Last updated on 18 June, 2023
Have you heard others say that one benefit of travelling or life on the road is that there is no housework to do? Truthfully, there is less to do but not none and washing laundry while camping is one such chore.
There are a few options to choose from when it comes to washing your clothes while camping or living in your caravan full time. Here we let you know four of the best options. You can decide which is best for you.
We also have some additional tips for doing your laundry while on the road in a caravan, motor home, camper trailer, tent or whatever your set up, so you have more time to explore and enjoy yourself.
Related read: 10 Full Time Travel Myths Debunked
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Washing Laundry While Camping | The Four Best Options
1. Hand Washing
The chances are that hand washing will not be the best option for all laundry needs. It can, however, be a good option for doing smalls like underwear, socks and lightweight tops like t shirts.
Quickly hand washing your small items in the shower could go a long way to reducing the build up of dirty laundry and ensures you never run out of these items. Alternatively, hand wash smalls in a tub can do the same.
It is worth noting that hand washing does take some physical effort to do and it is not practical for large or heavy items like jeans, bedding or when you have a lot of laundry to do. It is also hard to wring a lot of the water out by hand, so drying time is longer.
2. Bucket Wash
The bucket wash is a popular way to do laundry amongst caravanners and campers because it is practical, simple and a great budget option. It only needs a 20 litre bucket with a screw on lid, access to some clean water (about 10 litres per wash) and wool wash.
To do a bucket wash, fill the bucket halfway with water, add 1/8 cup of wool wash and last, add dirty laundry.
It is important not to overfill the bucket with dirty laundry. There needs to be enough room for the clothes or laundry to move around in the bucket. It is the movement that washes the clothes.
Also, using wool wash is essential because, unlike other laundry detergents, it does not need to be rinsed and saves water and time.
Ultimately the way the bucket wash works or does its thing by moving around in the bucket while you drive. It is the movement that happens in the bucket that washes your clothes. Generally, allow 1 – 2 hours of driving (or washing) for best results.
This option for doing your laundry on the road also requires having somewhere for your bucket while driving. We put ours in the foot well of the caravan. Alternatively, a popular option is to have a specific spot for it on the draw bar.
There are some cons to the bucket wash. Specifically, these are that it is not much good for removing all stains or spots on clothes, it takes a long time for times to dry because it requires wrings out everything by hand and the size of the bucket means doing lots of small ‘loads’ every day or every other day.
3. Public Washing Machines | Laundry Mats and Caravan Park Laundry Facilities
Public laundry mats and caravan park laundry facilities are routinely available around Australia.
Currently, using public or caravan park washing machines is our choice for doing our laundry. Being able to do large or multiple loads means we only have to commit to doing our laundry once a week (there are only two of us). I also prefer it over a bucket wash because the quality of the wash is usually better and the spin cycle makes the items quicker to dry.
Generally, when we use a laundry mat, we will do our shopping while the load is running and come back. Never have we had any issue with theft of our clothes, laundry detergent or laundry basket.
Some tips for doing using public washing machines:
- Some use cards and others coins for payment. Collect $1 and $2 coins.
- When places are busy, others waiting to use a machine will, at the end of wash, remove your clothes if you do not. Leave your laundry basket for others to put your clean, wet clothes.
- Not all places routinely clean their machines. Carry a clean old kitchen towel to wipe out machines and check lint filters.
The use of public laundry facilities can be costly and time consuming, especially for large families. To do our clothes and bedding each week is usually two loads and costs between $8 and $12.
4. Onboard Caravan Washing Machine
Not everyone has an onboard caravan washing machine in their set up, but everyone who has one LOVES it. Mostly, it is the convenience of having a washing machine on hand that travellers appreciate the most.
There are some things to consider before rushing out to buy your camping washing machine:
- Some caravans have a specific spot for storing, using and connecting a portable washing machine. If your set up does not or is something like a camper trailer, you will need to find somewhere to store and transport it when it is not in use.
- Like household machines, portable washing machines come in two types – top loaders and front loaders. In the reviews I have read, something that convinced me a top loader is the better choice because you can put water into the machine yourself. A handy option if there is clean creek or river water available.
- Having your own washing machine when camping is hugely convenient, but it also requires access to power and sufficient amounts of water (usually about 20 litres per load). It may be necessary to carry more water and a suitable power source if you plan on using it at free or unpowered campgrounds.
- Camping washing machines are significantly smaller than household machines. Expect to be doing laundry most days to keep up, or you may want to consider using laundry mats for large and heavy items like jumpers and bedding.
Washing Laundry While Camping | Useful Tips
Laundry Basket or Bag
A laundry basket or bag for dirty washing is an essential caravan accessory. In the past, we used an oversized reusable shopping bag that we could squish under the end of the bed, out of sight. When the bag got damaged, I bought a small plastic laundry basket from a department store. I prefer the plastic basket over the bag because when the laundry is wet, I do not get wet carrying it as I did with the bag. Also, when full, the basket is exactly one load of washing.
Camping or Caravan Clothesline
A camping or caravan clothesline can be as simple as a thin length of string or cable between two points like two trees or one from one end of your awning to the other.
Another option is to carry a portable clothes rack or airier.
I have even seen a fold out, wall clothesline permanently attached to the side of someone’s caravan.
Reduce Laundry Needs
Washing laundry while camping is no one’s favourite chore, but there are simple things you can do to reduce the amount and how often:
- Wear darker colours, so dirt does not show so easily.
- Wear items of clothing multiple times, especially jeans, jumpers, shorts, swimmers and jackets.
- Wear clothes that are durable and easy to wash. It is nothing for me to wear tops for 2 -3 days and jeans for 2 weeks before washing them.
- Use a sleeping bag liner instead of sheets on kid’s beds to save washing top and bottom sheets or quilt covers.
- Shower or bathe in the evenings so you are clean getting into bed and this will hopefully mean your sheets will need washing less frequently.
Related read: Caravan Water Needs
Doggy Laundry Needs
Sometimes, you need to wash your dog’s bed, bedding and towels. You would never want to use your portable washing machine to do this, so I would encourage finding a laundry mat. Laundry mats usually (but not always) have machines specifically for pet washing.
Over the nearly five years we have been on the road, we have washed Chika’s bed cover a few times only. She does not have a towel. It is only shake and natural drying happening here!
What option for washing your laundry while camping is best for you? Not one option will likely be best all of the time. Perhaps you will wash your smalls by hand in the shower, use your caravan washing machine for your clothing and visit laundry mats to do bedding. Whatever way suits you, we wish you all the best and safe travels.