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The complete guide to washing your clothes while camping

washing clothes when camping

If you’re on the track for longer than five days or you just like to pack super light, you’re going to need to deal with clothes washing when camping at some point. I’m all for re-wearing clothes that aren’t dirty but my kid’s clothes are filthy by the end of the day and I can’t quite bring myself to do the whole ‘turn your undies inside out’ trick. So how the heck do you manage to wash everyone’s clothes when you’re camping? Well, it’s not as hard as you think.

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Use a Scrubba wash bag

Everything Caravan & Camping Scrubba

The Scrubba is an awesome Aussie invention that I use regularly for clothes washing when camping. It’s basically a strong waterproof bag that features a flexible internal washboard. 

Pop your clothes, water, and detergent in the bag and seal it by folding the top over a few times and doing up a buckle. Lay it sideways and roll it around a little, allowing your clothes to rub over the internal washing board. Next, tip out the dirty water, fill it back up with clean water for a “rinse cycle” and give it a roll around again.

Create a DIY washing machine

Everyone loves a good cost-saving DIY method, right? With these two methods, the washer itself can also be used to store your dirty clothes prior to cleaning.

DIY trash bag washing machine

Using two sturdy trash bags (not the scented kind as they will make your clothes smell funny), dump your dirty clothes in one along with some water and detergent. Push the excess air out and tie off the top. Next, have fun agitating it by rolling it around … but don’t have too much or it might spring a leak. If you’ve got a sturdy enough bag, you can totally play a game of catch with it. Tip it out and use the second bag as your rinse cycle, adding only water and no detergent.

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DIY plunger and bucket washing machine

This DIY method requires a bit of effort before you actually leave, but once you’ve made it, it works a charm for any future camping trips. To get started, you’ll need a large bucket with a lid and a brand new toilet plunger. Do you see where I’m going here?

First, cut a small hole in the lid (it needs to be large enough for the plunger handle to fit through). The plunger part sits inside the bucket and the top of the handle sticks out the top. As you can guess, once you fill the bucket with your dirty clothes, suds and water, the plunger acts as the agitator by pumping it up and down.

Some people use a second bucket for the ‘rinse cycle’ but I tend to tip the dirty water out and fill it back up with clean water for a rinse.

Portable washing machines

Portable washing machines are sized for camping and work in a similar fashion to your washing machine at home. Albeit with one major difference — they don’t use any electricity whatsoever. Instead, the machine is people-powered, fitted with a crank handle to agitate the clothes.

Check out these two options:

Ezywash Washing Machine

washing machine for camping

Manual Spin Washing Machine

Hand washing with a pop-up bucket

This method is super easy and cost-effective. Fill a pop-up bucket with your dirty clothes, warm water and detergent and simply scrub away with your hands. It’s a little more time consuming than other methods, but if you spend some time rubbing the fabric of your clothes together to create some friction, it works well enough.

Another benefit to this method is the bucket itself; pop-up buckets are always handy to have around. I usually keep one outside of my tent door with a bit of water in the bottom. It’s a great way to rinse off any unwanted sand or dirt.

Check out these two options:

Pop-Up Wash Tub

Collapsible Wash Tub

Drying your clothes when camping

You can buy all sorts of fold up clotheslines for camping but at the end of the day, they take up a lot of space. Instead, opt for a rope that you can stretch between two trees.

Try these rope options out for size:

Pegless Clothes Line

Stretch Clothes Line

Wind Up Clothes Line

Time your visits to civilisation

If you’re on a decent road trip and are on the move, it’s sometimes just as easy to either visit a laundromat or check into a proper caravan park once a week to do one or two massive loads of washing in their industrial size machines. The washing machines usually cost around four to six dollars and a little more for a dryer should you choose to use one. 

Pssst: Make sure to check out our guide on how to poo when there’s no loo, the best showers for camping, and great tips for buying your next sleeping bag.

This article on washing your clothes when camping contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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  1. Try the easy old way.
    An old 15 litre plastic paint bucket with a lid.
    Put your washing in with some detergent and water , drive to your next destination and the wash cycle is done

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