Owning a caravan is not just about hitching up and hitting the road for epic adventures. Regularly maintaining and cleaning the caravan is a less exciting caravanning task, but it’s one that needs to be kept on top of.
Regularly cleaning your caravan and keeping it in the best condition you can will not only extend the life of the van, but also increase your resale value down the track. No one wants to buy the old yard bomb that has grass growing up around the wheels and grime all over the roof and walls!
Remember, dirt attracts dirt, so the less often you clean the caravan, the harder the job is going to be with a higher chance of mould creeping in. On top of that, it’s important to note that rust is caused by moisture (which can be trapped in dirt and grime), so keeping a clean caravan will reduce the chances of rust.
If your caravan is going to be parked up for a while, these 30 Tips for Caravan Storage will help to keep your van well-maintained for next time.
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How to Clean a Caravan INTERIOR
Keep it Simple & Clutter-free
The very first tip I have for you to make cleaning your caravan a much easier task is to keep your interior simple. This is where the old saying, “if it doesn’t have three uses, ditch it!” applies more than ever.
When you’re trying to move around a tiny space to get into all the nooks and crannies to clean, you don’t want to have to move 998 things just to get the job done.
Everything in your van must have a place… and that place is not the kitchen bench!
If every item you take with you on your trips has a permanent spot in a cupboard, on a hook or in a drawer, you won’t have to tidy up or relocate things when it comes to cleaning.
An added bonus is that you (and the rest of the family) will always know where to find said items.
I recommend having second sets of everything that you know you’ll need in the van every time you go away. I’m talking cutlery, pots, mugs, linen and towels, board games and so on. If you have to move those items from the house to the caravan every time you go on a trip, you’re expending a lot of unnecessary energy, which takes away from just keeping things clean, simple and organised.
- Keep a foldable laundry bag for all washing to go into
- Install hooks for things that can be hung to keep them off the benches and tables
- Use boxes and containers in the drawers and cupboards to keep items compartmentalised
- Get hose bags for hoses and cords to keep them packed well and not in a tangled mess
- Use a box or basket for all the shoes to be dumped into
- Utilise hooks for things that can be hung out of the way
Cleaning the Caravan Kitchen
Keeping the caravan kitchen clean is much easier if you keep on top of the dishes (especially since it’s such a tiny space) and keep the benches clear.
Starting with the microwave, take the plate out and give it a good wash with soapy water. Wipe out the interior of the microwave, then replace the plate to it’s carousel.
If you have an oven or grill that you use, you’ll need to get in there with some oven cleaner or soapy water if it’s not too greasy. Take out the racks and trays to be washed in the sink with soapy water.
Don’t forget to give some attention to the stove top and hot plates. You’ll also need soapy water to clean the splashback and areas around the hot plates that regularly get greasy splashes.
Take out the rangehood vent if you can and give that a good clean in some soapy water, then sit it in the sun to dry off.
After everything has been cleaned, then you can finish off by wiping down the benches and sink with an all-purpose cleaner and a cloth.
We’ll tackle the fridge and freezer next.
Cleaning the Caravan Fridge & Freezer
Just like your fridge at home, deep cleaning the fridge in the caravan is a task that usually gets forgotten about… unless something’s been spilt in there along the way.
The easiest way to tackle it is shelf-by-shelf. Remove the items off one shelf at a time and wipe that section out with a damp cloth. You can use a cleaning spray if you like, but water and a cloth will do the trick.
Defrosting the Caravan Freezer
When it comes to the freezer, they do tend to frost up if you use your van full-time. If you’re only using your caravan for holidays and the fridge gets switched off when not in use, then you won’t need to worry about this step.
The problem with frost build-up is that all of that ice takes up valuable real estate in your little caravan freezer! Beyond that, if you let it go for too long, it’ll get harder to close the door properly. Although the manufacturers may say the freezer has Auto Defrost, it doesn’t actually mean it’s completely ‘frost free.’
There are two ways to defrost the freezer. The first one is the most recommended way and that is to switch the fridge off, empty out all of the food from the freezer and put a few towels in there to soak up the melted ice.
But, let’s be honest. If you’re on the road with a fridge full of food when the freezer needs to be defrosted, you’re not going to switch your fridge off and lose all of that food!
