Having An On Board Washer & Dryer

Over on Facebook in a Fulltime Rver group, someone asked about having washers and dryers in their RVs. Anytime this subject comes up in any RV related area, there are always people who say that it is silly to have a washer and dryer on board. Usually “they” cite lack of space as the main reason and then “they” invariably say that “all parks have laundry facilities” and “it’s easy to just use the parks facilities”. That isn’t necessarily true. Plus, like most things in life, there is no one “right” answer to the washer/dryer question.


Before we laid out the floor plan of the Compass Rose, David and I sat down with a sheet of paper. We made two lists. One was our “Must Haves” and the other was “Would Like To Have”. A washer and dryer was on our “Must Have” list. A dishwasher was on the top of our “Would Like” list. So as we laid out the floor plan, we allowed 60″ for a standard side-by-side washer and dryer. They actually take up less space than that and we could have gotten away with allowing 57″ but we had the 60″ space.


Our experience with coin laundries over the decades has not been a satisfying one. In public campgrounds, I tended to get the washers that were full of pine needles and rocks from a previous load. In public laundromats, I seem to get the washer the some fool colour-dyed something in. At least that is what I assume since I get streaks of colour that I don’t even have in the load. BTW, those Shout brand “ColorCatcher” sheets really do work. We used a half sheet per load on every load. Since moving to an oil-field area, the washers have really gotten yukky. We have also been in many campgrounds or parks that simply do not have working or non-working laundry facilities. One place we stayed at for several months involved a 24 mile round trip to the nearest laundry. I ended up buying a Wonder Washer and a vintage hand crank wringer so I could do laundry and hang it on the line. More to the point, neither one of us like spending hours in a laundry.


We were schlepping tubs of our dirty laundry down to the park and hoping we could get everything into three of the six washers. We were not the only ones in the park so often we would have to schelp our tubs of dirty clothes all the way back to the bus.. Then wait a while for whomever loaded ALL the washers to finish (and then we would have to wait on the dryers) and haul everything back the laundry. This was not good on David what with his heart and the meds he takes. So we got a little folding dolly to load the tubs on. Then he would be doing laundry while I was at work. We only have about 8 or so changes of clothing each. Sometimes I would realize that I did not have something clean to wear to work the next day. And David would have to drag a load of clothes and stay up until they were all done so I had a clean outfit to wear to work the next morning.


For us, having a washer and dryer on board was a “Must Have”. So we did have space allowed for a washer and dryer but we had debated on whether we should use the area as storage instead or not. After a long, cold, wet, nasty winter week during which the park’s washers seemed to run 24/7 and we ended up using an expensive public laundromat just to get the clothes washed, we decided that having a washer and dryer on board was what we needed. We had the space, we had planned on tapping into the shower water supply lines and drain for the washer. The LP dryer would sit on top of a rear wheel well (which is nice since we don’t have to stoop to load/unload the dryer). I knew we couldn’t get a unitized washer and dryer into the bus and stand it up. We ended up leaving our old Whirlpool Thin Twin unitized washer/dryer in NC (gave it to a cousin) when we realized we couldn’t stand it up in the bus. So that left the front loader$ and the $plendide type washer/dryer combos. I really didn’t like what I had heard about the washer/dryer combos and I really didn’t like the prices. After using my daughter’s front loader at her home, I realized that, not only did I not like the prices, but I didn’t care for using a front loader. I couldn’t soak stuff in them. And somehow I always found a sock or two onthe floor AFTER the washer door locked and it had started filling with water. You can’t just open the door and toss a forgotten article of clothing in. So that left the typical side-by-side units. I didn’t want to spend the money for new ones. I’m too cheap for that. So I started watching the Craigslist ads. Found a store that fixed up older units and resold them. I got a nice older GE Super Capacity Plus washer and a nice much older Natural Gas Maytag Centennial dryer with a 90 day guarantee (I am impressed with Maytag now). You can find the age of a used appliance online (http://www.appliance411.com/service/date-code.php is just one such site). They even delivered INTO the bus. Handy! Even after buying the Nat Gas to LP conversion kit online (easy conversion) we still have only $300 invested in the washer and dryer.


