The RVers Guide to Doing Laundry on the Road


Mike Wendland

Favorite Trip

Re-tracing the Lewis & Clark Trail from Pennylvania to Oregon

Home Base

Western Michigan

Favorite RV

Keystone Arcadia Fifth Wheel (bought at Camping World!)

About Contributor

Mike started with his wife in 2012 after deciding to spend their retirement traveling throughout the U.S. Mike also runs the popular podcast called “The RV Podcast.”

Nobody likes doing laundry. When you’re traveling in an RV, it’s even more of a pain. There are so many more enjoyable things to do than laundry. But…as we all know… it has to be done. But where? How?

Start by getting the right tools for doing laundry in an RV, like bins, detergents, and drying racks. Shop laundry necessities at Camping World.

I’m not saying the task of doing laundry will be a highlight of your trip, but we do have some suggestions for you that will get it done relatively efficiently and then let you get back to the things you really want to do. Fair enough? Read on…

Use Campground Laundry Facilities 

RVer doing laundry
Jennifer Wendland doing laundry on the road.

Virtually all RV campgrounds that offer full hookups for RVs also have a washer and dryer (or several) available for campers.

For Jennifer and me, we can expect KOAs, Thousand Trails, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, Good Sam Campgrounds, and other large commercial campgrounds to have on-site laundry facilities that are kept clean and neat. Most offer access in the early mornings and evenings so you can get the laundry done outside of peak recreation hours.

Most (but not all) state parks have laundry facilities and many county, municipal, or national park campgrounds. In general, though, we’ve found that cleanliness and the condition of the equipment can vary greatly at civic and smaller campgrounds. So check the reviews.

One caution, though. Campground laundry machines can be costly. They do have a pretty captive audience, and some have very steep rates because they know most folks will decide it’s not worth the hassle of leaving the campground and finding a commercial laundromat.

Use a Commercial Laundromat

Laundry Machines in public laundromat
Laundry machines in public laundromat. Image by Pung, Shutterstock.

We actually enjoy laundromats. As the small-town diner gives you a window into the community, so too does a small-town laundromat. We often do laundry en route to somewhere else.

Typically, we’ll Google “laundromat near me” and almost always find several to choose from in the towns and cities we travel through. It usually takes us about an hour to an hour and a half to do our laundry, so it’s a nice break.

We’ll do a drive-by before pulling in and unloading at the first one we see. We’ll check the neighborhood out and the safety of the parking lot. If all looks good, we’ll go inside and examine the machines.

In nearly 11 years of the RV Lifestyle, there have only been a couple of occasions when we’ve decided to move on. Once, I was at a laundromat in a rather seedy-looking parking lot a few doors down from a bar with many rowdy people out front. The other time we chose to find another laundromat was one where most of the machines had “out of order” signs, and a rather unpleasant odor came from a sink.

We have met many interesting people over the years doing laundry at laundromats. We have learned about fascinating places to see and great spots to eat. It gives us a sense of the areas we visit that we would never have found in a guidebook or website.

Bring Your Own Change

Here’s an important tip about doing laundry on the road: Carry a stash of quarters. We’ve noticed that coin machines at laundromats are often empty or broken. Some banks will give rolls of coins, but more often than not, it’s only for their own customers.

So, for the past couple of years, we save all our coins and always try to be sure we have a $10 roll of quarters handy. If the laundry machines accept credit cards, we begrudgingly will use one, but credit card washers and dryers always seem to cost more than coin-operated machines.

Factor in a laundry allowance in your RV lifestyle budget.

A Word About Laundromat Courtesy

This is a huge deal when using washers and dryers at a campground or laundromat: Tend to your clothes.

We’ve witnessed a lot of angry words directed towards people who put their clothes in the washer or dryer and then leave them unattended, often for hours. This needlessly ties up a machine, making it unavailable for the next person. 