Method two is not officially recommended, but still works well. Empty the freezer out and start chipping away at that ice until you’ve cleared it all out. Don’t use anything sharp, you don’t want to damage the inside of the freezer. Carefully using a butter knife should do the trick. It helps to have a towel on the floor and a bucket to put the ice chunks into. The kids love this bit – they get to go play with the ice outside as it melts in the sun!
Cleaning the Caravan Bathroom
Keeping your caravan bathroom clean is much the same as the bathroom at home.
How to Clean a Caravan Bathroom:
- Wipe over the mirror with a damp cloth, then follow with newspaper or dry microfibre cloth to remove streaks
- Clean bench, sink and taps with an all-purpose cleaner and a damp cloth
- Clean soap dish & toothbrush holder with damp cloth or in the sink with detergent
- Scrub the shower with a brush and bathroom cleaner
- Clean around the toilet and the toilet seat with all-purpose cleaner and a damp cloth
- Empty the caravan toilet cassette
Cleaning the Caravan Washing Machine
Over time, calcium and soap scum build up inside your caravan washing machine. Cleaning it once in a while keeps the machine and your clothes in top condition.
To clean the top and inside the lid etc., just use a damp cloth. For a deep clean of the machine, read on.
All you’ll need for cleaning the inside of your portable washing machine is white vinegar.
How to Clean Inside the Caravan Washing Machine
- STEP 1: Make sure the washing machine is empty
- STEP 2: Turn on the ‘Wash Cycle’ for just long enough to fill the tub, then hit ‘Pause’
- STEP 3: Add 4 cups of White Vinegar to the water
- STEP 4: Run the cycle for a few seconds to mix the water, then hit ‘Pause’
- STEP 5: Let the solution sit in the machine for 1 hour
- STEP 6: Hit ‘Start’ to finish the cycle
That’s it, your washing machine should be free of grime and build-up, ready for your next load.
Cleaning the Caravan Bunks & Beds
When it comes to cleaning the bunks and beds in the caravan, the first step is to strip the beds of their bedding and throw all of that into the wash. Hang all of the blankets, quilts and pillows outside in the breeze to air out.
Now it’s time to get in and flip the mattresses if you can. While you’re there, check that there aren’t toys and rubbish underneath the kids mattresses in the bunks that need to come out.
After the mattresses are sorted I like to get in and give all of the walls a quick wipe over with a damp cloth. This is where you’ll notice if there is any dust or mould building up in the corners of the walls and roof (especially behind the TVs and fans if you’ve got them).
If you do find mould, spray a 1:1 water/ vinegar mix onto the surface to kill any mould spores. More on mould down below.
This is also a really good opportunity to get into all of the pockets and hatches alongside the beds. Clear them out of any clutter give them a good dust with a dry microfibre cloth or a damp cloth.
Don’t forget to lift up the beds and dinette seats to give the storage areas a good vacuum or sweep/ wipe out.
Cleaning the Caravan Dinette Seats
For leather or vinyl upholstery you can clean your seat cushion covers with a damp cloth and a leather cleaner. It’s also a good idea to rub in some leather care every so often to keep it soft and stop the leather from drying out and cracking.
Fabric cushion covers can be unzipped and taken off the foam insert. Then just throw the covers through the washing machine for a good wash. If your cushions need a deeper clean, consider dropping them off at the Dry Cleaners for them to take care of. For the fabric sections that can’t be removed, cleaning with some warm soapy water and a cloth is usually enough.
Caravan Seat Cushion Cleaning Tips
- Vacuum your cushion covers
- If they’re fabric, take the covers off & put them through the washing machine
- Use warm soapy water for fabric that can’t be removed
- Can get them professionally cleaned if you wish
- Wipe over leather covers with a damp cloth
- Treat leather with a leather care product to stop cracking
- Use 1:1 vinegar & water spray on any mould spots
Cleaning the Caravan 12 volt Fans
I’m going to be honest, cleaning those little 12 volt Sirocco fans is one of my most hated caravan cleaning jobs! Each fan has about 100 little corners and crevices, each filled up with dust.
The best way I found to clean them was with a dry microfibre cloth, which actually attracts the dust to it. There are always little bits that you just can’t get though. You can go over it with a duster or a damp cloth to try and get the bits that you’ve missed.
