There is no shortage of laundry solutions for your RV, but which one would work best for your situation? Anyone spending serious time in an RV will face this issue - just how exactly do you go about cleaning your clothes? Do RVs have washing machines or does it come down to choosing between the sink and the laundromat? Well, have no fear: We have assembled all of the best RV laundry options in one place for your convenience.
When it comes to laundry, RVers are truly spoiled for choice. With so many solutions out there, you are bound to find the option that fits both your RV and your budget. See for yourself:
- Built-in Washer and Dryer
- Built-in Washer/Dryer Combo
- Portable Washing Machines
- Drop-Off Service
- Washing by Hand
I'm sure there was at least one option on the list that appealed to you. But keep reading as we discuss all of the pros and cons of each option on that list. While some of those choices might sound perfect up front, there are some hidden downsides to consider before committing to anything, especially the more expensive options.
Built-in Washer and Dryer Set in Your RV
Although not as popular as the combo units, occasionally you will be able to find a stacked washer and dryer unit for your RV. And, while they are smaller than household machines, they can handle more laundry than most combo and portable machines. Clearly, however, only the largest RVs will be able to accommodate both a washer and a dryer, so anyone with a smaller trailer or motorhome will probably want to skip this option.
This setup isn't without some drawbacks, however. For one thing, the up-front cost required to purchase and install one of these units in your RV can be steep. Most mid-range units cost between $700 and $1000. Not only that, but the energy and water demands are also relatively high compared to other options on this list. Still, for those with the space and resources available, this is as close as it gets to bringing your home washer and dryer along with you as you travel.
The GE Unitized Spacemaker is a perfect example of one of these units.
- Clean and dry clothes right from your RV!
- Features a larger capacity than combo units
- Faster washing and drying cycles than washer/dryer combos
- Allows for washing and drying at the same time
- Much larger than all other laundry solutions
- Uses too much water and electricity to be a viable option while boondocking
- Will not fit in smaller motorhomes and trailers
- High cost of purchase
Built-in Washer/Dryer Combo in an RV
These do-it-all machines are becoming very common in larger motorhomes and trailers. It's easy to see why, too: In the space of one small-ish appliance, you get a machine that can both wash and dry your clothes! It doesn't get much more convenient than that. Once again, you will have to ensure that your RV has enough space for a unit like this.
Of course, all of that convenience doesn't come cheaply - this is a convenience that you must pony up the cash for. Because of the extra engineering effort required to design and build a machine that can perform the duties of both a washer and a dyer, these tend to cost even more than the stacked washer and dryer set. Even so, most full-timers and those with large trailers and motorhomes are finding that, once you own one of these combo machines, they quickly become considered a necessary part of life on the road.
Check out this LG Washer/Dryer Combo that has a ventless 2.3 cu.ft. capacity. It is a good size for full-time RV'rs.
- Automated laundry from within your RV
- Can choose "wash only" or "dry only" options
- Takes up half the space versus a washer and dryer set
- Most units come with an auto-balance feature to prevent excessive shaking
- Some units feature "express" setting to cut wash/dry time nearly in half
- Requires using smaller loads than a full-size washer and dryer will accept
- Long cycle time: Takes 3 hours or longer to complete a full wash and dry cycle
- Too energy and water-intensive for use while boondocking
- Can be very costly to buy and install if you don't already have one in your RV
- Requires high-efficiency detergent
Portable Washing Machines for RV's
If your RV doesn't have room for a built-in unit, don't worry! There are still plenty of options, including portable washing machines. These machines are surprisingly small and lightweight, meaning one person can easily move it around. Most of these machines even offer a spin-dry function to help get most of the water out of clothes after washing. Another great thing about these units is their low upfront cost. Looking around on Amazon, you can find many of these units for under $300, with some even sitting around $100. Now that's a great value for a machine that can make your RV experience so much better!
Because these aren't built into the RV, however, owners will have to find a place to store the portable washing machine when not in use, and then find a good place for it to go, usually next to your hookups, when in use. Anyone looking for a laundry solution that doesn't require installing a machine into your RV should check one of these out before deciding what route to go. And there are many other options to look for as you shop. For example, the Giantex Portable washer /Dryer is lightweight and portable and is easy to drain.
- Much cheaper than built-in units, some units are even under $100!
- No need to install into RV
- Can be used in RVs that lack a dedicated space for washing machine and dryer
- At around 30 pounds, these units are easily portable for use in various locations
- Can usually accept larger laundry loads than combo machines
- Spin dry function means clothes will require hang-drying afterward
- Dedicated portable dryers like the Panda Compact Dryer will take up more space and require long cycles to completely dry clothes
- Takes up storage space when not in use - not good for those tight on space
RV Park Laundry Facilities
Those staying in RV parks regularly may rely on laundry facilities within those parks. Of course, you will have to verify that the parks you are staying in actually have those facilities if this plan will work out. This really isn't all that hard, as long as you do a little homework prior to making your reservations. For example, the ubiquitous KOA RV parks all feature a laundry facility.
Places like KOA, however, tend to be nice, large resort-like parks with clean facilities. Smaller and lesser-known RV parks won't be quite so predictable. These facilities may range from laundromat-grade washers and dryers to a couple old, rickety machines. Either way, though, your clothes will get clean and you won't have to worry about lugging a washing machine around with you everywhere you go.
