Short RV Trips

32 RV Tips For Laundry And Cleaning On The Road

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Short RV Trips

clean getaway

There are some things you can’t escape by living on the road. No matter how flexible your living space is, you’ll always need to do laundry, and you’ll always need to keep it clean — in fact, virtually any chore needed for living at a permanent address has some version that’s demanded by traveling in an RV, and sometimes they’re worse and more complicated. Fortunately, there are experts willing to share some hard-earned tips.

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OLE Super Coin Laundry, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Orlando Bosquez Tomasini/Google Maps

know the best days for public laundromats

Visit laundromats on weekdays, meaning Tuesdays through Thursdays, recommends Christina Harris of RV Living Now and Coleen Sykora, publisher ofRV Life and Travel and Workers on Wheels. “Weekends and Mondays are probably the busiest at laundromats,” Sykora says.

Laundry World, Hialeah, Florida

ask about the best machines

At a laundromat, ask if the owner is available — and then ask the owner for machine advice. “They usually know which one is the biggest, which one is the most efficient,” says Matt Best of Ditching Suburbia “‘Oh, this one actually doesn’t work quite as well as this other one.’ They’ll tell you how to do it the fastest way.”

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Laundry Detergent
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bring your own supplies

Many laundromats sell detergent, fabric softener, and other supplies, but you don’t want to pay for their overpriced goods. Buy ahead of time, and pick up smaller bottles, because bulk jugs take up too much space, says Crissa Boyink of Ditching Suburbia.

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Steve Debenport/istockphoto

keep quarters handy

There may not always be a change machine. Sykora and husband Bob Niles keep a $20 roll of quarters in their laundry tub, along with the detergent. “It’s an easy, grab-and-go system,” Sykora says. With seven kids, Best needs more than a roll. “We have like three Ziploc bags full of quarters ready to go at any moment,” Best says.
Haines Hitch Up RV Park in Alaska
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try truck stops and campgrounds

Laundromats aren’t the only places with public, coin-operated washing machines and dryers. Some truck stops, campgrounds, and RV parks also have laundry machines. There may be fewer than at a laundromat, and if you’re sharing with other drivers there may not be enough to do a whole wardrobe.

Do Less Laundry

never miss a chance to do laundry

You don’t always know when you’ll be close to laundry machines, so if you have access to one, use it. It’s better safe than sorry, and it keeps hampers from overflowing or clothes from gathering on the floor. “It’s better to keep ahead of it than to let it pile up,” Sykora says.
Make The Kids Do It

make the kids do it

Families on the road have a reliable resource for getting chores done: Most kids will be happy to do the laundry just to escape cramped quarters at a laundromat with Wi-Fi. “Our oldest daughter loves to do it,” Best says. “I have four kids that can be pretty darn helpful at folding laundry.”
Honey Can Do Rectangular Collapsible Hamper with Handles
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use a portable hamper

A hamper can be storage and laundry carrier. “It’s easy to take to the laundry facility,” Sykora says. “Clean clothes go back in it after they are washed and dried, to carry back to the RV. The clothes get put away, and the tub goes back in its place.” Best prefers laundry bags.
RVs Can Be Terrifying to Drive

wear stuff twice … or more

The American Cleaning Institute recommends wearing pajamas, jeans, suits, and bras at least three timesbefore washing. A writer at Crazy Family Adventure lets her kids wear outfits twice and trusts chlorine to clean bathing suits. Best’s kids would go longer if he didn’t step in. “If we don’t tell them to change clothes, they’ll just wear the same thing over and over and over again every day,” Best says. “They just don’t care.”


but buy extra socks and underwear

Having extra socks and underwear can cut laundromat visits in half. “We found we were needing to go to the laundromat weekly because we were out,” Sykora says. “We stocked up on them and, just like that, no need to do laundry for another week.”
Converted Vans

keep dirty laundry out of sight

Keep dirty clothes under the bed or dinettes, or even in the shower and bathtub. It gives you more free space and you don’t have to look at dirty clothes, Boyink says.
Driving Can Be Your Washing Machine

driving can be your washing machine

Driving around with abucket of clothes soaking in water and detergent that gets agitated by the motion of the RV can freshen up one or two items. “It’s an easy way to wash a few pairs of socks or some undies,” Sykora says. “Or to wash out the blanket from the cat bed that he upchucked on. Or a particular shirt that you want to wear before the next planned laundry day.”

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Borrow A Friend’s Washing Machine

borrow a friend’s washing machine

If you’re visiting friends, consider asking to borrow their washer and dryer. It can be a big favor to ask. “We haven’t had the guts to just ask somebody,” Best says. “We did have a friend who saw our laundry and says, ‘Do you want to do it at my house?’ Yes, absolutely. If people offer it to us, we will always say yes to that.”
Get Creative With Hand Washing

get creative with hand washing

Bathtubs and sinks are good spaces for hand washing laundry. Sykora had heard of RVers buying a children’s wading pool to use as a laundry tub, but she prefers “the sink, for sure.” It works well for gear such as “swimsuits, a top I wanted to wear before we were likely to do a full batch of laundry and, again, socks and undies.”
Use A Manual Device
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use a manual device

The Breathing Mobile Washer pushes and pulls water through clothes, which Sykora says you can do with a plunger. Fortunately, it’s hard on an RV to mistake that plunger for one used in the bathroom: “Plungers aren’t really something I think of having in an RV,” she says. “I don’t think you can plunge an RV toilet.”