Once, we saw a very grumpy man open a dryer and remove a pile of long-dried clothes, tossing them outside on the sidewalk so he could use the machine. We never did see if the people whose clothes got dumped ever returned. Avoid arguments, and don’t be rude. Stay with your clothes and promptly tend to them when their cycles come to an end.

Bring Your Own Detergent and Laundry Supplies

Bring laundry soap, fabric softener, and dryer sheets with you. It will certainly save you money over buying them in the laundromat. When you finish, clean out the lint filter for the next user. Be polite, respect other people’s space when folding your clothes, and clean up any spills.

It will also save time and space if you sort your clothes – whites, colored, and delicates – ahead of time before bringing them into the laundromat. Use collapsible bins to organize your laundry.

Collapsible Storage
Collapsible Storage from Camping World

Get a Washer and Dryer for Your RV

How we envy friends who have laundry machines in their Class A and Fifth Wheel RVs and campers! To run these washer/dryer appliances in an RV, you usually need 50-amp service. But they are surprisingly efficient, and while often a bit smaller than traditional-sized washers and dryers, they are such a huge convenience.

RV Washer Dryer
RV Washer Dryer unit by Camping World

There are combo units that are both a washer and dryer in one machine, as well as stackable units and even compact units available. It’s best to get these units factory-installed, but they can also be added to existing RVs. Installation can be a challenge.

Many have external venting requirements, meaning you must cut out a hole through the side of the RV. There are some RV washers and dryers that are ventless machines. Plumbing hookups can be tricky. And the machines need winterizing if the RV is in very cold climates during the winter.

I mentioned size. You may need to do considerably more loads with an RV washer and dryer than what you are used to at home or in a laundromat. The smaller size is so they will fit in the limited space of an RV, so there’s not much that can be done about that. But they also use a lot of water, making their use pretty impractical if you are boondocking or aren’t at a campground with full hookups.

Shop washer and dryer units at Camping World.

RV laundry
Camping World Partner, Karen Akpan of The Mom Trotter, uses a stackable washer-dryer unit to do laundry on the road while her family travels full-time. Image by Karen Akpan.

Use a Portable Washer and Spin Dryer

Numerous portable small washers are available that will help you clean your clothes in your RV. Typically, they cost from $200 to $300. Camping World has a nice selection of portable washing machines.

Simple Nest Portable Washing Machine by Camping World

These units wash and dry using two different tubs. You pour water into the washtub and put a hose in the sink to drain. Some have wheels to make them easy to move about.

Again, you will want full hookups, large fresh water, and gray tanks. They do need electricity. These usually are spin-dry only. We have not used one for space reasons, but if you have the room in your RV, the price is pretty reasonable.

Handwash Your Laundry Using Two Buckets

Yes, you can do this. I washed a pair of jeans that way this summer, and we’ve washed other clothes like this on boondocking trips when we wanted to stay off the grid longer.

  1. Fill up two buckets with water.
  2. Put in a little detergent in one and then your clothing.
  3. Just wash and mash – with your hands.
  4. Wring everything out and then put them in the other bucket to rinse as best as possible. Fill and refill as needed with clean water, emptying the used water as far away from the lake or river as possible so as not to pollute or contaminate water resources.
  5. Then air-dry your clothing on a rope, over a bush, or using a bumper mount clothesline.
Bumper Mount Clothesline
Bumper Mount Clothesline by Camping World

It works fine, but the clean jeans were a bit stiff when I first put them on. Search around, and you’ll find plenty of inspiration for DIY clothes-washing setups like this.

RV camping is a step above tent camping when it comes to cleanliness. Here are a few more resources to help you keep your RV clean on your next trip:

Do you have any tips for doing laundry on the road? Share your advice in the comments below.

  • Comment (2)
  • Bob says:

    Where have you guys been? Back in the 1960s John Steinbeck in his book Travels With Charlie (which was his journey around the United States with his dog) simply hung his daily wash in a bucket with some Suds and the vibration of the road agitated them completely. By the time he stopped, he simply rinsed them out and hung them up to dry….Works wonderful !
    Also a wonderful way to make butter from a carton of cream.

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