How not to Shower – 7 Hygiene Tips for Living in a Van

One of the first things, people ask me when they find out that I live in my van is: "Sounds awesome… But where do you shower?" It doesn't cease to amuse me, how people think, showering is the only way to clean yourself. I do admit I love showering. In fact, when I manage to get around a shower I always have to hold myself back from enjoying it too long. This post will answer your desperate questions about how hygiene works, living the van life...

One of the first things, people ask me when they find out that I live in my van is: “Sounds awesome… But where do you shower?”

No shower and yet fresh and clean!It doesn’t cease to amuse me, how people think, showering is the only way to clean yourself.
I do admit I love showering. In fact, when I manage to get around a shower I always have to hold myself back from enjoying it too long.

This post will answer your desperate questions about how hygiene works, living the van life.

 

1. Shower wherever you can.

Sounds obvious. And it is. There are plenty of ways to clean yourself, that don’t require a shower. But if I get around using one, I will. It’s amazing how many people whom I’ve only known for a few minutes offer me their shower in an instant and I am very grateful for that. And yet, their lovely ambitions probably result from the same thought, that most people have: “How the hell does he still look quite fresh without showering?”

Also, in some cities you can find public showers. I even found an underground shower in Nice, France. You pay a little fee and have hot water and everything you need.

Besides that, there are plenty of gyms and swimming pool halls that provide showers as well. If you stay in one city for longer, get a subscription for the time being and enjoy the other amenities at the same time.
If you don’t stay long, you can be cheeky and make use of the trial days, gyms usually offer to potential new customers.

 

2. Don’t use shampoo.

Not every Bathroom has a ShowerAnother one, many people can’t imagine. But as a matter of fact, I haven’t used shampoo since November 2012 – long before I even thought of living in a van. So how does my hair not get all greasy? It did in the beginning. But there is one thing you should know about human hair. It cleans itself. With the grease we all despise so much. Also it keeps the hair from getting too dry. And this is where the secret is hidden.

What does shampoo – all those chemicals you can find in it these days – do to your hair? It rips open the pores of it, while it removes the dirt. In other words, as soon as you dry your hair, it feels rather dry (that’s why most people use conditioner. It fills the destructed parts of your hair with even more chemicals. You remove the natural and insert the unnatural dirt that’s much harder to deal with for your body). And what happens, when your hair gets dry? It gets greasy rather quickly. Your body is trying to recover.

The secret about not having greasy hair without using shampoo is not using shampoo to begin with. I had to wait about three months until the extremely greasy time was finally over and my hair has gone back to it’s normal oil production.

Now I even save money not only on shampoo, but also on conditioner and hair wax (you can style your hair without it, if it’s not too long) while having healthier hair that only needs daily combing and combing under water every other week.

And no, it doesn’t stink. I keep asking people and they all say it kinda smells like baby hair – which makes total sense.

 

3. Shower less.

Same counts for your skin. Your body is capable of far more cleaning jobs than you might think.
I have noticed: The longer the time between showers, the longer it takes for my body to get smelly. Despite sweating in the Valencian sun.

I can’t explain how this happens, but after I noticed this, I got told that many people report similar.

The body seems to change it’s smell, but not to something unpleasant. Actually, now that I think about it, it might even raise your chances of getting laid, since you don’t constantly wash off the pheromones that get released with your sweat automatically 😉

 

4. A sponge and a quarter liter water do the job.

A nice Shower can be found by nice beachesI’ve heard different ways of using this method. If I really don’t get around basic hygiene for too long, I use a simple sponge, a soap bar and a little water from a bottle. Soap bar optional.

No water spilling and the job can even be done in the van.

Other people write about using a spray bottle to apply the water. I only poured it directly on the sponge so far. A spray sounds more convenient, though.

If you want warm water, you can heat it up in a kettle or in the sun, using a black plastic container.

I have many people recommending me baby wipes but personally, I think they are the environmentally more unfriendly version of using a sponge and soap. And they are more expensive too.

5. Use a Camping Shower

I haven’t made any experience with them yet, but I’ve heard mainly good things about the black bags with shower head.

They hold up to 20l and provide warm water if you hang them into the direct sun for a couple of hours.

I looked them up for you. You can find them here:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
(aff)

 

6. Use no water at all for basic hygiene in the van.

What are we freeing our body from, when we take showers? The dirt it can’t get rid of by itself: Which is mainly bacteria. Bacteria causes smell and sickness.

There are plenty of ways to get rid of bacteria without even using water.

Kittens by the beach of Sitges, SpainBaby powder is a classic. And even if it seems rather obvious, most people seem to forget about it. It is made to remove bacteria and to get wet (and sweaty) body parts dry. Bacteria flourishes in warm, moist areas. You can’t cool down your arm pits, but you can make them dryer.

Anti Deodorant as we all use it provides plenty of bacteria killers as well and can also be used on other body parts like smelly feet.

Antiseptic – I usually get the ones that are made of ethanol, since I want to clean my hands with it to put my contact lenses in. Ethanol can burn your eyes, so careful. Let your hands dry after applying to prevent that painful experience.

Vinegar kills bacteria as well and has a softening effect. Against all fears, no you won’t smell of vinegar all day. As soon as it dries, the smell will disappear. Just try not to get into rain.
I’ve used vinegar as hair conditioner for quite some time but came to the conclusion that it’s actually not necessary.

A body brush is of great help when it comes to removing dead skin. Especially your feet will thank you if you give them a proper scrubbing before you clean them (with water, antiseptic or baby powder)

A hair comb keeps most of the dirt out of your hair. Brush daily.

