Whether you are road tripping or living full time in an RV, laundry can be a struggle. It piles up fast, especially if you have kids. In this complete guide, I’m sharing everything you need to know about how to do laundry in an RV. I’ve included tricks for going to the laundromat down to some portable machines that will fit in your camper!
My husband and I were relieved to see that our fifth wheel included a washer/dryer hook-up. We planned on buying one before we moved in, but with all renovations, we forgot to order a machine. So for the first month of full-time RV living, we had to get creative because going to the laundromat was pretty spendy!
In this guide, you will find a lot of my personal tips and tricks that I learned from doing laundry in our fifth wheel for a family! Since we downsized and have a one-year-old, we needed our clothes washed weekly. While we were waiting for our washer/dryer combo to come in, I tried everything from washing small loads in the kitchen sink to asking our parents to use their machines.
Needless to say, no matter what your situation is (boondocking, cross-country travel, or full-time living) there are plenty of ways to get your laundry done! Let’s get started!
6 Ways to Wash Laundry in Your RV
First, I want to share some ways that you can wash your clothes in an RV. I feel like this is what we had the biggest struggle with. Everyone knows that you can hang your clothes on a line to dry, but what are some ways to get your clothes clean?
I’ve included some permanent solutions on how to wash your clothes along with others just to get you by or to use when boondocking! Make sure you save this to your Pinterest Board, it might come in handy later!
1. Washer/Dryer Combo
PROS: You can do a lot of laundry at once (About 6 Shirts + 3 Pairs of Pants) and you don’t need to leave your camper
CONS: You need to be hooked up to water, it requires electricity to run, and the machine is about $1000.
First and foremost, if you have hook-ups you NEED a washer/dryer combo. We absolutely LOVE ours and would recommend that anyone full-time RVing needs to make the investment.
I like to do small loads daily because we don’t have too many clothes and everything washes better. Of course, each washer/dryer combo has its quirks. Ours won’t wash a super small load (like one towel), we actually had to have a specialist come out and look at it because it wasn’t spinning.
All in all, if you have space and you are in your camper a lot, getting a washer/dryer combo is a must!
2. Hand Washing
PROS: You can do this while boondocking and traveling, it’s cheap, and doesn’t require you to be hooked up to water and electricity.
CONS: It doesn’t get your clothes as clean, it takes time, and sometimes clothes feel crunchy.
There are actually a bunch of ways you can hand wash your clothes. Occasionally, I will use our kitchen sink to do the baby’s clothes or something delicate, but if I have a lot of laundry I use our daughter’s bathtub.
Here are all the ways you can wash your clothes by hand:
1. Kitchen Sink
Here is a great little tutorial on how to wash your clothes by hand in the kitchen sink. Typically, I put the clothes in hot water and then wring them out. Next, I put them into warm water with a bit of detergent and let them sit for 30 minutes or so. Then wring them out again, and hang dry!
This technique is great if you only need a few items washed. But, I wouldn’t suggest it for towels and bigger items.
2. Bath Tub
Here is a great how-to guide for washing your clothes in a bathtub. I did this A LOT when we were waiting for our washer to be delivered.
Keep in mind you will want to keep like colors together, just as you would in a residential washer.
3. In a Bucket with a Portable Rotating Washer
I thought this was a really cool idea for those who love to boondock or don’t have the option to have a washer/dryer combo in their RV. Basically, it rotates the water to help get clothes cleaner. There is an electric and a hand-powered version. If you plan to wash your laundry this way, I would suggest getting both!
4. Scrubba Wash Bag
If you don’t have many clothes to do or just want to keep something on hand for boondocking, this scrubba bag is awesome!! All you do is fill with clothes, water, and detergent…. And scrub the bag… rinse… and dry. This is super simple and compact for even the tiniest of campers.
5. Old Fashioned Washboard
Okay, this might sound like you are living back in the 1800s but this is a really good way to wash your clothes. Surprisingly, they still sell washboards too!
Here is a great tutorial on how to clean your clothes using a washboard!
3. Hand Crank Unit
PROS: It doesn’t require electricity, it will clean clothes in under 2 minutes, and you can use with delicate clothes.
CONS: It only holds five lbs of clothes or one large bath towel and you need to crank it.
This hand crank washing unit is a semi-permanent solution! It’s a small unit that will fit even in the tiniest of campers. I like that it will get clothes cleaner than just soaking them in the sink.
Although being a full-timer, I don’t want to have to do this small of a load every day!
4. Manual Clothes Washer
PROS: It doesn’t require electricity and you can use it boondocking or anywhere!
CONS: You have to do really small loads and it takes a bit of time to pump it.
If you don’t want to crank by hand, this nifty little manual washer is done with your foot. All you do is fill up the bucket, put in your clothes, detergent, and start pumping. You can potentially be multitasking or have your kiddos do it!
