Ask people “Why travel in an RV?” and the first answer is usually “so I can sleep in my own bed every night.” The second most common answer is “so I can have my own bathroom,” or “to avoid public bathrooms when travelling.” And a big part of that personal bathroom experience is the RV shower.
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Whether it’s a motorhome, fifth-wheel, or other travel trailer, your RV is your home away from home… the reason you can go where you want when you want and still be comfortable.
If you come to an RV park with nice shower facilities, you can go ahead and use them. But if you don’t enjoy the company of that spider in the corner of the campground shower… or you’re in a dry-camp campground… or you’re boondocking in a parking lot… you can still enjoy a clean, comfortable, hot shower.
RV Showers Aren’t Small
If you’ve just started thinking about travelling in an RV, or have only looked at them, the size of a motorhome or camper trailer bathroom might make you nervous. Yes, it’s small. No, wait! Actually, a better way to think about it is that your shower at HOME is bigger than it NEEDS to be, and your RV shower is just the right size.
How To Shower In An RV
When it comes to taking a shower in an RV, think efficiency. You don’t have to suffer or torture yourself, but remember that every drop of water you use has to be replaced in your RV’s freshwater tank, and drained from your grey water tank.
If your RV is a newer one, or it’s been retrofitted with a tankless on-demand heater, you don’t have to worry about running out of hot water – but you still have to keep the above paragraph in mind. If you have a typical six or 10-gallon RV water heater, running out of hot water is a possibility: but that can be a good thing, since that knowledge will keep your shower efficient. For comparison, your water heater at home is probably 40 or 50 gallons.
The most common RV shower is to rinse yourself off, getting your body and hair wet, and then turn off the water. Apply soap and shampoo, and then rinse off. If you’re like me and prefer standing in a hot shower over sitting in a hot tub, the short RV shower can take some getting used to.
RV showers are fine!
That being said, the brief RV shower actually gives you a lot of flexibility. It’s actually not a big deal to take a quick shower at any time during the day. In fact, if you’re travelling with more than one person you’ll quickly establish an RV shower routine. For example, person one wakes up and showers. Breakfast is made and served. Person two takes a shower. Have kids along? They can grab their RV shower later while you’re checking out that antique store they find boring. And many people prefer to shower in the evening, which provides even more opportunities to spread out the hot water usage.
RV Shower Heads
For a better RV shower, make sure your bathing toolbox has the best tools. The first step towards better RV showering is to find a good shower head. RV-specific shower heads are designed to use less water than typical ones, without sacrificing too much pressure. There are a number of RV showerheads on the market. To find the best one for you, be sure to find an RV shower head that has a lot of positive reviews from buyers.
One must-have feature for RV showers is a shut-off valve. The shut-off valve allows you to stop the flow of water without having to readjust the temperature once you start it again (which would waste water). Many showerheads designed for motor homes and campers have a shut-off valve built right into them. By far, our personal preference for RV showering is the shower head that is attached to a hose. Being able to grab the showerhead lets you quickly and efficiently rinse off soap from all the nooks and crannies. Also, an RV showerhead attached to a hose can be convenient when you only want to rinse off your feet (or want to give the toilet bowl a hot water rinse).
By all means try the shower head that comes with your RV and see if you’re happy with it. If not, replacing them is quick and easy. Most can be removed by unscrewing them using your hands. Particularly stuck ones may require a pair of pliers. The threaded fixtures in showers are almost all universal, so the replacement shower head you get for your RV should just screw on – again, by hand.
RV Shower Pans
An “RV shower pan” is not a way to wash dishes while taking a shower. The pan is an industry term for the floor of your shower – so named because the raised sides make it resemble said pan.
If you have a larger motorhome or travel trailer, you might actually have a bathtub instead of a shower pan, but most RV’s go with the pan, since a tub full of hot water is more than most people want to pay for (heating costs) and haul and dump (fresh water and grey water tanks). In an RV wet bath (the toilet and shower are one unit) the entire fixture is generally your shower walls, floor, and sometimes ceiling.
The job of the RV shower pan is to keep water from running all over your home away from home. The lip is generally high enough to keep foot movement from sloshing water out of the shower, and direct that water to the drain.
Good RV shower pans will have some sort of non-skid surface. If yours is a little more slippery than you prefer (slipperier?) you can get self-adhesive grip stickers specially made for showers. If you have a very old RV, the shower pan might be made of painted or ceramic coated metal. Newer ones are generally made of fiberglass or acrylic. When taken care of, a good shower pan can last the life of the RV. If you should end up with a crack or hole, you have a number of repair options – most of them very affordable. If you need to replace the entire shower pan, that’s a little tougher, but still doable if you’re patient and careful. Decide if saving money is important to you than relaxing while a professional expertly replaces the pan in the RV you love so much!
RV Shower Skylights
Many RV’s – especially the newer motorhomes and travel trailers – have skylights in the shower ceiling. The obvious reason is to bring in light. The secondary benefit is to give a lot more headroom for the taller RV’ers.
Cleaning RV Showers
Keeping your RV shower clean is another area where it’s good to put on your efficiency cap. It may not feel like it at first, but it’s a lot easier to give your shower a quick cleanup after every use than to wait for a month or the end of a trip.
Immediate cleaning after a shower is also the very best way to avoid mold and mildew. If your shower has a lot of smooth surfaces, a small squeegee can quickly remove a lot of water with little effort. Many RV’ers keep the squeegee right in the shower and use it before drying themselves. After the squeegee, most RV’ers choose one of two options. 1) after drying themselves off with their towel, they use that towel to get rid of any damp spots, or 2) they have a separate towel near the shower for the same reason.
Even with quick cleanups after bathing, RV showers will still need a more thorough cleaning on occasion. Make sure you only use soft brushes and cloths, and non-abrasive cleaners that are safe your particular RV shower’s surface.
RV Showering Tips
If your RV shower has room, get a toiletry holder that can suction cup onto the wall of your shower. It’s great being able to step into the shower and not have an armful of bathing products with you. Don’t forget to rinse the holder and behind it at the end of the shower to avoid soap scum buildup.
If your RV bathroom has a vent and/or fan, use it during and well after your shower. By getting a good airflow through your bathroom – and even leaving the shower door or curtain cracked open – you can get rid of a lot of mold and mildew-inducing moisture.
Except for showers that are in the middle of an aisle to save space on very small RV’s, most can be outfitted with a door if they currently have a curtain. If you’re happy with just a curtain, stick with it. They’re easier to maintain and replace.
A good time to do a thorough bathroom or RV shower cleaning is when you’re hooked up to a campground water supply and sewer. That way you don’t have to worry about wasted shower time.