 

7. Wild waters will bring back the romantic part of van life.

A shower is nice, but can be replaced with a gorgeous lake!Yes, that’s when talk about hygiene in the vanlife gets less awkward. Rivers, lakes and hot springs are a pretty beautiful thing to clean your body in. Get closer to mother nature again and have a nice nightly skinny dip.

Going into the sea will clean you as well but leave a layer of salt on your body. That can be rather sticky and unpleasant, so I wouldn’t do it. But salt on certain body parts like your feet will keep them dry and take some room, bacteria could have spread in.

Make sure to stay safe when going into any wild waters.

 

Conclusion

You don't need a shower in your vanSo there you have some answers. I’m sure there are many more ways to clean yourself, but I wanted to cover the few topics I know most of.

Can you think of other alternatives to showers? Tell us in the comment area below!

  • Noah

    Great post! 🙂
    I would only like to add that the greasy phase after stopping the use of shampoos can vary greatly. For me – I didn’t even notice it. It was like my hair just adapted within a few days and my hair hasn’t gotten greasy ever since. Though before I did have problems with my hair getting greasy too quickly…

    • Thanks for sharing!
      I’ve had many people talk about different lenghts of grease time. So I assume it depends on the kindo of hair. I’ve also dyed my hair a lot. That might also be a reason why it took me longer…

  • Ileonichwiesz

    “Alcohol burns your eyes, so careful. Go with Ethanol instead.” Next time maybe try figure out what you’re talking about before you write stuff like this.

    • Janey04090

      Isn’t ethanol the same as alcohol? So what’s the best thing to use?

      • Ileonichwiesz

        Ethanol is a type of alcohol. An alcohol is a carbon chain ending in an OH function group, ethanol is the specific alcohol that humans drink.

        • Janey04090

          Thank you.

        • My bad. Thank you for the detailled info. I’ve changed it now 🙂

  • Janey04090

    More details please about living in your van? What about heat and cooking? Where is your home base?
    You need a legal address, what do you do, make one up?
    Lets see some pics of the interior off your van………….

    • Ileonichwiesz

      Why would they need a legal adress?

      • Janey04090

        First, a legal address is needed to register to vote, to obtain a credit card if so desired, to get a drivers license, to file your income tax return, etc. Some things you can use a PO box for, but not everything.

        • Ileonichwiesz

          I hardly think a commited traveller who lives in a van cares about voting, credit cards or taxes. As for a drivers licence, they probably got it while they still lived in a regular place.

          • Oh, and I do have a legal address. I just don’t live there. To make it blunt, it’s at my mum’s place.
            I do care about voting and whenit seems reasonable, I also do it.

            However, I do not own a credit card and have no intention of changing that.

            • It fascinates me sometimes the sheer wonder of people… they think that you give up all your rights as a citizen as soon as you say ‘I am living in a van’! Some people automatically assume you to look like the local hobo, with no hygiene, no money and.. well.. frankly, the dregs of society (as I’ve been called myself). I just don’t tell many people I live in my camper (attached) it confuses too many people!… bless their little cotton socks! lol

              • Is that your camper? looks really cute and cosy 😀

                I have to say thta most people I encounter (mostly frommy generation) think that I’m doing somezhing pretty cool. They tend to see more the romantic aspects of it. Maybe it’s different, here in Europe. I don’t know. But I’ve also come to realise that it’s down a lot to one’s own attitude. If one starts believing what they say subconsciously – if only for a second – you are very likely to become exactly what you are so scared off. Self-discrimination it’s called I think…

                It’s important to stay trueto yourself at any time. If you come to the point where you say “Everybody thinks I’m a Hobo anyway,so why bother about Hygiene…”, you’ve already lost the game. Makesure to prove them wrong and make society better ‘shower by shower’ 😛

                • Hey,

                  Yup, that’s my baby! He’s got everything I need (Solar Shower, sink with water pump, leisure battery for lights, water pump and charging my electronics. wardrobe, 2 burner gas cooker, grill, fridge, plenty of storage space, 3 interior lights, a double bed in the ‘roof’ and another made up ‘downstairs’! It’s called a T1000 ‘Romance’ … So it’s either a disguised terminator, or I’m gonna fall in love! … I definitely see travelling / exploring etc., romantic. Nothing ‘hobo’ about it, (regardless of the abuse shouted at me I laugh as they walk past shouting …whatevers… on their way to the institution or corporation that will give them money in exchange for their freedom.. and I can do whatever I want! You’re right with the self-discrimination, your words become your actions, your actions become you. Be kind to you. 😉

    • Hey there! Thanks for all the questions!

      In the Series you can see some videos of the van and some of my first experience: http://aboutwings.com/the-adventure

      This was actually the first actual blog article. But I will definitely take all your questions in account when I write the next ones!

  • chrispusattucks

    I noticed that at no time did you mention wiping yourself with fifteen baby wipes. Well done!

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  • van dude

    Hey fellow van dude, I’ve been using a mix of vinigar and a few drops of tee tree oil ( bout 4-5 drops for 500 ml vinigar),and it cleans my hands really well , the tee tree oil is really strong though so go easy . for cleaning my pots and pans I first spray them with vinigar and then use a spatula to scrape the sides clean then , repeat this till the pan is clean and give a good wipe with a paper towel, and then I spray and wipe with vodka( not sure if I’m going overboard wit da vodka , but I don’t wana get a sore tummy, and so far never had a sore tummy 🙂

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