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Laundry Hacks For Boondockers: Keeping Your Clothes Clean Off-Grid

This post was updated on March 15th, 2024

Off Grid Laundry: Tips & Tricks TO Keep Your Clothes Clean

While some RVs (and lucky RVers) are equipped with washer and dryer units, most of us are not as fortunate. If you tend to boondock off-grid with limited water, it’s even more challenging.

However, it’s not impossible. I’ve boondocked in the middle of the Nevada and California desert with very little water and have still been able to wash and dry basic items such as underwear, socks, and t-shirts.

Of course, just about every little small town or larger campground has a laundromat. Visiting them is just part of the boondocking adventure. Laundromat time is also a great time to grab some lunch and replenish the water and food supply. It’s also a nice time to check out local lunch spots while the clothes are drying.

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Larger items such as sweaters and jackets and towels, and bedding can be taken to a laundromat, but it’s easy to wash smaller items while you are off-grid.

But if you want to stay off-grid for as long as possible, doing laundry in your trailer or camper is a good skill to have and one that might need to be learned. It’s easy to forget how much time is saved and how much water is used in a washing machine while living in a traditional house that is not on wheels.

Below are several tips to help keep your clothes fresh and clean while living off-grid.

Water, water, water!

Keeping an eye on our water levels while boondocking is a daily job. Drinking, cooking, showering, and washing dishes take a big chunk of the percentage. Doing laundry comes in dead last.

One way to remedy this is to keep a dedicated container of water just for doing laundry. This will help you ration it and keep it separate from your drinking and cooking water.

Having a creek, river or lake nearby is helpful for extra water, but is not always possible. This is especially true in the American Southwest deserts. If you do happen across some fresh water sources, have that container ready to fill to use for doing laundry.

Another tip is to make sure to use most of that water for rinsing out the clothes. Washing clothes can take a small fraction of your water, but you need to make sure that all the dirty water and soap is rinsed out or you just end up with wet, stinky clothing.

What soap should you use?

Because we are camping off-grid and usually have to dump gray water onto the ground, it’s imperative to stick with biodegradable laundry soap. Some of these include Sea to Summit’s Wilderness Wash, Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, and Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Laundry Detergent. Bar soap is also handy for really scrubbing the more stained or stinky areas.

Space is important while living in a camper or trailer, and one good way to save space is to use laundry sheets. These compressed sheets of laundry soap look like dryer sheets, but quickly dissolve in water. They take up barely any room in their thin, cardboard packaging.

When boondocking, this is also a great time to skip the typical items used in home washing machines. This includes pre-washing liquid, softeners, and bleach. These products are not usually biodegradable and will sting and irritate your hands.

RV off grid laundry Source: Shutterstock

What’s the process for washing clothes while off-grid?

It’s pretty easy, but you do have to get your hands wet.

When I’m boondocking, I have a collapsible dishwashing container that I use for washing clothes. I fill it with warm water and add half or one of my favorite laundry sheets or several drops of Dr. Bronner’s. Then I add a few items of clothing while being careful not to cram the container.

I then scrub each item really well with my hands or a small scrubbing brush. I’ll dedicate more time to the armpits on shirts and the crotch of underwear. Since I don’t like wrinkled fingers, I will only do this with a few items such as lightweight pants, t-shirts, underwear, and socks.

When the clothes have been washed in soap, I’ll take them out of the basin, empty the basin into a bush or onto the ground, and then rinse it out and re-fill it with fresh warm or cool water for rinsing. I will then rinse each item separately until the water starts to get a little dirty, replace the water, and then repeat the process. Having clean, fresh water for each item will help to get most of the soap out.

In addition to handwashing, there are some great products available for off grid laundry and a few ways to DIY your own hack of the same versions.

Off-grid laundry gear and alternative hacks

Depending on the amount of space you have in your RV and how much gear you want to deal with, here are two options for a more hands-off approach to keeping your clothes clean.

Scrubba Wash Bag

World travelers and RVers tout the ease and simplicity of the Scrubba Wash Bag. The bag is a portable washing bag with small inner nodules that act as a washboard. Just place your clothes, some water, and soap inside and scrub away. Your hands stay dry and the clothes get clean in minutes.

However, the price tag may be a little steep just for washing a few pairs of undies or socks. A similar way to wash your clothes is to just wash your clothes in a clear dry bag with a roll-top closure. You may need to agitate the clothes a little more than the Scrubba, but a dry bag is a lot less expensive.


The WonderWash is not only an RVer’s friend, but it has been used in developing countries and by tiny house dwellers for years. This compact, non-electric washer comes with a container that holds your clothes and a handcrank for washing and spinning. Water drains out via a small hose.

If you balk at the $70 price of the WonderWash and don’t want to crank a handle, then do it the lazy way.

Buy a small bucket with a sealable lid such as a Home Depot bucket or an airtight bucket with a gamma lid. Place your clothes, water, and soap inside and roll the bucket around to agitate the clothing. This is where it can get fun. Kick the bucket around with your feet or put in in your vehicle or RV while driving to slosh the water and soap around. Do the same with the rinse water.

Drying clothes

How that you’ve washed your clothes, how do you dry them?

If you are camping in the desert, drying your clothes is easy. Hanging them in the sun and wind will have them dry in probably 15 minutes. More humid climates may take a bit longer. The type of fabric is helpful too. Cotton takes much longer to dry than manmade fabrics, or wool and silk.

For drying clothes off-grid, pack a camping, retractable, or adjustable clothesline and a few clothespins. The longer the clothesline, the better. This is just in case you are unable to find supports that are close to each other. It’s best to hang your line in the sun with the best access to a breeze.

If it is raining or less than ideal weather, then you may need to hang the clothes up inside or under an awning. For this situation, a drying rack comes in handy. Hang collapsible hanging drying racks in your shower or under your awning. These won’t be blown over by wind or knocked down by pets or children such as drying racks that stand on the floor.

Get tips from other RVers

Doing laundry while off-grid or on the road may seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s not really a big deal. In fact, doing it the DIY way seems to be the easiest way. There are no machines to keep clean or repair, and it saves you water for more useful things such as that cool shower on a hot day.

One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and more.

Image Sources

  • Camping,On,Beach,,Adventure,Concept.,Clothes,Hanging,To,Dry,On: Shutterstock

2 thoughts on “Laundry Hacks For Boondockers: Keeping Your Clothes Clean Off-Grid”

  1. While it does not do many clothes at a time we bought a collapsible washing machine off TEMU. Less than $30, takes up almost no room and does a good job. Does need a 110 circuit but with solar and our lithium batteries it uses very little electricity and uses very little water. Great for washing socks, underwear and light shirts.

  2. When “off-grid” and having a water source nearby, we like to use a 5-Gallon Bucket with a lid and a Toilet Plunger with an Acrylic Handle and Silicon Plunger Bottom.
    1) Cut a hole in the middle of the bucket lid that will allow the toilet plunger handle to be inserted.
    2) Drill/Punch several holes in the silicon bottom of the plunger to allow water to circulate, and not allow the plunger to stick to the bottom of the bucket.
    3) Fill bucket about half-full of water and add laundry detergent
    4) Add a few clothes to be washed.
    5) Stick handle of plunger through lid, from the bottom and loosely secure lid to bucket.
    6) Work plunger up-and-down, in bucket to agitate clothes.
    7) After agitating clothes for a few minutes, transfer wrung out clothes to rinse bucket/container and agitate a bit to remove detergent residue.
    8) Wring, and hang on clothesline until dry.

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