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Off-Grid Laundry Hacks For Wild Camping

This post was updated on July 18th, 2023

Efficient & Sustainable Laundry Techniques Without Access to Grid Power

While going off-grid is a great way to get away and get in touch with nature, it also means you won’t have certain creature comforts available. One big thing to consider when going off-grid? Off-grid laundry.

Just because you’re camping (or living) in a van doesn’t mean you want to smell like you do. Don’t worry – we have some methods to keep you smelling fresh and your clothes clean.

Thankfully there are a number of off-grid laundry hacks that you can use to get your clothes clean without electricity. Let’s take a look at 4 off-grid laundry hacks for wild camping (or van life).

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Option 1: Hand Wash Your Clothes

The simplest (and most classic way) to wash your clothes by hand is to simply use a bucket or tub of soapy water.

How to Wash Your Clothes by Hand

  1. Fill a bucket, tub, or even your sink with room-temperature water and soap.
  2. Place your dirty clothes into the container and gently agitate them with your hands.
  3. Leave the clothes to soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
  4. Once the clothes have finished soaking, drain off the soapy water and refill the vessel with clean water.
  5. Gently agitate the clothing again for a few minutes. Then drain the water. Repeat this process until the clothes are completely rinsed and free of soap. 
  6. Squeeze your clothes or push them up against a surface like the edge of a sink to remove excess water. Avoid wringing out your clothes. At this point, the clothes are ready to hang up and dry.

For tough stains, you can pretreat your clothing with detergent baking soda or other pre-wash treatments. You can also use a gentle scrub brush to help remove stains. 

Back issues or mobility limitations? Special wands exist that you can use to agitate your clothing without having to bend over.

Option 2: Use a Washboard for Off-Grid Laundry

Using a washboard is effectively the same as the hand-washing method described above. However, once you have the water and soap in your container, you’re then going to place the washboard in as well. Take an article of clothing and scrub it against the board to agitate and clean it.

Washboards require a bit of elbow grease but can clean more effectively than simple soap and water.

Option 3: Hand Crank Washing Machine 

Hand crank washing machines are an electricity-free, off-grid laundry alternative to your typical washing machine. This method requires you to turn a crank or handle to agitate the clothing within a small wash basin. 

How to Use a Hand-Crank Washing Machine

  1. Place your clothing inside the washing machine.
  2. Fill up the washing machine partway with water and a small amount of soap.
  3. Agitate the clothing for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on dirtiness and the size of the load.
  4. Drain the soapy water and replace it with clean water. Briefly agitate the clothing again to rinse. Drain and rinse as needed until there is no more soapy water.
  5. Turn the crank with no water in the machine to simulate a spin cycle. The clothing is now ready to be dried.

Hand crank washing machines clean clothes more effectively than hand washing. However, it can be a bit of a workout – but maybe less than hand washing or using a washboard. Higher-end hand crank washing machines can be quite pricey (as much as $900!). Thankfully there are more cost-effective options, such as the Wonderwash

Option 4: Scrubba Portable Wash Bag for Off-Grid Laundry

The Scrubba Portable Wash Bag is a “washboard in a bag” that’s a dream for off-grid laundry – and perfect for van life! 

 How to Wash Clothing With the Scrubba

  1. Place your clothes in the Scrubba Wash Bag with your favorite detergent and 2 to 6 liters of water.
  2. Roll down the top of the bag a few times and clip the ends together to secure it shut.
  3. Twist the valve to release extra air.
  4. Rub and press down on the bag for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
  5. Unclip and open the bag. Drain the soapy water and rinse your clothes under a tap or shower.
  6. Your clothes are now clean and ready to dry. 

The Scrubba Wash Bag is lightweight, compact, and self-contained, making it perfect for off-grid laundry.

The biggest downside of the Scrubba Portable Wash Bag is that it can only clean a couple of days worth of clothes at a time. However, washing is quick, allowing you to do multiple loads in a short time.

Off-Grid Laundry Doesn’t Have To Be Hard With These Great Hacks

Now that you know about these awesome off-grid laundry hacks, you will be able to get your clothes squeaky clean no matter where in the world you are!

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3 thoughts on “Off-Grid Laundry Hacks For Wild Camping”

  1. We do no hand washing. On driving days, we fill an inexpensive, locking Sterilite plastic bin half full of dirty cclothes. We put it in the shower, fill it half full of water and a detergent pac, and lock the lid. We drive all morning, dump the soapy water at lunchtime, add clean water and a dryer sheet, lock the lid, and drive to our campsite. We then dump the rinse water, wring out the excess water, and hang everything in shower. No work, no expensive washing equipment, and clean, fresh clothes. What more could an RVer need?

  2. Or, if you drive around, put your clothes, water, soap, into a 5 gallon bucket with lid, drive a few miles, and your clothes are clean. Can also use an ATV, UTV, mini-bike, etc., the same way.

    Or, a 5 gallon bucket with a hole in the center of the lid, then drill some large holes in an old fashioned toilet plunger, and viola you have a home-made washing machine.

    To dry you can use coat hangers and hang on tree limbs, lay on bushes, whatever, or just use a clothes rack.

    As far as water goes, for washing clothes the water only needs to be clean, not potable. So if all the water available is muddy, you can let it sit until it is clear, then drain off the clear; or, filter the dirt out with layers of cloth, or thru sand.

    As far as smell, I prefer homemade fabric spray.

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