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.
Great lessons! I couldn’t agree more about over washing clothes…I have more laundry than I care to admit—and partly because we are over-washing clothing to be sure! Too much washing can also contribute to wearing out. Great post, I was curious about life on the road and laundry!
Here’s a Web page a fellow RVer recommended:
Thank you for writing this post!
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There should definitely be an app for laundromat locations. I recall when we stayed in Phoenix with you guys that I had to drive 45 minutes to find one. I would have thought a city the size of Phoenix would have had one closer, but no. The first one I found was closed and the second was in SketchyVille for sure. However, at that point I was in no mood to drive any farther and there was an excellent little taqueria 2 doors down in the strip center. It was run by the sweetest women ever, who insisted on bringing everything to me at my table. So in the end, it was a good experience.
I second the idea of owning less clothing and I would add that investing in good, solid outdoor apparel is wise. At least half of our wardrobe is made for backpacking so it sheds stains, dries fast, and holds up forever. The initial price of such items can be shocking but given their lifespan and versatility (most can be worn to nice restaurants and church), it’s worth it. As I began to be more conservative about laundry before we left, I learned just how long most of our wardrobe could go before needing a wash, and it was usually several wearings.
The last thing I would add is just to second what you said about whites. Just ditch them, especially if you have any plans to spend time in Utah. In that case you might even consider dying all your clothing orange.
We us Google Maps in various ways including the finding of laundromats. Just type in something like “LAUNDROMATS IN PHOENIX, AZ” to obtain a map that shows bunches of locations, then pick nearby locations and obtain “Directions” to the location from your campsite. Easy!
For people living rural far from a laundromat, there’s also a cool thing called ‘wonder wash’- a spinning pressurized washer you crank by hand. It’s great for just two of us- not so much for a family- but it stretches the time before you need to go to the laundry. I traveled with it for years when i had no laundry within 25 miles. Handy gadget for solo or 2 people who don’t move constantly! (we move only every couple months.)
Good idea to assign tasks. Laundry goes a lot quicker when everyone is working together and has something to do, and if you’re like me, the sooner you can finish the laundry the better.
We are a family of 8. We are shopping for an RV and hope to do a good bit of long term traveling. 4 of my 6 children are 5 and under and LOVE to play in the dirt! I have been looking for an RV with washer/dryer hookup but they are so hard to find and I’m finding that it’s really limiting what’s available in respect to price and lay-out. In your opinion- is it worth it, under my circumstances, to have a washer in the RV? Or, should I cross that off my wish list? Thanks for the insight!
Hey Charleigh -
You might read this post if you haven’t yet. For us laundry was a way to fulfill a higher goal for traveling - to meet local folks.
But then again we didn’t have that many young kids on board. ;)
I am on my 5th RV to date and have never had a washer and dryer. I always thought it wasted too much valuable storage space. Going to the laundry mat or the campground laundry was no big deal, a good way to meet fellow RVers, get away from the family (LOL), etc. I recently bought a used Phaeton with a washer and dryer and have to say I love it! Some of the cycles seem a bit long, but our clothes really don’t get very dirty so I often use the “refresh” mode. Traveling with a bunch of kids though, I would definitely want one. You will spend a fortune on the machines and it would be easy to just throw in the days clothes while hanging out at night. To each his own…there are pros and cons to both. Happy trails!
“Don’t be too quick to pull up your nose at the thought of visiting laundromats. They are often the ‘great melting pots’ of the RV world.”
Met the blues musician Taj Mahal in Boulder, CO in a laundromat. He was on tour. Middle of the day and we were the only ones there. Cool fellow.