Line Dry

line dry

However you hand wash clothes, you need to air them out to dry. You can hang a laundry line between any two trees or a tree and the RV. Some air drying can be done using a picnic table, according to Rolling on a Whim, but make sure the campground allows drying laundry. Some have rules prohibiting it.

In A Pinch, Dry Laundry Inside

in a pinch, dry laundry inside

Air drying in the Death Valley sun got off to a good start, but it rained and the Best family had to improvise. “When we have bad weather, we dry them inside,” Best says. “We have an electric fireplace, so we’ll dry them in front of the fireplace. We have a dehumidifier running.”

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Buy A Drying Rack
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buy a drying rack

There are many accessories for sale to dry wet clothes, including basic standing racks ($19 from Amazon) that fold up when not in use, or a retractable one ($60 from Amazon) that attaches to the bumper and pulls out to hang wet clothes.

Buy A Portable Washer …
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buy a portable washer …

Smaller washing machines intended for mobile use include the Panda ($240 from Walmart) or Manatee ($60 from Camping World), which have a spin dry function and are recommended by Dee Montana at RV Share. The Della ($130 from Amazon) is used by Best’s family, and Best and the Tipperarys also like the hand-cranked WonderWash ($48 from Amazon)— but be ready to wring out the wet clothes. Some drivers complain that even these products take up too much space, and may be more trouble than they’re worth.

… Or A Portable Washer/dryer
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… or a portable washer/dryer

Ventless washer/dryer models are recommended by Montana, even though they can do only small loads, cost a lot, and require a lot of power. Many prefer to devote that space to storage, especially considering that onboard dryers take much longer to dry — but if you still prefer a machine, Gone with the Wynns recommend a Splendide ($1,080 from PPL Motor Homes).

Remove Filters

keep the laundry machine in the shower

You use the shower once a day. The rest of the time it can be the laundry room. The Best family’s portable washer “sits in our shower so then we take it out of the shower when we want to shower,” Best says. “Because it’s in the shower, it drains right into our pre-tank.”
Tow A Washer/dryer

tow a washer/dryer

If you want a washer/dryer but don’t want to give up space inside the RV, keep it in what you’re towing. “In one instance, our tow vehicle was a retired moving van, so we had room for a washing machine there and could use it while it was inside the van,” Sykora says.

Do Small Loads

do small loads

The last thing you want is an overflowing washer, or one that’s clogged and unable to do any more clothes. A writer at Crazy Family Adventure does laundry every day, and puts it away daily; Best and Sykora do laundry as needed, which means doing bigger loads of laundry at the next stop and leaving onboard washing for emergencies.

Dress In Colors …

dress in colors …

Boyink doesn’t even wear white clothes anymore. Sykora also recommends color coordinating. “It cuts down on sorting time,” Sykora says. “It also reduces the number of separate loads you need to do.”
… And Use Color-saving Sheets For Bigger Loads
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… and use color-saving sheets for bigger loads

Buy color-saving sheets such as the kind Shout makes and do huge loads with all different colors, instead of separating multiple loads and worrying about bleeding reds, RV Share advises.

Get Your Laundry Done For You

get your laundry done for you

Just do a Google search for laundry drop-off services in your area — if you’re not one of those RVers who insist on saving money by doing the wash themselves. (Which may be most RVers.) “I just can’t justify spending that much money to have someone else do what we can easily do ourselves,” Sykora says. “After all, doing a couple loads of laundry in automatic machines, while we read or watch TV, isn’t very taxing.”
Clean Often

clean often

RVers agree you have to clean up daily, or mess piles up quickly. “Every night before we go to bed, we get it pretty darn clean,” Best says. “Just be vigilant.” Sykora wipes, dusts, and sweeps daily, and does dishes after every meal. “It doesn’t take long for an RV to look cluttered and messy,” she says. “It doesn’t take long for dust to seep in windows and vents. It doesn’t take many trips in and out before we’ve dragged a bunch of stuff in with us.”
Ecos All-Purpose Cleaner
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use a multipurpose cleaner

You probably don’t have space for separate cleaning products for windows, floors, counters, the bathroom, and more. That’s why Amanda Watson of Do It Yourself RV recommends multi-purpose cleaner— one bottle to spray them all.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads With Durafoam
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magic eraser is your friend

Some call Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser an “awesome” product that can handle scuff marks, tarnish on silver, walls, mirrors, and even stains on fifth wheel exteriors ($6 for a seven-pack from Walmart). But check with your RV’s manufacturer or do some responsible research to make sure Magic Erasers won’t damage anything.

Avoid Carpet

avoid carpet

Carpet is a surefire way to make spills last forever. “Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean,” Sykora says. “But some RVs come with carpet, and it is easier to live with it than to replace it.”
Squeegee The Shower

squeegee the shower

“We’ll squeegee the shower after every use so we’re less likely to get deposits from water on surfaces,” Best says. If you do get deposits, try cleaning by cutting a lemon in half and scrubbing off the stains.

Clorox Regular Liquid Bleach
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keep water tanks clean with bleach

Lots of bacteria and dirt can get in the water on the road, and dirty water can stink up an RV. Sykora uses bleach to freshen up the tanks. “A bit in the fresh water tank can stave off all sorts of nasties,” she says. “If there are concerns about water spigots, or hoses, or who-knows-what, bleach is our standard disinfectant.” Lakeshore RV Center recommends a full bleach flush.

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