Any camper, or traveler who is out there for quite a long time, knows that doing camping laundry is nothing less than a headache.
With our bunch of experience of living full-time at the campsite, we’ve tested different ways of washing clothes while camping. So, whatever your adventurous plans are, you should take a look at these methods before going there.
This complete guide is made by experts and by keeping in mind the possible resources, different options, and all of the factors. We know that not every method is suitable for everyone. Therefore, we’ve tried to add as many methods as we can, so you can find your best one.
Table of Contents
Essentials for Washing Clothes While Camping
A few of the essentials for doing camping laundry are as follows:
- 5-Gallon bucket
- New plunger
- Wash/Trash bag
- Bio-degradable laundry detergent
Note: Some methods require additional equipment, so you must read them thoroughly.
How to Wash Clothes while Backpacking/Camping?
1. Hand Wash and Line Dry
Not everyone can afford to bring an expensive camping washing machine for doing laundry. While others may not have enough space for the handwashing machine for camping. But, hand washing is what everyone is capable of doing due to its easiness and you don’t have to rely on any equipment.
For hand-washing, you’ll require these things:
- Rope or strong cable
- A laundry basket
- Camping laundry detergent
- Warm Water
Pour warm water into the basket that is enough for the quantity of your laundry. Using warm water instead of cold can effectively wash your clothes by extracting dirt and moisture.
Now, dissolve the camping laundry detergent and put the dirty clothes into the water. After that, leave it for 20-40 minutes for soaking, and meanwhile, you can set the clothesline to the trees.
Now, you need to scrub every cloth on the washboard by hand and then wring out the clothes. Take clean water into the water and dispose of the dirty water far from your campsite. Again, sock your clothes into the water and rinse them until the soap is fully gone. Let them hang on a clothesline for the next few hours, preferably during the daytime, and use pins to attach them.
2. Scrubba wash bag
Scrubba wash bag has brought ultimate comfort for the campers and completely revolutionized the camping laundry industry.
It was firstly introduced in 2012 and now it has become immensely popular all over the world. It weighs just a few ounces and you can carry it anywhere, without any worries.
It is originally a wash bag with a flexible washboard bag (inside) and can be folded down as well. Since it just requires a few liters of water, therefore, it is important for areas with a scarcity of water.
Deflating the bag is also quite simple, as it has a valve at one side of the bag from where you can drain out the water.
Follow these steps for washing clothes while camping:
Firstly, add water (according to the marked line), laundry detergent, and a minimal quantity of laundry inside the bag. Then, make sure that there isn’t excessive air inside the bag, or you can use the valve for the purpose. Now, you have to suppress the washing bag in such a way that the clothes start scrubbing with an internal washing board. Continue this method for the next 30-40 seconds, then take out the clothes outside and drain out the dirty water. In the end, rinse the clothes and hand them on clothes or any clean surface.
Due to its short size, you cannot wash piles of laundry in one go. Therefore, you should do camping laundry frequently so a pile of laundry couldn’t gather.
3. Use a trash bag
Trash bags can get you many advantages due to their versatility but you’ve to make sure that these are clean. Most of the campers usually bring trash bags within the luggage, and therefore you do not have to bring any extra equipment.
The things that you will require apart from a trash bag include warm water and camping laundry detergent. The method is pretty much simple and similar to the one described above.
A single trash bag can also work but washing clothes while camping can become super-easy if you’ve two separate and clean trash bags. Fill the first one with detergent plus warm water and while fill the other one with fresh water. Make sure that you are adding a moderate quantity of detergent and water into the bag.
After filling the bags, put some dirty clothes within the trash bag with detergent and shake them well. Once, you realize that now clothes are fairly mixed with detergent, then take out these clothes and put them into the other trash bag. Now, the rinse cycle began, and after that, hang them to dry.
4. Portable Camping Washing Machine
If you’re going camping for a full-time living or for many weeks, then you must carry a portable camping washing machine. It is undoubtedly, the most convenient way for washing while camping out of all the methods.
