In our Sticks-n-Bricks house I had a washer and dryer. Each bedroom had it’s own dirty laundry basket. My laundry table contained large containers of laundry soap, fabric softener, dryer sheets, bleach, stain sticks, and hydrogen peroxide. I divided all the clothing by color and material type. I did a load or two a day. Laundry was no big deal.
Then we moved into a 5th wheel trailer. It didn’t come with a washer and dryer. We have a lot less storage for dirty clothes and supplies. We can’t do laundry every day, yet have fewer clothes to wear & less bedding and towels.
So how does laundry work for a fulltime RV family?
Storing Dirty Clothes in an RV
Our first 5th wheel had a laundry chute under the bathroom sink. I put a large laundry basket in the “basement” storage compartment to collect the clothes.
In our current RV I gave up the storage under my nightstand for our dirty clothing. The kids put their dirty clothes in a large laundry bag that sits under the small dinette table in the bunkhouse.
- When shopping for an RV remember to think about where dirty clothes will go.
- Be creative - store dirties in the shower/tub, in a storage footstool, or use compression sacks.
Laundry Supplies for the RVer
I no longer buy the economy sized laundry detergent bottles - they are just too big. Instead I buy smaller concentrated bottles.
When we are in drier climates I buy fabric softener. Otherwise, we just use dryer sheets. If we have stains on our clothing, we rub in a little Dawn dishwashing soap. All of my laundry supplies are kept in a plastic file box.
- Repurpose other cleaning supplies for use on clothes.
- Keep supplies in a portable container with a handle for easy transport.
Where do RVers do Laundry?
Many RV parks/campgrounds have laundry facilities onsite. It may be one or two washers and dryers outside the bathhouse. Being able to use these machines can be hit or miss when others are trying to do their laundry.
Or - it could be a dedicated room full of machines. We camped at a laundromat in Idaho at the Valley View Laundry Center and RV Park. It was quite handy and I was able to wash everything at the same time.
If the park doesn’t have laundry facilities then we have to hunt one down (I wish there was an app for that). We use our iPhone and GPS to look for nearby laundromats. I like to find a couple so if the first one sucks I can keep on driving to the second one.
- Camphosts usually know the best local places to do laundry.
- Trust your gut when evaluating laundromats - if the first thing that comes to mind is “meth dealers” when looking in the door then move to your second choice location.
Doing the Dirties
We made some adjustments to our wardrobes to make laundry easier. We stopped buying white clothing - we had some whites stained by campground wash machines. No whites means almost no separation - dark undies get washed with colored clothes.
Delicate clothes go in small mesh laundry bags that get washed with the other clothing. Most clothing is washed in warm and towels and sheets are washed in hot.
- The simpler your wardrobe the easier laundry will be.
- Some laundromats have large washers that can be stuffed with most or all of your clothes.
- Clothes don’t need to be washed as often as you think.
- 8-10 days of clothes is enough.
Getting Dried Out
Most RV parks and campgrounds aren’t cool with stringing out a bunch of wet laundry to dry. Some have shared clotheslines but most won’t.
I have a set of collapseable clothes bars that come out for the air-dry items. They work outside unless it’s windy - we have picked up clean clothes from the ground more than once.
- Slide moldings, bunk-bed edges, and cabinet hooks are all places where you can hang laundry to dry.
- Arizona rocks for drying laundry in the open air. Upstate Washington does not.
- Dryers are often very hot - make sure you clothes are pre-shrunk.
Delegate That Job
As our kids have aged into teens we’ve made doing their laundry their responsibility. We’ll provide them quarters and get them to the laundromat (or make sure there is one within bikeable distance).
- The laundry will magically take longer at places with wifi.
- You may spend more on laundry, but it’s a cheap lesson in self-sufficiency.
The Upside of Laundromats
Don’t be too quick to pull up your nose at the thought of visting laundromats. They are often the ‘great melting pots’ of the RV world. You’ll meet people there that you wouldn’t otherwise. Since they have time on their hands doing a menial chore they’ll often be open to conversation.
Who knows - that next best friendship might be forged over a folding table.
- Learning some general ice-breaking approaches will prove handy in laundromats.
- Challenge your kids to see how many laundry baskets they can carry for people.
Is This Your Sock?
Did we forget something? Let us know in the comments below.