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Portable Washing Machine for Camping

See how easy it is to make your own washing machine to clean your clothes while camping. No need to drive to a laundromat!

portable hand-powered washing machines

We like to go on camping vacations. We will go out west and enjoy the mountains or up north to cool off. Keep your food cold longer with this DIY Thermal Cooler Cover.

These longer trips mean extended time away from home. That means we need to do our laundry while we are gone.

We stay in public campgrounds, which usually means no laundry facilities.

It’s a pain to take the time to drive into town to find a laundromat, feed a machine with quarters, or carry back wet laundry to hang.

We just wash clothes at our campsite with a portable washing machine.

Portable Washing Machine Directions at the Bottom of the Post

DIY portable washing machine system

Campground Laundry Tips

  • Wash approximately 4 shirts and/or shorts at a time.
  • Separate clothes by the level of dirtiness, then wash the least dirty first.
  • Change the water after 2 or 3 cycles.
  • Wash undergarments and socks last.
  • Use clothespins on the clothesline.
  • Dispose of the water properly.
  • Remove stains before you wash with a baby wipe. I was able to remove a grease stain on my shorts by rubbing it with a baby wipe for about a minute.

remove a grease stain with a baby wipe

Kids love using this washing system. They also love this Roasting Forks Cover or Fishing Pole Cover.

When we were on our last trip, one of the camping neighbors came over to our site and offered to help. His parents wondered why he was so enthusiastic to help because he’s not so enthusiastic to help at home.

That’s kids for you!

kids doing laundry by hand

They took off to ride bikes once it was undergarment time.

Look how bright and clean our laundry came out.

clean laundry folded on a stool

Have you ever washed clothes by hand like this?

DIY washing machine for camping with text

Yield: 1 set

Portable Washing Machine for Camping

Portable Washing Machine for Camping

Wash your clothes by hand when you are camping or homesteading.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $10


  • Two 5 gallon buckets with lids
  • Two new toilet plungers
  • Two different colored permanent markers
  • Biodegradable laundry soap
  • A clothesline or drying rack


  • Drill with a 3/4" drill bit


  1. Drill a hole into the middle of each bucket lid.
  2. Optional: Drill 3 evenly spaced holes in each plunger to create the agitators.
  3. Color a small section of each plunger handle a different color so that you know which one is wash and which is rinse.

How to Wash Clothes While Camping

  1. Add water to each bucket. We like to mix in hot water into the first bucket.
  2. Place a small amount of laundry into the wash bucket and place the plunger agitator in.
  3. Put on the lid. It helps keep the water from splashing out.
  4. Move the plunger up and down, moving the clothes around as you go.
  5. Ring out the clothes before adding them to the rinse bucket.
  6. Repeat the plunging process to rinse the soap out.
  7. Ring out the water and hang the clothes to dry.


Change water as needed. Properly dispose of water, please.

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Tuesday 11th of January 2022

I made 2 of these due to Hurricane Ida here in Louisiana last year. My mother in law has 1 and I have the other one we still do not have washing machines due to us living in campers. These have helped tremendously!

Diana Hansen

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

I am sorry that you've had to endure Ida and the hardships from it, but am grateful that you can use this trick to have clean clothes!

Bob Theoret

Saturday 14th of November 2020

Is there a third bucket for spin dry?


Thursday 8th of July 2021

@Bob Theoret, for small stuff I use a salad spinner.... otherwise wring then. Towel wring....


Wednesday 17th of March 2021

@Let's Camp S'more,

I recently had a friend suggest a salad spinner. I've yet to find one big enough to handle the amount of laundry you've suggested, and I plan to have my guy figure something out on a bigger scale after seeing this... If we have success I'll let you know!

Let's Camp S'more

Monday 16th of November 2020

A spinner is a great idea, but we have not made one.


Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

I'm going to make these for my emergency prep stache. I live in a hurricane prone area and even smaller hurricanes can leave you without electricity for an extended period.

Let's Camp S'more

Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

A good use of these. Stay safe!

Janie Dobbins

Tuesday 11th of August 2020

Neat way to clean you clothes.

Let's Camp S'more

Wednesday 12th of August 2020



Sunday 2nd of August 2020

I love this idea! I want to try this. My only questions is, where did you empty the water when you were done?

Let's Camp S'more

Sunday 2nd of August 2020

Check with your campground on how they prefer this or even water from washing dishes disposed of. It could be a bathroom drain or they might have a designated dumping area.

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