Photo: Camping and Dishes

doing-dishes-while-campingI’m curious, what’s everyone’s take on doing dishes in a campground bathroom? Acceptable, or gross?

In campgrounds that allow tents, I take it as a given, since they have no kitchen to do them in. In RV parks, I get the feeling it’s frowned upon, especially nicer parks like Sparks Marina. In our defense, it was raining/snowing during daylight hours when we might have done them outside in our wash tubs – our usual protocol. This is the first time we’ve done them at the bathroom since we’ve been here (remember the RV is winterized right now, no doing them at the sink inside).

Here’s my advice on how to properly wash dishes in a bathroom sink. Do the washing in tubs still, so that food particles don’t go down the drain and either clog it or start to stink. Β Carry the dirty water from washing out to be dumped in a proper area. We dump our dirty “grey” water from the tubs down the sewer pipe in our site (just unscrew, pour, screw back shut). Β Rinsing the soap off of dishes into the sink I feel is okay, it’s only soap at that point, the food is off them. When you’re all done, clean up any splashing and messes you made on the counters so that things look nice for the next person who uses the sinks.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

50 Comments

  1. Tanya on December 21, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    And how dirty do you think the picnic tables are?
    Washing in the bathroom, at the picnic table or anywhere else just use precautions for a clean area to begin with.
    You go Becky!



    • Becky on December 22, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Yeah Tanya, having a medical background I definitely understand the value of cleanliness. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!



  2. Mary on December 18, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    We volunteered in Rocky Mtn. Nat’l Park one season and our site was near a bathroom that had an outside tub with a sign above it stating it was for washing dishes.

    Two different instances: a guy was emptying his porta-potti in the tub; another guy had stripped down towards dark and was taking his bath in the tub with his girlfriend giggling.

    Both instances got them expelled from the park. However, what if we hadn’t seen either occasion. I cringe just thinking about washing dishes there.

    There are also parks that have signs by the water faucets to fill a jug stating “no dish washing, no hair washing, no teeth brushing”. Why? Because one of our duties was to dig out a foot of rock and soil under that faucet and replace the soil with new. The hair, garbage and gummy toothpaste was disgusting and it kept the water from draining into the ground properly. So there are reasons for those rules.

    Even with tenting we always washed at our campsite at the picnic table. Please be careful.



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      It is tragic how some people don’t have respect for our public spaces.

      This is why I always bring my own tubs. πŸ™‚



  3. Jodee Gravel on December 17, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Sounds like you make less mess for the next person than most who use the area for the “intended” purpose. My mother used the toilet as our garbage disposal long before there was one in the kitchen sink so I concur with that option for sure. If Amazon is going to continue using this park for their workers I would suggest you make some recommendations to the company about specific things the park could do to accommodate “campers” in the winter months. I think it would be appreciated by everyone involved πŸ™‚ It’s not like you’re washing your clothes in the toilet bowl – I think you’re being practical under the circumstances πŸ™‚
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..The Neverending Story – PurgingMy Profile



    • Terri on December 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      I agree with Jody, I think you’re being practical and as non-obtrusive and mindful of the other campers as possible. I admit, I didn’t know that with your trailer being winterized, you can’t put stuff down the sink?
      Terri recently posted..A New DirectionMy Profile



      • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:35 am

        When it’s winterized, no Terri. There’s anti-freeze in the sink traps and grey and black tanks right now, if I put grey water down the sink it’d dilute the anti-freeze and I might end up with a giant, dirty grey ice cube that won’t flush out until the spring thaw. πŸ˜‰ The freezing water could expand to the point where my tank valves or connections in the plumbing develop leaks which would be expensive to fix. This is one of the big reasons why full-timers like to go south in the winter, no need to worry about these issues. Some RVs (called four season RVs) are built with more insulation and sometimes even heated tanks to allow easier cold weather camping, but those are generally huge expensive Class A’s and 5th wheels.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Haha, I almost died thinking about the looks I’d get for attempting to wash clothes in a toilet bowl. Thanks for the laugh Jodee.



