STAYING CLEAN While Conserving Water

Today we’re going to have a guest post by a new friend Kimberly, on natural ways for a nomad to stay clean. Because we are in such small spaces it’s very important that we use as little water as possible, get as many uses as possible out of every item, minimize the amount of harmful chemicals we come into contact with in such a tiny space–and save some money doing it! She’ll show us how….


Hi Bob & Cheap RV Living readers wherever you may be!
Bob, I really enjoy your blog and YouTube Channel; you’ve taught me A LOT! Thanks for affording me the opportunity to create a guest post here.

We’ve been full time for 8 months now but a few years back my desire to live a healthier life inspired me to find avenues to reduce toxins in our home; so I began making non-toxic, aromatherapy products for our home and personal use. This lifestyle change not only cleared the air; it saved us money, too. Eventually, I established a non-toxic cleaning business: Munnatawket Green. Most of us are aware of the benefits of a non-toxic environment, but it’s especially valuable in the nomadic/minimalist/intentional lifestyle where the small space puts us in direct contact with so many harmful chemicals. As a giant bonus,  most of the products involved in cleaning your house and personal grooming can be found in your kitchen right now so they save space by serving multiple purposes and save you money; Keep It Simple!

I’ve vetted these cleaning and grooming practices while preparing to leave our traditional stick built house. Having decades of camping experience it was second nature to refine daily practices to be more efficient, effective and environmentally conscious. Currently traveling in our 1999 30 FT, Georgie Boy Pursuit Motorhome, we prefer boon-docking to commercial camps and RV parks, so we use these methods daily. We’ve found them to be easy, inexpensive and effective! I hope you all find these tips helpful. What you’ll need:

  1. A dish pan (Dollar Tree: $1)
  2. Baking Soda (Any store about $.59
  3. 1 QT 91% Rubbing Alcohol (Walmart $2.50 or 51% at Dollar Tree $1)
  4. 1 QT Hydrogen Peroxide (Same pricing as Alcohol)
  5. 1 Pt Witch Hazel (Walmart ~$2)
  6. Essential Oil: Lavender, Peppermint, Thrive (Thieves Blend), Eucalyptus, Tea Tree: (Found at Walmart: $5.29 to $6.29 but can be purchased on line or from your favorite distributor)
  7. Apple Cider Vinegar (A gallon at Walmart about $2.50, or 1 qt at Dollar Tree $1)
  8. Dr. Bronners Soap
  9. Wipes: We like Water Wipes (Target or on Amazon, found very occasionally at Walmart about $2.69)

The basin method is refreshing and effective. I use about 2 heaping Tablespoons of baking soda & about a gallon of warm water with a face cloth. Work top to bottom with this no-rinse solution. This solution neutralizes odors & balances Ph…..soft clean skin! Sometimes I add a few drops of lavender or frankincense. It makes me feel fancy and adds antibacterial/antimicrobial, healing and aromatherapy benefits. After washing up to toss the water outside or use for flushing if you have a water toilet. It’s all natural and biodegradable.

Quick Freshen up with alcohol & paper towels: When water or time is of the essence, we use alcohol on underarms, etc., and wipes for private area. Ladies be careful using alcohol there! Ouch! 🙂 We found a brand called Water Wipes, just water and a bit of grapefruit essential oil. Found them at Target and Amazon (rarely Walmart). It’s a comparable price to all the other wipes on the shelf. You can segregate the paper products from other trash to add to your campfire.


Tooth Brushing: Use baking soda, peroxide and peppermint oil. Place one drop of peppermint oil in your hand, add a half-teaspoon of baking soda and a few drops of peroxide to mix into a paste with toothbrush bristles & brush. Kills germs, brightens smile and fresh breath!

