vanlife laundry

Vanlife Campervan Laundry: Tips, Tricks, And Hacks For Washing Clothes on the Road

If you’re living in a van, chances are doing your laundry isn’t as simple as popping it in the washing machine and then into the dryer.

One of the challenges of living in a van is doing your laundry. It can quickly become a smelly, messy ordeal if you’re not careful.

But just because vanlife laundry is different doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. With a little planning and some creative thinking, you can keep your clothes clean and fresh-smelling.

What Are Some Tips, Tricks, And Hacks For Laundry While On The Road?

Those who live full-time on the road know that doing laundry can be a bit of a challenge.

Here are some tips and tricks for how to do laundry while living in a van:

  • Use a laundry bag to separate dirty clothes from your clean clothes
  • Line dry or air out your clothes whenever possible
  • Use a lint roller to get rid of pet hair
  • Use vinegar in the wash cycle to help fight odors
  • Use a tide pen or other stain remover on tough stains
  • Hand wash delicate items
  • Use a mesh bag when washing delicate items: Mesh protects fabrics from damage while washing

Keeping Your Clothes Clean (And Fresh Smelling) While Living In A Van

Some of my favorite hacks for keeping clothes clean or at least fresh smelling is to use a bit of Febreze or even dryer sheets in my drawers.

I also like to keep a small bottle of Woolite or another travel-sized laundry detergent to pre-treat any stains that might occur while I’m on the road.

If I notice I’ve stained a shirt or something while I’m out and about, I’ll usually try to wash it by hand in the sink as soon as possible.

And finally, one of the best tips I can give is to always air out your van as much as possible! Ventilation is key to preventing musty smells from taking over.

How to Reduce Your Time Spent Washing Clothes

Do you know that saying Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? Well, the same goes for your clothes.

Reuse=Re-Wear Clothes

One way to reduce the time you spend washing clothes is by simply wearing them more than once.

This goes for jeans, shirts, dresses, and basically anything except for underwear and socks (unless you’re into that sort of thing).

I can easily wear the same pair of jeans 3-4 times before I’d consider washing them. If rewearing something is hard to wrap your head around, start small with one day, then two days, and see if you can retrain your mindset on what “dirty laundry” means.

Reduce=Summer Months Are For Tank Tops

Swap out those t-shirts for some flowy tank tops that’ll let those armpits breathe. Not only will you be more comfortable in the heat, but you’ll also reduce the number of times you have to wash your clothes.

Recycle=Separate Your Active Clothes From Your Regular Clothing

This is for all my travelers who love to get outside and explore. If you’re constantly getting your clothes dirty from adventures, have a second set of clothes you recycle and only wear when you’re active.

That way, your regular clothes stay clean, and you don’t have to wash them as often.

As bikers and skiers, we have our “active clothes” that get sweaty, and we don’t care because they’re just for riding and skiing.

Yes, of course, there’s a time when they get too smelly, and we have to wash them, but we find having a couple of “key” pieces of clothing helps out a lot.

Reduce=Getting Naked (Especially When You Sleep) 

If you’re all alone in the middle of the desert, take advantage of it by going au natural! Why wear clothes if there’s no one around to see you? Besides being free, it’ll also save your clothes from unnecessary dirt.

Save Money On Laundry While Living In A Van

Free Water-Washing your clothes with water from a stream or river is a great way to save money because you can use free natural resources.

If you do wash your clothes near a river or stream, be sure to use biodegradable soap. And do not wash your clothes in the water source itself because you can contaminate the ecosystem.

Hang Dry-Another way to save money is by line drying your clothes instead of using a dryer.

Minimize Drying Time-Save money at the laundry mat by pulling out dry clothes as soon as they’re done instead of letting them sit in the machine.

Some additional tips include packing those washers full (hmm..hmmm. I don’t recommend this for your own appliances or a friends because it can cause extra wear and tear)

However, when you’re trying to save money, now is not the time to only put a couple of pairs of socks, underwear, and t-shirts to be washed.

Another tip is to bring in your own detergent; if you get to the laundromat without your own supplies, it’ll cost you more in the end.

And lastly, if you have any clothes that can be hand washed, make sure to do them separately to save some money!

Reducing Kids Dirty Laundry

If you have kids, doing laundry can feel like a never-ending task, especially if you live on the road where the outdoors is your living room. Here are some tips for dealing with laundry and kids:

1. Keep a small number of clothes ready to wear at all times. This will help you avoid having to wash a ton of clothes.

2. Make sure your van has adequate ventilation. Laundry can be unbearable if it’s too hot or humid inside the van.

The Best Way To Store Dirty Laundry In A Campervan

If you’re living in a campervan, the best way to store dirty laundry is in a mesh bag. This will allow air circulation and things to dry if they are damp.

You can also use an airtight container if the clothes have a strong odor.

Pets, Your Clothes, and Keeping Things Clean

If you have pets, you know they can be loving but also messy. Here are some tips for keeping your clothes clean if you have pets:

1. Use a lint roller to remove pet hair from your clothes. This will save you time and effort in the long run and keep your clothes looking and feeling cleaner.

