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Matt Johnson

Showering in an RV the Right Way

MattGlamperGear
Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Jan 5, 2023Updated: Dec 13, 2023

If you’re new to camping, you might not have had an RV shower experience. Maybe you’re wondering if showering in an RV is like showering at home.

Don’t worry, that’s totally normal. It’s a bit of a different experience, but we’re going to explain everything you need to know about showering in an RV.

There are some key differences in RV showers compared to your home shower, which we’ll also cover those as well.

Whether you’re dry camping for the first time or you’re heading out to an RV park with full hookups, we’re going to give you a few tips to make your showering experience as comfortable as possible and keep you smelling fresh.

Showering in an RV is easy.

From the showerhead to the RV shower pan, we’re going to give you everything you need to know about showering in an RV. We’re not talking about campground showers or even quick military showers, we’re talking about getting fresh in your own travel trailer or fifth wheel.

Here’s a few tips to effective take an RV shower.

Turn on the water heater well before your shower.

One thing about RV water heaters is that they’re not the most efficient appliances when it comes to heating water. So, if you plan to take a shower in the RV, at least not a cold shower, make sure you turn on the water heater in advance so that it has plenty of time to heat up your water.

Some water heaters have both a gas and electric mode, so make sure you have the right one selected. Depending on the model of hot water heater you have, you’ll find that one or the other will heat up water a bit quicker.

Your hot water heater will fill with water from your fresh water tank or from the city water you have connected to your camper. From there, it’ll heat up the water as it flows through the system.

When you turn on your shower, you should have warm water coming out of the shower head almost immediately. If not, wait a few moments and check to ensure your RV’s hot water heater is turned on.

If you’re using a tankless water heater, all you need to do is flip the switch and wait just a couple of minutes for the water to heat up. After that, you should have unlimited hot water which will only be limited by your gray water tank capacity. So even though you might not have limited hot water, you’ll still want to practice water conservation.

Have the right shower head for the job.

RV Shower Head with Shut-Off Valve

If you have the standard RV shower head that came with the RV from the manufacturer, then you’re most likely not getting the most efficient water flow possible. You can upgrade to a low-flow shower head which will help conserve water without sacrificing comfort and pressure.

Keep in mind that RV shower heads are not the same as the shower head in your home. They are designed to conserve water and provide a lower-pressure but still effective shower. This is because you’re either limited on hot water or with your gray tank.

Sure, at home, feel free to take a long, luxurious shower. But in an RV, you should be mindful of your water usage and keep it to a minimum.

RV showerheads also have a shut-off valve built into them, which is great for conserving water.

Use the RV shower head shut off valve when you shower.

As we mentioned, you might have an infinite hot water supply, but you might still need to save water. Why? Because your waste water tank will fill up quickly!

Most RVs have a gray water tank that holds around 20-40 gallons of water, depending on which model of RV you have.

If you have a standard residential shower head that uses the typical 2.5gpm, then you’re going to top off your water tanks in under 10 minutes! That’s not considering other water usage from your sinks either.

With that, your RV showerhead has a built in shut-off valve. This allows you to turn off the water briefly as you lather up and then turn it back on again to rinse. It’s also great for washing your hair since you don’t need a steady stream of water while shampooing.

Always use the shut-off valve after showering to prevent further water leakage. This practice helps minimize water consumption.

Ensure you empty the gray tanks.

One thing to keep in mind when taking an RV shower is that you still need to empty your gray water tanks. Even if you’re using the shut-off valve and being mindful of your hot water usage, your waste water tank will still fill up over time.

So, make sure you check the level of your gray water tank before you get in the shower and empty it out when necessary. This will help ensure you always have enough room for your shower water in the tank.

But let’s say you forgot to drain your tank. What happens then?

Generally, the water will go down the RV shower drain and fill the gray tank. As that tank starts to fill up, the water level will rise and eventually fill the RV shower pan. This is no good because you won’t be able to finish your shower.

Before you know it, your feet are standing in a couple of inches of water, and you’re yelling out for someone to drain the tank.

Keep in mind, you’ll have to turn off the water because RV shower pans are usually only a couple of inches high. You don’t want water pouring out onto your bathroom floor.

You get the idea. It’s not fun.

Always open your air vent and turn on the vent fan.

Nobody likes to use cold water for a shower. In fact, we like nice, hot steamy showers, even when showering in an RV.

And one way you can keep the bathroom from getting too humid and prevent moisture build up while showering is to open your air vent and turn on the vent fan.

This will help circulate fresh air into the bathroom and also remove any moisture that might already be in there before you get in the shower. The last thing you need is to have your windows fogging up while showering!

It’s also good to practice general bathroom maintenance, such as wiping down the shower walls and surfaces, keeping the toilet area clean, closing the shower curtain when not in use, etc. Not only will this help keep your bathroom looking nice, but it’ll help reduce humidity levels as well.

Make the most of your shower space.

Keep in mind, an RV bathroom isn’t very big, to begin with, so you’ll want to make the most of your shower space. There are plenty of products on the market to help you make the most of your tiny shower, such as shower caddies, tension rods for hanging your towels and washcloths, and even wall-mounted shelves or hooks.

For example, invest in a good-quality RV shower caddy and hang it on the wall or door to store all of your toiletries. This will help keep your shower gel and shampoo off the shower floor, out of sight, and easy to access when needed. Also, be sure to have a non-slip shower mat to prevent slips or falls.

You’ll have your entire shower to yourself and not worry about tripping on bottles or spilling soap all over the floor.

Maintenance for keeping your RV shower in top shape.

