Overland travel: Washing your clothes on the road

Daewoo Mini Washer | Overland travel | Terratrotter

One of the challenges overland travelers face is how to wash your clothes. Before we left for our big adventure we identified 6 primary options, each with it benefits and drawbacks:

  1. Laundromat or other laundry services
  2. Laundy machine at a caravan/rv park
  3. Shower or sink (on board or at a camp site)
  4. Wide neck drum
  5. Hand or foot powered mini washing machine
  6. Electrical powered mini washing machine

 

1. Laundromat or other laundry services

Laundry services (e.g., dry cleaner) are in many western countries expensive, but in Africa and Asia a budget friendly option. You might consider it as a way to contribute to the local economy. But when laundry services are cheap in the country you’re traveling through we would advice you to ask yourself “why is it so cheap?”, “Where/how are they washing my clothes?” (e.g., dirty river?),.. before dropping of clothes or linen you care about.

 

laundromat

Laundromats are an another way to make use of local facilities, but with the benefit that you know “how” your clothes are washed and that many offer WiFi to let you catch up with the online world while waiting.

We considered this option for a while, until we realized that in many countries Laundromats are increasingly hard to find. In addition, they are often located in city centers, making accessibility and parking difficult. You can see the obstacle here, especially with a truck like ours.  So with our travel plans and truck we better look for a better solution.

 

2. Washing machine at caravan/rv parks

At most caravan/rv parks (“camping’’) you can use a washing machines on site (if you pay for it of course). Some of them are really good, others are almost literally running to the dumpster.

The limited experience we have with these parks thought us that you can be lucky and run several machines one after one another, while at other times you will have to wait in line. We never had the luxury of a dryer, thus better plan your washing days when the sun is shining bright.

It’s also wise to bring your own “foldable” clothesline or drying rack along. Many parks don’t allow, out of safety reasons, to string a line between trees (or your vehicle and a tree). We learned about that in a RV park in Bled, Slovenia. Luckily we had a foldable drying rack with that we could mount on the bumper, door or window. (Another option we created is to hang a clothesline underneath our platform.)

So depending on the country (-ies) you travel through (caravan parks are rare or non-existing in some countries) and the time you want to spend in these parks, using the washing machines at the RV parks can be a good solution for many travelers.

 

3. Shower or sink

The hand wash or sink method needs little explanation and is always something you can fall back on. The Scrubba Wash Bag can help you on your way.

Scrub Wash Bag | Overland Travel

 The shower-method we never practiced ourselves, but read about overland travelers who put their dirty laundry on the shower floor, while taking a shower.  The pounding of the feet together with the soap, should at least get your clothes “refreshed”.  We wonder if they put them in an extra “bag” or some sorts, because we have seen shower floors that will likely make your laundry dirtier instead of cleaner.

It’s advised with both these methods to wash your clothes often so they don’t get too dirty and early on a sunny day to get them dry on time.

 

4. Wide neck drum

For 10 years Elmer traveled with a “laundry drum” on the roof of his Landrover Defender.

Wide neck drum | Laundry | Overland travel

He simply filled it with water, soap and his dirty laundry; strapped it to the roof and went for a few hours drive.

This method doesn’t require electricity or an extravagant amount of water, its cheap and can be placed practically anywhere in- or outside the vehicle. And when you are not planning to drive for a while you can use the drum for a hand wash.

But again really dirty clothes will unlikely get entirely clean (this is less a problem if you travel for a shorter period of time). So also with the drum method it’s best to wash often and to leave enough time in the day to let your clothes dry.

The lack of spinning to shorten the drying time worried us, since we don’t always travel through hot climates. The drum therefore did not make the cut.

 

5. Hand or foot powered mini washing machine

A manual powered mini washer is the answer when you want to mimic a normal washer (wash-rinse-spin) and you have enough space on board, but not the electrical capacity.

A) You can construct your own washer, using a bucket and rubber plunger. Although this method still not spins, you can “press” more water out your clothes .

DIY washer

B) You can also purchase the rather cheap EasyGo Washer (or look-alike the Wonder Wash) It looks like a cement mixer and can wash approx. 2kg.

EasyGo Washer | Overland Travel

Or similarly, the Laundry Pod (max. load: 3kg)

Laundry Pod | Washer | Overland travel

 

C) Or you can invest in the Yirego Drumi

Yirego Drumi

We seriously considered these options since you can use them independently of electricity or driving. The more we thought about it, and after reading reviews, option A & B eventually looked too labor intensive. The concept of option C, the Yirego Drumi, we really liked, but found it expensive and more importantly we could not wait till 2017.

 

6. Electrical powered mini washing machine

So after considering all the previous options we arrived at our final choice, purchasing an electrical powered mini washer.  When we started our building project, and more importantly when we installed our electrical system, we didn’t think we would ever put this into our truck.

We first looked into the standard RV/caravan washers. Although they were surprisingly cheap(-ish) and light, many don’t spin your laundry or have a separate  spinning compartment. Thus, forcing us to choose between wet clothes that will take forever to dry or sacrificing precious space for a large washer. Neither of these two choices we liked.

Caravan washer | Overland travel

 

Then we came across the Daewoo wall-mounted front-load mini washer (DWD-CV701PC; 220~240V, 16.5 kg, energy efficiency class A++).

