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Whether you live in your car out of necessity or your love of travel, you need a plan to ensure good hygiene. Thankfully, there are many great free or cheap places to shower. With awareness of car safety, community resources, and a little creativity, living out of your vehicle can be a worthwhile experience.

Gyms offer more than exercise equipment

For a small fee each month, you can purchase a gym membership and gain access to workout equipment, fitness classes, and hot showers.

Our Home on Wheels provides some handy information about maximizing a gym membership while living out of a van. Many gyms go above and beyond and also offer a pool, spa, massages, yoga, sauna, rec room, and some gyms even offer food. Showering at a gym is nice because the showers are warm, clean, and somewhat private.

Also, most city recreation centers include a gym, showers, and other recreational sports. Most rec centers offer cheap yearly or monthly memberships, and many offer day passes for as little as $5. Rec centers often provide family restrooms and locker rooms, making it much easier for parents with little ones.

Take your shower with you if you live in your car

Portable showers offer a convenient solution for bathing on the go. Mobile shower options range from simple, cost-effective items (like this $40 model on Amazon) to pricier, high-tech showers (such as a $125 RinseKit).

Portable showers allow you to fill a designated container with water, attach a compatible shower hose, and shower with soap and water. Many portable showers can be warmed using sunlight or other methods.

You may choose to use a pop-up shower tent for privacy if it’s practical for your location. A shower tent can provide enough privacy for you to get completely clean without risking public nudity.

Many campgrounds provide shower access

Campgrounds can be particularly helpful if you’re living out of your vehicle. Be aware that some campgrounds require a tent or RV for you to stay overnight. If you have a tent, this can be a great way to stay in one location for a few days or more. Campsites typically include a firepit, which means you can cook hot meals on an open fire.

Whether you stay overnight at a campground or visit during the day, many include bathhouses providing access to clean water and warm showers. Some campgrounds even offer small laundromats, swimming pools, trails, and other amenities.

However, How Stuff Works warns, “Many public campsites have bathing facilities available for campers’ showering use, but they’re often short on hot water and occasionally unsanitary.” 

Other options for bathing when you live in your car

If a relative or friend offers you a hot shower (and maybe a meal), don’t be afraid to accept. It’s OK to ask for help, too, but don’t take advantage of their generosity. Most friends and family members are more than happy to help a loved one and appreciate the time together.

Many public parks and beaches provide basic outdoor showers for swimmers to rinse off. These are typically outside and in public locations, so wear appropriate swim clothes. Often, outdoor showers are located near restrooms, making it convenient for you to rinse off and then head to the bathroom to towel dry and change.

If none of the other options are available, you can head to a public restroom at a local park or rest stop. Take your washcloth and soap with you, and use the sink to clean yourself. A sponge bath isn’t as thorough as a shower, but it will help you look and feel cleaner.

If showers and bathrooms aren’t available, it’s a good idea to keep baby wipes or hygiene/bathing wipes on hand. Good old-fashioned soap and water are your best bet for getting clean, but when that’s not an option, disposable wipes are a quick and easy way to clean off sweat and grime. You can also use disposable rinse-free shampoo caps to clean your hair.  

With a little creativity and ingenuity, you’ll find plenty of ways to maximize your comfort and cleanliness while living in your car. But remember: When bathing outside, it’s best to use environmentally friendly biodegradable soap.