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Adding An RV Dishwasher: Here’s How I Solved My Space Problem

Portable RV Dishwasher
A portable RV Dishwasher is great for full-time RVers

Adding An RV Dishwasher: Here’s How I Solved My Space Problem

When Joel Houghton invented his wooden box dishwasher in 1850, he probably didn’t realize the full impact it would have. Almost 150 years later, dishwashers started showing up in top-end fifth-wheels and Class A motorhomes. In today’s RV market, nearly every kitchen and coach appliance brand offers the best RV dishwashers. When my wife and I bought our 2001 Fleetwood Pace Arrow, we intended to customize it to our wants and needs. One of the top priorities was installing an RV dishwasher.

My wife and I have back problems that require medication and pain management. Standing in front of the sink for too long causes increased pain after the third dish. We’ve done our best to adapt, but there have been times where paper plates have kept us going until we could overcome the dish mountain a plate or two at a time.

Do your research

After a lot of research, initial decision-making, second-guessing, over-thinking, and ultimately making a final decision, we decided to purchase a portable dishwasher. Since we have limited counter space, we realized that our best option was to buy a kitchen island cart to hold the dishwasher.

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We’ll show you the products we chose, review their features, and how we incorporated them into our 20-year-old motorhome. As a DIY customization, we’ll also explore some other ideas we ran across during our research.

How do I get more space in my RV?

In the past few years, RV manufacturers have been instrumental in finding ways to add counter space to kitchen countertops. Flip-up countertop extensions at the end of the kitchen cabinet create valuable space. Covers for RV sinks add workspace; many have the dual purpose of acting as a cutting board. RV stove top covers can serve the same purposes. If your RV didn’t come with one, DIY stove cover plans or aftermarket accessories are easy to find.

If your coach didn’t come with an RV kitchen island with a sink, adding a kitchen cart for your RV or a folding kitchen island work table is an excellent way to find that extra countertop space. You’ll have plenty of extra space for meal prep or laying out everything for Taco Tuesday. The non-foldable kitchen island carts may take up some space, but the added storage shelves, drawers, and countertop may be worth the sacrifice.

For our situation, we chose the Sheena Kitchen Cart by Millwood Pines. Millwood Pines sells its furniture and accessories on many different websites. The Sheena Cart was one of the very few that’s exclusive to Wayfair.

Kitchen cart for RV
Sheena Kitchen Cart – Wayfair.com

We chose this kitchen island cart for many reasons. The cart had to comply with our dishwasher needs and fit well in our Class A motorhome. It had to fit in the spots we had in mind when we travel and set up. Our specific requirements were:

  1. The kitchen cart had to be strong enough to hold the dishwasher’s weight filled with dishes and the water inside during operation.
  1. The wheels had to be big enough to roll over our carpeting and lock.
  1. We wanted storage space to hold the dishes and other items when we are camping.
  1. The cart can’t stick out, partially blocking our hallway between the living room and bedroom.
  1. When traveling, the kitchen island cart must fit well in the corner, the shower and bathroom sink reside.
  1. The cart’s construction material must handle the conditions inside an RV. 

The Sheena Kitchen Cart checks all of these boxes. The cart holds up to 75 pounds, and the thick countertop won’t bend due to the weight. The utensil drawer underneath comes with a velvet-like interior to hold silver flatware or other delicate items. The middle and low shelves have evenly spaced slats that hold 15 pounds. One side comes with a near full-width towel rack. 

The cart stands 36-inches high x 23-inches wide x 23 inches deep. At this height, we won’t have to bend to load and unload the dishwasher. The cart weighs almost 50 pounds, and the dishwasher is over 65 pounds. Rolling the cart won’t strain my back as long as I don’t have to lift it over anything.

All of the hardware has a black finish that compliments the natural wood look. The manufacturer seals the rubberwood to prevent moisture or other contaminants from affecting its integrity. Aesthetic appeal wasn’t on our list, but the portable kitchen island matches our motorhome oak cabinets well.

