could cause damage faster. And even just one hole or perforation can cause a leak in your roof - and if that leak is above your living quarters area, it can result in thousands of dollars of repair bills.

That’s why it’s so important to prevent mishaps like this from happening by using a trailer cover and cleaning your trailer roof regularly.

Another way to prevent leaks from happening is to check the rubber areas of your trailer. Since rubber becomes stiff and fragile with age, it’s important to check these areas often. Take a close look at the seals on your windows. If you notice any cracks or potential leak areas, it’s a good idea to reseal your windows.  

#2: Hinges and Keyholes

trailer cleaningLittle trailer parts like hinges, keyholes and doorknobs often go overlooked during trailer cleaning. Sometimes even years can pass before these areas get cleaned! (After all, how do you even clean a keyhole?) Well, it’s time to clean these forgotten areas. Here’s how…

To clean your trailer keyholes, first, put your trailer key into a jar of Vaseline. Then, put it in the keyhole and turn it around a couple times. This will help your key turn smoothly. You can do this for all the keyholes and locks on your trailer.

To keep your trailer hinges in top condition, grab a bottle of WD-40 and spray it on all of the hinges in your trailer. Doing this every few months will make sure your doors swing open smoothly and never make that horrible squeaky creaky sound.

And while you’re at it, it’s a good idea to take a Clorox wipe and wipe down all the door handles on your trailer. Bacteria and germs can build up in these areas, so it’s important to clean them at least monthly.

#3: Horse Trailer Padding

how to clean a horse trailer Don’t forget to clean your horse trailer padding! To do this, take a wet microfiber towel and add some dish soap to it. Mix the dish soap into the towel and then wipe down all the padding in your horse trailer. Then, with another wet microfiber towel (without soap), wipe down all the padding again.

As you clean your trailer padding, look for any rips or tears in the padding. Any sharp corners or exposed metal parts can scrape or cut your horse’s legs or body. That’s why it’s best to fix these small issues as soon as possible.

And, you can actually fix padding tears yourself with dental floss! All you need is a strong needle and some dental floss to sew up small tears. If the tears are too big to fix with dental floss, you’ll need to talk to a professional repairperson.

#4: Check Your Tires

how to clean trailer tiresTrailer tires rarely wear out, but they do age out. This happens because trailer tires usually sit out in the sun unused for weeks or even months. This causes the rubber to weaken and degrade over time, which can lead to a serious blow out.

To avoid this scary situation, make sure you change your trailer tires every four to five years. Even if your trailer tires look like they still have good tread, sitting out in the sun for years can cause them to age out faster than usual. Don’t risk a tire blowout on the road - make sure your tires are strong enough to pull your trailer.

How to Remove Rust During Trailer Cleaning

how to remove rust from horse trailer One important part of trailer cleaning is looking for rust spots on your trailer. With all-steel trailers, you’re sure to have a serious rust problem. Even with trailers that are made from rust-resistant material, you might still find small rust spots. These small patches of rust aren’t dangerous and can be fixed with a quick touch-up.

But there are certain areas of your trailer where rust can be dangerous. Make sure to check for rust in the stall areas by your horse’s legs. If your horse brushes up against a rusty surface and cuts his leg, he could get a serious infection like tetanus.

While the aluminum or composite metal areas of your trailer are rust resistant, every trailer has parts that are made from steel, and these parts can rust over time. When trailer cleaning, take a quick look at your gooseneck coupler, horse trailer axles, and landing gear - these parts have steel and are more prone to rust.

If you have a trailer that has a steel frame, make sure to take a good look around the area by the back doors. The metal by the back door area can get nicked from horses loading and unloading, which can lead to rust buildup.

The Best Cleaning Supplies for Removing Rust from a Trailer

After you’ve thoroughly examined your trailer and found a few rusty areas it’s time to learn how to remove rust from trailer.

For small rust spots, the process is fairly easy:

  1. First, clean and rinse the area where the rust spot is. Let it dry completely before moving on to the next step.
  2. Lightly sand the rusty area with an electric sander, sanding disc, or steel wool. Gently scrape off all the rust you see. If you choose to use an electric sander, remember to let the tool do the work - just apply light pressure and keep it moving around the rusty area till all the rust is gone.
  3. After you’ve used the tools above to remove rust, you might still see faint rust marks. To get rid of these, use fine grain sandpaper. Rub this on the left-over marks until they disappear. 
  4. Wash the area again to remove any of the sanding debris and rust particles, and let it dry.
  5. Apply a light coat of primer. For lightly rusted areas, it’s best to use an oil or water based interior-exterior rust preventative metal primer (Rust-Oleum is a good brand for primers). Apply one to three coats of primer.
  6. Now, it’s time to paint. After the primer has dried, take a paintbrush and apply one to three coats of paint over the target area.

remove rust from trailer And voilà - your trailer is as good as new! If you have larger areas of your trailer that are rusted and look weak or like they are possibly rusted-through, it’s best to find a professional to do the horse trailer rust repair. A weak and rusted trailer wall or floor can be dangerous for your horse - get it fixed as soon as possible.

