Van Living and Keeping Clean: Yes, It’s Possible!
Perhaps one of the most common questions we get asked when people find out we live in our van is about the basics: how do you keep clean?
Mork, our VW T4 Westy, has nearly everything we need: beds, storage, sink, stove and refrigerator. But sadly, we lack some basics. No toilet, shower or washing machine. This is van living.
Through trial and error, we’ve come up with solutions for each. These are just a few ideas for those of you that don’t want to sacrifice cleanliness for the luxury of traveling in your van/RV/car:
Shower Power While You’re On the Euro Road
There truly is nothing so revitalizing as a shower after a long day’s journey. We have a solar-heated shower pack, something similar to this shower bag:
Some other portable shower options:
- A tent shower that comes with its own 5-gallon water bag. The tent idea is nice for a little privacy if you’re in a slightly crowded area.
- Another portable shower option is one that’s designed for truck drivers and comes equipped with a heating system.
You could go to a gym for a minimum fee; one of our solutions was to go to swimming pools in the summertime.
The costs weren’t much, the exercise was great and the showers were nice. *One note about public showers: wear protective shoes, there are all sorts of wonky bacteria that might be floating around.
Another solution we came up with is doing a trade with B & Bs or ‘agritourism’ farms (the second in Italy, specifically). We researched and then contacted inns that were located in the area we wanted to stay in, offering a trade.
Armando did short promotional videos and I wrote about a few of them. Think about your skills and what you might be able to offer- and the trade off usually comes with a free room/shower/toilet and WiFi connection.
Emergency clean-up: Last-minute or last options for bathing: either do a cloth wash using the sink or use baby-safe wet wipes. It won’t make you feel as refreshed as a real shower, but they do work for being clean.
Toilets in European Travel
I know, as an American, that it’s super easy to find public toilets in the States. Europe, however, is a completely different story. Yes, of course there are McDonalds and such (many public toilets, including at gas stations, charge for the ‘service’); however, we have found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, by choice, from time to time.
A few options for those of you that don’t have built-in toilets:
Portable Bio Toilet: There are actually a lot of port-a-potties on the camping market, but the most ‘bio-friendly’ toilet is the one that we’ve found most interesting.
For the ladies: Armando doesn’t understand my fixation with his ease of being able to relieve himself. Most men don’t, for that matter. Ha. However, the Lady P is a clever alternative for women in the wild. Or at a roadside.
Emergency toilets: It’s not the prettiest of topics, but it should be mentioned that toilet emergencies do happen. Our suggestion: have a backup bucket with bio bags at the ready.
Laundry and Bedding in Europe
It really does depend on the country– some countries have tons of Laundromats, some only have dry cleaners. In Istanbul, the Chillout Cengo Hostel offers a laundry service. In Berlin, Freddy Leck (one of the coolest cats in Berlin) has a chic Laundromat with both coffee and free WiFi. We’ve found doing a little research and then asking the locals is our best bet for finding inexpensive laundry services.
Emergency laundry: I came across this great video for those laundry-emergency moments on the road. It’s how to wash small items of laundry using a Loksak:
These are our tips, please feel free to add more below! We’re always up for new-and-improved, especially when it comes to the clean of the thing. Grin. We hope this has been helpful for any of you that find yourselves looking to take care of the body basics.
Simple solution to both a black shower bag and inflatable baby pool to bath in and a bucket with lid and bio bags with kitty litter. a clean bucket and plunger with some string would work for a washer and dryer.
Actually from last year we have the road shower by our sponsor Gowesty. Pretty cool and so useful.