Maintaining your RV shower is an important part of ensuring that you have the best possible experience while camping. A well-maintained shower will not only function better, but it will also last longer and be more enjoyable to use.

Here are a few maintenance tips and ideas to keep your RV shower in top shape—

  1. Regular cleaning. Just like your shower at home, your RV shower needs regular cleaning to prevent the build-up of soap scum, mildew, and other unwanted grime. Use a non-abrasive cleaner and a soft cloth or sponge to clean the walls and floor of the shower. Don’t forget to clean the showerhead as well. If there’s calcium buildup on the showerhead, soak it in CLR for a few minutes.
  2. Inspect for leaks. Regularly check the shower for any signs of leaks. This includes inspecting the showerhead, the faucet, and the drain. If you find a leak, address it immediately to prevent water damage to your RV.
  3. Seal the edges: Be sure to seal the edges of your shower where it meets the wall. This will prevent water from seeping into the walls of your RV. Over time, this sealant can wear down or become damaged. Regularly inspect the sealant and reapply as necessary. We’re big fans of Geocel Pro Flex sealant. It’s clear and a 10oz tube will go a long ways.
  4. Unclog the drain. Hair and other debris can clog the shower drain over time. Be sure to regularly clear out this debris to prevent clogs. You can use a simple tool like a drain snake or a specialized RV shower drain cleaner. We highly discourage the use of Drano or similar chemicals as it can breakdown the seals in your RV’s septic system.
  5. Upgrade when necessary. If your showerhead isn’t providing enough pressure, or if your shower curtains aren’t containing the water well, don’t be afraid to make upgrades. There are many RV-specific products on the market that can improve your shower experience.

By following these tips, you’ll ensure that your RV shower stays in great working condition for many camping trips to come. 

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about your RV shower.

Alright, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. These are some questions that we’ve seen over the years and will apply to most RV showers.

How do people shower in an RV?

People shower in an RV using either a wetbath, an outdoor shower, an indoor shower pan, or a portable shower. Wet baths are a single unit that includes a toilet, sink, and shower all-in-one, while outdoor showers attach to the side of the RV and can be used when outside. Indoor shower pans are installed inside the RV, just like your home shower. We sometimes call these dry baths because they’re separate from the toilet.

What is a RV wet bath?

Wet baths are a space-saving design that combines a shower, toilet, and sink in one unit. This design is commonly found in small travel trailers, teardrops, class B motorhomes and pickup campers. Airstream Basecamp and the Scamp are two examples of travel trailers with wet bath designs.

Inside of a Camper Wet Bath
The inside view of a wet bath. The toilet and shower make up the entire bathroom.

How do you shower in an RV wet bath?

You would shower in a wet bath just like you would in any other shower. Of course, you want to make sure the toilet lid is closed and the shower door is closed to keep water from escaping. Also, like a dry bath, be mindful of your water usage and turn off the hot water when you’re lathering up and turn it back on again to rinse.

Does shower water go into the gray or black tank?

Shower water goes into the gray tank. The black tank is used mainly for waste water from the toilet only, while the gray tank collects all other wastewater, including shower and sink water. So make sure you empty your gray tanks regularly to prevent them from overflowing.

How many gallons of water can an RV hold?

The amount of freshwater that an RV holds depends on the size and type of tank. Most RVs can hold around 50-100 gallons.

How can I save water when showering in an RV?

There are a few ways to save water when showering in an RV.

First, use a low-flow showerhead to reduce water usage.

Second, turn off the fresh water supply while you’re lathering up and turn it back on again to rinse.

Finally, use a shower timer to keep your showers under a certain amount of time. All of these steps will help conserve water and prevent your tanks from overflowing.

How long of a shower can you take in an RV?

For the most part, how long of a shower you can take in an RV depends on the size of your tanks and how much hot water is available.

Generally speaking, showers should be kept to under 10 minutes for optimal tank efficiency. If your tanks are on the smaller side, you may want to shorten that time even more.

However, if you have larger tanks or you’re connected directly to sewage hookups, you can take a longer shower.

A rule of thumb for the average shower is one minute per gallon of water your hot water heater holds. That is, if you have a good shower head. If you have a tankless water heater, then this might not be applicable.

How many gallons per minute does an RV shower use?

An RV shower can use anywhere from 1 to 2.5 gallons per minute. Of course, this depends on the type of showerhead and water pressure. Low-flow showerheads will use less water and conserve more water.

Where does the water go when you shower in an RV?

The water from a shower in an RV goes into the gray tank. This tank is then emptied when full and the wastewater is disposed of at an appropriate dumping station.

Can you shower in RV while driving?

While we recommend showering in an RV while it’s stationary, it is totally possible to take a hot shower while cruising down the road.

If your freshwater tank has enough water and you have enough battery power to run the water pump for adequate water pressure, then you can absolutely take a shower while driving.

Again, we don’t recommend it.

What’s the difference between an outdoor shower and a camper shower?

While they might seem like the same thing, there are some differences between an outdoor shower and a camper shower.

An outdoor shower is typically found at the back of an RV and is generally used for bathing or cleaning off after swimming in a lake or beach.

A camper shower is located inside the RV (either as a wet bath or dry bath) and provides hot water for a warm shower.

RV showers aren’t so bad, are they?

There’s no denying that an RV shower can take some getting used to. But with the right setup and a few helpful tips, you can have a shower experience that’s just as enjoyable as any other. Whether it’s a dry bath or a wet bath, having hot water on demand while you’re out exploring the world is truly one of life’s greatest luxuries.

So don’t be afraid of RV showers, embrace them! With some practice and patience, you’ll be showering in an RV like a pro in no time.

MattGlamperGear

Matt Johnson


Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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