How to Stay Clean on the Road!

Van Life: How to Stay Clean on the Road

These days, with coronavirus on everyone’s mind, we’ll be doing everything we can to stay clean while traveling in our small camper van. Though we have traveled enough to know that we can go for quite a while without a shower, things will most likely look different from here on out. In any event, with coronavirus impacting everything and each of us taking measures to ensure our safety as well as others, we are sharing some of our updated tips for How to Stay Clean on the Road.

Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to keep clean on the road. You’ve no doubt had this drilled into your head since you were small (and again by all of the coronavirus news) but it still rings true. We make a point to do this before eating, in the morning and at night. Sometimes, depending on the day, we’ll wash our hands more often. We have a water container in our van that holds about 5 gallons of water, plus a sun shower (more on that below) and numerous water bottles.

Take a Bird Bath

This requires a towel of some sort and some clean water. It’s no substitute for an actual shower but it works when you’re low on water. We each have a lightweight and quick drying towel. We use the Microfiber Towel by Rainleaf. Each of us has one and we just hang it off the mirror or on the clothesline when we’re done and it’s dry by the time we need to use it again. Soap takes things up a notch, for sure. We ‘sponge’ bath (that somehow sounds a little better than bird bath doesn’t it?) usually just before going to bed. It helps us to sleep better. Basically, we start with our faces and then work down from there. Neck, arms, stomach, etc until you’ve wiped down your body. Pro Tip: Don’t start with your body and end with your face! Gross!

Use A Sun Shower

Sometimes a bird bath just won’t do. You want and need an actual shower. A sun shower is a fairly inexpensive shower that uses the natural energy from the sun to heat the water. It’s also a great solution for the camper van traveler. Often, the shower is black so that it will absorb the suns rays and heat the water even quicker. There is a nozzle and hose that are attached to this bag that then, in the cheaper models at least, uses gravity to spray you with water – just hang it higher than you. Thanks to our friend Lisa Giles who donated her Coleman Sun Shower! It holds 5 gallons of water, is lightweight, packs down small and is easy to use.

Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness has over 1,400 locations across the US and for only $10 a month, you can get free fitness training, take a shower, get access to free WiFi, and they will even give you a free t-shirt! We think it’s a bargain but we actually haven’t purchased a membership.

Find Campsites with Showers

A little bit of research can go a long way. Though we love winging it and roaming where we please, we may have to do a bit more research ahead of time to find campsites where there are shower facilities. Many of them as some of you may know, are coin operated. Be sure to have quarters on hand as there often isn’t a way to pay with credit card or a large bill.

Keep Your Toiletry Kit Clean

Our Eagle Creek Pack It Specter Cube Set , Brilliant Blue, 3pc Set toiletry kit has been a lifesaver as far as keeping the ick factor down. The small bag houses our toothbrush and toothpaste and acts as a barrier between the rest of the world and well, our mouths. We’re assuming most people aren’t comfortable setting their toothbrush down on random sinks, so make sure you get one with a handle or a hook (the Eagle Creek we recommend has a handle) so you can hang it from something. The larger bag holds our deodorant, contact lens solution, hair ties, etc. (The biggest bag I unfortunately lost!) Oh and the best part about this toiletry kit is that when it gets super gnarly and dirty we can throw it in the wash and it’s as good as new.

Van Life Tips: How to Stay Clean on the Road
Does a horse ever brush it’s teeth?!

Go the Laundromat

Washing our clothes is one of the most inconvenient parts of van life. Luckily, there are laundromats in almost all of the cities and small towns we visit. Many of them have free wifi and so we try to make the most of it by working while we wait. In addition to the laundromat, we make a point to keep all of our dirty gear in one big travel laundry bag (it holds about three loads) so that we don’t get our clean clothes dirty since space is limited. Pro tip: carry a jar full of quarters with you in case the change machine is broken and stock up on your own laundry soap before you go in case they are out or want to charge you too much.

Create Rules

Sounds boring, but bear with me. Creating rules in your van, whether you travel alone or with others, will help improve overall cleanliness. We employ a couple of rules that help us maintain a sense or order.

  1. All trash goes into the trash bag or trash can if there is one nearby immediately. We don’t let it accumulate on the floor or near the bed. We also compost (you can learn more about that in our post How to Be a Greener Van Life Traveler.)
  2. Eat outdoors whenever possible and never in the bed. This helps eliminate crumbs, grease, etc and reduces bugs and small rodents being attracted to the food.
  3. Keep your shoes off the bed.
  4. Dirty dishes are not allowed to accumulate. This isn’t really a rule that has to be enforced because we only have a small amount of dishes, cookware, and utensils to begin with. So, by default we have to clean them in order to use them again. Still, we very rarely eat and then throw the dirty pots and pans on the dash til morning.

Keep Your Van Clean

This one piggybacks on the one above but it’s still worth bearing in mind because if your van is clean, YOU by default will be a little cleaner! If your van is filthy, you’ll be a little dirtier … pretty common sense but pizza boxes at your feet mean that there’s a good chance pizza grease will end up on your clothes. It’s also more likely to attract rodents. Luckily since we’ve converted our cargo van into a camper van with the Wayfarer kit we’re able to stay organized because of all the storage boxes. If it wasn’t for those…I’m not sure what our van would look like. We also have a rule about not putting our shoes or dirty gear on our bed and it helps to keep the grit out.

Van Life: How to Stay Clean on the Road
Our Wayfarer kitchen boxes help us keep things neat.

Van Life Tips: How to Stay Clean on the Road Recap

Staying clean while traveling in a van isn’t easy but it’s also not that hard. With a little bit of gear and planning, you can do it, too. What do you think about our van life tips? We’d love to hear your comments about this topic. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

20 thoughts on “How to Stay Clean on the Road!

      1. Never to much cause the ones that care need it and the ones that don’t don’t haha bring that I’ll be starting my van life in a couple months, it’s very refreshing for me to real the real deal from women that are doing it rather than all the fluff especially since I’m going solo 😍 so thank you..I am grateful 🤗🙏🤗

      2. You got it – glad our stuff can be of use to you! can’t wait to see you hit the road.

      3. Not sure if you got my response cause it said error sending message yet I’m so glad you are real… Bring that I’ll be embarking on a van life in a couple months as a solo female it’s fantastic to read from other women that are doing it and being real rather than putting only the fluff out here.. So thank you…I am grateful 🙏😘🙏

      4. sure did! and thanks for saying that – we’re doing our best but a lot of it is still trial and error for sure. hope you had a great weekend!

      5. I believe loving a van life will always be trial and error haha yet it’s what we choose so embrace it all especially the lessons… Much love to you both and hope you’re having a great weekend too 🤗💗🙏💗🤗

      6. Yes it’s been a good one. exhausted and heading to bed. Hope you have a great week ahead of ya!

  1. This is a great guide no matter you’re traveling the country in the back of a van or you’re on a two-week road trip across the country. This is definitely getting shared in the Adventure Bent Facebook communities!

    I really love the fun and rambunctious writing style you guys have. It really makes every blog post a joy!

    1. Wow thanks so much. We’re honored you would share this in the group. Really appreciate it. You made our day :-)!

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