  4. Evelyn B on December 17, 2014 at 5:38 am

    Many parks, both private and public, have signs posted in the bathroom that say no washing dishes including the one we camp host at in the summer. Your situation is a bit unique since you don’t have a choice of staying in cold weather and having your unit winterized due to your Amazon commitment. I’m hoping the campground would cut those workers some slack on the rules. Other campers might not look very kindly on it. What about making do with paper plates, etc. during this time your unit is winterized. Hang in there; just a few more days to go!!!



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Responded to both these concerns above, I’ve come across a couple with signs posted, but not many. Probably depends on the type and location of the campgrounds you visit. Luckily since Sparks Marina doesn’t know about my furtive restroom washing, I don’t need to find out if they’d tolerate it or not. πŸ˜‰

      And yeah, some would consider it “trashy”, but for the most part RVers are a pretty understanding lot, not everyone has the same resources available to them for a 4-season or true full-timing RV that has more space and handles cold weather well. If I ever did come across a park that I got serious flak for it from other guests, I’d find a new place to stay. When your home has wheels, there’s no need to hang around people who are going to belittle you and your lifestyle.



  5. Hannah on December 16, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Buy one of those little metal grates ($1 at Dollar Stores) to make sure no “particles” go down the drain. I use one in my RV to keep food particles out of my grey water tank.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Yeah, those work well when your RV isn’t winterized, even when I was living in an apartment without a dishwasher I considered those essential Hannah. Handy handy.



  6. Reine in Plano on December 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    When you’re camping in the winter with the Casita winterized your options are limited. When it’s cold and or rainy/snowy I see no problem with washing the dishes in the public restroom as long as you’re considerate and clean up after yourself. As for the EWWW factor. Research has shown that there are LOTS of surfaces that harbor way more bacteria than a public toilet seat…most folks computer keyboard being a prime example.

    You do what you gotta do in the circumstances. Beats wiping them out with a paper towel!



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:20 am

      Weeeeell if it’s something not greasy/messy/easily spoiled and I’m the only one using the dish, often the first go around I’ll just pour a little water on the plate and wipe it off with paper towel (it happens less with Julie traveling with me). And all of my dishes get wiped with paper towels before getting washed for real to get as much food off them as possible.

      No worries though everyone (particularly Ramen), I don’t participate in pot lucks either, so none of you need to worry about eating food off my occasionally-not-entirely-clean dishes. πŸ˜‰



  7. Tom on December 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Oh yea – well Kramer prepared a salad while showering!



    • Ramen on December 17, 2014 at 6:32 am

      Yeah, this is why I don’t do pot lucks. You don’t know how the folks prepared the dishes in their cramped quarters.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Haha, I’m not that talented Tom. πŸ˜‰



  8. Bob in KS on December 16, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Unless there is a sign or rule forbidding the use of the rest room for washing dishes, I say go for it. You gotta do what you gotta do. Don’t tie up the whole sink area doing your dishes. Clean up after yourselves and flush the dish water down the toilet in the rest room.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:14 am

      Thanks for your response Bob. I definitely agree with you about being conscious of your space usage, particularly in a rest room that sees more traffic.



  9. Ed @ Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on December 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Well, there you are. Several opinions pro and con. Personally, I would not wash dishes in a public restroom UNLESS i had no other option. Even in the snow, on a table I would utilize a plastic tub of hot soapy water, and another tub of hot clear water at least. And I would NOT pour stuff in the toilet. Sorry.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:13 am

      Thanks for weighing in Ed. I’ve responded to the toilet and sanitary issues above.



  10. PamelaP on December 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Necessity is the mother of invention! I don’t see anything wrong with your washing dishes in the bathroom if you clean up after yourself.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:10 am

      Thanks for weighing in Pamela!



  11. kira on December 16, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I came across this post when searching for ways to wash dishes in a bathroom sink because I live in a crappy studio apartment that only has 1 sink and no kitchen sink. its a good idea to wash in a tub in regards to food particles. I was afriad of clogging the sink from food particles. we dont really have a sewer that I can dump food particles in so I dont know if flushing it in a toilet would cause problems. anyone know? thanks for the article. the sink I have here is so small that most dishes doesnt fit so there is no way I can rinse anything either.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:10 am

      The general consensus seems to be that you can pour the dirty water down the toilet without issue Kira, just pour it at a steady rate and if the toilet flushes mid-way through and not at the end, flush it once more when you’re done to get the rest of the food down so it doesn’t start to smell. Good luck, and I hope this works for you!