- Close and convenient for those already staying in RV parks
- No upfront cost required
- Usually inexpensive to run the machines
- Requires staying in RV parks with laundry services
- Can become busy with long wait times, depending on the time of day and season
- Some facilities can be ... unpleasant
- Requires payment for every load
For those who plan on staying close to cities in their RV, a good old-fashioned laundromat can be your best bet for clean clothes. Some people might find this option unpleasant, but these facilities usually aren't all that bad. Heck, they even have some great things going for them, like their huge-capacity washing machines and dryers.
Of course, this option requires leaving your RV, so you will have to pack everything up and make your way to the closest laundromat. As long as you don't have too many clothes with you, it should only take one or two cycles before you are all done. Plus, the larger machines will accept things like sleeping bags and comforters that RV washing machines can't even come close to handling. That means that even those with washers built into their RV will need to occasionally visit a laundromat to keep their larger items clean.
- Extra-large machines can be found at most laundromats, allowing up to 6 loads at one time!
- Some locations offer Wifi and charging for devices
- Usually fairly inexpensive each visit
- You might even make some new friends!
- Requires packing up all of your laundry at once
- Can lead you to parts of town you were not planning on and/or did not want to visit
- The expense can add up if you are full-timing
- Requires being close to a city
Drop-Off Laundry Services
How's this for convenient? Instead of spending your time inside a laundromat while your clothes get clean, drop-off services do all the work for you. Meanwhile, you can be out enjoying your leisure time as you intended when you bought your RV.
Many services will even pick up and drop off your clothes for you, at a charge, of course. And this requires being close enough to one of these facilities that they will make the journey out to your RV. But even if you have to drive your dirty laundry there yourself, these facilities are a true luxury. RV owners with the resources to
- As convenient as it gets
- Spend less time washing and drying, more time relaxing or adventuring
- Clothes will be professionally washed and folded
- Much more expensive than a laundromat
- You must be close to the laundry service to be within their territory - this can exclude many RV parks and boondocking sites
- You must be available at specific times to drop off and pick up clothes
And finally... Washing by Hand
If you really don't want to bother with the hassle of installing a machine in your RV or dealing with a laundry service, you can always do the job manually. Anyone who has taken a very long vacation likely knows how this works. Except now, instead of a hotel sink or bathtub, you will be washing your clothes in your RV.
Because your clothes will likely not get as clean as if you had used a true washing machine, this option is best suited for those RV owners who will only infrequently need to wash their clothes. You can use your RV sink, bathtub, or outside shower to get the job done. Simply wash with detergent (you can find special detergent for this type of clothes-washing), then rinse and hang up to dry.
Many RV owners have started using the Breathing Mobile Washer, which, yes, looks like a toilet plunger, but reportedly works very well to get your clothes clean.
- Cheap and easy to get started, as long as you have hook-ups
- Requires no machines or trips to the local laundromat
- Can be done from anywhere, so a great option for boondockers
- More labor intensive than other options
- Clothes likely will not get as clean with this option
- Air-drying required - no dryer to do the work for you
How to Hang-Dry Clothes from an RV
As you have likely noticed, a couple of these options will get your clothes clean but not dry. So, what do you do next? It turns out there are also plenty of options when it comes to air drying your clothes from your RV. Let's examine a few to see which one appeals to you.
- Drying Rack - Collapsible racks, like this big 3-tier Storage Maniac or this smaller Leifheit unit, can fit a decent amount of clothes on them. It's up to you where it goes while in use, although most people opt for either outside or in the shower. Then, when it's not in use, they fold up into a nice compact shape for easy storage. And they are so inexpensive that nearly anyone can afford it.
- Hooks - There are lots of hooks out there, from the suction type like these HOME SO ones to the ubiquitous Command variety. No matter which you choose, these are small and inexpensive solutions to hanging up your clothes or towels. Mount some in your bathroom and some can even go on the outside of your RV. These hooks are a terrific solution for those living the RV lifestyle!
- Clothesline - If your RV park allows it, you can also use a good old-fashioned clothesline. Now, most types of string or rope can be used for a clothesline, but you can also find purpose-made products online, such as this super handy EVERSPORT travel clothesline. Letting your clothes dry outside on a nice breezy day can't be beat, but lines can also work inside your RV, as long as you don't mind walking around or under it once in a while. Don't forget the clothespins to keep your clothes from taking to the wind like a kite!
Other RV Laundry Tips
- Bring only the clothes you will need - the simpler your wardrobe is, the easier laundry day will be
- Skip laundry day - that's right, if your clothes aren't obviously soiled or smelly, don't bother washing them. Living in an RV, you will soon learn that you don't always have to wash your clothes just because you wore it once.
- Save water and energy whenever possible. Even if you have hookups, it is best practice to only use as much as necessary. Air dry your clothes if possible, and try to find the laundry solution that uses the least amount of water for your needs.
- Use biodegradable detergent. This tip is for anyone who decides to do their own washing from their RV. When buying detergent, look for the biodegradable or RV-specific soaps. That way, any waste water that gets deposited on the ground will be safe for the environment.
Now, Choose Your Laundry Solution
Now that you have perused our list of RV laundry options, you can decide which one will work best for you. Naturally, your choice will be limited by what type of RV you are using. Larger trailers, 5th wheels, and motorhomes will be able to fit built-in units or easily store a portable one, while smaller RVs will be restricted to the other options.
The good news is that no matter what kind of trailer you have or what your needs are, there are plenty of great options out there. No RVer should ever feel like they can't find a way to clean their clothes. Being prepared is key - know what you will need before you venture out there. And, as always, enjoy your RV lifestyle!