If you ever spend a considerable amount of time in an RV, you’ll soon realize how quickly laundry can pile up. The small space, combined with finite storage, is a recipe for what we call closeth pileupith (that’s Latin for a big nasty pile of dirty clothes). We found this out in just the first few weeks of full-time RVing. For these reasons, I quickly deduced it would be in my best interest (translation: Tricia would probably lock me in the basement if I didn’t remedy our laundry situation) to install an RV washer & dryer in our rig.
Anatomy of RV Washer-Dryers
There are a few options you can choose from when it comes to RV washer and dryer machines. The main takeaways are that they handle smaller loads than those front-load residential units you are used to, and they will generally run off a 110V source (that’s a good thing).
Without spending too much time, I’ll hit you with the high points.
- Stackable: That apartment/college set that sits on top of each other. Narrower than traditional washer/dryer combos, but gets the job done. Vented. Requires more vertical space to install.
- Portable: There are some RV washing machines than can be purchased and used portably by temporarily setting up in the shower stall. They’ll do a small load of laundry, but you’ll be in charge of the drying.
- Combo Units: These handy little guys pull double duty. They will wash and then dry your laundry in the same basin. Crazy right!? Let’s look at the two types.
- Vented: Yup, just like that dryer in your house, these require a hole in the side of the rig to vent.
- Ventless: You guessed it, there is no vent. This version recycles the heated air and spews it into the rig, heating up that area. Since this is an inefficient way of removing humidity, they laundry here will not get completely dry and will likely have wrinkles (lots of them).
It seemed like an obvious choice for us, but each of the above options has its own benefits depending on your lifestyle.
For us, we selected the Splendide 2100XC . . . a vented combo unit.
If you happened to look up that model, you probably saw the price. Keep in mind, that you would be buying a separate washer and dryer for your typical home or apartment. And no, we didn’t pay that. I’m a big fan of finding deals on Craigslist, and snagged this washer for $400. It was brand new, but has a crack on the top corner, so we got it for a song.
Installing an RV Washer Dryer Combo
In retrospect, I have narrowed the primary ways to properly install an RV washer/dryer (listed in the most reasonable order):
- Construct a platform, place the RV washer/dryer on said platform, build new RV around said washer/dryer.
- Tear apart all the cabinetry surrounding the area that will hold the washer/dryer unit. Install the unit (with plenty of elbow room). Rebuild the cabinetry around your newly installed RV washer.
- Hire the neighbor kids to install everything while you go out to play with alligators.
- Take on the world and assume you can install it yourself.
Guess which option we chose?
Things You’ll Need When Installing an RV Washer
- RV Washer/Dryer . . . duh (should come with hoses)
- RV Vent Kit (if going with a vented unit): we went with the one in the link
- Stabilizer brackets: These little guys secure the washer feet to the platform it is on. You don’t want this washer to walk out of the cabinet on a spin cycle.
- Drill, random bits, and a 4” hole saw (if installing a vented unit)
- Silicone Caulk: This will seal up all the work on the outside of the rig.
- Masking/Painters tape
- Screwdrivers: I used both slotted and phillips.
- Channel Locks
- Wire cutters: Not a necessity, but our outlet was in the false wall. So, I had to relocate the outlet for the install.
- Dremmel: Also not completely necessary, but that paneling on the false wall came out much easier with a little Dremmel persuasion.
- Courage: If you’re installing a vented RV washer/dryer, you’re going to have to be prepared to defile your rig by drilling a hole right through the exterior.
Sizing Things Up
Our Montana came with washer/dryer hookups. That is to say, we had a nice little (emphasis on little) cabinet that was plumbed with both hot-water & cold-water lines, a drain, and a 110V outlet.
This will be a cinch!
We we’re so naïve back then.
The first step for installing an RV washer and dryer is to ensure you have the right amount of space. We obviously did a fantastic job of that.
RV Washer Install Basics
So here we go, let’s go install an RV washer/dryer combo:
Measure the area you’ll be stuffing that washer/dryer into.
Remove any cabinet doors/molding that could potentially get in the way.
Remove any false walls. Looking at our above measurements, that’s what we had to do. This gave us an extra seven inches, four of which were used for the vent hose.
If installing a vented machine:
Measure where the vent will be placed on the inside of the rig (hint: exterior wall & there will sometimes be a sticker). We picked the bottom left corner of the window on the same wall as the point to measure from. These measurements will be duplicated from the same corner, on the exterior of the rig. Double triple quadruple check measurements on both sides.
Use masking or painters tape on the exterior of the rig to keep the fiberglass intact when you attempt to drill.
Using a ¼” bit, drill a pilot hole from the interior wall completely through to the exterior of the rig. This is where you get to see how close your measurements lined up. We were about ½” off . . . no too shabby.
Now the fun part! Drill your vent hole from the outside in, using a 4” hole-saw.
Install the vent kit as instructed (ours was a two-piece setup with four screws).
Apply silicone caulk around the exterior vent to seal it all up.
Clear a path between the current washer/dryer location, and it’s final resting place. As you can see, ours lived near the dinette for a couple days as we waited for the vent kit to arrive from Amazon.
Consider removing the mattress and propping up the mattress platform (if it is going in the bedroom). We didn’t do this and lifted smashed the washer/dryer over through the bed, to in front of the cabinet.
Attach vent and hoses to washer/dryer before placing unit in the cabinet. We also taped them to the right side, as that is where they would connect once in place.
Lift, shimmy, and cram that washer into place. It sounds so easy, but with only an inch or two on each side we had our work cut out for us.
Attach vent hose to the vent. Again, this was extremely difficult base on the location and cramped quarters.
Connect water lines. Red is hot, blue is cold, and black is drain.
Place that level on the washer and get it bubble-in-the-middle on all sides. The legs will generally adjust (screw in/out) making life easier.
Attach those stabilizer brackets to the front feet. They slide easily over the feet, and then are secured with a couple screws.
Return any cabinet doors or trim that you removed at the beginning.
Celebrate the fact that you can now handle closeth pileupith on your terms!
Here’s a good RV washer/dryer install video from fellow RVers Faith Takes Flight (notice how he removed walls and cabinets to make things fit . . . brilliant!)
A Clean Mind is an Organized Life
That subheading has absolutely nothing to do with installing an RV washer, but it brings us back to the reason we undertook this modification.
There are many ways to unclutter your life and living area (even in an RV), and the above is just one of the many. For us, adding a washer/dryer combo made complete sense. We’ve saved time and money already. Considering that most loads of laundry will take $3-5 and about an hour-and-a-half, it just makes sense to have this capability in our RV.