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.
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.
Another 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.
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 😉
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.
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:
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.
Baby 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.
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.
Can you think of other alternatives to showers? Tell us in the comment area below!