As a camper, you may find yourself needing to wash your clothes while camping. There are many ways to do this depending on the type of camping that you are doing. In an RV, washing clothes is relatively easy because you have access to running water and a washing machine. If you’re in a tent though, washing clothes can be more difficult because there’s only so much space for storing dirty laundry and no running water. This blog post will give some tips for washing clothes while camping!
Okay, so you’ve got your tent set up and it’s time to go make dinner. But wait! There was no laundry service at this campsite (or maybe there is one but they don’t have any soap or dryers).
You’re stuck with dirty clothes that are going to stink up the whole campground if not dealt with ASAP. Maybe you took the kids camping and they spilled an entire bottle of ketchup on their shirt, or took a swim with some mud. What do you do?
This article has some great strategies for how to wash clothes without water or electricity, whether you are camping in an RV or a tent. Check out our handy camping planner below before heading off into the wilds!
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Portable Camping Washing Machine
If your campsite has access to electricity, consider bringing a portable camping washing machine with you on your trip! This washing machine is perfect for quick or small washes, such as baby clothes, or just one or two clothing items.
Clothes will need to be hung up to dry after washed, so be sure to scroll down to our drying laundry while camping section. Once clothes are finished being washed, the washing machine easily folds up and doesn’t take up too much space!
Washing Clothes Camping:
1. Fill a bucket or basin with water
The first step to washing clothes while camping is to fill a bucket or basin with water. Use water from your fresh water tank if possible, as it will be the cleanest and most potable option for washing clothes.
If you need to use untreated well or stream-water, allow it to sit overnight so the sediment settles out before using it, or boil it over the campfire before using it to wash clothes.
The water should be lukewarm, not hot or cold to avoid shrinking clothes while washing them and to prevent clothing from wrinkling.
Fill up your bucket/basin with enough water so that it will cover the items you wish to wash as well as have a little extra room. Remember to save some fresh water for rinsing.
Want to use hot water for your laundry? Learn these methods for boiling water when camping!
2. Add detergent or soap
Next, add detergent or soap to the bucket or basin. You can use washing soap (Ivory works well), biodegradable soap, or bring a pack of travel laundry detergent. Put in about a quarter-sized amount of the soap to start with and then add more if you need it.
Start with as little detergent or soap as possible to get your clothes clean, and add more if needed. Adding too much soap will leave a residue on your clothes which will attract dirt and make rinsing them more difficult, especially if you have limited water to use.
If you are camping with your significant other, they will definitely appreciate some nice smelling clothes!
3. Place your dirty laundry inside of the bucket or basin
Once you have your bucket with soap and water, add your dirty clothes. To make washing easier, try not to overstuff your bucket or basin with too many items of clothing at once, especially if the clothes are very dirty.
Add more soap or water as needed. Ensure your clothes are completely submerged in the water.
4. Let the clothes soak for at least 5 minutes before scrubbing
Before scrubbing your clothes, let your dirty clothes soak for at least five minutes. If you let them soak, your clothes will be able to dissolve and remove any dirt or grime that has accumulated during the day without too much effort on your part. Let clothes soak for longer if they are heavily soiled.
If you are camping with dogs, keep the bucket in a secluded area so they aren’t tempted to drink the dirty water!
4. Scrub clothes with a brush or your hands to remove stains and dirt
After letting clothes soak, use your hands or a washing tool like a brush to scrub them clean. Scrubbing will help remove stains and dirt that have accumulated throughout the day. Be sure to scrub clothes in a circular motion to avoid damaging fabrics.
5. Rinse off any remaining soap by pouring clean water over the top of your laundry
Once you have removed dirt and stains, it is time to rinse off any remaining soap. Pour out the dirty soapy water, and then fill the bucket with clean water to rinse off any remaining soap. You may have to repeat this step several times to remove all of the soap.
6. Repeat this process as necessary
Inspect your clothing for any remaining stains, and repeat steps 1-5 as necessary.
Use the campground’s public showers to wash your laundry
Another option for washing clothes camping is to use the campground’s public showers. Washing clothes in the sink or shower is an easy way to do laundry while camping in an RV or tent.
To wash clothes this way, follow the same steps as above, but use the sink or shower in place of the bucket or basin. Having running water available definitely makes this process easier!
Drying Laundry while Camping
1. Once clothes are rinsed, gently wring out clothes with your hands to get rid of excess water
Once you are satisfied with the cleanliness of your clothes and all the soap has been rinsed, gently wring out the clothes by using your hands. This will help to get rid of excess water and allow clothes to dry faster and reduce wrinkles.
Be gentle so you don’t damage the clothing by pulling too hard. Be careful not to pull too hard or stretch fabric as this can cause tears and other damages.
2. Find a spot with plenty of sun in your campsite and hang a drying line or rack
Next, find the sunniest area in your campsite and hang a washing line or drying rack. This is easily done between two trees. Make sure to hang it out of reach from animals or falling branches as well as children and pets playing in the campground. An area with a light breeze can also help speed up the drying process.
3. Hang your wet clothes on a line outside, away from campfire smoke
Once you have your drying line hung up, place your wet clothes on it. Using clothespins can help keep clothes in place in case of wind.
Don’t have any clothespins? Hanging your wet clothing on a branch or over the top of a door frame/tent will work just as well! Just make sure to place them in direct sunlight during the day.
Be sure to hang clothes away from campfire smoke so your clothes smell fresh.
4. Hang clothing out to dry as soon as possible after washing it – don’t let dampness cause mildew growth
After washing your clothes, it is important to hang them out to dry as soon as possible. Leaving clothes damp or in water for too long can cause mildew to grow, which is very hard to get rid of. Mildew loves damp environments and will grow rapidly if left too long without being dried out properly.
5. Don’t hang wet clothes inside of your tent
If at all possible, do not hang wet clothes inside of your tent. Wet clothes can cause moisture in your tent and that will cause you to feel cold and clammy. If you must, make sure they are hung up high (like on the ridge line of your tent) and not touching any bare ground. When wet clothes touch dirt or sand it creates a perfect environment for mold to grow.
Drying out clothes is difficult when it’s raining outside, so dry them indoors with a fan or by hanging them up near the heater. You can use a tent fan or heater if you do not have access to electricity.
6. If you don’t mind the smell of smoke, dry clothes using the campfire
Remember, you can always use the campfire to help dry your clothes if you do not mind the smell of smoke. Just hang the clothes on a line near the fire. Make sure to keep your distance, though because you do not want them to catch on fire!
7. Towel dry clothes
If you want to speed up the drying process even further, consider towel drying the clothes before hanging them up. This will wring out even more of the water, allowing them to dry faster. Be sure to be careful with this method, as towels can be rough on certain fabrics. Consider using a soft towel made of cotton.
Folding and storing laundry camping
Once your clothes are washed, rinsed, and dried, the next step is to fold them and put them away. This can be done while sitting outside in a camping chair, or you can do it inside your tent if the weather is bad.
Consider using a foldable camping table to help you as you fold and sort laundry. Once they are folded, check out these tips for organizing camping gear to help you organize your equipment and pack everything away neatly and orderly.
If you are feeling really fancy, you can even get a rechargeable iron or steamer if you want to get rid of those pesky wrinkles!
Laundry is a necessary evil for anyone who camps, but it doesn’t have to be as hard or time-consuming as you may think. With the right tools and a little know-how, camping laundry can be quick and painless. The best part? You don’t need any electricity! We hope these tips were helpful as you partake in your quest on washing clothes camping!
Don’t forget to grab our awesome camping planner before you leave so you can plan an epic camping trip!