Although these washing machines have a minimal design, still you need to have a large-sized tent. As far as price is concerned, these are available at an affordable price tag.
Furthermore, these camping washing machines come with certain limitations such as it requires electricity to run. Other than this, you also need to connect it with a water faucet.
5. With a Ziploc Bag
If you’ve nothing but a large gallon Ziploc bag then your hassle of washing clothing while camping is already resolved. Neither it requires you to shed many bucks nor does it acquire much space.
The method is pretty much similar and straightforward, as you need to put the dirty clothes inside and roll over them after adding the detergent and water. Leave the clothes for soaking and after that, take out these clothes and rinse them. Using this method usually takes up to 30-minutes including the soak time.
After washing all the dirty clothes, wash them from inside and leave them for drying. After drying, this Ziploc bag can be re-used.
Also, if you’re on a hiking adventure, not with the intent of camping, still you should take should have extra bags. Because, these bags can work for you, to pack your luggage.
6. Plunger & Bucket
This method involves just an ordinary bucket and toilet plunger. A cheap plunger might not bear the heavy load of your laundry due to its average build quality. So, you should have a good plunger, however, if you’re a small laundry size, then an average plunger can also work for you.
Just like the other simple methods, this process is also very convenient and free from any complexity. Firstly, put some freshwater into the bucket and make sure that a bucket is of average size (not so small). Then, toss in basic camping detergent after tossing your dirty laundry into the bucket.
Now, you have to start plunging up and down into the bucket for the next minutes. Rinse them well and hang them on the clothesline, branch tree, or any suitable place to dry.
What to Avoid Washing Clothes While Camping?
These are few important things that should be avoided while doing the camping laundry. It’s inexpensive and not going to take a lot of space.
- Don’t Wash Your Clothes In a Natural Water Source. Natural water sources are the habitat of thousands of different species. And, the inclusion of some harmful chemicals in the natural water body (in any way) can be deadly for those species. Therefore, make sure that your used water (after washing the clothes) does not find its way to the water body.
- Do not Wash clothes while camping at the water spigots, neither dispose of the grey water over there. Firstly, it would waste a great wastage of freshwater. Secondly, doing camping laundry at water spigots can make the whole area dirty. The best practice is to bring water in any container such as a bucket and use it near to your campsite.
- Don’t wash the camping laundry in the campground bathroom sinks either. Similar to the above point, it would not only waste a lot of freshwaters but your campsite can become extremely dirty. Keeping a 200-feet distance from both campsite and water-body is what you need to take care of while doing camping laundry.
More Tips You Can Follow While Doing Camping Laundry
· Wash Small Loads Often
This is a basic yet most significant tip that will lessen the hassle of washing clothes. No matter which method suits you the most, you should not wait for the moment when all of your clothes got dirty.
· Use your campfire!
Everyone knows that wood ash can be used for cleaning dirty pots and kitchen utensils. But, most probably, you do not know that it can also be used for washing clothes while camping.
It might be risky for some people but originally it isn’t as dangerous as you assume. But, we would highly recommend you to give your first try on only those clothes, whose alternatives you already have.
Now, let’s unveil this method. Start off by getting some warm water and mixing it with small bits of wood ash. After that, you need to add a drop of oil and you will get a grey-colored soapy paste. Apply this paste on dirty patches over your clothes and leave it for few minutes.
When you rub those patches, all of the stains will be gone away. This method is highly effective for cleaning even the most stubborn dirty clothes. But, doing loads of laundry can take considerable time. You can employ this method for those clothes that are still dirty after using the above-mentioned methods.
· Drying With a Towel
If you’re in a hurry or do not want to hang the laundry over the clothesline then this tip can help you. All you need to do is to spread the towel on a flat and clean surface. Now, put a single piece of your cloth, let’s say a T-Shirt over the towel. And, then roll over the towel and squeeze it well. Unroll the towel, and you can see the cloth is much drier. Using a micro-fiber towel here is far more effective as compared to an ordinary towel.
How to Choose Laundry Detergent?
