The Unspoken Rules of Showering in an RV

Contributor

Tucker Ballister

Favorite Trip

5 Months Solo on the Road

Home Base

Hendersonville, NC

Favorite RV

2008 Fleetwood Bounder

About Contributor

Tucker Ballister is our Content Strategist. He’s a lover of the open road and the proud owner of a 2021 Sunlite Classic travel trailer (his 3rd RV to date). Check out more of his RV adventures, gear reviews, and outdoor advice at thebackpackguide.com.

Showering in an RV is just like bathing at home — until it isn’t. But a few tips can help you get clean, keep your shower clean, and minimize water usage so that you look forward to showering in an RV.  After all, having a shower is one of the biggest benefits of buying an RV. So, if you’re not enjoying this quintessential RV amenity, here are our tips to do it right. 

Rule #1: Learn Your Water System

Person connecting city water hose to ensure water availability for showering in an RV
Photo by Camping World

The first unspoken rule of showering in an RV is to understand the water systems in your unit. This determines how much hot water you have available for showering — or water of any temperature, for that matter.

Here are some specific examples of water system specs  and how they might impact your showers:

  • Fresh Water Tank Capacity determines the available water for showers, dishes, drinking, and other uses when dry camping.
  • Water Heater Tank Capacity impacts available hot water and the length of showers in RVs with tank-style gas/electric water heaters.
  • Water Heater Type (i.e., tank-style versus tankless) impacts the amount of hot water available and how long you’ll need to wait for water to be heated after turning on the heater and before showering. 
  • Gray Water Tank Capacity determines how much water you can use for showers, dishes, flushes, and other uses before dumping your camper tanks.

RV owners should know their tank capacities and which type of water heater their unit uses. Have questions about yours? Learn more about your RV water system.

Rule #2: Plan Shower Times

Families will benefit from strategizing shower times. It can alleviate certain members suffering cold showers. 

A 6-gallon tank-style water heater will run out of hot water in roughly 5-10 minutes. So, the more people you camp with, the more you need to space out your showers. The recovery time for a tank-style water heater is typically 30-45 minutes before the tank is refilled and reheated. 

Solo travelers won’t have an issue, but couples need to space their showers out to enjoy their desired amount of hot water. For a family of four, it may be beneficial for two people to take morning showers so the other two can comfortably shower in the evening. As your camping party grows, the need to plan and space out shower times increases. 

Of course, if your RV has a tankless water heater, you’ll need less time between showers. However, due to the additional limitations mentioned in Rule #1, you may still need to plan ahead.

Rule #3: Practice Moisture Control

RV roof vent fan
Photo by Camping World

Humidity can make your RV uncomfortable and increase mold and mildew growth. This can lead to significant health concerns and expensive RV damage. That’s why controlling moisture and RV condensation is so important in general. 

 Our third rule is to open your bathroom roof vent and turn on the fan (if equipped) before showering to help control excess moisture. This keeps steam from accumulating inside your RV and raising the relative humidity level. It’s also good practice to avoid a foggy RV bathroom mirror so you can use it to finish getting ready after your shower. 

Rule #4: Minimize Water Usage

Our fourth rule is to limit your shower duration. As mentioned earlier, you’re likely only going to have 5-10 minutes of hot water with a gas/electric water heater, depending on the heater’s tank size. But you can extend the length of your showers by minimizing water usage. Here’s a recommended technique: 

  1. Turn on both hot and cold faucets and adjust to your desired temperature. 
  2. Use the shutoff valve on the showerhead to turn the water off. 
  3. Hop in the shower, turn off the shutoff valve, and rinse. 
  4. Turn on the shutoff valve while soaping/shampooing. 
  5. Turn off the shutoff valve again to rinse. 

Use this technique multiple times in a single shower for shampoo, body wash, face soap, and any other aspects of your shower routine. Depending on the showerhead you’re using, you may also use a different setting to reduce water consumption. Explore showerheads if you’re interested in upgrading.

