in Camping / by
Laundry is a chore pretty much nobody enjoys. And that chore can get a little more annoying during a long camping trip in your roof top tent.
When you’re on an extended stay in the outdoors, you won’t be able to ignore that sack of dirty clothes for too long.
There are many solutions to help you freshen up your clothes after a long hike, bike ride, or just spending a long time camping or traveling. From creative DIY washing machines to local laundry delivery services, you can rest easy knowing you’ve got plenty of clean clothes to spare.
Here are some quick and easy ways to clean your clothes while camping so you can stay fresh and keep enjoying your trip.
Bring Quick-Dry Fabrics
One of the easiest ways to keep your clothes clean on the road is to pack plenty of clothes made of quick-drying fabrics.
This type of fabric will keep you dry when sweating it out on a hike or during a bike ride. The best quick-drying fabrics are nylon, polyester, and merino wool.
These fabrics are lightweight and absorb moisture like rain and sweat quickly to keep you warm and dry. And if you hand wash your clothes and set up a camping laundry line, these materials dry in a matter of hours.
Try to avoid camping clothes made from cotton, as cotton doesn’t wick away any moisture and takes a long time to dry.
Build Your Own Portable Camping Washing Machine
There’s no shortage of portable washing machines on the market.
If you haven’t seen them before, they’re small and easy-to-use washing machines powered by electricity, batteries, or your own movement. Most have washing and rinsing containers for small loads of clothes.
Just add water and eco-friendly soap, and you’re on your way to clean clothes.
We like the hand-powered Lavario that’s simple to use and doesn’t require any electricity, which is perfect for a camp trip.
We also like the eco-friendly Scrubba Wash Bag, which lets you stick your load in the bag and gets your clothes clean with an inner scrub board.
You can also easily make your own portable washing machine with a few items around your house for a truly DIY experience that will save you money and keep your clothes clean when outdoors.
What You’ll Need:
- (2) 5 gallon buckets with lids
- (2) new toilet plungers
- A sharpie or colored markers
- Biodegradable laundry soap
- Travel laundry bag
- Clothesline or drying rack
- A drill with a ¾” drill bit
How to Make it:
- Drill a hole in the center of each bucket lid large enough for the handle of the plunger
- Drill 3 spaced holes in each plunger
- Color or label the handles of the plungers (1 for washing, 1 for rinsing)
- Add water to each bucket and a small amount of laundry detergent into the washing bucket
- Add a small amount of dirty laundry and place plunger in, covering with the lid to keep water from splashing out
- Move the plunger up and down to clean clothes
- Ring out clothes before adding to the rinse bucket
- Ring out rinsed clothes and hang to dry
Find a Laundromat or Laundry Service
If handwashing your clothing while camping isn’t an option, you can always find laundromats near your campsite.
Depending on where you’re ramping in your RTT, laundromats can be around the corner or in the next town over. Some campsites have their own laundromats on site, which can be pretty convenient when you need to throw in a load before a hike.
Most public washing machines are coin-operated, so make sure you’ve got plenty of change. Some campsites even partner with local laundry services that will pick up your laundry and return it clean.
Dispose Dirty Water Properly
When you’re done doing the laundry with a portable or homemade device, you’re going to have some dirty water to dispose of.
It’s important to get rid of it properly to keep your site clean and follow the Leave No Trace principles.
- Dump at least 200 feet from any natural water source
- Dump in a spread out area to allow the water to disperse and evaporate
- Use biodegradable soaps and detergents
- Dump dirty water in or around the campground water spigot
- Dump in campground sinks or toilets
Best Soaps to Use While Camping
When hand washing your clothes outside, you’re going to want some environmentally-friendly soaps. This is especially important if you’ll be taking a shower outdoors and want to protect the wildlife and plants around you.
We’d recommend the following soaps that have natural ingredients and are biodegradable:
- Versatile for laundry, dishes, and sensitive skin
- Concentrated formula so less = more
- Packaged in a leak-proof container
- Smells great + great for the planet
- Recycled packaging and Climate Pledge Friendly
- Essential oils
As any pro-camper will tell you, soap is an absolute necessity. Just make sure you’re bringing soaps that keep the environment thriving (while keeping you smelling great).
What Not to Do When Washing Clothes Outside
As tempting as it might be, washing your clothes in a natural water source is bad for the environment and puts you at risk of contaminating your clothing. The chemicals found in many soaps disrupt the surface tension and oxygen levels in the water, putting fish and aquatic plants at risk.
You’ll want to stay at least 200 feet away from any streams, lakes, or oceans while you’re washing your clothes, doing dishes, brushing your teeth, or showering.
While there may be sinks in the camp bathrooms, these are also not acceptable areas to wash your clothing or cookware. The water from camp bathroom sinks tends to be limited, and washing there could clog up the plumbing and make the area less sanitary.
It’s fine to fill your bucket or portable washing machines with water from the campground spigot. Just be mindful not to toss your dirty laundry water there — this will contaminate the area and cause trouble for your entire campsite.
Keep Up With Your Hygiene When Camping
Speaking of staying clean while off the grid, another important task is figuring out how to go to the bathroom while car camping in your RTT.
You might be surprised to know you have more options than digging a hole in the ground — options that are hygienic and safe for the environment, and more comfortable for you, too.
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