David normally does laundry while I am at work. The units don’t heat up the bus like we were afraid they would. The dryer is ducted outside using standard house vents. We DO have an LP/CO/Smoke detector. No problems. The washer does eat up the fresh water tank (it’s a big washer and we do large loads). But our fresh water is different than most fresh installs. We filter everything that comes into the bus. There is first the sediment filter and directly after that, is a whole house filter housing that usually has a 0.5 micro filter that removes cysts and knocks the water flow down to a dribble. Eventually I will add a small water softener after the 0.5 micron filter. After the water leaves the filter, it goes into a 30 gallon ABS Rocket tank via a float valve (got it from the local farm supply store, it’s for livestock water tanks). Once the tank is full, the water flow stops. Once the water level drops, the water flow starts back to refill the tank. We always pump from our fresh water tank. There is no by-passing it. We will be adding another 30 gallon ABS Rocket tank later this summer. We don’t even bother trying to use the hot water. We only have a 10 gallon electric water heater. We do tend to only wash in cold water anyway and have for many years. We thought about adding an L5 tankless water heater we have but after much discussion, have decided not to. We would rarely use the hot/warm water in the washer given our normal washing habits. If we need to do a large hot water soak, we can boil water on the stove combined with the normal hot water from the water heater (we did plumb in the hot water but it is only “hot” for a very small load). We have been using the Homemade Laundry Detergent in cold water with great results.


We figure this is our home. We built a Residential Vehicle, not a Recreational Vehicle. We had washers, dryers, dishwashers, large freezers, etc in our sticks-&-bricks houses. So why would we not have those same labour saving, convenience appliances in our bus. Plus these things often save us money. In the case of laundry, we average 3 loads per week. Using the current park’s machines, that cost us $3.50 per load to both wash and dry. That is $10.50 per week. $42 per month and $504 per year. Compare that to $300 to buy the used washer and dryer. No matter how you look at it, we are saving money. That’s not taking into account washing the quilts and sleeping bag which we wash about once a month. And we wash it all before it goes into the cedar trunk for the summer. The washer we have has no problem washing a king sized quilt or standard sleeping bag. No problem drying them either. The dryer uses surprisingly little LP. We have it on a dedicated LP tank while we watch it’s LP consumption. It takes about 3 months to use a 20# BBQ tank of LP drying 3 loads per week. That’s a lot better than I expected.


It is so nice to come home, covered in tint and latex paint (I work the paint dept at Home Depot) and be able to toss my tinted clothes directly into the washer, along with half of a Shout ColorCatcher sheet and get clean clothes rather than wait, risk the tint/paint drying to the point that it will never come out (and I still have paint covered clothing anyway… just not as bad).


So is an on board washer and dryer worth it? In our case, YES!


2 thoughts on “Having An On Board Washer & Dryer

  1. Hi! This is an awesome post. I’m working on our skoolie plan and I was wondering if you could send/post some photos of your bus, its layout, and how you manage to fit real appliances and whatnot onboard! I’m seriously at the pull-my-hair out stage right now and any help you can offer would be much appreciated! Thanks!

  2. Fitting “real” residential appliances in rather than the RV appliances wasn’t that difficult. Once you realize that “RV” is not that much smaller then residential, it becomes simpler. Place your appliances first then figure the surrounding cabinetry. A residential range is 30″ while an RV range needs 24″ allowed. The smaller 21″ RV ranges means that you have to buy all special tiny pans to cook in the silly things. Plus the 21″ ranges need 24″ space in the cabinetry anyway as they aren’t very well insulated. So when comparing to a 24″ RV range, a residential is only 6″ wider. That’s 3″ less cabinet on each side of the range. Since the roll outs and drawers in my cabinets are all maxed out in depth and using full extension slides so I can reach the very back of a 24″ deep drawer or roll out, I really don’t miss the 3″ I may have lost from that cabinet. The washer & dryer simply set in an area that was originally planned as a closet. After much consideration, David & I decided we really didn’t need that much closet space. My seasonal clothes get stuck in a vac storage bag, the excess air is sucked out and I tossed the bags into the cedar chest. As for the floor plan, I have one tucked away someplace. I will need to scan it and stick it on the blog. I keep having so many ask me how everything was squeezed into the bus.

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