Words of Wisdom: “What really helps both methods is the clothes I choose to begin with. They're almost exclusively campwear, beach wear, sports wear, that sort of thing. My work outfits are dark, plain-colored board shorts or swim trunks with the webbing cut out, and long-sleeve black ”DriWorks“ shirts. My “going out” clothes are just decent looking performance garments meant for camping/hiking/outdoorsy stuff, and a couple decent polos. The only cotton stuff I have anymore are socks, underbritches, and a couple denim jeans that I try not to wear.” – tatertom1)
Most people do their laundry at a laundromat like anyone who doesn't own a washer/dryer. It's not that bad:
The only real pro tip here is to bring your own detergent; buying it at the laundromat is very expensive.
Bucket washing is a normal fact of live for off-grid families. For vehicle dwellers, there are some important limitiations to consider:
Remember that wash water doesn't have to be potable. If you find a rest area with non-potable water outlets it could be a sign to do laundry.
A common off-grid clothes washing solution is a bucket with a laundry plunger. These plungers differ from toilet plungers because their design forces water back-and-forth through the laundry.
A regular broom handle will screw into the plunger, allowing standing operation.
You can make a great washer with 2five gallon buckets and a plunger. Drill holes in the bottom of one. Place it inside the other, with clothes inside the innermost bucket and plunge away! To wring out, take the no-hole bucket and nest it in the holed bucket with the clothes and sit on it. Then line dry to complete. No electricity required and it doubles as a laundry hamper. JaredUmm3)
So at laundry time, I go into the Walmart and get a gallon jug of water and pour it in the washing machine. Then I add a dash of chlorine bleach, stuff the laundry in, screw on the lid, and crank the machine for three minutes. The chlorine cleans and disinfects everything, and also bleaches out the surface dirt. I can then remove the clothing one piece at a time, wring the water out, and hang it up to dry (I have a number of hooks on the walls of the van specifically for drying laundry.) Since the chlorine evaporates away, I don’t have to rinse them. T-shirts dry in just a few hours, and jeans are usually dry by the next morning.
Also see this blog post.
Scrubba and similar camping wash bags work by filling with clothes and washwater. As the hiker walks or van moves the water sloshes around and cleans the clothes.
I use a dry bag. Load with a handful of clothes, add soap, then water, close it up and play hackey sack with it for a few minutes. Open it and roll out the soapy water, then fill it again with water for a rinse cycle. Repeat last step until the water coming out is clear. Wring, then hang dry. – tatertom4)
SunnySouthTexas uses a washboard.5)
There are small electric washing machines that may be workable for vandwellers:
Wringing removes excess water before drying. This speeds drying time, reducing the opportunity for mold/mildew to grow, and keeps water from dripping in the drying area.
Buttons and other breakable items should be laid flat before going through a roller
Salad spinners and similar hand-powered devices may be used to fling out some water, but they are difficult to balance. The largest item Secessus was able to spin-dry was a pair of calf-length socks.
Some have reported good luck with powered spinners.
after bucket testing
Allow clothes to dry out a bit before putting them in a ventilated (mesh?) bag. This will prevent them from mildewing.