How to Wash Your Clothes By Hand While on the Road or Camping

Last week I published reader Mike’s fantastic set of tips for doing laundry while on the road. Soon after that, I got another great email from Mike that started off with this:

“I realized I did not provide a how-to on laundering items by hand. (Forgot that people might not have a clue as to how to do it.)”

He then proceeded to outline his method of washing clothes by hand. It’s much more systematized—and probably much more effective—than my “throw everything into a bucket of water and knead it for a bit” method. Without further ado, here are Mike’s tips.

What You’ll Need

What you need for washing clothes by hand

  • A gallon or so of warm to hot water (~98 degrees F, skin temperature) for washing the clothes. The exact amount of water you’ll need will depend on how much clothing you have and how dirty the clothing is.
  • An additional gallon or so of water for rinsing the clothes. (Warm water is nice but is not necessary.) Again, the exact amount will depend on volume of dirty clothes and how dirty the clothes are.
  • One bucket or tub. A collapsible tub like this is great for traveling. (Use the bathroom sink if you’re staying in a hotel room.)
  • Clothesline or suitable drying surfaces. A braided clothesline like this is effective and takes up little space.
  • Soap (For hand laundry it is best to use a true soap, not a modern detergent. Soap is a little easier on your hands and will leave fabric feeling softer than detergent as residue if any will lubricate fabric fibers rather than stiffen them. Also a gentle soap is easier on your skin if some residue remains in the fabric.)
  • Dry, clean surface that you can set your washed items on. [Tristan’s Note: This could be as simple as a clean trash bag on the ground.]

Preparation

Assuming you have only one bucket or tub, you will need to use it for both washing and for rinsing, so you will need to stage your washed items before rinsing. Sort items you wish to launder from cleanest to dirtiest and start washing the cleanest item first. Be prepared to set the washed items aside on a clean surface while still soapy.

Washing Instructions

In a bucket or tub, use about 1 gallon of warm to hot water, adding enough soap to ensure the water feels slippery. Suds are good, but you do not need many. Swish the water around to mix.

One item at a time, work fabric into the soapy mixture. Move it around, squeeze it and so on. Do you best to get the item clean. Usually about 20 seconds to one minute per item is all you need. Gently squeeze out the excess water and set the item aside on a clean dry surface and start washing your next item. If you see the wash water becoming too dirty, you’ll need to either dump it and add new wash water or add some fresh rinse water.

When all your laundry has been washed, it is time to begin rinsing. Dump your wash water and fill your bucket or tub with clean water. Warm water is nice but is not necessary.

Rinsing and Drying

Start rinsing the cleanest items first, the same order as when you were washing the items. This keeps the wash and rinse water the cleanest for the longest amount of time. Again, if you see the water becoming too dirty, add some clean water to the mix or dump it all out and fill the bucket up again with clean water.

Always rinse well. Rinse one item at at time. Squeeze out, but do not wring out, the water from the fabric. After the initial squeeze out, you can wrap the fabric inside a dry bath towel and squeeze or pat dry to absorb more moisture which will help speed drying.

Ease item back into shape and let dry flat, away from direct heat or bright light, or hang the item on your clothesline to dry.

***

Read the rest of Mike’s laundry tips here.

Great Tips for Doing Laundry While SUV Camping & Vandwelling

I’ve recently gotten a couple of great emails from a reader named Mike about doing laundry while traveling on the road. My preference is to find a laundromat, but as Mike points out, that is not always possible, and he has tips that I think a lot of people will find useful. With his permission, I’m publishing his emails here (edited and rearranged slightly) for everyone to enjoy and get value from. I’ve also added a few of my own comments. Thanks for the great tips, Mike!

Doing and Drying Laundry

A few years ago I had to travel by car, 33 states in 20 days, staying in motels and hotels. In my case, I was traveling so much, there literally was no time to find and sit in a laundromat which was another reason I chose handwashing of garments in the evening once I was in my hotel room.

A collapsible bin for doing laundry.
Mike recommends a collapsible tub like this for doing laundry.

I had 2 sets of clothes and washed items every day or so using a 2 gallon bucket that I carried my laundry equipment in. I think a collapsible tub like this might have been better as a space saver. [Tristan’s Note: A bin like this could, of course, also be used for washing dishes or even muddy shoes.]

Anyway, the best thing ever to help you do hand laundry effectively is a clothesline like this. Light, adaptable, strong, and you do not need clothespins! Can be attached probably a thousand different ways. [Tristan’s Note: Yes, these are great! I’ve used them in the past for my international travels.]