Some people prefer to get the vacuum onto them to suck up as much of the dust as possible first, then run over them with a cloth.
Either way, you do need to keep the fans clean so that they remain efficient for you on those super hot days where you’re free camping and need a breeze!
Cleaning the Caravan Walls, Cupboards & Surfaces
You’ll be surprised at how much dust can end up in the cupboards and on the surfaces in the caravan. Especially if you haven’t fully sealed your van and you’ve been off-road or out west with it. I’ve lost count the amount of times we’ve had all of the windows open and then a big cloud of dust picks up in the campground and blows right on through!
Grab a damp cloth and make your way around all of the benches, tables, window frames and so on, throughout the van. Next, you can go through each cupboard and give them a wipe out with a damp cloth. Make sure to get to those far reaches at the back of each cupboard. The bathroom cupboard is a bit of a hotspot for dust coming up around the pipes.
You’ll probably notice around many of the door and drawer handles and knobs, that there are darker patches from where everyone opens and closes the doors. You can hit those spots with your damp cloth and some surface cleaner as well. If that won’t budge the marks, try using gumption.
Now that you’ve cleaned most of the surfaces, it’s time to look up to see if anywhere on the roof needs a wipe over. You’d be surprised! You may notice bugs inside some of the lights. See if you can unscrew the light cover to empty out the bugs and give it a wipe out.
Cleaning the Caravan Vents, Air Conditioner & Roof Hatches
Cleaning the caravan Air Vents is a bit of a pain in the backside, but it needs to be done. You can get in there and run your finger and a cloth across each slot. If you’re able to unscrew the vent and wash it properly in soapy water, then air dry, I’d do that.
The same goes for the Air Conditioning vents. You should be able to pull some of them out to give them a proper clean. There may be sections of the Air Con that won’t come off, but still have a build-up of dust. Try and get your finger and cloth in to get out as much dust as you can.
Next, head to the Roof Hatches. Open them up and give them a full clean with a damp cloth. As with the windows, you don’t need any cleaning products here, just a damp cloth should do the trick. Getting into all of the nooks and crannies can be a bit tricky, so you’ll need a stool or chair to stand on.
Cleaning the Caravan Windows
Personally, I don’t bother with expensive glass cleaners for cleaning the caravan windows, most of the time they end up leaving smudges and smears. A damp cloth to clean the windows is all you need, then finish off with a dry microfibre cloth to remove the streaks.
If you do want to use a cleaning product, a bit of soapy water (with dishwashing detergent) will work for cleaning the windows and frames. Then you can go over them with a dry cloth to remove the streaks.
Cleaning the Caravan Floors
To clean the caravan floors, start off with a full sweep or a vacuum if you carry a dustbuster of some sort. Then follow up with a mop. If you’ve got a flat mop, use your toe to push the mop into the corners and edges.
Sometimes it’s hard for the mop to get into all of those right-angled corners and edges you find around the edging of your caravan floor. I find it just as easy to get down there with a damp cloth every so often and use your fingernail through the cloth to get the dirt build-up from those corners.
Tips for keeping the caravan floors cleaner for longer!
- Make it a rule – “shoes off outside the door”
- Invest in some floor door mats (one for outside the door at the bottom of the step + one for inside the door at the top of the step)
- Wipe/ brush up spills and mess right away
I cannot recommend the MUK MAT enough. They are by far the best mat I’ve had at the door of the caravan that actually does what it says – keeps the muck outside. You can see my full review of the MUK MAT below.
Cleaning the Caravan Drain Pipes
Over time, you’ll need to clean your caravan drain pipes as they can tend to get a bit smelly. As they pipes are a lot smaller than household pipes, they can also clog up fairly easily, depending on what’s going down the drain. Caravan pipe maintenance is an important part of owning a caravan.