  12. Rob on December 16, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Tacky…. but I’d forgotten you don’t have a 4 season camper.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:07 am

      Yeah Rob, I bet there’s a certain class of RVer out there who’d look down on me for washing in the sink. Luckily most of the people I run into are caring and understanding that not everyone that’s on the road has the same resources at their disposal for an actual ‘full-timing’ rig.



  13. claire on December 16, 2014 at 6:06 am

    as a recently retired RN, i cringe at using public restrooms for necessities and would never wash dishes/laundry in the public restrooms. many diseases are spread through the fecal route and you simply don’t know what the last person left on/in/around that sink. e coli, c diff, hepatitis,etc are just 3 of many diseases that are easily transmitted this way. faucets and door handles are notoriously contaminated with all sorts of bacteria. many of these diseases are extremely difficult if not impossible to eradicate once you get them, as our antibiotics are rapidly losing their ability to cure them.
    personally, i use the casita for everything and use public restrooms as a very very last resort. many “cleaning” personnel make basic mistakes like using the same cleaning cloth to wipe down all of the toilets/floors then use them to clean off the sinks/counters. ewwww!!!!
    just be very aware that your cleanliness standards go out the window when you enter a public restroom. have safe and happy holidays



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:03 am

      Responded to the health safety concern in my first comment Claire. πŸ™‚ Happy holidays to you too.



  14. PamP on December 16, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Interesting question. I suppose a really posh resort type campground might frown on it. I have washed dishes in big truck stop bathrooms when I’ve spent the nite. Your two pan method & cleaning up system sounds considerate of others. The bleach solution in a spray bottle is a good idea. It dosen’t give me the ewww’s unless the bathroom is already dirty. In that case you would have the good sense to just wait until later.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

      Yeah Pam, the more “resort” type parks I bet do, even if they don’t have signs posted (Sparks Marina doesn’t, but I still think I’d get bad looks). And yeah, if the bathroom doesn’t look clean, I wouldn’t wash my dishes there. Luckily Sparks Marina is the cleanest RV park I’ve ever stayed.



  15. Regis Hampton on December 16, 2014 at 4:21 am

    We’re not full time yet so no winterizing, so our dishes are done in our RV. But, we do use a tub and empty it properly so as not to accumulate food particles in our tank. However as for bathrooms, when ever I use them for what ever reason, I like to leave it better than it was when I got there, picking up paper, wiping off sinks etc. Just a obsession of mine!



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      You’re the kind of guest a campground likes to have Regis. Sadly a lot of people don’t clean up after themselves when they’re not at home, which is really sad. In my mind, if you like something, you should take care of it. If you like staying at parks and campgrounds, you should do what you can to keep them nice – no one likes staying at a dirty campground.



  16. Barrie on December 16, 2014 at 4:09 am

    Hi Becky,
    The campgrounds we’ve stayed in keep the bathrooms meticulously cleaned. We have done our dishes in the bathroom using dish tubs and pouring the wash water in the toilet. We just use hot water from the tap and use a second tub for the clean dishes. We have found many campgrounds that permit tents have a dish washing station behind the bathrooms and we always use the two wash tub method there too.
    All the best,
    Barrie



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      Oh yes Barrie, I love it when campgrounds have dish washing stations! I’ve only run across it a few times, the ones up in the Smoky Mountains did when I went tent camping up there and it was great. Take care.



  17. dawn from camano island on December 16, 2014 at 2:00 am

    Thank you for this post, Becky. I worry about dishes all the time, especially since it seems like the grey tank fills up 10 times faster than the black! I’m a little conflicted on this too. It’s a bathroom. However, you couldn’t use your table because it was rainy/snowy (brrr…). And maybe that wouldn’t be OK in that posh campground you’re in. Necessity being the Mother of Invention & all it seems you don’t have many other options. I like the idea of putting the water down the toilet–it works for me & keeps our grey tank from filling up on Day 2 of a trip. Stay warm and hey. It was nice reading a comment from Julie on the last post. Sounds to me like she has a great sense of humor!



