We have been living in a van since 2018 and have discovered that as much as we would like to pretend you can still live a semi-normal life, the truth is everyday conveniences aren’t always available. Things like a running toilet and warm shower may not be in the next room and you have to find alternative methods to keep yourself clean. Vanlife hygiene is an important part of staying happy and healthy in a van.
This is why after two years in the van, we know all the best vanlife hygiene tips and products that will keep you clean and save you money in the long run!
7 Vanlife Hygiene Tips
Staying clean when you live in a van can be…difficult. Most conversion vans do not have a built-in shower and even the ones that do aren’t typically used regularly. This means that you need to have another option for showering and staying clean when you are on the road. As a vanlifer there are also going to be days…even weeks when a real shower is not available to you. This means you need to figure out the best way to stay clean so you don’t completely stink up the van. It’s not as gross as you think when you are out in the desert or in the forest you are hours away from civilization and it would cost time and money to go back into town just for a shower. So instead, utilize these vanlife hygiene tips to help you stay clean on the road.
1. Join a Gym
My first vanlife hygiene tip for staying clean on the road is to join a gym. Joining a cheap nationwide gym is one of the most popular ways in vanlife to shower regularly. Gyms like Planet Fitness cost around $24 a month and are nationwide. They are available in most towns and the bonus is that you also have a free unlimited guest pass. So if you have a partner or a friend you can get them in for free! Not to mention you have a place to get some exercise!
Pro Tip: When you do shower use a body scrub or a Korean washcloth to make sure and get nice and clean!
2. Buy an Outdoor Shower
An outdoor shower is a great way to shower when you aren’t in town or near civilization. There are several kinds of outdoor showers from a bucket and a hose to a solar shower that is set up through your roof rack. I also have a vanlife shower guide to break it down even further. For now here are a few options to for showering outdoors:
3. Utilize Dry Shampoo
Although we have found a pretty constant place to shower in vanlife there are going to be times when your gym isn’t in the area or you don’t want to drive all the way from your campsite back into town which can be hours away. You learn to go longer in between showers and dry shampoo is a great way to combat greasy hair.
Pro Tip: Use the shampoo before you need it, apply at night, and don’t apply directly to your scalp. My favorite is the Bumble and Bumble as it is a powder and lasts forever. Make sure and purchase the one that is meant for your hair color as well.
4. Take a Dry Shower
Ok so it’s not exactly a dry shower but there are ways to get the dirt off of you without an actual running stream of water. Here is how to take a dry shower:
- Baby Wipes: Baby wipes are a great way to clean in-between showers. Wipe down the err important areas from your armpits, feet, to private areas and you will much fresher than before.
- Wash Cloth and Soap: Another great option is to use a washcloth, some water, and soap like Dr. Bonners. It’s doesn’t need to be fully washed off but it will help you get a bit cleaner than before.
- Bucket Bath: If you’re really in need of getting clean then put a few cups of water into a bucket or container that you have handy and wash off with a washcloth and Dr. Bonners. It’s similar to the above method but you’d need to be outside and you are using more water. With this method, you could technically wash your hair!
5. Keep Your Van Clean
A way to stay clean is to keep your surroundings clean. This means keeping your van from getting filthy! Wiping down your counters and sweeping your floors will go a long way when you are out in the desert or in the wilderness. Also try not to use harsh chemicals, instead use natural cleaning supplies such as Dr. Bonners, Method, or even apple cider vinegar. I know when I clean with harsh chemicals I usually immediately want to hop into the shower, using a natural cleaner will help prevent that.
6. Keep Your Blankets Clean
Speaking of keeping your van clean, don’t forget to wash your blankets and laundry! Utilize laundry mats whenever possible and wash your sheets, blankets, and towels. There is nothing worse than going to bed in dirty sheets. Even if you are able to shower, you are going to feel dirty after sleeping in dirty sheets and blankets all night! Not to mention having clean clothes will keep you smelling fresh longer as well!
7. Clean Your Toilet
If you have opted for an indoor vanlife toilet then apart of vanlife hygiene is to make sure it isn’t smelly! Clean out your toilet whenever possible. Also, try to utilize public bathrooms when possible so you don’t have to worry about your toilet stinking up the van!
The Best Vanlife Hygiene Products to Stay Clean on the Road
Sometimes these hygiene tips don’t always pan out. For instance, we personally use Planet Fitness as our shower but when we are out in a National Park or in the wilderness for a few weeks that might mean we don’t have access to the gym shower and have to make do. There are weeks when we aren’t able to find a shower and times when we have to pee in a bottle. It’s not all beautiful but it doesn’t have to be stinky either. When we find ourselves in a bind and unable to find a shower there are a few hacks to make sure you are staying clean and fresh (as possible anyway). The best way to stay clean is by using some of the vanlife hygiene products that we personally recommend. Whether you are using a gym shower, a van shower, or no shower at all we hope these vanlife hygiene products help you stay clean!
1. Body Wipes
Recommend by my girl Katie, @soweboughtavan, Dude Wipes are a great way to stay clean when you don’t have access to a shower. Dude Wipes are basically a huge baby wipe that is made for the in-between shower moments. They are 25% larger than normal wipes and are made with plant-based fibers. Also being fragrance-free which is a big one for us as I hate most smells and don’t enjoy smelling like a baby’s butt. Despite the name, they are great for us ladies too. I’ve found them at both Amazon and Wal-Mart.