Natural Drain Cleaner
If you’re in a campground and you need to clean your drains, you won’t want to be unleashing harsh drain chemicals all over the ground. A cheap and more nature-friendly alternative is to use white vinegar with bicarb soda and hot water.
|NATURAL DRAIN CLEANER
|What You’ll Need:
• White Vinegar
• Bicarb Soda
• Boiling Water
1. Boil a full kettle of water
2. Pour boiling water down all of your drain holes
3. Put a tablespoon of Bicarb Soda in each drain hole
4. Pour White Vinegar on top of the Bicarb and let it fizzle
5. Allow the solution to sit for 5 – 10 minutes
6. Meanwhile, boil another full kettle of water
7. Finish by pouring boiling water down each drain & flush with tap water
How to Clean Caravan Pipes
- Block off the end of your caravan waste pipe by using some cork or stuffing it with a few rags
- Pour a drain cleaning solution down each of the drains
- Stuff your shower plug hole with a rag so that the dirty water & debris doesn’t come back up into the shower
- Turn on the kitchen & bathroom taps and let the pipes slowly fill up with water
- Keep an eye on things – you don’t want to flood your van!
- Allow the water & cleaning solution to sit in the pipes for about 30 minutes (check the label on your drain cleaner)
- Remove the plug at the end of the pipe and let the water flow out
- Flush out the pipes with running water
This same process can be repeated with your sullage hose to clean it out and prevent smells from coming in through the sinks and into the van. Alternatively, you can leave the sullage hose attached when you clean out the drains and ‘plug’ the end of the hose to allow the water to sit in there for a deep clean.
Caravan Drain Tips
Try using a larger sullage hose to get the water flowing out of the drains a little faster. You’ll need a different fitting at the drain outlet to accommodate the larger hose.
Keep a small plunger on hand for those times when the water isn’t flowing out of the drain fast enough. There may be a small blockage that needs to be moved along, which can often happen with the tiny caravan pipes. Hair from the shower is usually a good culprit!
Sometimes you just need to get something down into the pipes to give them a good scrub. There are small Pipe Snakes, such as the one below, which are perfect for feeding down into the caravan drains and pipes.
Dealing with Mould in a Caravan
Having to deal with mould in your caravan happens more often than you’d think. Mould favours still, humid air and can be more likely to populate in humid climates or situations where the van is closed up and not being ventilated as often.
Either way, keeping on top of mould in the caravan is extremely important, not only for your health, but because you don’t want it to keep multiplying and take over.
Cleaning Mould in a Caravan
The best way to deal with mould is with good old vinegar. Avoid using chemical mould products, most of the time all they do is bleach the mould without actually killing it off. Vinegar is a very effective and safe method for killing mould spores.
Mix one part vinegar with one part water in a spray bottle. Clean any surfaces that have mould on them with a damp cloth. Then spray the surface with the vinegar mixture and leave it to sit. You can wipe off the area later on once it’s had time to do its job.
Tips for Preventing Mould
- Regularly wipe over hard surfaces to get rid of dust & moisture (walls, roof, corners etc.)
- Keep the caravan well ventilated (open windows & hatches)
- Use exhaust fans, plus open windows & hatches when showering & cooking
- Make sure there are no water leaks in the van
- Air out wet towels & clothing outside if possible
- Use Moisture Absorbers in your drawers & cupboards
- Run the heater every so often (if you have one) to dry the air out
You can get Moisture Absorber containers and refill packs from eBay, which you can spread around your van to keep the air dry and prevent moisture and mould issues.
Caravan Storage Checklist
Prepare your van for long-term & short-term storage with the Caravan Storage Checklist.
- 100 pre-filled tasks to complete
- Checkboxes to tick off
- Add in extra tasks
- Download once, use over-and-over again
- DIGITAL & PRINTABLE
How to Clean a Caravan EXTERIOR
Start at the Top
Ten points for being logical here, but it just makes sense that gravity is going to have all of the water running off of the roof, right down to the ground. So, start with the roof, then work your way to the external caravan walls and finish off with the wheels and underneath the caravan. There’s no point polishing up your wheels, then having dirty roof water running down and ruining your hard work.
Start by giving the whole van a good squirting with the hose, beginning with the roof first, of course. This will help to start soaking the dirt and grime, plus remove any loose debris.
You need to keep the van wet while you’re cleaning, so either work in sections or have someone on the ground continuously hosing the van to stop the grit from drying back up.
Avoid High Pressure Hoses
High pressure washers can damage your caravan seals and push water into places you just don’t want it to go. Water leaking into the caravan walls or roof will result in wood rot (if you’ve got a timber-framed van), mould and water damage issues down the track.
