Van Hygiene 101

SarahVan Life6 Comments

Van Hygiene 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 into 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.

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Why its Okay for a Girl to Live in a Van

My Van Life Fails (so far)

Van Life Resources


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 used 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.

Van Hygiene

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

Update: I am currently in Colorado and found it cheapest to pay monthly rent at a campground. The best part is they have indoor bathrooms and showers. Meeting my hygiene needs is significantly easier living at a campground!


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 in 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. “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 makeup every day but I don’t find it worth the time anymore.

Van Life


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 getting 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 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.

Van Hygiene 101

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 of 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 campsite 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 for this type of lifestyle.

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

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

6 Comments on “Van Hygiene 101”

  1. Hi. I’m new to Van Living. I was looking at doing a compost toilet where the solid is seperate. What do you do with the waste when you are traveling? Thank you. Kristine

    1. Hey Kristine,

      I do not have a composting toilet, but if I had the room I would! I have heard very good things from friends and other van and RV dwellers. Hope this helps.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Hi, I am seriously considering investing into a van conversion but I was curious on how the insurance works?

    1. Hi Tass,

      I honestly don’t know, I should look more into this. My van technically only has a platform bed and some storage so it’s not technically a dwelling (bathroom and shower etc), I use regular car insurance. Thanks for reading!

  3. We are long time campers – we bought a Magellan toilet seat and lid for $12 that fits on a 5 gallon bucket that we already had. The key is to line it with a heavy duty Drum Liner (what they are called at Sam’s Club). It is large enough that it covers the entire inside, plus drapes over the outside. We put a scoop of kitty litter in it to absorb the liquid and keep odors down. But I usually empty it every day anyway. The plastic liner keeps the inside and outside clean so you never have to really clean them. It is no different than putting the contents of a cat’s litter box int the trash. And costs very little. Tip: buy the unscented kitty litter. The scented stuff is horrible!

    1. Thanks Paula this is really great advice! Since I work full-time weeks at a time, I feel like it’s not worth the hassle as I have access to bathrooms most of the day, but it’s still nice to have one for emergencies during long trips or at night.

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