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:
- Laundromat or other laundry services
- Laundy machine at a caravan/rv park
- Shower or sink (on board or at a camp site)
- Wide neck drum
- Hand or foot powered mini washing machine
- 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.
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.
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.
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 .
Or similarly, the Laundry Pod (max. load: 3kg)
C) Or you can invest in the 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 we could buy it in Europe.
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.
Then we came across the Daewoo wall-mounted front-load mini washer (DWD-CV701PC; 220~240V, 16.5 kg, energy efficiency class A++).
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!
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