By Janet Groene, F47166
Homeowners can throw a load of laundry into the washing machine as necessary. Motorhome vacationers typically bring dirty laundry back to their stationary home after a trip. For full-timers, however, laundry and dry cleaning are challenges that must be met on the road.
Have you ever boondocked so long you had to do laundry by hand? Moved on without remembering to pick up your dry cleaning? Camped in places where the well water was so hard, rusty, or bad-smelling that you couldn’t use your onboard washing machine? Used campground machines that were so unreliable you ruined good garments? Every full-timer likely has had similar washouts.
Whether or not your coach has a washer and dryer, here are suggestions for coping with washday.
Don’t crumple items into the clothes hamper or bag. Fold them loosely and they’ll “set” with fewer wrinkles. Assuming it’s safe for the fabric and appropriate for the type of soil on the article, use a prewash stain treatment on dirt before putting items in the hamper. Treat tablecloths and place mats before taking them off the table.
Use dye-absorbing sheets in every load. They prevent accidents (the elusive red sock among the white T-shirts, for example) and allow you to put everything in one load. They also can prevent surprises when you’re using public laundry machines and a previous user left a lipstick or crayon behind. Believe me, it happens!
Take plenty of hangers to the laundry room, remove partially dried items from the dryer, and shake and hang them immediately. When the dryer stops, be there to smooth and fold the remainder of the laundry and you’ll do less ironing.
Don’t trust an expensive item (your silk blouse or the custom bedspread) to a laundry machine you haven’t tried before. It could be hotter, colder, or harsher than similar machines. Also, water hardness varies widely around the country, so you might use too much or too little soap if this is your first experience with a particular machine.
When full-timing, it really pays to buy rugged, well-made specialty clothing from outfits such as L.L. Bean (www.llbean.com; 800-441-5713), Travelsmith (www.travelsmith.com; 800-950-1600), or Orvis (www.orvis.com; 888-235-9763). All offer free catalogs or online shopping. In addition to products featuring first-rate construction, these companies carry specialty items such as UV-protective clothing, wrinkle-free garments, quick-dry underwear and socks, and tropical fabrics that wick moisture away from the body.
Observe campground rules. Drying laundry outdoors may be forbidden, but even if it’s allowed, don’t tie clotheslines around trees. Tender bark could be damaged. Retractable clothesline reels that mount permanently indoors (the shower stall may be a good spot) are available from department stores, mass marketers, and specialty outlets such as Comfort House (www.comforthouse.com; 800-359-7701). Some are short, single-line reels but others provide 12 feet or more of drying space.
Portable, folding dryer racks are lightweight but cumbersome to carry. If you have room in your motorhome’s basement to carry one, it will hold an entire load of laundry when set up inside the coach.
Read labels on new garments and observe laundry instructions. Using chlorine bleach, for example, could destroy a fabric treatment that was meant to last the life of the item.
Grandmother’s method still works
As mentioned in this month’s “Cooking On The Go” column (page 144), I was recently in Ohio’s Hocking Hills, where America’s last washboard factory still turns out thousands of units each year. Visit the Columbus Washboard Company in Logan, Ohio (www.columbuswashboard.com, 740-380-3828), and take a free tour to see old-fashioned washboards being made on old-fashioned machines. Then buy a washboard suitable for your life on the go.
Washboards are still in great demand among campers, Amish, and other folks who live “off the grid,” and modern hobbyists who use them to play music, make decorative items, and create specialty wool-felt products. Jaqui Barnett, co-owner and factory manager, ships hundreds of wash-up kits to our troops overseas. They consist of a washboard, a bar of soap, clothespins, a clothesline, and instructions. They are especially popular in the desert, where water is limited.
Washboards come in many types and sizes, including compact units that are ideal for life on the go. However, the wood “feet” can scar fiberglass sinks and bathtubs. Use yours in a bucket or washtub or fit it with crutch tips to protect tender surfaces.
Here are a few of my own suggestions for using a washboard to do laundry.
Bar soap makes sense for troops in the field, but liquid laundry soap, used sparingly, works better. Don’t use dishwashing liquids. Laundry soaps work harder, suds up less, and rinse out easier.
An inflatable, child-size swimming pool costs only a few dollars; folds up to store in a tiny space in your motorhome; and blows up to form a sizable outdoor laundry tub. Use a thick, folded towel under the feet of the washboard to protect the thin plastic pool bottom. Deflate the pool and dry it thoroughly before stowing or it will mildew.
When doing hand wash, a 20-minute soak is as important as the scrubbing.
At last there is a discount card that is not top-heavy with hotel discounts. When you’re on a sight-seeing blitz of Boston, San Francisco, Orlando, Chicago, Seattle, or San Diego, a Go Visitor Card from Smart Destinations can save $300 or more on shopping, dining, and admissions to attractions such as a narrated Gray Line tour of Chicago, tickets to Seattle’s Experience Music Project, or a Beantown whale watching cruise.
Unlike free cards that provide only limited discounts, the Go Visitor Card can be a bit pricey but offers much more. To purchase the Go Orlando Card, for example, you’ll pay $99 to $279 per adult for a card that’s good for two, three, five, or seven days. (Rates for children ages 3 to 12 are $79 to $199.) Will it work for you? Only if you sightsee at a fast pace before the card expires.
With a two-day Orlando pass, for example, you’ll save $81 if you visit Gatorland, Water Mania, and Fun Spot on one day and Cypress Gardens, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Titanic – The Experience, and Wonderworks on day two. This may allow too little time to visit attractions such as Cypress Gardens, which should be allotted an entire day. Still, the deals are generous. At Gatorland, for instance, you get free admission, the train ride, chow to feed the alligators, half off the Rookie Wrestlin’ Experience, and 10 percent off certain purchases. Consider the cards only if you’re on a fast track. The meter starts ticking on the first day the card is swiped. Contact (800) 887-9103 or go to www.gocardusa.com.
Travel expert Mitch Kaplan has written 52 Weekends in New Jersey ($16.95, The Countryman Press), a guide you’ll use time and again when you’re in the Northeast. Unlike guidebooks that focus on resorts and restaurants that are of little interest to motorhome travelers, this one looks for weekend activities such as garden tours, living history parks, waterfronts, bird watching, and other activities suitable for all interests and ages. To order, visit www.countrymanpress.com or call (800) 233-4830.