Rinsing is very important when washing any item by hand. Water management would be much harder SUV RVing than in a hotel room for instance, but if only a little bit of soap were used, rinsing would be less rigorous of course.

Natural Soaps

Natural areas often suggest/require something like the following with regard to washing things while on the land. From the National Park Service:

“All soap, including biodegradable soap, should be used and disposed of away from water sources. Carry water 100 feet from the source before washing. This includes washing clothes, dishes, and yourself.”

And following Leave No Trace principles:

“To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.”

I’ve had a small one-person business since 2003 where I import laundry soap from England. It is plain pure soap with no additives and no perfumes and is 100% biodegradable. While Soap Flakes or Liquid Soap Flakes (the products my company imports) can be used for anything including dishes, these soaps are best used as simply soap. As in “wash in soap and water”. Nothing magical, not a miracle cleaner, but very good soap that certainly works well.

I note that both the products above will not harm durable water repellent (DWR) fabrics as the soap is true soap and not detergent.

[Tristan’s Note: I’ve used Dr. Bronner’s for washing clothes and had good results. I like the citrus orange kind.]

Clothing Recommendations

Sounds strange, but silk is super strong and cleans really well with soap and water and dries quickly. Silk undergarments work well when repeated washings are necessary over a period of weeks or a month or so.

All sorts of other special fabrics are great for pants, shirts, socks and so on so as to wash easily and dry quickly while more or less maintaining a good freshly pressed look even when dried on a clothesline.

Here are a few travel clothing sources I have used and recommend:

Years ago I purchased one or two pieces of clothing from all three sources for easy washing and quick drying on the road while maintaining a neat look without ironing and so on.

Easy DIY Travel Shower

A useful cleaning/washing up tip is to take an ice pick—you could also use a deck screw in a pinch—and make 3 to 5 tiny holes in the cap of a throwaway water bottle; you know, those bottles with drinking water in them that you buy by the case. An ice pick makes a faster, easier, and nicer hole than slowly twisting a deck screw, but both will work. Careful use of a knife blade point will work as well. I’ve tried knife blade “slots” poked into a bottle cap, and they will work too, but I find ice pick holes to be the nicest and best for me.

Leave the cap on the bottle and gently press the ice pick through to make some holes in the top of cap.

You can do the same with 1L or 2L (used) plastic soft drink bottles filled with water, and use them for washing hands, even showering. It is so simple.

You can save the various caps you made for quicker future use and use a bottle’s original bottle cap to reseal any unused water remaining in the bottle.

By varying the number, placement and size of the holes you make in the cap, you can control the flow of the water leaving the bottle. Well, that and the amount of pressure you use when squeezing the bottle.

Sort of tip and squeeze and wash your hands or whatever, and with a 2L bottle or two or more 2L bottles, even take a decent shower.

In the past I have purchased those special caps (like this) that fit on plastic Coke bottles, with extra air holes in the cap, however the water comes out awfully fast, too fast for me.  If the amount of water used is not an issue, using these special caps feels like you are taking regular shower at home. Great flow.

But just poking holes in a regular plastic bottle cap that comes standard on the bottle, works plenty well for me. Doesn’t use nearly as much water either.

I haven’t seen this bottle cap idea anywhere. Figured it out myself. As simple as it is though, I’m sure others have probably done something like this also. I just think it is really cool. Like you don’t even need pumps or battery powered showers or special anything. Plastic bottles in various sizes are everywhere. Cheap or free and reusable. True, it is not as fancy as those special sink or shower gadgets, but you do not use much water this way either. Plus you can make the kind of water flow the way you want.

[Tristan’s Note: I have done something similar, and it does work well. I used an awl when I did it, but I imagine a very small drill bit would also work. The Mud Dog Travel Shower, SpaTap, and Bottle Blasters are other options if you don’t want to make your own. I haven’t tried any of them, but the Bottle Blasters one looks particularly appealing because it doesn’t have a million holes in it, has two different sides to fit different sizes of bottles, and is cheap ($8.99 for a 3-pack).]

A Simple and Easy DIY Faucet

If you need a small steady flow of water to wash both hands at once, sort of like using a sink at home, you can rest a bottle of bottled water on a rag, stick, rock, table edge or whatever, pointing the bottle’s opening downhill a bit and then slightly loosening the regular cap (no holes in it) let the water dribble or trickle out.

Wash your hands with a water bottle

Wash your hands under the dribbling water as if you were washing your hands in a sink. Turn the cap as if you are opening or closing a faucet tap.

Even a small but constant dribbling amount of water can wash your hands quite well and this method uses almost no water in the process.

***

See also Mike’s other tips about how to actually wash and rinse clothes by hand.

[Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.]

