How Do You Wash Clothes While Camping?

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Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

How Do You Wash Clothes While Camping?

How do you wash clothes while camping?

Going on a camping trip is a chance to destress and get away from the pressures of modern life. The fun and adventure you get to experience while camping means you will have a lot of dirty and sweaty clothes. It also means that you still have to do your laundry.

Today, many campsites and campgrounds offer facilities where you can wash your clothes with the right machines. However, this means that all the campers will have to share the space with others.

You may have to wait in line before you can wash your clothes. But don’t worry, you can still do your laundry through in one of these described ways.

Hand Washing 

Handwashing is a tried and tested way of washing your clothes even without washing machines. 

You will need the following: 

  • a basin or a bucket big enough for your clothes
  • Warm water (heated on your campfire or lukewarm)
  • Eco-friendly detergent or laundry soap

Washing clothes by hand is a straightforward process:

  1. Put enough warm water into the bucket or basin. Use warm or lukewarm water for washing your clothes as this gets the dirt out better than cold water.
  2. Dissolve the laundry detergent in the water.
  3. Put in your dirty clothes. Depending on how dirty your clothes are, you can soak them for 30 minutes up to overnight just be sure to do separate loads for whites, lights, and darks.
  4. Scrub your clothes. You can do this on a washboard or by hand. 
  5. Wring out the clothes and properly discard the dirty water.
  6. Put clean water into the basin or bucket along with your clothes and rinse them. You can repeat this until the soap is gone.
  7. Wring your clothes again.
  8. Hang them on a drying rack or clothesline.

Wash bag

An example of this handy wash bag is the Scrubba Portable Wash Bag. It is very easy to use and a great alternative to handwashing your clothes. The wash bag looks like a regular dry bag but in order to work, it has hard beads attached to the sides and bottom which act as a washboard. To use it follow these steps:

  1. Put your clothes inside the wash bag. There is a recommended quantity of clothes that you can fit into the bag.
  2. Add warm water up to the line indicated for water.
  3. Put in your detergent.
  4. Twist the top close (4 to 5 times) as you would a dry bag. 
  5. Twist open the valve on the side and release as much air as you can. 
  6. Lay the bag on its side, the hard beads have to be on the bottom.
  7. Scrub your clothes against the hard beads for up to 3 minutes depending on how dirty the clothes are.
  8. Remove the dirty water and add clean water for the rinse cycle.
  9. Repeat steps 4 to 7 until the soap is gone.

A Scrubba wash bag is convenient in situations where you cannot get a lot of water. You can just fill the bag from a river or spring near your campsite. However, its size does limit its capacity so don’t let your laundry pile up and wash your clothes every day.

Trash bag

There is more than one use for those trash bags that you packed for your garbage. You can also use these as wash bags just follow these steps:

  1. Put your clothes inside the trash bag. Use scentless trash bags so that the scents do not get mixed up in your clothes.
  2. Put warm or lukewarm water, just enough that the clothes are covered. 
  3. Put in your eco-friendly laundry detergent.
  4. Tie or seal the trash bag.
  5. Shake the bag around. Be prepared for a whole workout and have fun with the movements.
  6. Once you are satisfied, take out the clothes and wring them out.
  7. Properly dispose of the dirty water
  8. Use another trash bag to do the rinse cycle using the same method
  9. Once the soap is gone, wring out the clothes and hang them to dry.

Portable clothes washer

A portable clothes washer looks like an updated plunger but it works great for doing your laundry while camping or while on the road. For this you will need the following:

  • Portable clothes washer
  • A bucket
  • Eco-friendly laundry soap
  • Warm or lukewarm water

You can buy a portable clothes washer like this Ezywash portable washing machine. Using it is a very easy process:

  1. Fill the bucket with warm water and detergent. Make sure that the soap is properly dissolved in the water.
  2. Put your clothes in the bucket. You can add more water if you want as long as the clothes are submerged.
  3. Put the portable clothes washer on the clothes and start pushing and pulling it up to wash the clothes.
  4. Once you are satisfied, wring out the clothes
  5. Discard the dirty water properly.
  6. Put the clothes back into the bucket along with enough water.
  7. Push and pull the portable clothes washer for the rinse cycle. Repeat as needed
  8. Once the soap is gone, wring out the water from the clothes.
  9. Hang the clothes on a drying rack or clothesline

Portable washing machine

Portable washing machines are smaller versions of what you use at home. Although it will require you to spend a little more money than other alternatives it does mean that you can wash your clothes just like you do at home with no need for handwash. 

Before buying a portable washing machine for your camping trips, be aware of these limitations:

  • Need to be plugged into an outlet 
  • Need to be connected to a water source such as a faucet
  • Can be bulky compared to the other alternatives listed here

Read our article on portable washing machines and see if they will fit your needs.

Bucket

For a very minimalistic approach to washing your clothes while camping, you can make do with a bucket. Just make sure that you have enough water for washing and rinsing your clothes.

  1. In a bucket put enough water to submerge your clothes and dissolve the detergent.
  2. Put your clothes in and gently scrub them clean.
  3. Wring out the water from the clothes and discard the dirty water
  4. Fill the bucket again with clean water or you can use another bucket for rinsing your clothes.
  5. Move the clothes around the bucket with your hands to remove the soap.
  6. Once the soap is gone, wring out the water from the clothes and discard the dirty water.
  7. Hang your clothes on a drying rack or clothesline.

Why do you need to wash clothes with warm water?

Warm water loosens the dirt and dust on your clothes. With detergent, warm water cleans faster than cold water and removes dirt, stains, and grease from your clothes.

What are the rules for washing clothes while camping?

Every campsite has its own rules for washing clothes. Check with the camping ground management for their guidelines and be sure to follow them. Here are some basic rules for washing your clothes that will be true for every campsite: 

  • Don’t just hang dry your clothes anywhere – ask campsite management for designated areas.
  • Bring a foldable drying rack.
  • Wash a load every day so that laundry doesn’t pile up.
  • Bring dark clothes to wear during a camping trip.
  • Make sure to use eco-friendly detergent.
  • Dispose of your laundry water properly. At least 100 meters away from water sources, away from campsites, and according to the camping ground guidelines.
  • Don’t wash your clothes in natural water sources like rivers, lakes, or streams as this contaminates the water and kills microorganisms needed for the water’s ecosystem.

Where can you wash your clothes when camping?

You can wash just on the side of your tent but check campsite guidelines for the specifics on where you can wash your clothes. Make sure to dispose of your used water properly — away from any natural water sources and away from campsites.

How to dry your clothes when camping?

After washing your clothes, the next step is to dry them. There are usually two ways in which campers can dry their clothes: 

Portable dryer

Some people bring portable dryers with them on their trailers or caravans. You can also buy a twin tub portable washing machine that already has a spin-dry function. Keep in mind that this will not completely dry your clothes, but it will make them dry faster once you hang them on a drying rack or clothesline.

Sun

If you are on a camping trip especially during the hot summer months, the sun is a great way to dry your clothes. You can either buy a foldable drying rack or make your own clothesline:

  1. Get a rope and tie it on two trees so that it forms a line. Put this up in a place that receives a lot of sunlight so that your clothes will dry faster.
  2. Wring out the excess water from your clothes and use a clip to hang them on the rope.