Who would have thought that doing laundry on the road was such a big deal? That’s what washing machines are for, right? Unfortunately, not every campground has them. And when they do, they are not always available or reliable. Worse yet, many of the machines are old and are more likely to tear your clothes than clean them. That’s been my experience after six summers on the road.
Searching for a solution to doing laundry on the road has been an interesting journey. Looking back I have to wonder why I made it so difficult. If I had thought more about our road warrior wardrobe needs, I just would have purchased throw-away shirts and shorts from thrift shops and worried less about what the campground washing machine was going to do to our nice clothes. Instead, I made it personal. I was determined to find a way to wash my sartorially fussy family’s clothes without spending my summer collecting rolls of quarters and sitting around a washing machine. In the end, I definitely spent more time trying to solve the problem than actually washing my family’s clothes.
The first summer I started by hand washing and line drying. That worked for a little while until my hands started to swell and hurt. I put up with that for a while hoping I would get used to it. But washing clothes in cold water and wringing them out just got harder and harder on my hands. If ever I thought I may have had a previous life as a laundress, this experience convinced me there was no chance of that! Drying the clothes became even more cumbersome. Because many camp grounds generally do not allow clothes lines, I was often forced to hang up my freshly washed clothes around the outside of the camper. That required trying to catch the sunlight and the wind just right and that necessitated moving the clothes every few hours.
Inevitably some clothes were not sufficiently dry by the time we were ready to get on the road again. So I was forced to position them over the RV’s seat backs and to hope they would dry in that way. It was not an attractive picture. This “outdoor/indoor RV drying method” was absolutely inadequate. So I invested in a folding drying rack and an old fashioned scrub board. That was a waste of money. The scrub board did little for solving the pain in my hands and the drying rack was cumbersome for packing. Worse, it kept blowing over in the wind leaving the clothes scattered in the dirt. My camp site reminded me of one of those Great Depression era photographs depicting families fleeing the Dust Bowl on their way to California!
After lots of research, I realized that any solution available in a camping store, from portable washing machines to drying racks that attached to the back of my camper, required more storage space than I had available. So I thought it best to improvise. I would invest in a spin mop bucket so I could spin dry my clothes thus saving my hands. Instead of spinning the mop dry, I would spin dry a few items of clothing at a time in the bucket and be done in a jiffy. Having spun the water out of the clothes into the bucket, the now merely damp clothes would also dry faster,
which meant less worry about traveling with wet clothes. Besides I had to bring a bucket along anyway. So the mop bucket became a multitasking tool. So I thought. I have to say it worked quite well for my sons’ cotton T shirts and underwear. Not so much for the heavier items like shorts or pants. The bucket was just not large enough. And although I was doing less hand wringing, I was still forced to drape wet clothes over the backs of seats and picnic tables and rescue the items blown away in the wind.
I realized the obvious thing to do is buy only clothing made of quick-dry fabrics. Unfortunately, these items are expensive and are not easy to find for small kids. Oh, and there remains the matter of my kids being fussy about their clothing. So that idea was an expensive partial solution. But those few items made washing and drying easier and they made packing a breeze. They take up a lot less space; and, because I can wash and dry them in a few hours, I can pack fewer clothes for the kids. More space and less work make for a much happier camping experience with my kids.
The downside of traveling with quick-dry clothing, besides the additional cost to purchase them, is that a typical campground dryer may not adjust its temperature correctly. I have tried more than once to set the recommended drying temperature for our quick dry clothes. Campground dryers nevertheless “melted” some of my favorite tops and a couple pairs each of the kids’ shorts. That was an expensive lesson.
My DIY RV Laundry Solution
Short on space, with weight always an issue, I finally came up with my perfect system. I still have to hand wash when necessary and I still machine wash at campgrounds with newer machines, however I no longer use their dryers. Instead I made my own drying rack! One that was small, light weight, and easy to store. Its my perfect DIY laundry solution as my drying rack does not blow over and it can handle multiple items. And I never have to worry about my family’s clothes blowing away! Here’s what I did and you can do it too:
I purchased an InstaHanger from Amazon and attached it using screws to a piece of wood that was 4 1/2 inches wide by 20 inches long and ¾ inch thick. The man in the lumber store called it a “1 by 5”. Then I cut two more pieces of the “1 by 5” wood. One piece was 3 inches by 4 1/2 inches and another that was 1 inch by 4 1/2 inches. Using screws and wood glue, I manufactured a “lip” for the hanger so that I could hang it over my RV’s ladder. Please note you may need to adjust the dimensions of the “lip” to accommodate the width of your RV ladder’s rungs.
It was that simple. Using multiple hangers I can get quite a few pieces of clothing dried in the fresh air fast and safely. The clothes stay on the hangers; the hangers stay on the rack; and, the rack stays on my RV. When drying is finished, the rack folds down and away in seconds taking up very little storage space.
So six summers later, I finally found my answer. How amazingly simple it is!
Ocedar Spin Mop