It’s Easier to Prevent Rust Than to Remove It

Rust is annoying and can take a while to remove. That’s why it’s best to prevent rust from happening in the first place rather than trying to remove rust from trailer once it’s already there. To avoid a rusty horse trailer, avoid horse trailers that are made mostly of steel. All-steel trailers are not only very quick to rust - they also are unsafe for your horses.

The thin sheet metal that lines the body of your all-steel horse trailer can actually rust completely through. That means that with one swift quick or even just a strong stomp, your horse could stick his leg through a rusty, weak wall. This could damage your horse’s delicate legs and send him to the vet. Don’t put your horse in danger - don’t buy a rusty horse trailer.

horse trailer rust repairIf you want to protect your horse from the dangers of a rusty horse trailer, it’s best to invest in a quality horse trailer with Rumber floors that are strong, durable, and easy to clean. Finding a quality trailer built with the best building materials will save you headaches down the road and will be much easier to clean and maintain than a cheap horse trailer.

Discover what makes Double D Trailers the best trailers for you and your horses. If you have any questions about horse trailer cleaning or rust removal, you can contact Brad Heath here.

This article was written by Rachael Kraft and posted on Friday, 1 November 2019. It was last updated on Monday, 25 April 2022. 

Frequently Asked Questions  

How often should I clean my horse trailer?

After every trip, you should always clean out the wet hay and other wet items from your horse trailer to prevent mold. In terms of general trailer cleaning, it’s a good idea to clean out your horse trailer every month to keep it in top condition. You should schedule a deep cleaning, or horse trailer detailing, for every 6 months as well.

What are the best cleaning supplies for horse trailer cleaning?

Bleach, Clorox wipes, automobile soap, microfiber towels, and baking soda are some of the best cleaning supplies for horse trailer cleaning. Always make sure to rinse off your trailer surfaces with a pressure washer or a high pressure hose to rid them of any chemicals. Try to clean your horse trailer a few days before travel so the cleaning supply odor can disappear from the trailer before travel.

How do you clean a rusty horse trailer?

If your horse trailer has just a couple rusted areas, you can fix it on your own by washing, sanding, priming, and painting the area, making it good as new. However, if you have a rusty horse trailer with surfaces that are rusted-through, you should get those areas professionally repaired, since it will likely require structural additions or even replacement of the rusted metal area.

How to clean aluminum horse trailer?

To clean an aluminum horse trailer, use the same process mentioned above - first wash and wax the exterior like you would clean a car, then use a bleach and water solution to clean the interior. If you have an aluminum trailer, during horse trailer cleaning, it’s also important to look for wear and tear issues that need to be fixed as well. 

If your trailer has aluminum floors, it’s important you check them periodically for signs of corrosion. To do this, you’ll need to crawl under the trailer and look for any indications that the floor is weak or rusted. Aluminum floors can become brittle and can even break during travel, which is why you’ll need to be extra cautious and look for signs of decay and break-down.

How do I remove rust from trailer?

To remove a small patch of rust from a surface on your horse trailer, first wash the surface with soap and water then let it dry. After it’s dry, take an electrical sander, steel wool, or fine grain sandpaper (depending on how big the area is and how stubborn the rust spot is) to sand away the rust. After you’ve sanded away all the rust, wash the area again and dry it. Take a primer and apply one to three coats of primer before repainting the area.

Is it necessary to acid wash horse trailer?

Acid washing your horse trailer is not a good way to clean your trailer because it actually wears down the metal surfaces in your trailer. This can permanently damage your trailer, especially aluminum surfaces. While an acid wash can leave your trailer looking spotless the first few days, in the long term it actually changes the chemical balance of the metal which can lead to long, ugly streaks on the side of your trailer. Long story short, don’t acid wash your horse trailer.

Can I take my horse trailer through a car wash?

No. Almost all car washes prohibit you from taking your truck and trailer through the car wash. In some states you can use the hoses to wash your horse trailer exterior at the washing stations, but sometimes this is illegal because of livestock waste laws. To be safe, it’s best to wash your horse trailer at your home or ranch.



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