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Van life laundry: washing clothes in a campervan

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Van life laundry: washing clothes in a campervan

If you live or travel in a campervan, one of the things that differs from living in a bricks-and-mortar home is that it’s likely that you don’t have an in-situ washing machine! This means that anyone living van life will need to add ‘doing your laundry’ to their list of van chores to tackle. Read on for our suggestions on washing your clothes in a campervan.

There’s no room for a washing machine in a campervan!

Reduce how often you need to do your laundry

Before we jump into washing your clothes, we thought we’d cover a sensible tip for anyone living van life – try to reduce how often you need to do your laundry.

Without ready access to a washing machine, you won’t want to do laundry as often as you would in a house. Van life laundry either means using water to wash clothes by hand or with a portable washing machine, or a trip to a laundrette. We usually tend to tackle van chores with a ‘van chore day’ to get everything done at once. This often includes emptying our composting toilet, filling up water, trips to the supermarket, washing clothes etc.

So instead of only wearing something once, we’ll try to get as much wear out of it as we can before adding it to the dirty washing pile. Obviously this is a little easier in winter than it is in summer! Clothes made of wool or merino are particularly good for not holding odour and lasting much longer between washes.

Where to store your dirty clothes

So once your clothes just can’t be worn any more, in a small space like a campervan it makes sense to have a dedicated spot for dirty clothes. We have a big sack in our bedside table storage where we pop dirty clothes. Then when it’s time to wash our clothes, we can simply remove the entire bag and take it to the laundrette or do some hand washing.

climbingvan washing clothes in a campervan van life laundry campervan washing machine

We have a little hidey hole in our bedside table storage for our dirty laundry

Hand washing using the Scrubba wash bag

The first option for washing clothes in a campervan is hand washing. This is a great option if you are travelling in a warm climate, as it allows you to do laundry more regularly, and you can just wash a few bits at a time, as and when needed.

If you will go down the hand washing route, we’d recommend investing in a Scrubba wash bag. The Scrubba is described as a ‘travel washing machine’. It is essentially a dry bag with little bobbles inside that act like a washboard, allowing you to aggravate any dirt and ensure your clothes are properly cleaned.

It’s a great eco option as it uses a lot less water than a washing machine – using a Scrubba instead of a washing machine saves on average 1,000 litres of water per year!

The Scrubba wash bag weighs only 150g and packs down to the size of a fist, making it perfect for van life. You can wash up to 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of socks and 2 pairs of underwear per load.

Using the Scrubba for smaller loads to keep on top of van life laundry in between a full chores day works well. You can purchase the Scrubba for £42 from Amazon:

Portable washing machine

It’s possible to purchase a ‘portable washing machine’ on Amazon. This may seem like a good solution for a campervan washing machine, however we would recommend against purchasing a portable washing machine for washing clothes in your campervan. They are incredibly small so you will have to do many loads of washing, and if you spend an hour using one to do your laundry it will use around 30Ah of power. This means that it could quickly drain your campervan leisure battery.

Most of the models are around £50-100 on Amazon, and through reading the reviews it sounds like the build quality is not particularly high! They are also rather bulky, which means they’re not well suited to van life.

Mini washing machine

Another option for a physical campervan washing machine is a ‘mini’ washing machine, such as the Daewoo 3kg wall mounted washing machine. We have seen photos of these in a couple of campervan conversions so it is possible to fit one in this setting, however it’s probably inadvisable.

The machine weighs 16.5kg, costs an eye watering £500 and will only allow you to do 3kg of washing at a time. It would need to be plumbed into your water system and connected to your inverter. The Daewoo mini washing machine uses less power than some of the portable models with a power rating of 100W.

An example of the Daewoo mini washing machine in a Bliss Mobil campervan

Laundrettes (or ‘laundromats’)

To get lots of clothes washing done at once, you can head to a laundrette (or ‘laundromat’ if you’re in the US). In the UK and Europe self-service laundrettes are very common (we have used them in the UK, France, Spain, Switzerland and even Albania), so you shouldn’t struggle to find one wherever you’re travelling to.

Self-service laundrettes typically have a number of washing machines and dryers available, which means that you can put several loads on at once. We typically tend to visit a laundrette to wash our clothes and bedding around once every 3 weeks depending on what time of year it is. It can also be useful to use a laundrette if you’re doing winter van life when it can be tricky to dry clothes otherwise.

We usually just go on Google Maps and search for ‘laundrette’ or ‘laundry’ to find the nearest ones to where we’re travelling.

It’s a good idea to have some laundry detergent in your van for when you visit laundrettes, because whilst some will offer it for free, others won’t. This will also allow you to do handwashing in between visits.

self service laundrette van life laundry

Revolution Laundry have a series of self-service laundrettes in the UK and Europe. These are typically in convenient places such as next to a supermarket so you can get 2 van life chores done at once!

Drying your clothes

If you’re exclusively using laundrettes, you will be able to make use of the tumble dryers. This means that you won’t need to worry about drying your clothes (as long as you leave them in the dryer for long enough!).

If you will be doing some handwashing, we’d recommend having some string or rope that you can use to create a portable washing line. Simply string all of your clothes up in the sun after you’ve finished washing them and wait for mother nature to dry them for you ☀️

It can also be a good idea to buy a little socks and underwear dryer which you can hang in a nearby tree.

Conclusion

When it comes to hand washing your clothes, the Scrubba wash bag is definitely the best option. Its small size makes it perfect for van life, and hand washing means you can keep on top of your clothes washing. It can also be useful for when you are travelling in more remote areas where a laundrette isn’t available.

Then when you are in need of doing a big wash, finding a self-service laundrette to get everything done at once can be lumped in with the rest of your van chores.

The Scrubba with an occasional laundrette trip provides the best combination for washing clothes in a campervan.

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