Don’t be the person who harms nature by dumping dirty water within the fresh-water bodies. Instead of this, play your role as a respectable citizen and use the bio-degradable detergent of any trusted brand out there.
An eco-friendly laundry detergent must have the following things:
- No animal testing
- Free of chlorine bleach
- No chlorine bleach
- Recyclable packaging
- Not any artificial colour
- Not any unnatural aroma or scent
- Should be phosphate-free
- No NPEs
How to dry your clothes while camping?
Drying your clothes is a bit difficult as compared to washing due to the different factors such as lack of sunlight and other helping equipment. We’ve elaborated some of the easiest methods to dry your clothes, down below:
- Out of all the drying methods, using the free sun and wind power is most common and easier. This method is specifically for the hot summer months. For this, you need to bring a foldable drying rack but if you have a rope then you can also make a clothesline.
Firstly, make sure that the cable or rope is strong enough to bear the weight of wet clothes. Now, tie this rope to two trees in such a way that it faces the direct sunlight, most time of the day. You can make many lines depending upon the overall length of your rope and your laundry. Now, hang your clothes over the clothesline by using the clips, after wringing excessive water out of your clothes.
- You can also buy clothesline as well as portable clothes airer, portable clothesline from online stores.
- If luggage and space is not an option such as while trucking camping, then you can also purchase a portable dryer. Some camping washing machine also offers spin-dry function, allowing you to dry off your clothes much faster.
- Similarly, during winter camping, drying your clothes becomes even more difficult due to low humidity. However, a bit of wind can help you in drying the clothes, but you cannot solely rely on this.
- Therefore, you can also make the clothesline around the campfire, but you have to be careful as well because it can be a little risky.
Tips for Reducing Laundry
Everyone wants to minimize the packing weight of their luggage on their backpacking trips. Because, it will not only decrease the load on your shoulder but the amount of laundry you have to wash, will also reduce.
Here, we have put together all the practical tips that can help you to reduce the laundry.
- Frequently wash small loads of laundry, particularly at the end of the day or whenever you’re free.
- Make a priority list of laundry that is essential, and wash them first.
- Check for those clothes that have small patches of dirtiness and wash them later on or re-wear.
- Keep all the cleaned items in a bag and avoid putting them on the camping floor.
- Try to wear cloth more than once unless they don’t seem dirty or smelly.
- Bring only those clothing items that you’re comfortable with, and can be worn anywhere. Do not overburden your camping luggage by bringing unnecessary stuff.
Best Tips for the Camping/Backpacking Hygiene
· Frequently Wash Your Hands
The easiest and most important way to stay clean while camping is to frequently wash your hands. Whenever, you feel that your hands are dirty, rinse your hands in water and use soap to kill the germs. But most importantly, you should follow this practice after using the washroom, before meals, and washing your face.
Remember that every germ that can cause any disease, will only enter your body through the mouth. Therefore, you must frequently clean your hands to prevent the bacteria or virus from entering your body.
· Take a Freshwater Shower
You can fully enjoy your camping adventure if your body is energetic and feeling refresh. There can be plenty of ways for refreshment but taking a freshwater shower will always be a good choice.
Most of the famous campsites are usually situated around the river or lake. If you know how to swim, you can take a freshwater shower to refresh and thoroughly clean your body. You can take the shower any time of the day, but experts suggest not to go swimming after daylight. Also, going into the water early in the day is a good idea, as you will have a lot of time to dry off.
· Brush Your Teeth Regularly
Who else wants to get embarrassed due to bad breath in front of friends? Even, if you’re outdoor, still you should regularly brush your teeth to feel comfortable and confident.
You can keep biodegradable toothpaste in your luggage that has a minimal environmental effect. Similar to the camping laundry detergent, do not split it near to the freshwater sources. Also, since toothpaste is scented therefore it can attract wild animals or insects, so the best idea is to spit it away from your campsite as well.
· Change and Wash Your Underwear and Socks Often
The general rule of thumb is to change both the underwear and socks after every day. If you keep on wearing underwear for many days then it can elevate the risk of accumulating bacteria and moisture.