2. Keep a lint brush in your van to remove pet hair from upholstery and carpets. This will help keep your van looking and smelling fresh and prevent pet hair from getting on your clothes.

3. Wash your clothes regularly. This is important if you have allergies or are sensitive to pet hair. Washing your clothes will remove any pet hair and dander that may be clinging to them.

4. Vacuum your van regularly. This will help remove any pet hair and dander that has become embedded in the upholstery or carpets, and it will also help keep your van looking and smelling fresh.

5. Air out your van regularly. This will help remove any pet hair and dander that has become airborne, and it will also help keep your van smelling fresh.

2 Ways To Wash Clothes In A Campervan

Sometimes you may just have to wash your clothes as they did in the old days. This can be done one of two ways.

1. Good Ole Bucket Soak And Hand Wash Method

  1. Fill a large bucket or basin with warm water and laundry soap.
  2. Add your clothes and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Rub the clothes together to get them clean, then rinse them in clean water.
  4. Hang your clothes out to dry or put them in a clothes dryer if you have one.

2. Portable Laundry Wash Bag

The Scrubba Wash Bag (which comes in a variety of sizes and is durable) is the most popular portable van laundry solution.

It’s a straightforward concept:Simply put your clothing in the waterproof bag, add some detergent and water, seal it shut, and shake.

Dump the soapy water and start again with fresh water until your clothes are completely clean.

Washing Clothes With A Limited Water Supply

If you have a limited water supply, I recommend using a spray bottle and washboard to concentrate on the soiled areas of your clothes.

Laundromats And Vanlife

If you live in a van and don’t have access to a washer and dryer, then your best bet may be to use a laundromat. Do you know what the great thing about some laundrymats is?

They’ve come a LONG way from what they used to be, and some are even pretty nice!

Here are a few tips for using a laundromat:

  • Bring your quarters and dollar bills. I prefer keeping a little pouch of quarters handy just in case their change machine isn’t working
  • DONT use the vending machines; they’re overpriced. Bring your own laundry detergent, fabric softener, or dryer sheets.
  • ALWAYS use the Front Load Washers. Front load washers are more gentle on clothes because they don’t get wrapped up in the agitator, and they’re less likely to develop detergent stains. They also have a larger capacity, making them worth the extra cost when compared to commercial washers.
  • Avoid the weekends. That’s when working people wash their clothing, so you’ll have to compete with washers. Monday through Friday is the optimum time for free machines.
  • Pull fast-drying clothes out of the dryer as you go. When you load dryers to capacity, it takes longer for things to dry. However, if you remove items that dry faster as the machine runs, you’ll have more tumble space for thicker things to dry better. 
  • Check The Dryer For Heat OutputWe once ruined a bunch of clothes in the laundromat by accidentally shrinking them. The dryer was incredibly hot, so make sure to keep an eye on your clothes while they’re drying.
  • Bring a backpack with some snacks a book, or something to do while your clothes are washing and drying.

How to Find a Good Laundromat On a Roadtrip

  1. I start by checking out Google Maps to find laundromats along my route.
  2. After looking at a few options near me, I check the reviews and look at pictures people have posted to get an idea of what the inside looks like and the washing machine options.
  3. My goal is to find one that has plenty of washers and dryers. I don’t want to have to wait around for a machine to become available.
  4. Last but not least I use Van life appsIOverlanderRVAllstays, and the Vanlife app all include laundromats in their apps.

How To Wash Clothes While Camping or Boondocking Near a Watersource?

Did you know that there’s a right and wrong way to dispose of the waste (gray water) from washing your clothes?

Yep, If you’re following the leave no trace principles, there are guidelines.

Here’s why:

When you wash your clothes in a stream, river, lake, etc., the detergent pollutes the water and can harm aquatic life.

The same goes for dishwashing soap and dishes. If you must wash your clothes or dishes in a water source, use biodegradable soap and be sure to dispose of the wastewater properly.

The rule of thumb is to never wash your clothes within 200 feet of any water source, including lakes, rivers, and streams.

The best way to dispose of the wastewater is to find an area that sees plenty of sunshine and empty the water out across a large area so that it evaporates as quickly as possible.

Avoid Group Campground Spigots For Washing Your Clothes Too

You should avoid washing your clothes at the campgrounds spigot or sinks too. Why? Well, you’re likely not the only one using them, and there’s a good chance that someone will need to use them after you.

Plus, if everyone washed their clothes at the spigots or sinks, they would quickly become clogged. So again, follow the rule of 200 feet and wash your clothes away from any water sources.

What Are Some Space-Saving Tips For Laundry And Clothes While Living In A Van?

Some space-saving tips for clothes while living in a van are to roll your clothes instead of folding them. By rolling your clothes, you’ll be able to fit more into your drawers and cabinets.

You can also use hanging organizers to maximize space in your van.

Another tip is to invest in some hooks. Hooks are great for storing coats, jackets, and hats and take up much less space than a traditional coat rack.

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