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Adding a washing machine to our RV is one of my all time favorite upgrades! No more treks to the laundromat or waiting for the next available washer or dryer. Now, we do laundry when it’s convenient, from the comfort of our RV. The best part is, our washing machine is fully automatic, we just toss in our dirty laundry, select a cycle and press go! The washing machine does the rest: wash, rinse and spin. Seriously, it’s awesome and has totally changed how we feel about doing laundry.
So, yes, you can absolutely have a washing machine in your RV. Even better there are so many types and sizes – from washer dryer combos to small portable units – that there is one for every type of RVer and rig. All you need to do is decide which one works best for your situation!
Let’s get to it and take a closer look at all the RV washing machine options.
RV Washing Machine Types
Stackable Washer and Dryer
Stackable RV washer and dryer sets are as close as you’ll get to a residential washer and dryer in an RV. Moreover, many are designed for RV / Marine use and feature heavy duty springs and shock absorbers. If desired, side by side installation is also an option. Some even have a winterizing cycle. How cool is that?
They can be vented or ventless and are among the larger RV washing machines in terms of both load size and physical size. When stacked, average dimensions are about 2 feet x 2 feet x 60 inches high. At about 200 pounds they are heavy too! Load sizes come in around 12 to 15 pounds.
RV Washer Dryer Combo
RV Washer dryer combo machines do it all, wash and dry in one drum. Like the stackable units, they are often designed for RV or Marine use and can be either vented or ventless. Average load sizes run from 12 to 15 pounds for the wash cycle and 7 to 10 pounds for the dry cycle. Dimensions are generally about 2 feet x 2 feet by 30 plus inches tall. The washer dryer combos tend to be heavy, in the range of 150 pounds.
RV Washer Dryer Combo Top Picks
Due to their weight and large size, RV washer dryer combos and stackable sets are best for larger RVs. Keep in mind, they are front loading so you’ll need some room in front of the machine to load and unload your laundry.
Portable Washing Machine Options
Portable washing machines are designed for small spaces like RVs, apartments and tiny homes. Options range from fully automatic washers to mini counter top models that can be easily stowed away until laundry day.
Because portable washing machines sizes and features vary widely, we’ve broken them down into three sub-categories. Let’s take a look.
Portable Washing Machine – Fully Automatic
The fully automatic portable washing machine might just be the best of both worlds. Similar to residential top loading washing machines (only smaller) these are fully automatic with a spin cycle and a drain pump. A fully automatic portable washer is a great choice for smaller RVs.
Averaging a 16 to 18 inch footprint and a height of 32 inches, they fit easily into very small spaces. Even better, they only weigh around 50 pounds. The average load size is 6 or 7 pounds. This is the type of washing machine we have in our RV and we can fit 6 mens t-shirts, 6 pairs of boxers and 12 heavy socks easily in a load.
While these washing machines are technically portable, semi-portable would be a more appropriate name. That said, I love ours, I just don’t move it around very often – but I can if I need to. For RV use, I would suggest identifying a permanent installation location for this type of laundry machine. Power, water and drain hookups can either be plumbed, or connected only on laundry day with a faucet adapter and hose.
Fully Automatic Portable Washing Machine Top Picks
Portable Washing Machine – Semi-Automatic
Next up is the semi-automatic portable washing machine. They can be either single tub or twin tub and often (but not always) have a gravity drain instead of a drain pump. In addition, they are usually lighter than the fully automatic models.
Although they have a cycle that washes your clothes, they require some help from you. For example, you may have to manually fill the tub with water, move the load from the wash tub to the spin tub or lower the drain hose to empty the water. Additionally, they have a fairly large footprint.
Portable semi-automatic washing machines can absolutely work well in an RV. The various models have a very wide range of sizes, styles and features so you can choose a model that fits both your space and your laundry requirements.
Semi-Automatic Portable Washing Machine Top Picks
Portable Washing Machine – Mini or Counter Top
Now we’re talking about washing machines that are truly portable. They are small, lightweight, easily movable and best of all, less expensive. Of course, that portability comes with a cost. Load sizes are smaller and you need to set up the washing machine every time you do laundry. Most of these will also require some help doing each load of laundry. For instance, lowering the drain hose to empty the water. Nonetheless, they work well for small loads of laundry and will be all some people need.
Manual (Human Powered) Washers
Finally, there are entirely manual washing machines that don’t use any electricity at all. Manual washers are extremely lightweight – generally under 10 pounds. On average load sizes will be 5 lbs or less. However, it takes some work (and time) to do your laundry. One other factor to be aware of is that most do not have any sort of spin cycle so you’ll either need to hang your laundry dripping wet or wring it out by hand. Still, they work and can save you a trip to the laundromat. I even know people who manage to use the WonderWash while boondocking.
Manual Washing Machine Top Picks
Best for a backup plan or someone with no extra space at all.
Scrubba Portable Wash Bag
Scrubba is a wash bag with little nubs inside, kind of like an inside out washboard. It folds down to fit in the palm of your hand and weighs only 5 ounces. While you won’t want to do all of your laundry with a Scrubba, it’s a great option to have on hand just in case.
Considerations for Selecting an RV Washing Machine
How much laundry will you be doing in your RV? Do you need a small washing machine or a larger one? Will it be your primary laundry machine or just for occasional use? Obviously the best RV washing machine for a couple RVing part time is not going to be the same as the perfect washer for a full-time family of 5.