The heavy-duty utility cart caster wheels roll through RV carpeting easily. Two of them are locking caster wheels that prevent the cart from moving. I’ve been using the cart with the dishwasher on top of it for a month now, and they haven’t marked up the vinyl flooring in my kitchen.

Can you put a dishwasher in an RV?

Our quest for the best RV dishwasher led us down many paths. I didn’t realize how many different variations and brands were available. After reading up on RV LIFE articles and others concerning RV dishwasher reviews, our strategy started with what we couldn’t do.

With limited cabinetry space already, installing a dishwasher in our motorhome by removing some drawers would remove valuable storage space. Replacing our oven with an RV dishwasher stove combo could work, but we’re planning on placing a drawer-style convection microwave there. Our best choice was learning if countertop dishwashers were any good.

This Farberware unit makes a great RV dishwasher
This Farberware unit makes a great RV dishwasher

After a lot of research, the Farberware countertop dishwasher reviews kept coming up with glowing ratings. What finally sold us was Bob Vila’s article on the Best Portable Dishwashers. We know he has other writers, but if he’s willing to put his name on it, who are we to argue with the home repair guru?

The Farberware Professional Countertop Dishwasher holds six complete sets of dishes. The LED display is easy to read. It’s ideal for RVs since it only uses about two gallons of water per load. It’s six different settings allow you to clean fine china and hard-to-clean dishes. The extra dry function, combined with rinse aid, makes your dishes spotless and ready to put away.

The Farberware countertop dishwasher has a single rack. The rack holds standard size dishes. Our set is oversized, so we have to get creative when we load it. Our dishes still come out clean, but the loading diagram that comes with the instruction manual is unrealistic for us. Also, on the left side, there is an elevated shelf for teacups. 

As coffee drinkers, we use mugs. We ended up taking that shelf out, which added height on that side. If my granddaughter comes to visit and we play tea party, I may put those shelves back in to clean up afterward. 

What amazed us was how quiet the dishwasher is during the operation. At the time of writing this, we have a load going. Our dogs are sleeping, I’m working, and my wife is binge-watching her favorite reality show. The only time I notice it’s working is when the machine drains water. 

Assembly required

When we purchased the kitchen cart and dishwasher, we did it strategically. We wanted the cart to come first to assemble and test it before the dishwasher came. We could have paid the $116 for them to build it, but I knew that it wouldn’t be too tricky, and shipping a fully assembled furniture piece like that would cost me even more.

When the cart arrived, I tried to act my age, but that boy with a new toy came out. I was excited to get it out of the box and get my “Tim-The-Tool-Man-Taylor” thing going (this is the point where my wife and most of you women reading this are rolling your eyes. Remember ladies, you did marry us.)

Once I had the box inside, I was able to look around the box. I immediately noticed that one side of the box had a big tear in it. The good part was it didn’t go through the protective foam inside. The cart’s weight is close to 50 pounds, so I figured the cardboard ripped during shipping. As long as the cart itself was okay, I didn’t mind.

When I opened the box, I saw some of the protective foam was in pieces. With my concern level elevated, I dug through the box, pulling out the foam and each piece one at a time. I inspected each component for damage. There was some light chipping on the countertop, but everything else was perfect. The worst-case scenario is that the kitchen cart comes with a six-month limited warranty, and I spent the extra $35 for the 5-year protection plan.

Since I was using the portable kitchen island to hold the dishwasher, I didn’t feel it was worth the aggravation of going through the return process. A quick application of wood sealer would keep moisture from getting in there. 

Assembly of the kitchen cart was reasonable
Assembly of the kitchen cart was reasonable

Assembling the RV kitchen cart

Through my experience of building ready to assemble furniture, I’ve learned to inventory the components. Make sure you have all the building pieces and the correct amount of hardware parts. Manufacturers like to make their parts a fraction bigger or smaller than standard sizes, so customers have to use their parts.