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      You’re welcome Dawn. Doing them outside on the table in tubs is my preferred method, but occasionally the weather doesn’t give me that option. When the RV isn’t winterized, the grey and black tanks fill up about the same time for me, but I never shower in the RV, so that’s a lot less water going in.

      I told Julie you enjoyed her comment, she grinned.



  18. Edie on December 16, 2014 at 1:19 am

    I think it’s perfectly fine to wash the dishes or anything else in the bathrooms as long as you clean up your area at the end. Also I would dump the dirty water in the toilet.



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Thanks for weighing in Edie. It seems you’re not alone in dumping your dirty water down the toilet.



  19. Dave Burdick on December 15, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Here is a Question for you…..why do you walk the “grey water” from the bathroom and dump in the sewer at site, when you can just enter a toilet stall and dump it in the toilet and flush? Just a thought. –Dave (and I sure have no problem doing dishes in a bathroom if needed, have had to do that in hotel rooms time to time)
    Dave Burdick recently posted..Sniff Sniff, Cough Cough, general updateMy Profile



    • dawn from camano island on December 16, 2014 at 1:54 am

      My thought too, Dave.



      • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        Yes, that’s an option too Dave. My biggest concern is pouring it too fast or slow and not triggering the automatic flush. Not all campgrounds have great plumbing. The place I worked at over the summer (Zion) had wonky water pressure and once or twice we had issues where guests hadn’t done it “right” and made a mess.



  20. Colleen Phipps (longdog2) on December 15, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Some state parks also have signs prohibiting washing dishes (and laundry) in the bathrooms. It’s rather awkward when you are using the bathroom for it’s intended purpose and can’t get to sinks because someone is using them for another purpose. Understand it’s more difficult to use your RV when it is winterized.



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      That’s true Colleen, I’ve seen a couple places like that, maybe two or three in the two years I’ve been traveling. I agree it’s rude for a person to be washing their dishes at the sink during heavy usage times of the day, particularly when they use multiple sinks and there isn’t much room. I always do mine later at night after the rush.



  21. Caroline near Seattle/LasVegas on December 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    another eeeew. Even when tent camping I couldn’t bring my dishes to a public bathroom. I used the picnic table … a tub of soapy water for then lay them on a dish towel to dry.

    How’s the job? Just a couple of comments about it would be interesting to hear. Like … how much OT are you working? are people dropping out or does that happen early on? Thx,carol



    • Rob on December 16, 2014 at 8:31 am

      I agree Caroline, even tent camping I do the dishes at the campsite. I can make hot water for the dishes.



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      I was working an average of 53 hours a week Carol, but this (last) week is only 40. Some people drop out early because they don’t enjoy or can’t handle the work. Some had permission to leave earlier due to other circumstances. I don’t have an exact number, but I think it’s something like 1 in 8 that won’t make it to the end of the season, the number holds steady year after year and when Amazon hires us they take that into consideration and hire more people than they actually need.



  22. Ramen on December 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Thanks for making me squeamish. Eeew.. I’m terrified of public restrooms…If you’re going to be doing that more often, take a squirt bottle of bleach and sanitize the surfaces and fixtures will ya. Just don’t over do it or you’ll pass out from the fumes, don’t ask…



    • Becky on December 17, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      To all the commenters who worry about doing dishes in the bathroom for sanitary reasons (I won’t respond to each of you individually, cause I’d just be repeating myself): Trust me, I get it. Animal medicine is still a medical field, and having worked with primates which can carry diseases that’ll kill a person while the animal remains perfectly healthy, I understand aseptic technique, the dangers of how something can look clean but really not be, and the consequences that can result from not taking precautions. I guess it’s just so second nature to me that I didn’t bring it up in the post because I figured everyone understood the hazards. This is another reason to use the tubs in bathrooms, I never let my dishes touch the actual sink.



      • Ramen on December 17, 2014 at 11:54 pm

        Hey, you opened the flood gates yourself with the topic =)



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