Cycle Run Time
How long does the entire cycle take? Is there a rapid wash or spin only setting? (Do you need multiple settings at all?)
Where will you put a washing machine? Do you have room in your RV to install one of the larger options or would a portable model work better? Make sure to measure carefully and remember to leave enough room to open the lid or door.
Power and Plumbing
Your washing machine will need power, water and drainage. Does your RV have laundry hookups? If not, consider how you will connect it to your RV power and plumbing system. For portable or counter top washing machines this can be as simple as plugging into an available outlet, connecting a hose with a faucet adapter and placing the drain hose in the sink or tub. On the other hand, a larger unit may have more complicated installation requirements.
Water and Power Usage
These days most washing machines don’t use all that much power, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on the power draw of the model you choose to ensure that it will work well in your RV. Also, because laundry uses a substantial amount of water, you’ll probably need to be at a full hookup site.
Remember to open your grey tank when doing laundry!
One more critical factor is how much weight can you afford to add to your RV? How heavy a washing machine can your RV comfortably handle? You should always know how much weight your RV can carry and how much it actually weighs when fully loaded.
Ventless vs Vented
As some RV washer dryers are vented, it is something to keep in mind when selecting a model. If you select a vented model, you’ll need to install a vent. Ventless dryers may be simpler to install but they tend to take longer to dry clothes.
Personal Laundry Preferences
Consider how much laundry you will be doing and how often. If you plan to do all of your laundry in your RV, a washer dryer combo is a good choice. A fully automatic portable washer can work too.
Of course, space is limited in an RV, so weigh both your laundry requirements and available space. Another important consideration is how long will it take to do a load of laundry, and how much hands on time is required.
RV washing machine prices can range from under $100 for a simple manual or portable washer to well over $1500 for a full featured RV washer dryer combo or stackable set. So, to determine which washing machine works best for your RV, you’ll need to balance cost vs features and functionality.
RV Dryer Alternatives
Don’t have the space to add a washer and dryer to your RV? Don’t worry you can still do laundry. Here are some ways to dry your laundry without a dryer. It’s better for your clothes too! The best part is you’ll be saving electricity and reducing your carbon footprint!
Hang it outside. I love the smell of freshly air dried laundry! You can use a retractable clothes line or a laundry rack that attaches to your RV. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could even make your own custom rack out of PVC. Be aware, some campgrounds do not allow air drying.
Use a dehumidifier! Put a laundry drying rack or tension rods in your RV shower, hang your clothes and start the dehumidifier. It’s astounding how well it works. Plus, you should have a dehumidifier in your RV anyway.
RV Dehumidifier Top Pick
We use this dehumidifier by Ivation and love it. Well designed, easy to empty and quiet, it does a great job both drying our laundry and protecting our RV from mold and mildew. What’s more, it has an auto shutoff function so it never overflows. Finally, it remembers your settings even when the power goes out. (Like every travel day for RVers!)
Pros and Cons of an RV Washing Machine
The first thing to decide is: do you really need an RV washing machine? Of course the answer will depend on your RVing style and how much laundry you’ll be doing. For a weekend warrior, an RV washing machine may not be worthwhile. On the other hand, as a full time RVer, I can say that adding a washing machine to our RV has been a game changer. We absolutely love the convenience!
RV Washing Machine Pros
- Do laundry at your own convenience from the comfort of your RV.
- No hauling laundry to the laundromat.
- Clean. Campground washers and dryers can be kind of gross. You never know what has been in them.
- Allergies to pets or certain types of detergents can be a problem at a laundromat.
- Multitask. Do laundry while you are doing other things.
- Long term savings over paying per load at the laundromat. (While some campground laundromats still use quarters, these days, many use laundry cards. Not only do you need to load funds on the card to do your laundry, you also have to buy the card! To make matters more complicated, every park seems to use a different laundry card brand. So, when you travel a lot you’ll end up with a stack of laundry cards with various balances leftover. Oh boy!)
- Don’t need to wait to do laundry if the campground laundromat is busy or closed.
RV Washing Machine Cons
- Initial cost
- Takes up valuable space.
- Weight. Can add quite a bit of extra weight to your rig.
- Water use. You’ll need a full hook up RV site to do laundry.
- If you don’t have a dryer you’ll need a way to dry your laundry too.
- Generally smaller than a regular washing machine so it may not work well for large items or someone who has a lot of laundry.
- If you don’t have a dedicated spot for your washing machine, you’ll have to set it up each time you do laundry.
- Installation – if you can not install the washing machine yourself you may incur additional costs for professional installation.
As you can see, there really is a washing machine option for just about every situation and RVer – from large motorhomes, to smaller travel trailers and even tiny teardrops. (And a lot to consider when choosing the best option for your RVing style!) The full timer may want a fully automatic RV washer dryer combo, while a small portable unit might be enough for a single part time traveler.
That’s a wrap. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed this article. See you somewhere down the road!
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We’ve been full-time RVers since 2012. Over 127,000 miles and 47 states later, we are still towing our home around the United States.
On TowingHome we share what we have learned along the way; what we love (and what we don’t) about the RV lifestyle, tips and tricks, our favorite campgrounds, places and gear.
We hope that it makes your journey a little bit easier.