Van Life Laundry: How I Wash My Clothes on the Road

Dee | Lady Bugout
by Dee | Lady Bugout

Van life laundry can seem like a challenge when you first start living on the road. The truth is, there are a number of different solutions for keeping your clothes clean while traveling. These aren’t solutions that you would normally think of, but when you’ve lived on the road like I have you learn a lot. Here are some of my favorite van life laundry tips.

1. Go to a laundromat

If you’re out boondocking somewhere it’s actually fairly easy to find local laundromats. You might even see some as you’re driving through the nearby towns. If you don’t come across any just driving around, as long as you have cell service you can just google ‘laundromats near me.’ This will show you all of your options.

You can also ask other people at the campsites where they have been doing their laundry. When you’re on the road and stopping at places for a few days here and there, it helps to get to know the other people at the sites.

They can often provide valuable information based on their own experiences. Chances are you can probably help them solve some of their issues as well.

Laundry facilities at truck stops and gas stations

2. Truck stops and gas stations

Most people wouldn’t notice this, but many gas stations with truck stops have laundry options. I had never seen these or realized this even existed until I started living on the road. Now I notice them everywhere.

Truckers live on the road and they need places to shower and wash their laundry. They’ve been living this lifestyle long before people like us started living this way recreationally. You might be surprised how many facilities on the road will offer these services.

Laundry facilities at campgrounds

3. Campgrounds or hotels

Some campgrounds have laundry facilities. You might not want to spend money staying at these types of campsites for long stretches of time, but it can be useful to just spend a night or two. It’s a great way to get a couple of loads of laundry cleaned and get access to other facilities like showers and bathrooms.

A hotel can be another useful option. If you’re feeling desperate you can always splurge for a night and get laundry done there. It can be worth the expense. Especially if you’re feeling like you need a little break from van living.

How to do laundry when you live in a van

4. Extend time between loads

Another option when you’re dealing with a lot of laundry but don’t have the time or resources to find a machine is to keep your clothes fresh longer. Buy yourself some time between loads. One way of doing this is to do some spot cleaning.

Spot cleaning clothes

Spot cleaning involves cleaning just the dirty parts of your clothes as opposed to cleaning the entire garment. This is great for when you have a stain or maybe just got a little dirt on you while hiking.

I like to use a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, liquid soap, and water. I put it in a spray bottle and use it to clean dirty spots or stains on my clothes. This way it feels and looks clean for longer.

Another option is to handwash a few items in a small tub of water. I learned how to handwash laundry when I lived off-grid in Bolivia. The local women there taught me to use two tubs, one with soapy water and one with clean water.

Van life laundry tips

Use a scrub brush to really clean those clothes while they’re in soapy water. Then wring them out and rinse them off with fresh water. After that, you can leave them hanging to dry.

If you don’t have a tub or container of water you can handwash in a nearby stream. Moving water is clean water. You don’t want to clean your clothes in a pond or a lake.

Using a good deodorant can be another great way of pushing off the next load of laundry. I found this amazing deodorant that is aluminum free, eco-friendly, and prevents odors for up to three days. If you have a good way of preventing body odor, your clothes will smell and feel fresher for longer.

Van life laundry tips

I hope these van life laundry tips are useful for all you travelers out there. There are a variety of solutions depending on where you are, how much money you want to spend, or how much effort you’re willing to exert. Do you have any laundry tips to share? Leave me a comment and let me know. 

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 1 comment
  • Chad Chad on Jul 16, 2023

    Sunning your clothes when only lightly dirty will also help to kill any bacteria and thus decrease the smell and give you longer time between washes.

    Just hang outside on a line in a sunny spot like you would if you were drying them.