Millwood Pines did a great job of labeling everything. Once I had the instruction manual, I laid all of the components out. The hardware came in a long plastic sleeve where each part had a pocket that was clearly labeled. Every wood and hardware piece matched the quantity. The hardware diagram was the actual size, making it easy to figure out if a screw or washer was loose from the packaging.

Decent installation instructions

The instructions read well. It didn’t read as if the words came from a translation program. The instructions followed the American English grammatical rules. The diagrams were mostly good. The instructions have you put the kitchen cart together upside-down. I had to make sure I had the countertop positioned correctly. Once I knew what I was doing, all of the drilled holes lined up. 

The manual tells you not to use an electric screwdriver. The manufacturer gives you an L-shaped Allen wrench and advises having a screwdriver available. Most of the screws only fit the Allen wrench. My only real complaint has to do with some of the screw locations. I used up a lot of time on two screws because I could turn them a quarter-inch at a time. Bracing pieces obstructed me from getting full turns.

Once I completed the assembly, I flipped over the portable kitchen island and moved it into place. It fit perfectly on the wall between the hallway and the dinette on the slideout. As you can see, we put our dishes on the middle shelf and some food items on top. We were thrilled with the fit, although our Rotweiller/Beagle mix wasn’t too happy that his food dish had to move. 

The RV dishwasher

When the dishwasher arrived, we cleared the countertop off and placed it on top. My wife was happy she didn’t have to handwash dishes any more. I was ecstatic because my measurements were spot on. The countertop was wide enough and long enough on all four sides with an extra inch or two.

Our motorhome floor plan comes with a split bathroom. The shower and sink make an L-shape on the off-door side, which is an excellent place to store the kitchen island cart and dishwasher when we travel. I use bungee cords and ratchet tie-down straps to secure the two together. Even though the cart is top-heavy, the wheelbase is wide enough where it doesn’t tip. I found wall studs to attach brackets to connect two more ratchet straps to keep the cart and dishwasher in place anyway.

Portable RV Cart
Portable RV dishwasher on island cart

How we integrated the RV dishwasher into our full-time RV lifestyle

The Farberware countertop dishwasher has two hoses that connect to a faucet connector. One feeds water into the device, and the other drains it. There is a metal piece that screws into the faucet that allows you to attach the connector.

When we’re ready to run the machine, I roll the cart in front of our kitchen sink. I attach the hoses to the faucet and turn the water on. I then plug the machine into the 110v socket. I fill the soap dish, push the program buttons, and hit start.

Sink with dishwasher hoses
The RV dishwasher has this clever hose/faucet fitting

We usually run two loads every two or three days. It does require that I cycle my grey water tank more often, but we never have a problem finding a dump station with RV LIFE Trip Wizard or other apps. We’re always careful with what we pour down our drains, especially when visiting relatives with septic tanks.

Our three dogs adapted pretty quickly to the dishwasher’s noise and the added furniture piece. Since we have ceramic dishware, we store them in with our towels for protection when we travel. The dishwasher does a great job on our pots and pans, but we can wash one of them at a time.

If you are really brave, you can try a more permanent RV dishwasher installation

The best dishwasher for RVs 

Overall we highly recommend the Farberware Professional Countertop Dishwasher. It’s large enough to hold all types of dishware, pots, pans, and other kitchenware. It’s also small enough to fit your RV counters or a portable kitchen island like the one we purchased. 

Countertop RV dishwashers are affordable and easy to connect for the do it yourself owner. In general, you can assume a countertop dishwasher will be about the size of a large microwave.

Dee Montana – RV Share Blog

When you’re looking at kitchen island carts, think of it like your RV’s weight. When you bought your RV, you had to look at the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) if you purchased a towable. You needed to make sure your tow vehicle could handle the weight when the coach was loaded up.

Think of the cart as your tow vehicle. When the dishwasher has dishes and water inside, you want to make sure the cart can handle the weight. If you’re storing things in the shelves or drawers, that’s added weight too. As RVers, we have to think about the GVWR, not the dry weight.

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