Laundry On The Road
Washing while living in the van or traveling can be a tricky business if you don’t want to splash out for laundrettes every other week. You can always buy a compact caravan/camper van twin tub washing machine with low electricity usage or a manual washer and dryer but these can be really quite expensive! And not that ideal for small vanlifers.
So while traveling on a budget, the best option is to hand wash yourself. The simplest approach is simply a bucket with cold/warm water, a little detergent and plenty of elbow grease. To make washing a little easier we chose a wash bag that does some of the work for you: the scrubber wash bag. It’s about the size of a drawstring bag with a fabric outside and rubber inside. What makes it so special and worth the £40 price tag is the inbuilt washboard. You follow the simple instructions on the side and put your clothes in (only a few at a time as overfilling can lead to leaks) fill to the water line add some detergent and fold the top over about 4 times and clip in to fasten then use the handy vent to get rid of the air. Then lay the bag on a flat surface, washboard side down (that isn’t sharp that could damage the bag) and massage the bag back and forth for 30 seconds -3 minutes. This is pretty easy and all you're doing is pushing the clothes back and forth against the washboard. When you're done simply unclip the bag drain off the dirty water and fill with clean cold water, then clip up again shake it about and drain again to finish. You will need to wring out the clothes and hang dry them preferably outside as there will be drips! You can purchase a drying bag from scrubber but the wash bag was all we really needed.
We have a little wash line over our sliding door inside which is handy to dry things on but have to be careful of the drips. Otherwise things get hung over the van with hangers or use more washing line tied to various parts of it. We also brought with us our old clothes dryer from home, the fold down kind that stand tall. It has lost one of its legs but still can be used upside down or on its side (make do and mend!). Finding running water can be a challenge sometimes on the road but not as difficult as finding drinking water, so water to wash and rinse with is not usually a problem- beach foot wash taps can be pretty handy for this! It can be a little tricky to get into a routine washing especially if you're used to using a washing machine at home, and it definitely makes you realise how much you take one for granted!
These are my tips for easy laundry while traveling
- Deal with
stains straight away! When you’re the washing machine trying to get out the
dried in stain it can be a major headache! So best approach is to deal with
them soon as you can. Could be just getting some water on it before it dries or
soaking before you wash. The best thing I have is a Vanish stain remover bar and an old toothbrush to scrub!
oil / Olbas oil. If like us you love curry, then I'm sure you’ve encountered
one or two turmeric stains? That bright yellow powder (which is super good for
you) can be a stain that will
never come out! Best thing for this yellow fiend is firstly to get it early
with the stain remover bar water and toothbrush technique and when you’ve
worked it as much as you can dab a few drops of eucalyptus oil or I use Olbas oil as I’ve always got some in my med box for cold season! Leave it to work its
magic and keep it damp overnight for best results then wash as you normally
washing water. When we come across water that we wouldn’t want to drink we usually fill a few 5L bottles up with it to save for
washing time. These can be handy if you know you’ll be getting to a service
area later that day so you can fill your scrubber bag (or equivalent) in the
morning with washing and water leave to soak through the day and empty when you
find an appropriate place to do so. Also, if there’s a drain nearby you can use
the water to wash and rise without needing running water or depleting your precious
drinking water or filling your grey water up very quickly!
are great drying racks. Once everything is clean and ringed out it can be
difficult to dry, especially when it can be that you can sleep in your vehicle
but not ‘camp’ which means nothing outside the vehicle like chairs or a drying
rack. But if you're going to be traveling that day you can utilise a
pretty big dash and lay out your clothes, especially if it’s a hot day it
wont take any time at all to dry. Keep your window open a bit as it can get
detergent. Some great all natural detergents work just as well as their
chemical counterparts and can work brilliantly even with cold water. Its much
much better for the environment and you wont be so worried about rinsing your
clothes so much as they are much gentler to the skin should you not quite get
it all out. Also if you do dump the dirty water somewhere you perhaps shouldn’t
it wont be quite so damaging should any get into the environment. We use Ecover washing detergent.
toothbrush. As mentioned before this can be perfect for getting stains out
or just giving something a bit more of scrub like pants or armpits of tops.
When used with a stain remover soap, little bit of detergent or simply normal
soap this can be really effective. We use bamboo toothbrushes as they are way more environmentally friendly, and if you use it to clean your clothes it prolongs their life too!
- Shampoo bars. If you're traveling light these are amazing! I swear by them
for everything, they wash your hair beautifully, some even condition too, they
can wash your whole bod and are actually really effective at washing your
clothes too! So perfect for back packers or washing on the go. Just rub it into
your wet clothes and lather. Make sure you dry your bar out before putting it
away again or it will turn to mush! Lush do some great bars and we use Funky Soap ones too!
- Washing line & hangers. We just
bought a cheap plastic coated washing line from a DIY store and ran a line over
the door but kept the rest of the loose line to make make-shift washing lines around the van. This is great if
you don’t have space for a dryer and can’t place anything on the ground where you're parked. Hangers are handy even if you don’t have a wardrobe to hang anything
up in in your camper van or tent! Trouser hangers with clips on
either end can be great for hanging heavier things rather than on the washing
line. They hook anywhere you can find around the outside of the van and mean no
dripping washing in the van!
Hope you find these tips helpful! We are still only early days on our van life adventure so I’m sure more tips and hacks will be discovered along the way and we’ll be sure to share when we do!
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