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RV Laundry: Washing and Drying Clothes While RVing

RV laundry. Yep, clothes get dirty when you are on the road, either camping or full-time RVing. What to do? Laundromat or washateria? Hand wash? A washing machine and clothes dryer in your RV?

Dirty clothes accumulate while RVing just like they do any other time. Here are the laundry options for RVers.

Take your dirty clothes to the Laundromat or washateria. This option works best for most full-time RVers. It doesn’t require special equipment. You don't have to find room for a washing machine or a clothes dryer. There’s no big up front cost. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. You let your laundry accumulate for a while, then gather it all up, and take it out to wash and dry it.

You use as many machines as you need to wash it all at one time. Likewise, you can dry it all at once. You fold, haul it back to the RV, and put it away. You spend a couple hours, about $10, and you are done for another week or so. While you are waiting at the Laundromat, you read, visit, make phone calls, or plan the next leg of your trip, so you really don’t waste much time just waiting.

Laundry facilities at truck stops, travel plazas, and campgrounds are similar to public Laundromats. The biggest difference is that they have fewer machines. You may need to do your loads consecutively, instead of all at once. If you are spending the night at one of these places anyway, it can be convenient. You are there – the facility is there.

These are most useful for doing only a load or two of clothes. They are particularly helpful if you want to stretch the time between your Laundromat trips. They are also good if you have a washer and dryer in your RV and need to do a load of bigger or heavier items.

Yes, some RVs do have washers and dryer. However, the clothes washer and dryer you find in an RV is seldom the same as what you have in a traditional home. These RV appliances use 110-volt electricity. They may be stackable units. Or, it may be a single RV appliance that does both. They have a small load capacity. It takes a long time for clothes to dry in an RV clothes dryer. The biggest disadvantage, I think, is that they take up a great deal of room – the equivalent of an entire closet.

If you spend much of your RVing time in a campground with water, sewer, and electrical hookups, you may love these appliances. You do a load or two of clothes every day. You don’t need to wash your things in a machine someone else uses.

There is another type of machine or device marketed for doing laundry. The apparatus is a small keg type container. It has a crank handle you turn to agitate the clothes. I’ve heard trying to wash something in them is a sure way to make a mess. I’ve also heard these hand machines don’t get clothes any cleaner than simply soaking the clothes.

If you want to do your laundry by hand, there are several methods. All of these hand methods wash only. You need to twist the clothes by hand to get out some of the water.

Some RVers put water, detergent, and clothes into a five-gallon bucket, put the lid on the bucket, and drive. The motion is supposed to be akin to an agitating machine. Most likely, the long soaking does the most cleaning.

Others use their bathtub as a large laundry sink. I’ve also heard of RVers carrying along a child’s inflatable wading pool to use for doing laundry.

Some soak, swish, and rinse. Some agitate the clothes with a toilet plunger. Others, I’m told, use old-fashioned washboards.

If you go the hand washing route, you have to figure out how to dry them. You can haul them to a laundry facility to dry, hang them outside, or hang them around in your RV. Some campgrounds allow clothes lines, but many do not. Depending on the temperature and humidity, towels or jeans that have not gone through a fast spin cycle may have to hang in the RV for literally days for to dry.

If you are going to be somewhere for an entire season, consider a regular clothes washer and clothes dryer. We’ve done this several times during extended stays where we had both the utilities and the space to use them. Sometimes, we had just a washer and hung the clothes to dry on outdoor clotheslines. We bought inexpensive machines. The money saved from the weekly Laundromat trips quickly paid for them.

Go to the RV Life and Travel blog from this page on RV laundry.

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