They also have powder available as well to help you stay fresh and clean.
2. Aluminum-Free Deodorant
I’m going to throw this one out there just in case you forgot about deodorant. Since you are living in a van and not able to shower every day it’s my opinion that if possible you should still wear deodorant. I get it though, you don’t want to clog up your pores with something that could possibly cause issues for you down the road. This is why I only use aluminum-free deodorants. Unlike a TON of Natural deodorants that I have tried Native actually works and keeps me mostly smelly free. Bonus: I have sensitive skin so I use the Cucumber Melon sensitive version. Another great option is Degree for men which if you use the deodorant only and NOT the Antiperspirant then it doesn’t have aluminum in it either and is more budget-friendly than brands like Native or Schmidt’s.
3. Bathroom Wipes
Whether you have an indoor toilet or have to use other means for a restroom, you still need toilet paper. To keep everything fresh and clean we use Cottonelle Wipes. They are right in the middle for pricing and they are pretty great quality. *If you are going to the bathroom outside ALWAYS remember to pack it out!
Don’t want to use wipes at all? Check out this highly-rated portable bidet that would be great to stow away in your backpack for when you are camping without restrooms!
4. Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoo is a long hair person’s best friend. I have been using dry shampoo since before vanlife and I will be using it for long afterward. Dry shampoo is a way to keep your hair cleaner for days after you have washed it with traditional shampoo and water. Dry shampoo comes in two main types: Aerosol and powder form. Honestly, the aerosol works way better but powdered dry shampoo is smaller and frankly better for the environment. To apply you simply spray or place powder a few inches from your scalp and then rub into your hair until it disappears. Living proof dry shampoo is my absolute favorite but for how much you are getting the price is pretty steep. I have Bumble and Bumble dry shampoo and it has lasted me honestly for years and for the price it is definitely worth it. For only around $5-6 dollars you can also get Batiste Dry Shampoo which will do the job as well.
5. Dental Hygiene Products
These are basics for life but I wanted to drop my favorite dental hygiene products in here so you had them handy. Staying clean on the road wouldn’t be possible without great dental hygiene and it begins with the basics: Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. As a vanlifer, you most-likely care about the environment which is why the toothbrush is eco-friendly. Tom’s Toothpaste is also eco-friendly and can be put into your grey water tank.
In a perfect world, you would be able to wash your face with face soap and warm water every night. Unless you have a water heater then I’m guessing you don’t take the time to boil water and properly wash your face every.single.night. At least I don’t which is why I like to have proper face wipes or products on hand to keep my pores clean and refreshed nightly. I personally like to make my own wipes using basic cotton rounds, lavender, and witch hazel but if you aren’t into DIY I would check these brands out! From basic wipes to washcloths that only need water to get your face makeup-free these vanlife hygiene products will keep your face clean!
7. Feminine Vanlife Hygiene Products
If you are a woman and still have a monthly period then you might be worried about how you will handle your cycle on the road. It’s a great age to be in as there are so many incredible products out there that make having a period much easier whether in day to day life or when traveling. There are products such as a diva cup that allow you to ditch tampons and only empty your cup a few times a day or you could opt for period underwear such as Thinx which allows you to go completely device free and only wear panties which soak up any blood. The downside to Thinx is you would need to wash them out that day which might be more difficult in a van.
8. Vanlife Smelly Feet Products
Hiking, running, and climbing are all super popular outdoor activities in the vanlife community. They are also activities where you might wear socks and shoes which typically lead to super smelly feet. This can be a major problem in such a small space. This is why I recommend taking a few measures to keep your feet and shoes smelling fresh. The first step is to clean those smelly feet with baby wipes. Next, if your shoes smell use a natural foot powder or spray.
9. Vanlife Dirty Laundry Hacks
After all of the steps, you have taken to stay clean, the most important thing you can do to keep your van from smelling is to properly stow away any dirty clothing until you can wash it. Throwing your dirty laundry in an open bag is only going to keep you and your van smelling like a filthy locker room and there is nothing more embarrassing than showing your van when laundry day is overdue. I recommend a simple sinch sack or proper laundry bag which will seal away all those smells safely tucked away. To top it off we personally add shoe deodorizers to the bag. Check out my post on vanlife laundry tips to learn more about doing laundry in a van.
10. Top Vanlife Hygiene Shower Items
When you do get the chance to shower, it’s super important that you get clean! I know this should go without saying but when you have been hiking and outdoors for stays without a shower it means you’ve got to take advantage of the warm water. To make sure you take down a couple of layers of skin we recommend you utilize a few items including face scrubs, washcloths, and scalp scrubbers.
The newest addition to my shower bag is the Korean washcloth which serves as a face and body scrubber. It even has a spot to either put soap or as a pocket for your hand to really get to scrubbing.
As you can see there are tons of vanlife hygiene products out there to keeping you feeling clean and fresh on the road. From body wipes to Korean scrubs you don’t have to worry about stinking up your van during those long weeks in the mountains. Do you have any favorite vanlife hygiene products? Let me know in the comments!
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Thanks for sharing a useful list. I wear XYXX innerwear which helps in absorbing sweat quickly. Just a suggestion!
I have tried many products to clean my van but got no result. I never thought Apple Cider vinegar would be able to clean this van effectively, but it works. Thanks for recommending this method which helped me to keep my van hygiene.