Daewoo-Mini-Washer-In use

Note: The washer can also be called the Exquisit DWD-CV701PC. We have heard its also called Electrolux in some countries (e.g., Brazil & UK)

The maximum laundry load is 3kg. We washed for example 6 t-shirts, 5 boxershorts, 4 panties, 1 washcloth, 1 short in one load with ease.  It runs very quiet – our water pump makes far more noise – and our clothes come out clean.

We successfully ran the cold cycle (15-20°, 29min) with solar power on a sunny day.

When the washer needs to warm up the water for the warmer programs (40, 60 or 80°C) our inverter (Victron Multiplus compact 1600) reports an “overload” alarm. Sadly the instructions also mention not to connect the washer to a hot water tap. We circumvent this issue by using shore power; then we can wash on warmer temperatures. Thus, we have the choice between upgrading our inverter at some point or find shore power if cold cycles no longer suffice to get our clothes clean.

Other program options on this washer are delicate, extra rinse cycles, rinse + spin cycle, and spin only cycle. In other words, more than enough choices for an on-board washing machine.

 

We hope this overview helps you prepare for your next overland trip!

 

20 thoughts on “Overland travel: Washing your clothes on the road
    1. Thanks Gerard! It always takes my by surprise how much time goes into writing a post like this, but receiving replies likes yours makes it worth it. Thank you!

  1. Did you tried to wash on the inverter whilst simultaneous run the engine?
    Is it true that cloths shrink when using a Korean washing machine?

    1. No we have not tried that yet. Great idea!

      Is it true that cloths shrink when using a Korean washing machine?

      Ah is that it, and we were thinking “the good life” had its impact 😉

    2. No we have not tried that yet. Great idea!

      Is it true that cloths shrink when using a Korean washing machine?

      Ah is that it, and we were thinking “the good life” had its impact 😉

  2. Great review !
    Believe it or not we’re looking to buy one for on our boat , same principle with lack of space 🙂
    luckily we have a 6.5Kva 220v diesel generator so power should not be an issue , just finding a place to put it is

    anyway , thanks for the review

    1. Thanks / Dankjewel Rene!

      We had to puzzle as well to find a place where to install it. But eventually we found the perfect spot for it.

      Enjoy your water adventures!
      Nicole & Elmer

  3. Hi Nicole and Elmer,
    I guess you have used your washing machine now a couple of times. How is it working out? Are you happy with it? Would you install it again if you were to build a new truck?
    Do you have a picture of the installed washing machine in your truck?
    BTW, you have a very nice blog. Traveling with my family through Europe I can relate to many things and situations you are writing about.
    Keep up the good work.
    Martin

    1. Hi Martin,

      We are very happy with it. We would absolutely install it again; no doubt about it. It works very well and it just saves us so much hassle. It is on our list of best purchases.
      All the pictures in the post are the washing machine installed in our truck. Could you be more precise what kind of picture you would still like to see?
      And thank you for the kind compliment. It would be nice if we can meet one day somewhere on the European roads!

      Happy travels,
      Nicole & Elmer

      1. Hi N&E,
        the only picture I see is the one of the washing machine installed and the frame that you built to hang it up. Are there no closets around it? Or is it hanging on an empty wall?
        Is it installed in the living space or in the storage compartment?
        How much does it vibrate when spinning?
        I’m thinking of installing it in my storage compartment, maybe on a slide out.
        If you see a big yellow Mercedes truck on your trip, that would be me with my family. But we are right now in the Netherlands and heading west to France, Spain, Portugal to get to Morocco in January. You never know, one day we might meet.

        1. Hi Martin,

          Currently there are indeed no closets around it. But hopefully by the end of November there will be some. The washing mashing is installed in the storage compartment underneath the bed. I will add better pictures later, but as you can see on the picture below, left from the (frame of the) washer you have the water tanks and on the right the electrical system (which we will box in soon).

          The washer probably vibrates as much a regular modern washer. But since the frame is so tightly connected to the wall and the floor it barely vibrates. Our water pump vibrates more (and is lot louder too). I’m not sure how it will react on a slide out; but I’m sure you will find a way to make it work!
          We’re in the Netherlands in December (in Belgium end of November), so if you like to meet up to see the washer in action, just send us a PM when you are around.

          Nicole & Elmer

  4. Hey,

    we found you on Twitter because you write about washing on the road.
    The article describes most of our thoughts. We will probably choose the wide barrel version. This is better than washing by hand. A electric washing machine, for us, has nothing to do with camping.

    By the way: Nice Blog.
    We hope to met u “three” someday on the road.

    greetings

    Gabi & Vasco

    1. Hi Gabi & Vasco

      Always interesting to hear how people find their way to our website, and glad you did!
      The wide barrel version is for sure a good choice, since it worked for me as well all those years I was traveling with my Land Rover. But to be honest, the dry spinning cycle on the electric did it for us to make the choice to go to an electric laundry machine. And off course since we had the space available..

      We’ll be looking for you on the road!

      P.S.: Nice website you have yourself as well!!

      Happy Travels

      Elmer & Nicole

  5. The Wonderwash from The Laundry Alternative is better quality, the Easy Go is a knockoff. The Wonderwash lid is much easier to use and the machine won’t crumble at the axle in a couple of years or so.

    1. Hi Dave,

      We keep an eye out for a laundry mat/service for the big items (especially when the weather is bad). But when needed our machine can handle the sheets separately. Underneath our platform we have a long laundry line where the sheets can dry.

      Cheers,
      Nicole & Elmer

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