Go For a Spin (Cycle): Doing Laundry on a Road Trip
Get some fresh air without sacrificing fresh laundry by following this guide to laundering on the go.
There are few things better than a two- or three-week road trip. And, whether you’re taking that trip just in a car or in an RV—a trailer or a coach—it’s the perfect way to see the country. Plus, you can make all of the stops you want and check out tons of interesting stops along the way, or get in some long hikes. That is, of course, until you run out of laundry.
Doing laundry on a road trip isn’t fun, but it’s hard to enjoy the fresh air and outdoors when your clothing is anything but. However, there are plenty of great ideas to make laundry much, much easier along the way. And that means you don’t have to worry about over-packing and loading down your RV when every ounce matters.
Doing Laundry in an RV
Depending on how you travel, your RV may come equipped with its own washer and dryer. This is the best-case scenario for any traveler. Especially if you’re staying somewhere with water hookups, it’s easy to toss in a load whenever you need. A lot of RVs, especially Class A luxury coaches and some Super Cs, that are built today have some form of a washer/dryer combo inside them.
That said, if you’re not staying somewhere with hookups or you’re boondocking, using your washing machines probably isn’t a great use of the water in your tank. If you need to do laundry in one of these types of places, follow some of the tips below.
Doing Laundry Without Water Hookups
Traveling in an RV and boondocking—or just don’t have access to a washer and dryer? Don’t worry. There are still plenty of ways to wash your clothes.
Find a Laundromat
This may not be the most ideal situation, but it’s one that works. Laundromats tend to be easy to find in most towns. Of course, no one wants to spend valuable vacation time doing laundry, nor do you want to spend money on it, but it’s a safe, easy, and effective way of getting your clothes clean.
Find a Laundry Service Nearby
If you’re able to spend a little more than five dollars in quarters and want to keep all of your time, find a full-service laundry that will do your clothes for you. All you’ll need to do is drop them off, then go about your adventurous day the way you normally would, and then pick them up later. It’s as easy as that.
Doing Laundry at a Campsite
If you’re camping, there’s a good chance you’ll have access to water in some form or another. This doesn’t mean you should wash your clothes in a stream, but as long as local regulations allow it you can capture some water in a tub and do it back at your campsite. Otherwise, use water from a spigot or shower house.
Items to Pack for Doing Laundry on a Road Trip
There are several things to bring along to help you get laundry done no matter where you are.
Don’t pack your dirty clothes with your clean clothes—that just defeats the purpose. Bring a special dry bag along to keep your dirty clothes in. Some people may use a garbage bag or plastic store bag, but if you want to avoid being wasteful (and accidentally tossing your clothes), a dry bag packs up nicely when it’s empty, can be reused easily, and best of all, it holds in odors.
You need some kind of large container that will hold water and let you easily fit your clothes (not all of them at once, but one or two pieces), plus your detergent and some suds. It doesn’t need to be large and can even serve other purposes if you’re cramped for space.
Washboard or Scrub Brush
Turns out, they do still have a use. A washboard is a handy tool to have onboard when you’re doing laundry. Think about it: they worked for hundreds of years before more intricate laundry machines were invented, and they’ll still work today. They let you scrub any stains and work them out of the fabric easily. If you can’t find a washboard, a handheld scrub brush will work just as well—though it may be harder on your clothes.
Air drying is natural and plenty of people around the world still hang their laundry on clotheslines. A nice drying rack or two folds up compactly and fits into nearly any flat space. When unfolded, it allows air to get in and around your clothes to dry quickly. It’s worth noting: if you’re trying to dry something in a high humidity environment (like Florida for example), your clothes may never actually get dry. Just be thoughtful of the weather.
How to Wash Clothes By Hand
So you have all of the gear for doing laundry on a road trip by hand. But, you might have never actually had to wash anything by hand before. Just how do you do it? Just follow these easy steps:
Sort Your Clothes
Just like you would before a normal wash, sort your clothes into colors, lights, darks, or certain types—like athletic clothes and delicates.
Fill The Tub and Add Detergent
Fill your tub two-thirds of the way with water, and add a small amount of detergent. Use your hands to swish it around to get the suds started.
Add your batch of clothes and let them soak if they’re particularly dirty or stained. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.
Wash and Scrub
Swish and agitate your clothes. Get the soapy water on all parts of each piece of clothing as best you can. Then scrub them one at a time on the washboard or with your scrub brush.
Using clean water, rinse as much of the soapy water out of the clothes as possible.
Squeeze Excess Water
You’ve probably seen the hand-crank ringers in old cartoons. They seem funny now, but they were very effective at getting excess liquid out of clothing. Do what you can to get every bit of water out. This will usually mean wringing them out, or sometimes even patting them dry if they’re particularly delicate.
Hang or Lay Flat to Dry
Use your drying rack or find a clean, dry surface you can lay your rinsed clothes flat on, and give them time to dry. Ideally, this is in a dry, sunny area.
Doing laundry on a road trip comes with the territory. But once you get through this chore, you’ll have a fresh rotation of shirts and shorts, socks, and more ready for another road of exploration and adventure to dirty them up on again and again!