Doing Laundry on the Road

So it wasn’t until the last half of our renovation did we realize…uhh…we don’t have a washing machine. A washing machine! Then true horror set in when we realized we didn’t have the space for one anyway. We browsed through some compact machines that supposedly do both washing and drying but they were just too tiny and had poor reviews. As in you’d probably be better off washing clothes Little-House-on-the-Prairie-Style in the sink. We realized that Airstream life, sans washing machine, meant we would be kickin’ it at the laundromat once a week. This might make us sound like total divas, but the idea of washing our clothes in community machines was, well, horrifying. We were picturing bodily fluids crusting to the side of the machine just waiting for the chance to latch on and spawn unthinkable living colonies of creepy crawlies in our clothes. However, all of the laundry facilities we have come across thus far have been extremely clean. Likely cleaner than any washer or dryer we’ve ever owned since there’s a person who’s job is to clean said machines on a regular basis. Which obviously led me to ponder, “have I ever cleaned our washing machine or dryer in all my years of adulting?” I’m thinking no.

The first and best thing we realized about laundromats is the machines are huge, fast and you can wash multiple loads at once! Laundry day at our house was usually an all-day thing and that day almost always happened to be a precious weekend day. Now laundry day is more like laundry hour and is completed on a lunch break during the week rather than a weekend day (which we are more territorial over than ever now). We also have learned to conserve clothes and wear them multiple times before throwing them in the hamper. If it’s in the hamper, it either smells or you spilled something on it. We don’t re-wear shirts that touch our armpits but things like tank tops, flannels and sweatshirts are all items we wear multiple times before washing them. Same goes for pants. I wash leggings after each wear but jeans and pants are also a multi-wear item. We are able to go two weeks without washing clothes because of this. We just make sure we have enough underwear and socks to last! We also have two bath towels and two sets of sheets that lasts us between laundry trips.

Another thing to make laundry life on the road easy is being prepared. We stash quarters whenever we get our hands on them because there’s nothing more annoying than hunting for quarters when you’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s time to wash clothes. On average it costs $5 every time we wash clothes—which is usually every other week. We’ve found that washing machines cost anywhere from $1.50 to 2.75 per load and dryers are anywhere from $1 to 3 per hour of use. We wash our whites and colors separately and then usually dry everything together to save on time. We also make sure we always have a jug of laundry detergent on hand. We don’t use dryer sheets or any other fancy supplies (and our clothes are never staticky).

The type of clothing you have is also important. I avoid dry clean only clothing or anything that’s too fussy. We are mostly t-shirt and jeans people—I haven’t touched an iron in years. Things that I don’t want to shrink in the dryer—sweaters, button-downs, dresses—hang from every available nook in the Airstream until they are dry. So basically twice a month it looks like our hamper exploded inside the Airstream.

This brings me to the importance of a good, portable hamper. We have this Umbra Cinch Laundry Basket that is the perfect size for our wardrobe closet. It measures 29.5″ tall, 16″ wide and 12.25″ deep. The bag portion is removable for easy cleaning and it’s made of durable mesh. This is our second hamper—our first was an all-fabric bag with handles which quickly lost it’s shape and no longer stood up in the closet. The Umbra hamper has a steel wire frame so this one won’t be losing it’s shape! When it’s time to hit the laundry facilities, we grab our detergent and the entire laundry hamper and off we go! We also fold our clean clothes and stack them back inside the hamper for easy transport back to Mavis. 

So in the end, the laundromat isn’t the scary monster we thought it’d be. It’s quick and painless and the best part of all is laundry day is no longer a part of our weekends. Because ain’t nobody got time for doing laundry on the weekend.

Sheena is a free-spirited adventurer who designed and renovated a 1975 Airstream in 2016 and travels the US with her husband and mohawk-sportin’ poodle. She’s a business owner, self-taught carpenter, blogger, yogi, professional photographer and a lover of the outdoors and healthy living.

2 Comment

  1. Thanks for this post. I have been wondering / worrying about laundry on the road. The other thing I am obsessed with is driving on mountain roads with an airstream. I get freaked out driving on steep, winding roads in my jeep! Will you be writing about driving Mavis through tricky terrain?

    1. Ah, yes! Good idea! Will do. We had some experience with that out in Colorado. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as awful as we were expecting. Low and slow!

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