Laundry is a necessary requirement for all of us no matter where we live, even on a boat. So how do we cope with doing our laundry when living aboard a boat?

The first method that you may think of is taking your laundry to a laundrette which is a method many choose. Some marinas and boatyards that cater for residential boats may even provide these facilities on site if not just find your local one in the nearest town.
One good point about using a laundrette is that once done you do not need to have all you laundry hanging around your boat, a good point in a small place. The downside is you have to transport it to the laundrette which may also be some distance away.

The second method is to have your own washing machine aboard your boat, that’s right just like in a house. Now, here you have some options and I will go through the most common one’s here and how you may best set things up so they work onboard.

Most washing machines these days run from the cold water mains water to supply the water and mains electricity to run the motor and heat the water. Now, not all boats will have mains water and electricity plumbed directly into their boat so you may need to work around these limitations.

Let’s look at a typical boat setup:

Water is held in a storage tank and pumped using a 12Volt water pump. The boat has a mains electricity circuit and mains electricity is available at the mooring. Because the mains electricity runs along a pontoon the supply is rated at 5 amps for safety. This is common in marinas for safety reasons.

In this typical example the water pump may not produce enough pressure to run a full size washing machine, if it does it would work the pump very hard and would need replacing quite often. As most washing machines draw around 2 – 3 Kva in mains power and the marina may supply only 5 amps over water the washing machine cold trip the circuit breaker often. As you can see a mains washing machine can present some problems!

Here are some work arounds in this situation.
For the water you can use a hose pipe from the nearest mains water stand pipe and run this to your boat. Have you washing machine water inlet pipe fitted with a snap connector so your hosepipe connects to it. Make sure the connection is outside your boat. Turn the water on at the stand pipe and you have a high pressure mains water supply to your washing machine. When you have finished your laundry disconnect everything and you’re done.

One thing we must not forget is if the water goes into the washing machine we will have to get it out again as part of the wash cycle.
On a static houseboat you could attach the outlet hose to your sink outlet as in a normal house but on other boats sinks may not be standard and may not have a sink trap, only a single pipe running from the sink directly to a sea cock. In this case you could tap into the hose or you could simply secure the washing machine outlet hose to drain into the sink itself. If doing this make sure your sink can drain the amount of water the machine empties fast enough before overflowing the sink!

For the electricity problem you could use a generator of a suitable size to supply power and this would only need to run for as long as it takes to do your washing. If you have a mooring on the bank side and the mains does not need to run over water then you should not have the problem of a 5 amps supply and the mains power will be able to run your washing machine without any problems. It’s worth checking with your mooring provider what mains supply is available.

The above covers the problems you may find with services you need to run your washing machine but what about the machine itself? Can you fit a full size washing machine on your boat? Let’s cover what machines are available.

OK, if you have a large boat such as a Dutch Barge you will most likely have space for a full size washing machine so not much of a problem here.
If your boat is smaller then you may want to find a smaller machine. These are available and you can purchase a half size washing machine to fit in your smaller space. These are not as common and you may have to look harder and if you find one new you will pay the same price if not more for it so be warned.
Washing MachineThere are also small table top machines available that have been made specifically for the marine/leisure market that run from 240 volts mains or even 12 volts. These can be a great solution if space is limited.

Now we are able to get our clothes washed but what about drying our laundry?

You could simply opt for a combined washer/drier which would save on space. When drying your clothes place the drier outlet out of a window or port hole. Some washer/driers are of a condenser type so do not blow our warm air from a large hose but use a small hose where a small water is removed by the drier. Ask you local store about the different types so you can chose the right one for your needs.
Do not forget that the same applies with regards to electrical power for your drier as stated above.

One last thing to cover is how you may be able to carry out your laundry if you can not fit a suitable washer/drier on your boat.
Sometimes it’s simply a case of going back to basics and in the past I have successfully used two buckets and a clothes horse to get my laundry done! That’s right, one bucket for washing/soaking the clothes and the second bucket for rinsing the clothes. Squeeze out as much water as possible and hang up on the clothes horse in a warm place on your boat.
Not the best or most efficient way but it worked for me!

So, it’s not impossible to get your laundry done when living on a boat and there are different ways of achieving it both onboard or by simply using a laundrette, they all get the job done.

I hope this has made you think about the different options available to you and how a simple thing like getting your laundry done is somewhat different to those in a house. Like most things there is always a solution to a problem that works and I hope this helps you find the solution you are looking for now or in the future.

Happy washing!