As a result of this, you can face issues such as skin irritation as well as infection. And nobody will want to get sick and disturb their camping days.
Every camper should have enough pairs of socks and underwear so that he can have a fresh pair every day. In addition to this, we suggest you wash this stuff every day, so you do not have to carry some extra pairs.
· Don’t Forget the Baby Wipes
Dipping into a lake is not always an option, therefore you might look for some other alternatives. Luckily, there is one and it can help you in staying clean and fresh without any hassle.
All you need is to bring unscented baby wipes and a ziplock bag for this. Now, go to the private space and take off your clothes. Then, use the baby wipes to wipe your body and use one face for the face and neck. While using the other side of baby wipes to wipe your groin area and armpits.
· Use Sanitizer
Sanitizers are of great importance due to their effectiveness in killing any bacteria, virus, or pathogens. Since using sanitizer doesn’t require the use of water, therefore, it has now become the most favored method for staying clean outdoor.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I Wash My Clothes in a Stream or Lake?
No, even if you’re using special camping laundry detergent, still you should not wash the clothes within the water bodies around your campsite. Because, soaps can seriously contaminate the water, and kills the small water-borne organisms which are necessary for maintaining the water’s ecosystem. The recommended practice is to dig a 6-8 inches deep hole, 200 feet away from any water-body, and then dispose of the water into it.
2. When Should I Change My Clothes?
It might not be comfortable to change clothes while camping, or hiking but who wants to be a smelly guy. Therefore, make sure that you’ve changed the dirty clothes including socks, and underwear, before going to bed. Because dirty clothes can lose their insulating properties due to dirt and oil (from skin).
3. How many pairs of socks and underwear should you pack?
It’s always a wise choice to bring 2-3 more pairs of socks as well as underwear while going for a camping trip. But, if you really want to reduce your packing weight, then we’ll suggest you wash socks and underwear regularly.
4. What kind of camping laundry detergent should I use?
Your first priority should be bringing only eco-friendly soaps with your luggage. But, it is a fact that no matter how good your camping laundry detergent is, still, it will have some negative effects on the soil.
Although, washing the clothes while camping without laundry detergent is quite difficult, but wood ash can also be used as a substitute.
5. Is it necessary to use warm water to wash clothes while camping?
It is proven that using warm water can be really effective while washing the clothes as compared to cold water. It basically loses the dirt, grease, and oil off the fabrics, giving you fast results. You can warm the water within the kettle, and then mix it with detergent for scrubbing away.
6. What kind of clothes are comparatively easier to clean while camping?
Nylon, polyester, and spandex are kind of fabric that is light in weight and regarded as quick-drying fabrics. The reason for their quick-drying property is their ability to quickly absorb the moisture and will keep your body dry. Similarly, they will take a much shorter time for complete drying.
If you want to avoid the hassle of the cleaning and drying of clothes while camping then you should carry only synthetic fiber clothes and avoid cotton.
7. Where Should You Wash Clothes?
You should always choose the campsite wisely especially if you’re staying for weeks or few days. Expert campers recommend that there must be a water body surrounding your campsite. Moreover, you should choose any suitable place for washing clothes that is some distance far away from both campsite and waterbody. It is due to the reason that scented soaps or detergents can elevate the risk of attracting wild animals if you’re doing the laundry nearby to your tent.
Final Words – Best Method for Washing Clothes While Camping
So far in this guide, you’ve learned:
- Essentials for camping laundry
- Different methods for washing clothes while camping
- How to choose a good camping laundry detergent
- How to dry your clothes while camping
- Hygienic Tips
As per our experience, the best method for doing camping laundry is to use a trash bag. However, you might find it easy to hand wash and line dry your clothes, but using a trash bag is way easier. It is true that you cannot wash a load of laundry using a trash bag, but hand-washing requires more effort as compared to a trash bag. On top of all this, such bags are inexpensive and extremely lightweight, so you can carry many of them, anywhere.