I can tell you from experience that having to get water damage fixed is no cheap ordeal. Unbeknownst to us, we had a small leak in the corner of our roof, which resulted in water collecting in the ceiling above the kids bunks. This was discovered after a particular bout of substantial rain in tropical North Queensland. As soon as the water marks and discolouration on the ceiling were noticed, we got onto it straight away. Luckily, the issue was the result of an incident that we were able to claim on insurance and we were only out of pocket for the excess amount, rather than the actual repair cost of $23,000+!
Although that leaking scenario wasn’t caused by a high pressure cleaner, you can see the huge ramifications caused by water getting into your van. My advice is to steer clear of the high pressure and stick with a regular hose, broom and elbow grease.
If you do want to go ahead and get the high pressure cleaner onto the van, try to opt for a lower setting and be selective with where you’re pointing it.
Cleaning the Caravan Roof
When it comes to cleaning the caravan roof, the first thing you want to do is wind the jockey wheel up or down a little to create an angle for the water to escape. Whether you go ‘nose up’ or ‘nose down’ is usually a personal preference, but as long as the caravan is on a slight angle, it doesn’t matter. That way the water will naturally run off instead of pooling on the roof for days on end.
Unless you’ve got some scaffolding laying around (which you probably don’t), you’ll need to access your caravan roof by ladder. In addition you will need a soft-bristled broom and a hose. You can also use a bucket of soapy water if you want to use detergent.
Safety disclaimer! Soapy water and ladders can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure that if you’re on a ladder, have someone at the bottom holding it for you and passing your things as you need them.
The first thing to do is get up there on the ladder with the hose and wet the roof to soak all of the dirt and debris.
You’ll need to keep the roof wet while you’re cleaning, which is where having someone at the bottom of the ladder comes in handy. You can pass the hose down to them when you’re not using it, plus they can hold the ladder for you.
With your soft-bristled broom, start at the end of the caravan that is ‘nose up’ and start scrubbing. Work your way down to the other end, then move your ladder around to the other side of the van and repeat.
There are a range of long-handled and adjustable brushes on the market these days to help with getting to those hard to reach places.
A soft-bristled brush is recommended over a hard-bristled one. You don’t want to damage any sections of your roof, seals, air conditioning unit or solar panels with hard bristles. A soft broom with water should be enough to soak and budge any dirt and grime that has built up there over time.
While some caravan manufacturers state that it’s safe to walk on the caravan roof, I wouldn’t recommend it. They’re not technically designed to be walked on and you don’t want to accidentally damage something. Also, soapy water and heights are not a good mix!
You can also poke your head up through the roof hatches from inside of the van to access parts of the roof if you need to. If you’ve got a strategically placed bunk ladder in the van, that can be useful for getting out of the hatch above.
Tips for Cleaning a Caravan Roof
- Raise/ lower the jockey wheel to allow water to run-off
- Use a ladder that’s the right height (have someone support it at the bottom)
- Hose down the roof to moisten debris
- Keep hosing the roof to keep it wet
- Use a soft-bristled broom to scrub
- Start at one end & work your way across
- Hose down again & let it air dry
Cleaning Caravan Solar Panels
Keeping your solar panels clean is imperative for your power set up. If there is dust and dirt on top of your panels, you won’t be able to maximise the amount of sunlight that could potentially be charging up your batteries.
You will definitely need to clean your solar panels much more often than the rest of your roof if you’re regularly using your van for off-gridding. It doesn’t take much for your panels to get covered in dust, dirt, leaves and tree sap, which can then turn into algae.
How to clean caravan solar panels
- Wet the surface of the solar panels with water (hose or bucket of water)
- Wipe down the surface of the solar panels with a sponge or mop to remove all debris and dirt
- Rinse the panels off with the hose or bucket of water
- Make sure there are no branches or leaves stuck underneath the panels
Tips for cleaning caravan solar panels
If you’re on the road and need to clean your caravan solar panels, but don’t have a ladder handy, see if you can access them through the roof hatch from inside your van. You’ll still need a small ladder or solid chair to stand on, but it will serve to clean your panels on the go.
Use a mop with a swivel handle to clean the panels if you’ve got one.
It’s best to clean your panels in the morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t beating straight down onto them, making the panels hot. Remember not to use a high pressure hose on your panels as you don’t want to damage the cells.