A Campground Database, Useful Apps, SUV Curtains, and More

Here are a bunch of SUV RVing-related things that readers and viewers shared with me this week. Thanks guys!

Got something else that you think the SUV RVing community might find useful? Shoot me an email and let me know about it.

A Campground Database

One video watcher and book reader (hi Linda!) passed along a website for finding campgrounds. It’s called Hipcamp. It’s along the same lines as Campendium and FreeCampsites.net but doesn’t appear quite as good as either of those for finding free places to camp. I browsed some of the areas that I’m familiar with and found that it only has established paid campgrounds. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want, so this is a good website to know about and to add to your arsenal. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Some Useful Apps

A new email subscriber to the blog (hi Gennaro!) recommended a few apps that he’s found useful on his road trip adventures (all are free except Goodreader, which is $4.99):

  • MAPS.ME – Offline maps for many places in Europe and the US. (iOS & Android)
  • GoodReader – A document reader. Gennaro uses this to read PDFs and magazines. (iOS only)
  • SkyView Free – A stargazing app. (iOS & Android)
  • Kindle – For reading ebooks (including mine!). (iOS & Android)
  • iFirstAid Lite – First aid illustrated and explained. (iOS only; Something similar for Android is First Aid Emergency & Home.)

A Clever Curtain Solution

Video watcher and fellow YouTuber Florida Girl Adventures has an FJ Cruiser and came up with a clever way of hanging up curtains in her SUV. She attached the hook side of a Velcro strip to blackout curtains and found that the Velcro stuck to the headliner on the inside of her vehicle. See the setup in action in this video (the curtain part starts at about 2 minutes and 17 seconds in).

Multi-Use Toilets

And finally, another reader/viewer (hi Richard!) sent me a link to an interesting product on Amazon. It’s the Cleanwaste Go Anywhere Portable Toilet, and Richard pointed out that it could be used as a small table when not being used as a toilet. In a space as small as an SUV, it’s always good when items are multi-use. The Reliance Products Fold-To-Go Portable Toilet is in the same vein.

(Note: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links.)

The Poor Man’s Winch

One of my SUV RVing fears is getting my vehicle hopelessly stuck in sand, mud, or snow when I’m out in the middle of nowhere. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a winch for my SUV but haven’t pulled the trigger because frankly, there are other things I’d rather spend that money on. But I recently found a YouTube video titled Poor Man’s Winch – Using ratchet straps for winch duties (it’s also embedded below if you’re reading this on the blog). The guy in the video talks about using ratchet straps as winches and demonstrates several possible uses that include getting a vehicle unstuck, removing a downed tree limb, and moving a large boulder.

He recommends the Quickloader brand of ratcheting strap. The selection on Amazon is OK but a bit confusing (browse them here), but it looks like HomeDepot.com has all of Quickloader’s straps for sale. The yellow one used in the video will hold 10,000 pounds, has a 27-foot strap, and costs $50. The red ones range in price from $20 to $30, depending on the one you get. One of these seems like a great thing to always have in your car for emergency purposes, both for yourself and for any other people you may encounter as you travel.

Here’s the video:

What do you think? Is this a good winch substitute for those of us on a budget?

This Map Shows Where It Is and Isn’t Snowy Right Now

I live in northern Utah, where it’s currently very cold and very snowy. I’m leaving next week for a monthlong road trip through southern Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California, and I wanted to know how far south I’ll have to drive until I’m out of the snow. I did some searching and found this great website that features an interactive map of snow cover around the United States and southern Canada. Looks like I’ll be snow-free once I hit St. George in the southwestern corner of Utah.

To get a more complete picture of the snow situation, here are two more websites that have snow cover maps:

These are great websites for SUV RVers, vandwellers, and anyone else looking to escape the snow this winter.

I Made a Portable Camp Toilet. Here’s a Video of It.

When I couldn’t find a portable camp toilet for my SUV RVing adventures that was compact enough for my liking, I made my own. The video below shows how it works. (Click here if you can’t see the video.)

(And if you’re wondering if all I’ll ever do from here on out is post videos and never blog, rest assured that I’ll be back to blogging here soon enough.)

DIY Curtains for Your SUV, Van, Car, etc.

I did a lot of research on making curtains for my SUV before actually doing it, and nothing really appealed to me. A lot of the solutions involved drilling buttons or screws into the interior of the vehicle, and that was not something I was interested in. Other solutions had to do with using adhesive Velcro, but I didn’t want any gooey residue left behind. What I ended up doing and then refining over the subsequent months of traveling was a hybrid approach that involves a few different curtains, poster board cutouts, and more, as shown in the video below.

(Click here if you can’t see the video above.)