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Laundry Tips For Living or Traveling in Your Car, Camper, or Van

Laundry Tips For Living or Traveling in Your Car, Camper, or Van!

Embracing van life and on-the-road living means enjoying freedom, endless landscapes, and life in the slow lane. However, practical matters like laundry can be tricky. 

In this guide we’ll address how to maintain cleanliness and freshness on the move to ensure that life in your vehicle remains as fresh and clean as the landscapes you explore.

Understand Your Laundry Needs

Frequency of Washing

Consider the actual necessity. Not all worn clothes need immediate washing. By determining which items genuinely need cleaning, you can save water and extend the life of your clothes.

Evaluating Your Wardrobe

Opt for practical clothing choices like quick-drying fabrics, anti-microbial materials, and wrinkle-resistant clothes. They’re designed for travel, reducing laundry frequency and ensuring longevity.

Clothes Washing Methods For Living In Your Car

Portable Washing Machines

Portable washers come in manual or electric models for more thorough cleaning than hand washing. Consider your space, power requirements, and convenience. Portable machines are an investment in money and space, so research user reviews to find the best fit for your needs.

Laundry Tips For Living or Traveling in Your Car, Camper, or Van

You can see our top picks for the best portable washing machines for Van’s & RVs.

Utilizing Local Laundromats

Making the most of your laundromat visits can transform them from a mundane chore to an efficient and even enjoyable activity. With a bit of pre-planning and the right approach, you can ensure your clothes are clean, you’re comfortable, and perhaps even enriched by the local community insights. 

Research Ahead of Time

Before arriving at your next destination, take a few minutes to research local laundromats. Not all are created equal. Check for facilities that have high ratings, good reviews concerning cleanliness, machine availability, and safety. Some may also offer additional amenities like free Wi-Fi, which can be a bonus for passing the time.

Load Pre-sorting

To save time, pre-sort your laundry into whites, colors, and delicates before you get to the laundromat. Store them in separate mesh bags or laundry baskets.

pre-sorting clothes based on colors

Bulk Washing

If you’ve accumulated a large load, consider using the larger, commercial-sized machines. They can handle more at once and may be more cost-effective than multiple smaller loads.

Bring Your Own Supplies

While most laundromats offer detergent for purchase, bringing your own ensures you have the preferred brand/type for your clothes. Plus, it’s often more economical.

Optimize Drying Time

Clothes that are thoroughly wrung out dry faster. If available, use high-speed extractors before drying. Also, don’t overload dryers; clothes need room to tumble freely.

Other Laundromat Tips

Visit During Daylight

If safety is a concern, especially in unfamiliar areas, try to visit laundromats during daylight hours. 

Choose a Well-lit Location

Even if you visit during the day, a well-lit facility can deter potential theft and make you feel more secure.

Stay Productive While Waiting

Bring along a book, your laptop, or travel journal. Alternatively, use this time to plan the next leg of your trip, research points of interest, or catch up on calls.

Engage with the Local Community

Often, local residents frequent laundromats, and they can be a goldmine of information. Engaging in friendly conversations can lead to recommendations for local spots to visit, eat, or camp that you won’t find in tourist brochures.

Drying Clothes Living In Your Van 

Before drying, ensure your clothes are wrung out as much as possible. This not only speeds up drying but also helps prevent water damage or mold in your vehicle. Consider using a microfiber towel to roll clothes in, pressing down to soak up excess water.

  • Retractable Clotheslines – These are compact when not in use and can be stretched across your vehicle or between trees, depending on where you’re parked.
  • Car Vent Hangers – Little known but immensely useful. They can be hooked onto vents or windows to hold lightweight clothing items.
  • Suction Hooks – Can be attached to windows, turning your car or van into a temporary drying rack.
drying clothes when living in RV

Alternative Drying Techniques On The Road

  • Solar Drying – Take advantage of sunny days. Laying clothes flat on your vehicle’s roof or hood can be surprisingly effective, especially for small items.
  • Harnessing the Wind – If it’s windy and you’re parked securely, opening a couple of windows slightly can create a cross breeze, helping to air out and dry clothes hung inside.
  • Dashboard Drying – The dashboard, especially under the windshield, can trap heat and act like a mini greenhouse. It’s perfect for drying socks, underwear, or other small garments.

Additional Drying Tips

Monitor Moisture Levels

Ensure your vehicle is adequately ventilated when drying clothes inside to prevent condensation, mold, or mildew. Mold can lead to health complications, so make sure it is dealt with promptly, for more information, make sure to check out our guide to prevent mold & mildew in your van.

Time Your Drying

If you’re on the move, try to schedule your washing so you can utilize the heat of the day for drying. Drying overnight in cooler temperatures can be less effective.

Odor Prevention

Place a few cedarwood balls or lavender sachets in your vehicle. They not only absorb moisture but also impart a pleasant scent, counteracting any dampness smells.

Invest in Quick-Dry Fabrics

Consider investing in quick-dry clothing materials, especially if you’re frequently on the move. They can be a game-changer, often drying in a fraction of the time compared to traditional fabrics.

Alternative Laundry Solutions

Rivers, Lakes, and Streams

Natural water sources can be a traveler’s laundry boon. But, always prioritize eco-responsibility. Always use biodegradable detergents and wash at least 200 feet away from the source. This ensures our lovely water bodies remain pristine for future generations and the local ecosystem.

Washing clothes in rivers while living in RV

Rainwater Harvesting

Collect rainwater when nature permits. A clean tarp or container can be used for collection. This water can be used for pre-rinsing clothes or even washing, saving your stored water.

DIY Washing Techniques

The Bag Method

This involves using a large ziplock or waterproof bag. Put in clothes, water, and a touch of detergent, seal it, then shake and massage the bag. It mimics the agitation of a washing machine.

Plunger Method

Repurpose a clean plunger and a bucket to replicate a manual washing machine. The plunger helps to agitate the clothes, providing a more thorough wash.

Foot Washing in a Shower or Bathtub

If you’re parked at a campground with shower facilities, why not multitask? Wear your clothes into the shower and stomp them underfoot as you bathe. This method works particularly well for sturdier fabrics and heavily soiled items.

Pre-treat Stains for Better Results

Always travel with a small stain-removing stick or spray. Addressing stains immediately, even if you’re not washing the item right away, can make a world of difference in the final outcome.

Consider Bartering or Sharing Facilities

If you’re camped near others or meeting fellow travelers, consider discussing laundry. Some may have portable washers or better facilities and might be willing to share or trade services. You could exchange a laundry session for a cooked meal, for instance!

Embarking on a journey in your car, camper, or van offers a blend of adventure and challenge. While laundry may seem like a minor detail, it’s these everyday tasks that can shape the ease and enjoyment of your travels.

Armed with these tips, you’re now ready to tackle laundry day, wherever the road may lead you. For more insights on living the van life or making the most of your travels, be sure to explore other articles on our site. Safe travels and happy washing!


  • Augustus

    Augustus, an intrepid traveler and RV enthusiast, has journeyed across North America, Europe, and Australia, turning his passion for adventure into a life's mission. His love for exploring began in his childhood, with local hikes and camping trips igniting a deep connection with nature. This connection now shines through in his popular travel blog, where he shares not just tips but personal stories, captivating a community of fellow wanderers. His travels are further enriched by his partnership with Zaara, his wife and travel companion, together exploring remote landscapes and diverse cultures. Augustus is also a skilled photographer, capturing the beauty of nature and the essence of his nomadic lifestyle in each shot. His life story is a mosaic of breathtaking experiences, a testament to the beauty of following one’s passions and embracing the unknown, inspiring others to explore the world with the same fervor.

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