Caravan Cleaning Products & Treatments
Be wary of gimmicky caravan products and treatments that you generally don’t need for cleaning your caravan. Usually the simple and DIY products do the best job and are much easier to have on hand at home. To be honest, water and a soft brush will be all that you need to clean the outside of your caravan. You can take it a step further and use hot water and a household detergent if you like, which will help to lift the stubborn dirt and grime.
To be honest, we always cleaned our caravan with just a hose, a soft-bristled broom and some elbow grease. Chemical products rarely 100% wash off and chemical residue actually just attracts more dirt to the surface. Don’t feel like you need any fancy cleaners to keep your rig clean.
If you are looking for a good caravan cleaner, there are a whole range of different cleaning products and items on eBay.
Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive products that can damage the paint and exterior materials on your caravan. Stick to the ones that are designed for the paint and windows found on vehicles. Strong chemical products may result in build-up in your stitches, seals and other delicate areas, causing weakness and leakages over time.
The harsh sun and weather conditions of Australia can definitely take their toll on your van as the years pass on by. If you can invest in a good quality caravan cover or store your van under cover, you’ll be able to stop some of that wear.
You can also look into vinyl protectants if you’ve got a pop-top with canvas sections.
Polishing a Caravan
Polishing your caravan once a year is a good way to keep up the shine and look after your investment. In the case of brand new vans, a non-abrasive sealer should do the trick.
If your van’s paint is powder-coated, you’ll need to use a mildly abrasive one-step polish-sealer to remove that ‘white’ oxidised top layer. Oxidisation is the natural process, which causes the paint to break down over time from UV rays and oxygen.
You may notice swirl marks across the clear-coated paint sections on your caravan’s exterior. In this case use a multi-stage light cutting compound to remove the marks.
Wipe off any polish residue with a dry microfibre cloth. You will need to have a few cloths on hand to go through so that you’re not transferring the discarded polish back onto the van.
Waxing a Caravan
If you want to take the exterior of your van to the next level, then finishing it off with a wax will leave it looking schmick. Waxing a caravan is definitely not something that you have to do, but if that’s your thing, then go for it!
Waxing the van will be relatively quicker the cleaning and polishing bit, as the surface is already clean and ready to go.
A good wax will leave your van with a deep sheen that’ll have it being the envy of everyone in the campground.
Have a look at the range of waxes and polishes available on eBay.
Make Sure it’s Dry
Another obvious thing to point out, but something that I cannot stress enough is to make sure everything is absolutely 100% dry before you pack it away.
I’m talking about fold-up tables and chairs, awnings, pop-top canvas… everything!
Anything that isn’t dry when packed away will inevitably result in mould growth. Even a mouldy chair in the tunnel boot can cause mould and moisture issues through that entire area that you’ll then need to deal with.
It’s a good idea to leave all hatches, doors, windows tool boxes, boots etc. open to air dry in the sun before closing everything back up.
As for the outside of your caravan, if you want a nice streak-free finish, go around and give the paintwork a quick chamois (or use a soft towel). Doing this also gives you a chance to run your eyes over all of the little details across the van. This is usually where you pick up on spots that have been missed or little things that may need some attention (like a cracked seal).
Leave the van sitting in the air and sunshine for a while before throwing the caravan cover on, if you’ve got one. Take a quick walk-through of the van to make sure no water has leaked in anywhere during the hosing process.
General Caravan Maintenance
Here are some additional general caravan maintenance items to keep an eye on while you’re cleaning and working your way around the van.
|• Check tyres for signs of perishing, sidewall cracks or bulges
• Check rims for buckles & cracks
• Check tyre pressure
• Check wheel nuts are tight
|• Make sure it releases & engages properly
• Look out for rust/ corrosion
• Make sure cables are in good condition
|Jockey Wheel & Towing Chains
|• Make sure all parts are moving freely
• Check for rust & stress fractures
|Seals & Vents
|• Check seals and vents for cracks, which could allow water in
CHECKLIST for Cleaning the Caravan
Now that we’ve been through all of the details that are involved with deep cleaning a caravan. Here’s a quick checklist for you to make sure you’re on top of it all.
Now that your caravan is spick and span, make sure you keep it safe and secure with the handy tips and items below. Whether you’re parking it up in storage or travelling around the countryside, prevention is always the best cure when it comes to caravan theft and break-ins.