One of the more common questions we are asked is how we wash our clothing in a camper/motorhome. Well first of all you can get purchase portable manual/12v washing machines/spinners. We have not used them but we did research them on the internet initially and found they all have very low capacities, slow spin speeds and are also not very robust so we found a better system.
We never use launderettes (to expensive to use and a pain to find), we wash everything ourselves very easily. Socks & knickers no problem, jeans & jumpers no problem, towels and bedding, you’ve guessed it, it isn’t a problem.
Items required are quite simple, one or two stackable boxes with good clip on lids (we have 2 x 35L “Really Useful Boxes” available from Amazon, B&Q, Staples & others), one folding stool (makes a great work platform), water for the wash, more for the rinse. washing detergent (Lidl’s Maxi Trats is very good, it’s cheap, it smells nice and it works), bicarbonate of soda for whites & some fabric softer.
- Pour about 10L of water into one of the boxes, add between half and a full cap of detergent.
- Throw in your dirty clothes and make sure everything is nicely wet with the washing water and pummel the items for a minutes or so.
- Now either leave the clothes soaking for a couple of hours or drive to your next destination and the motion of the vehicle will agitate the water and washing.
- Pummel the dirty items again for a minute or two.
- Wring out the dirty clothes. We use a domestic household spinner (via an inverter) to remove all that dirty water and debris. (Makes a world of difference if you have sensitive skin too.) Wringing out by hand works well but the spinner makes life very easy and is much better too :-).
- Ditch the dirty water (see the last bit for alternate uses).
- Put the now clean clothes in another 10L water, add preferred fabric softer. Pummel again and wring out/spin the clothing again.
- Your washing is now done 🙂
Hang up your clothing wherever you can, we use the dashboard area as we’ve mentioned before when wild camping or hang a line off the canopy if we can put it out. Sunny day = clothes dry in no time, (small things about 15 minutes, bedding takes about 30 minutes, wet dismal day they take a little longer but are dry in a couple of hours if left in the windscreen area.
Your clothes really do come up clean and I mean at least as clean as using your washing machine at home because the clothing soaks in the detergent and gets right into the fibers unlike a washing machine that uses brute force to clean your clothes. If you drive mid wash it agitates the water and gets a little more out too.
20L of water may seem a lot but that’s the maximum amount you need, you can get away with less depending of how much washing there is. Plus washing stuff in the shower or bowl uses a lot more water than you think.
Why do we have 2 boxes?
Well sometimes we have a lot of washing, especially with 2 dogs but we are lucky enough to be able to fit them in our garage as you can see in the photos below.
Our garage wash layout consists of the following: A White Kenight spinner with a load capacity of 4.1kg and spins at over 2800rpm. It stays on the left of the garage and isn’t moved to use it, the water goes straight outside into one of my beloved buckets, Our wash boxes go on the right, A JML type mat goes upside down on the bottom of the boxes & the folding stool doubles up as a great little washing platform.
The garage doors lip was too heigh so the spinners feet height was boosted with a door stop screwed to the existing feet and a garden kneel pad was cut into discs and pushed round it to absorb the vibrations and increase stability.
You soon get back the cost of the spinner too by not using launderettes and not using diesel to find them.
- Use a small amount of detergent. The soaking bit does a lot and if you add too much it just makes the rinsing side harder.
- For whites items just add a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to the wash water (basically “Oxyclean” on the cheap but just as good)
- If it’s hot and you leave the wash cycle soaking for more than about 12 hours it will start to smell a bit like a launderette. (Not good.)
- Use the dirty washing water to clean the grey tank. Pour into your empty grey tank and again drive from A to B, The washing detergent breaks a lot of the smelly stuff that accumulates in there down which ironically is mostly soapy residue.
- Use the rinse water to wash the next lot or to simply wash the van, It has softener in it so it helps not leave limescale marks on the paintwork as it dries (especially in hot weather).
- Never throw the washing water near the van, just like your grey water, flies and mosquitoes are attracted to it as it evaporates.
- If you have a caravan/motorhome then throw out some other stuff (maybe the kids for example, just kidding) and get a spinner, space permitting obviously, the amount of energy they use is minimal, (about 3-5amps) the amount of water and thus excess detergent they extract is maximum.
The first year we travelled we used this system but without the spinner and I must say it does makes a world of difference, clothes dry incredibly quick, the van doesn’t smell of launderette when you dry inside all because there is hardly any water or detergent left in your cloths.