How to Bathe When You Live in a Van.

There’s a lot of variety in van dweller bathing. Some people carry five gallon buckets to stand in while they dump water over their head. I don’t have room for a bucket and I can’t stand up, so my strategy is a little lower key.

I have two and a half main bathing strategies: one for when I’m in the woods, one for when I’m in a city dancing, and half of one for when I’m on the highway or in a city not dancing. I’ll address hair completely separately.

Woods Bathing

You need only three things – a spray bottle, a washcloth, and soap. I use the soap my Aunt Diane makes, but if you don’t have an Aunt Diane Dr. Bronners is a good multi-purpose non-toxic soap (plus the stuff on the bottle is funny).

First look around and make sure there still aren’t any people around. Then put your dog in the van so that if a hostile person happens to show up you can just jump in the van without worrying about your dog. Always best to be prepared.

Second, spray yourself down with water, head to toe. Don’t worry about getting your hair wet. It should take about a quarter of the bottle of water. Then take the washcloth and scrub, head to toe, armpits, cunt, and ass last.

Spray again to rinse and you’re all done! Either lay in the sun or dry off really quick and jump into a bunch of clothes and a pre-warmed van.

I don’t recommend doing this outside below about fifteen degrees, or in cold weather if you’re not healthy.

I’ve done it in the van in cities or in the cold. I just do it over a bath mat that’s on the floor anyways, and hang it up to dry afterwards. There’s not any more water involved than it easily absorbs.

City Bathing for Strippers

When you’re stripping you need to get super clean every day. This means a shower. There are a few options, depending on the town, which I’ll list in order of cheapness:

1 – The city pool or park system. Usually about $1.50 to go swimming and get a shower.

2 – A gym. Anywhere from $20-50 for a weeks membership.

3 – Truckstops. $5-10 for a shower.

City and Road Bathing for the Non Stripping

This is a mixed half strategy. If you’re in a city and not stripping, perhaps you are visiting friends? If they’re from Alaska, they’ll offer you their shower straight away. If it’s the east coast, they probably won’t offer at all. In any case, it’s not healthy or necessary to use soap on your skin every single day. Catch an intermittent shower at truckstops or gyms, and use the spray bottle in the van (or just spray the washcloth and wipe) in between.


First, I think everyone should know that just wetting your hair down and letting it dry will go a long ways most days. Try it. But on to the actual cleaning and shiny-making of it.

It’s just not good to put a bunch of nasty chemicals on your hair all the time. Your hair produces it’s own natural oils, which make it shiny all on it’s own if you don’t wash them out and replace them with conditioner. The only things I put in my hair are vinegar, baking soda, and olive or coconut oil.

Most of the time I just add some vinegar to a cup of water and dip my hair in it before pouring it (slowly) over my head. I do it about once a week and I’m good to go. If my hair gets oily, I do some baking soda in water before the vinegar in water. If my hair is dry, I rub a tiny big of coconut oil through the ends the day before I vinegar. Once or twice a year, I do an egg for deep conditioning.

When you start doing this it takes a little extra effort. You’re used to just slapping on shampoo and conditioner, not looking at your hair and seeing what it needs. At first your hair might get oily (mine didn’t, but people say it does), but it will adjust.


  1. Wow, this is tremendous. I’ve gone without soap, even for the armpits and those other parts, for months at a time (but that only worked if I could eat organic). But the hair, that’s a whole new level! And that’s great how you say that it will adjust. Sometimes it’s hard to think that far ahead, and just not worry about it. I’m going to try your recipe tomorrow, when I’m getting ready for the drum jam.

    btw, I’ve tried most of your bathing strategies while travelling in the redcaravan, but the hair’s been an issue. Good thing mine can absorb a lot before it starts to show. One thing I’ve (re)discovered, while camping, is that sand works really good for absorbing oil and making your hair look full again, if you happen to be in a sandy region. I gather that’s also how the native Australians keep clean out in the desert.

  2. great post, tara. especially for those of us who have been told by men (for years) that women are inherently dirty and smelly…..i say to them now….”sniff this, asshole”.

    i love to read dr. bronners soap bottles too.

    interesting info about the hair. i usually use pine tar soap, which is surprisingly soft and lathery.

    i feel a blog post coming on…..

  3. oh, and yeah, this is one east coast chick who will offer you a shower first off, being a part-time vandweller herself, and knowing the sheer bliss of one after a run of basin-bathing. and now that i have a real bathroom with honest-to-god hot running water…..woo-hoo! no more showers on the porch.

    we still are doing laundry with the scrub-board, though. but you can pee in the yard, no problem 😆 .

  4. Really good stuff, Tara. Even for a guy. I’ve actually been thinking about these kinds of details…perfect timing. One day I’ll be a vandweller me own seff.

  5. Great post Tara. Sponge bathing in the van works for me and use baby wipes for a fast clean-up. Hair washing is done in public restrooms when a shower isn’t possible. I cut it myself so it’s fairly short and quick to do. We each devise our own methods of taking care of the necessities.

  6. Good tips Tara. And even if you do have regular access to an actual bath or shower, some of these can still be used- soap tends to dry your skin out with over-use, and shampoo and conditioner- my hair it thick, and my hair gets oily, but I also have psoriasis on my scalp, which means it’s flaky and itchy too. I only actually use shampoo on my hair twice a week though as it really doesn’t need it more then that. And unless you’re brushing it a LOT, most of those natual oils never make it through all your hair anyway.

  7. I do some similar stuff while backpacking!

    How do you manage with Bro, or is he one of those dogs who never smells much? I have to wash my old dog every month or so, or he isn’t fit for comp’ny. I can’t imagine if I lived in a van-sized space with him!

    And if you are ever in the SF Bay area, you are welcome to come by and hang out and bathe (“backstage”)at the fetish and fantasy Playhouse where I work!! We have three separate showers (one of which is a double), and a couple of tubs. (I just bathed the dog in question here today, and there’s always room here for an extra feminist sex worker or two!) (You’d of course be welcome to bathe at my flat as well, but I can imagine you might be a bit more comfortable at my work co-op space, rather than in the home of a person you’ve never met before.)

  8. Hello,

    I just discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago, and have been reading all the old entries as often as I can.

    Here’s an item that can help the whole showering thing. I used one 2 years ago when I backpacked the entire Pacific Crest Trail. That trip took me almost 4 months of straight hiking. Needless to say, after a couple of days hiking through the scorching sand, a shower is almost orgasmic.

    It’s neat because it packs up really small. It holds 5 gallons, which may not sound like a lot, but it sure beats a 16oz spray bottle. Plus, if you lay it out in the sun for 30 minutes or so before using, it really does get quite warm!!

    Give it a shot. It’s worth the $20.

  9. I heartily endorse ditching shampoo in favour of baking soda solution and apple cider vinegar. I went from having a pile of straw on my head to having hair like a human. Just like a real human!

    I’m really enjoying this site, thanks for the show.

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