Rule #5: Do a Post-Shower Clean

Every time you shower, take the final 30 seconds to rinse the shower surround and basin. Even better? Keep a sponge in your RV shower to quickly scrub off soap residue left behind from your shower. It only takes a few seconds, and it makes your seasonal cleaning procedure much easier.

What Are the Different Types of RV Showers?

In addition to those unspoken rules, let’s address a few more important considerations about RV showers. 

Dry vs Wet Bath

If an RV has a shower, it’s typically in either a wet bath or a dry bath. 

A dry bath is where the shower basin and surround are separate from the toilet and sink or vanity. 

Here’s a floorplan image from the Coleman Lantern LT 17R as an example: 

Photo by Dutchmen RV

While not all RVs have a sink and vanity in the bathroom, this fundamental design is true of all dry baths: The toilet and shower are separate, and the toilet stays dry. Of course, a dry bath takes up more space in the RV’s floorplan, potentially limiting space for other living, dining, or sleeping areas. 

A wet bath is where the shower basin, toilet, sink, and vanity share a space. Here’s an example from the Winnebago Travato 59G floorplan: 

Photo by Winnebago

The primary benefit of the wet bath is space savings. That’s why you’ll often find it on smaller teardrop campers and Class B camper vans. To make the space more functional, many wet baths include features like a flip-down sink and an enclosed holder to keep your RV toilet paper dry. 

Some manufacturers have gotten creative with a swiveling divider that makes the wet bath adaptable for its different uses while still taking up the same footprint, such as in the Winnebago EKKO.

Indoor vs Outdoor Shower

Many RVs actually have two showers. However, the outdoor shower typically has a much different use than the one inside. It’s great for cleaning outdoor gear, rinsing after swimming, or washing feet (yours or your furry companions). Only in Class B RVs is it more common to see outdoor showers as the sole, primary shower. 

On many towable RVs, the outdoor shower is located in a small exterior compartment. It comprises hot and cold faucets and a showerhead on a relatively short hose. The lack of a showerhead holder for hands-free use is one reason why more RVers likely don’t use their outdoor showers to get clean—that and the lack of privacy in most RV parks.

Alternative RV Shower Storage Ideas

Woman using wet bath for extra storage in Winnebago camper van
Photo by Winnebago

We know some RVers that would rather use campground shower facilities. The benefit? It frees up their RV shower for additional storage. If you’re interested in an alternative use for this space in your camper, here are a few RV shower storage ideas: 

  • Shelf Storage. Many RVs with wet baths come with removable shelves for converting the shower into additional storage.
  • Hanging Storage. Remove the shower curtain and use the rod to hang extra clothes, pocket organizers, or anything else that doesn’t have a home elsewhere. You can also use an expanding curtain rod to hang items more centrally in the shower.
  • Large Gear Storage. No place in your RV for golf clubs, coolers, or other larger gear? Use the shower—at least to transport them to your next destination.

You can make your RV showers more comfortable and enjoyable with the right accessories. Add these camper shower accessories to your RV: 

  • Soap Dispenser. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to put a bar or bottle of soap away before moving my RV, leading to spills and wasted time cleaning up. Eliminate that potential with a secured dispenser.
  • Pocket Organizer. Cabinet space is limited in most RV bathrooms. Store the essentials you use most often in a hanging organizer on the inside or outside of your shower curtain.
  • Towel Rack. Towels don’t stay on hooks in an RV as well as they do at home. Keep your towels from ending up on the dirty floor while you’re traveling. 
  • Shower Curtain and Bath Mat. Keep water in the shower basin and off the floor while adding a decorative personal touch to your RV bathroom.

Are you interested in upgrading or renovating your RV shower or bathroom? Here are some helpful resources: 

Do you have any tips or questions about showering in an RV? Let us know in the comments below.

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