5. Compact Washing Machine
PROS: Automatic washing machine that’s only 18in wide and 17.5in deep… and you can hook it up to a faucet, so you don’t need washer/dryer hook-ups!
CONS: Requires electricity to run, you have to run smaller loads, and you need a separate unit if you want to dry your clothes.
We almost bought a compact washing machine for our fifth wheel because it’s so inexpensive! If you plan on always line drying your clothes this is a great option. The only thing I was concerned about was only being about to wash really small loads and the off chance that it rained for a week straight and needing a dryer.
6. Non-Electric Clothes Washer
PROS: You don’t need electricity and only uses 6 liters of later, which means this is the perfect little unit for boondockers.
CONS: It only holds about 10 items and requires a little work to get clothes clean.
This reminds me of a salad spinner, but for clothes! Whether you boondock frequently or just want to have something on backup, this non-electric clothes washer is perfect. It uses such little water which makes it perfect for secluded areas.
How to Dry Your Clothes in your RV
Now that we’ve talked about all the ways you can clean your clothes in an RV, how do you dry them? Obviously, you can always line dry your clothes (which I’ll give you some tips for this), but if you don’t want to wait here are few options for that.
1. In your COMBO Unit
PROS: They get dried and don’t feel stiff or crunchy.
CONS: A dry cycle can take up to 4 hours and uses a lot of energy.
As I mentioned early, we have a combo unit in our RV. I wanted the drying option for days (or weeks) when it was rainy and I couldn’t hang our clothes out to dry. I’m grateful for it, especially when it comes to enjoying fluffy towels, but I also find myself getting frustrated with how long each cycle takes.
2. Line Dry
PROS: It costs nothing and you can do it anywhere!
CONS: Clothes and towels can feel crunchy, sometimes you have to watch out for bugs, and on cooler days it takes a bit more time to dry.
Here is an AWESOME Line Drying How-To!
I absolutely LOVE drying our clothes outside. I don’t think I will ever stop, even if we decide to buy a house again. Even though I love the way my clothes smell and don’t stink, it does come with some downfalls. We don’t line dry towels and we’ve found our fair share of bugs, but the pros outweigh the cons for us.
A couple of tips for Line Drying:
- Always inside out your clothes
- Invest in a good drying rack
- Don’t over-do the detergent
3. Portable Travel Clothes Dryer
PROS: It’s foldable, lightweight, and can have dry clothes even on rainy days.
CONS: You need electricity, you can’t fit a whole load of laundry, and it takes 3+ hours to dry.
If you don’t want a permanent dryer in your camper, this portable travel clothes dryer is perfect! I love that it folds down to just 11in x 6in. You can stow it away pretty much anywhere. It does take about 3+ hours to dry and only holds about 6-10 items of clothes. But since most of the portable washers are small, this sounds like the perfect size.
4. Manual Drying Machine
PROS: It doesn’t require electricity and it’s compact.
CONS: It doesn’t fully dry your clothes (still damp when they are done) and you can only fit about 4 to 6 pieces of clothing.
Other than line drying your clothes, this Manual Drying Machine is the ONLY option most boondockers have for drying clothes (kind of) quickly. The downfall is just that it doesn’t 100% dry your clothes, so they will still be damp. But, it’s a small price to pay for a fairly quick and compact method to drying your clothes.
4 Ways to do Laundry NOT in Your RV
There have been a few occasions where we just couldn’t do laundry in our RV. So, we used the Laundromat, the campgrounds laundry room, and even our parents’ machines. I’m going to share four other ways you can do laundry for when you are on the road or are in a pinch.
Okay, this is pretty obvious but going to a laundromat is an option. Some full-timers prefer this, just so they don’t have a heavy unit in tow. I’ve heard people keeping their laundry stowed in their truck bed, so it’s easy to access when they get to the laundromat.
The downfall of going to a laundromat is the cost. It’s pretty spendy, plus it takes time. But, if these things don’t bother you a laundromat will work out perfectly.
2. Truck Stops
I didn’t realize that full-service truck stops included laundry units. But, if you are already stopping at a Travel Center, you might as well take advantage of this perk. Here are some common places you will find laundry:
Most campgrounds have a laundry facility on them! Check your next stop to see the cost of doing laundry at the campground. At the KOA we stayed at, it cost $2 to wash and $2 to dry. Often times you don’t have to wait there either, you can get back to your RV while your laundry runs. Just don’t forget to set a timer!
4. At a Friend or Family Members House
Last but not least, as a friend or family member if you can use their washer and dryer. We did this when we visited both our parents. It was convent because we were already there…. And they truly didn’t mind!
Whether you are full-time living or boondocking for the weekend, there are so many ways to do laundry in an RV. Even if you need a few different options for your lifestyle, there are so many compact ways to get your clothes cleaned. No matter what method you choose, I hope it works for you and your family!
Lastly if you need some ideas on where to store your laundry in your RV, check out this blog post!