Van Hygeine 101

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Van Hygeine 101

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Where do you shower?

Wait, do you have a toilet in there?!

So many questions about hygiene while living in a van, so let’s talk about it. Meeting daily hygiene tasks can definitely be a challenge for van life.  The fact that I work full time has made this easier but also more difficult at the same time. Let’s break it down by BADL tasks (Basic Activity of Daily Living). I am an Occupational Therapist and helping people figure out how to do these type of tasks is my job, so it should be easy for me, right? Eh. It should be, but as mentioned previously, I am lazy so it’s a struggle for me. Living without running water makes these needs very challenging but I am making due; here’s how:


I don’t have a shower in my van and don’t plan on adding one. As I said in my 5 things that happen when you live in a van post , I do not shower every day and honestly never have. So if you are someone who NEEDS to shower every day you will definitely want some type of shower set up if you ever plan on living in a van. I aim to shower every other day; if I workout I definitely shower that day. I only wash my hair 3x a week and dry shampoo enables this behavior. Check out my favorite one HERE.

I have been living in the van for one year now. During my first job on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska I worked at a hospital and outpatient clinic. Both had showers and a gym that I could use FOR FREE! I was pretty much the only one who used the gym and shower at the clinic so it was a pretty sweet deal. Now I have a membership at Planet Fitness which is use as my primary place to shower. The upside is it’s cheap, the downside is there are no towels, so having to hang up my wet towel in the van to dry is kind of a nuisance, but I have a routine now.   My amazing sister found me this travel hanging toiletry bag which is pretty much the best thing for any traveler. I really love it  because it can hold all my toiletry items and can hang on a shower or towel rod which makes showering in public places much easier and convenient.

She bought mine at TJ MAXX, but here is one on amazon that is pretty similar


Every morning I get up and brush my teeth. When I was more stealthily camping I would keep my toiletry bag in my work bag and wash my face and brush my teeth in the bathroom I worked at. Now that I am staying at a more secluded spot I brush my teeth with a half gallon of water and wash my face with a washcloth and soap. I always have and will always have a hard time waking up early. I always say that “sleeping sarah” doesn’t care about anything, thus I often find myself running late and in a rush. I keep these Cetaphil face wipes handy if I need to rush and I am often brushing my hair as I’m driving to work. I used to wear a little make up everyday but I don’t find it worth the time anymore.


So as I talked about in my van conversion post, I bought the portable toilet because I thought I needed it. I’ve only used it twice and it’s gets more use as a seat than a toilet. Since I work full time and am out and about throughout the day I prefer to just use public restrooms. The portable toilet (link) is good to have but it’s not fun to deal with after the fact. You pretty much have to deal with it immediately if you don’t want a smell in your tiny place. I keep toying with the idea of getting rid of it but the “what if’s” in my brain keep going off.

Inconveniences of van life

Meeting your daily grooming and hygiene needs is definitely one of the most inconvenient parts of van life for me. Since I work full time I find myself having to plan out my showers in order to make things run more smoothly. But on the other hand, it definitely makes me go to the gym and work out more haha. During my second week living in the van I got very sick. I was staying in a Walmart parking lot and it was bad. I didn’t know anyone that I could stay with so I ended up getting a hotel room, because sometimes you just need a real bathroom. That was the only real difficult experience I have had thus far.

The only way I can stay on top of things is looking at my schedule Sunday and planning out showers around my schedule. This is definitely annoying and not the best part about van life but right now the positives are outweighing the negatives. I think one day it might be nice to have some type of composting toilet, but this wouldn’t fit with the current set up. Now that I have a more legit camp site it makes things a little easier; I can wake up every morning, brush my teeth, wash my face and it’s actually my favorite part of the day (especially when the weather is nice). I have learned to be very resourceful and flexible which is 100% necessary with this type of lifestyle.

Do you think you could deal without running water? Do you have any other questions about van hygeine? Please Comment Below!

About the Author


Sarah is the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. She is a traveling Occupational Therapist and lives in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito). She is collecting experiences not things and enjoying the simple life while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

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