Washing Clothes while Camping

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Learn how washing clothes while camping can be easy. One of the concerns that many people have while camping is whether or not they will have enough clean clothes. If campers bring enough outfits for the entire trip, that could eliminate the need for washing, but sometimes a good scrub is necessary when in the outdoors.

While in the wilderness, or even a local campground, your articles of clothing will no doubt become covered with dirt, grime, and stains over the course of the trip. Here are some ways to make sure your clothing stays sparkly clean while camping.

Where to Wash Clothes while Camping

While recreating in the outdoors, it’s important to be aware of the environmental impact you’re making. Wilderness areas are often extremely fragile, so when washing your garments, be sure to stay at least two hundred feet away from the nearest body of water.

Nothing should ever be washed in or around a stream, river, lake, or any other natural source. Even with biodegradable soap, the greywater could contaminate the natural source.

Wash With a Scrubba Portable Washing Machine

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Scrubba is a lightweight portable washing machine that is the perfect companion for campers and backpackers. Simply add the items of clothing, some water, and a cleaning liquid to the bag. Roll and clip it as you would do with a dry bag. Expel excess air, rub the garments against the inner washboard, and rinse out the dirty liquid with fresh water. There are different sizes and designs to meet your personal needs, and it is one of the only available portable washing machines that doesn’t require electricity! 

For those who love buying items that have multiple uses, Scrubba can also double as a dry bag when you’re not using it for a washing machine!

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Use Ziploc or Dry Bags for Washing Clothes while Camping

If you don’t have the budget for a Scrubba Portable Washing Machine, a plastic Ziploc or dry bag is a good alternative. Though these options don’t have the inner washboard that the Scrubba does, they will do the trick if you are in need of a quick wash on the go.

Throw the outfits, water, and soap in the bag, seal it up, and use your hands to scrub. Sluice the dirty liquid out with a fresh rinse to finish the cleaning process.

Use a Bucket or Collapsible Bucket to Wash Clothes Camping

Another alternative to the Scrubba would be a bucket. Simply bring along two buckets that are large enough for your clothing. Fill one with soap and water and the other one with just water. Throw the dirty clothing into the soapy bucket, toss them around, and scrub with your hands to remove any stains. The second bucket is for rinsing when the scrubbing is complete.

Another method of this bucket cleaning involves bringing a plunger along. Using a plunger to clean the garments in the first bucket might be more effective than a pair of hands.

If you want to save space, use collapsible buckets instead. Sea to Summit, UST, and The Friendly Swede all make folding or collapsible buckets that are perfect for scouring all of your outfits and even your dishes while camping.

camping laundrymat

Find a Laundromat Nearby

If your campground isn’t too remote, chances are a laundromat may be nearby. This is a great option if you don’t want to bring along your own supplies.

Do your research before your camping adventure so that you are aware of any laundromat locations or hours of operations before you lose cell service.

Be prepared to pay anywhere from one to five dollars per load.

Utilize Campground Laundry Facilities 

Campground facilities are continuing to expand. Amenities like swimming pools, rental services, hiking trails, and restaurants or general stores exist in some private and public campgrounds.

Some are now offering laundry facilities right at the campsites. Though you won’t typically find these luxuries in state parks, national parks, or other public lands, you could get lucky with this amenity at a private campground or RV park.

Best Soaps to Use for Washing Clothes Camping

There are quite a few soap options out there, and the process of picking the best one can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just pick the type (liquid, powder, bar, or sheet) and scent that meets your needs. Here are a couple of options.

Camp Sheets

Coleman Camp Soap Sheets and Sea to Summit Pocket Wash are thin leaves of soap that dissolve in water. Both options come in a small, pocket-sized sleeve with fifty sheets. Though these are biodegradable, they still shouldn’t be used in natural sources. Keep the soap contained in a bucket, dry bag, or portable washing machine.

Liquid Soaps

Liquid soaps like Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash, Camp Suds, and Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap are popular options for cleaning clothes while camping. Some people even use Castile Soap to wash their hands and face.

Dry on a Clothesline

camping clothesline for washing clothes while camping

After cleaning, you will need to dry. Drying with a clothesline isn’t always possible when camping. The extra hassle of bringing along a clothesline and clothespins might not sound appealing, but it can be the quickest way to get your outfits dried and ready for new use. If there are trees next to your campsite, hanging a clothesline would be a simple, effective method to dry everything quickly.

Dry With a Towel

After washing, wring out excess water into the bucket, bag, or portable washing machine. Pat the garments with a microfiber towel. The microfiber towel will absorb the moisture and dry out the clothes. If the towel doesn’t do the trick, lay them on a flat surface in direct sunlight.

Camping Laundry | How to Dispose of Dirty Water

laundry while camping

When washing clothes while camping, dumping the dirty water properly is crucial. Incorrect dumping can be detrimental to the environment. Follow these guidelines when disposing of the liquid:

  • Dump at least two hundred feet away from any natural water source, campsite, or walking path.
  • Dig a six-inch cathole to empty the liquid into if it’s not possible to dump it in a secluded location.
  • Some national parks require you to use a dump station to get rid of waste water.

Washing clothes while camping doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. With a few handy tools at your disposal, you can easily clean your clothes and focus a majority of your time and energy on enjoying the great outdoors!

Curious about how to shower while camping?

Check out our article on how to shower while camping for 6 top tips that will make camp hygiene easier.

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