Doing Our Laundry in the Motorhome

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Monday 15 December 2014

Doing Our Laundry in the Motorhome

Strangely one of the questions we've been asked most often by family and friends back home is "how do you do your laundry"? Certainly moving out of our apartment, one of the appliances we've had to learn to live without is a personal washing machine. Our motorhome might have a toilet, shower, sink, fridge, oven, hob etc. but we're yet to meet anyone on the road who has a washing machine in their motorhome as well! However, since one of the best things about motorhome life for us is enjoying a simpler existence and trying to have less environmental impact we are really loving learning to do without as well, so it's been no real hardship either.

The short answer to the question of how we do our laundry is that we do mostly hand wash our clothes and towels, supplemented with the occasional machine wash for bulky, difficult things like our bed sheets. The main reason we choose handwashing for clothes is cost but it also makes some practical sense as well. With just a small space to live in we don't want to be surrounded by big bags of dirty laundry and prefer to do smaller hand washes more often. Even if we were passing a launderette it just wouldn't make financial sense to pay for a full machine wash for a few t-shirts and a couple of tea towels. Also, whilst we don't re-use dirty clothes, we are much more mindful of whether something actually does need washing. We were certainly guilty in the past of washing things just because it was easy and we were using our machine most days back in the UK.

Although we could do our hand washing any time we like in the motorhome, we tend to wait until we stay at a campsite or at least find an aire with a sink area as it can be a bit messy and all the rinsing required would drain our on board water pretty quickly too. (A friend Erica did send us a this link to a something called a "Scrubba", but we haven't tried it. It looks like a neat way of hand washing without all the splashing, although we could probably simulate this in a hiking dry bag without spending the money.)

When we do need a washing machine we have found four main options: campsite machines, commercial launderettes and 24/7 launderette stations that we discovered in some French supermarkets. The machines we have tried on campsites tend to be just like the machines in private homes, quite small (5-6kg) and well used. Some of them have really been quite grotty and haven't really given a good wash. They can also be quite expensive. On the plus side they are close to the motorhome and we can relax while the washing gets done. Commercial launderettes usually have much bigger, better machines that can take a lot more washing, seem to give better results and, on the whole, seem a more cost effective option to us. However, it does mean taking our washing to one and often waiting around which can feel like we're wasting our day.

However, our favourite option so far have been the 24/7 launderette stations we have found outside of some LeClerc and Intermarche supermarkets in France. These self-service, 24 hour stations provide a row of 8 - 18kg washing machines and tumble driers that give a really good wash quickly and we can even do a bit of shopping while we wait. The only downside is that they can be busy and we have had to wait in line, but people have been polite and respectful of other people's laundry. It also feels a little strange performing what is normally quite a private job in your own home by the side of a busy car park, but we get used to it.

A fourth option that we used in some mountain ski resorts was that property management companies who look after people's apartments seem to have their own washing machines and often let people use them for a fee, either doing the laundry for you or letting you access the machines. Prices are massively varied though. In Grimentz we did 5 small loads for less than £10, but in Zinal the company wanted the equivalent of £15 to do one load!

When it comes to drying we prefer to be as eco-friendly as possible and hang clothes, towels and bedsheets out to dry in the sunshine by the motorhome whenever we can. Sometimes the sunshine or the temperature hasn't been kind, or it's got dark before everything has dried, and then we have to turn the inside of our motorhome into a drying room for a while. Borrowing all of our coat hangers from coats and jackets in the wardrobe we've had to get creative to make space for soggy washing. The result can feel a little cramped, but it works really well. We've even dried our bed sheets inside the motorhome from time to time!

On a few occasions we've decided to use a tumble drier (e.g. when we've only found a machine late in the day and the bed sheets are very wet an hour so before we need them) and we've found the commercial driers do a great job very quickly. The last 24/7 station we visited dried 18kg of our washing in just 20 minutes!

Doing laundry in the motorhome might seem like a bit of a hassle, but we certainly haven't felt that way. Occasionally having 'chores' to do is one of the things that makes the difference between full time motorhome touring and being on a shorter holiday and we've even find the normality and routine jobs make us appreciate the adventure even more.

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