Hair Washing: I have long, thick hair. For years I’ve used baking soda & water to cleanse it. Apple Cider vinegar & water to rinse and when needed a bit of coconut oil as a lleave-inconditioner. My hair is clean, healthy and shiny. Easy to achieve with the shower set ups Bob has shared with us on this blog because it rinses away easily. If you like to add a bit of treatment to the mix for dandruff or softening you can mix in a few drops of tea tree oil to both the hair wash mixture and the apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse. The method I use is a few Tablespoons of baking soda with warm water in a shaker cup or jar. Shake it up well just before pouring over your head. Massage in well and rinse. I use a 3-4 oz travel container to mix the ACV rinse, it is 50/50 water/ACV. Shake, pour over your head, massage through, rinse. After you rinse towel dry and use a bit of Coconut oil, melted between your hands to the ends of your hair for conditioning benefits.

Hand sanitizer/Aromatherpy sprays: I make my own using those small TSA approved travel spray bottles. I was able to color code, too. For example: purple is lavender and red is Thieves blend while green is peppermint. Just a couple of quick sprays on hands and rub together briskly until dry. CLEAN!

Mixture: 1/2 Alcohol, 1/2 water 10-15 drops our favorite essential oil. I’ve mixed these up in several different E.O. mixtures for their properties.. For example: Thieves (Thrive Blend at Walmart) for hands and even disinfecting the sanitation bay but also to spritz around the RV it kills airborne viruses and smells lovely. Clove & cinnamon, bugs don’t like clove but they also don’t like Peppermint…so we spritz peppermint to deter spiders…peppermint is also an effective and lovely room freshener after using the loo, lol! Eucalyptus kills dust mites so great for spritzing the upholstered areas to freshen them up. And aids in clearing sinus congestion. Lavender is a calming scent that is. A better choice than Peppermint (Which is stimulating and might disturb sleep) great to use to freshen bedding. Lavender is also a great analgesic so good to have on hand for first aid. It works wonders on a burn! Tea Tree is also a good first aid oil to have on hand. Good for abrasions and insect bites, it is also known as a bug repellent. (A good mixture is to add Lavender and Tea Tree to deter insects). CAUTION: If you have canine friends (DOGS) be very they do not become exposed to Tea Tree oil as it is very toxic to them.


Mother Earth Living:
Because the sun is a natural antibacterial and deodorizer, hanging your clothes on a clothesline saves energy while ensuring your clothes are clean and smell great. It’s also gentler on your clothes than a dryer, so you can enjoy your clothes longer.

I was inspired by a YouTube minimalist, Brittany Taylor, to try out Sun Laundry. I was pretty skeptical but decided to give it a try and was very pleased with the outcome: fresh laundry! Even on the hottest days of summer where we may have perspired quite a bit, those T-shirts came out smelling fresh and clean! The idea is to hang all of your T-shirts, Sweats, jeans, towels, blankets (basically anything fabric) out in the sunlight for a few hours. The heat of the sun and fresh air neutralize odors and you’re left with clean fresh clothing. We cannot always hang clothing outside due to restrictions of where we might be camping or boon docking (one of the many reasons we prefer boon docking to camp grounds). But we take advantage of this tactic as often as we can to avoid toxins in public laundries, conserve water and money!

Conservative dish washing: We like to use glass and stainless steel receptacles/utensils when it comes to our food. Occasionally we do use a paper plate and often use paper toweling; all of which go into the campfire. To conserve water and grey water tank space while washing our dishes we use the basin method for dishes too. We use Dr. Bronners or a non-toxic organic dish soap, whichever we can find. Wash dishes with as little water as possible and rinse into the bin. Because Dr. Bronners is safe for the environment, you can dump the bin outdoors when you’re done.

Connect with me on Google+ and YouTube for more tips and tricks….Naturally! K Rose B

Be sure and check out my YouTube Channel here:

Thanks for supporting this site by using these links to Amazon. I’ll make a small percentage on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything, even if you buy something different.



I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

59 comments on “STAYING CLEAN While Conserving Water
  1. squeakytiki says:

    As a woman who routinely suffers from dry skin at the best of times, I’ll admit some of these suggestions have me cringing a bit. Even Dr. Bronners dries me out, I can’t imagine using straight up rubbing alcohol on anything. That’s just me though, others don’t have this problem.

    • ClassyGlobal says:

      Just a suggestion. Have you tried a mixture of pure raw shea butter, (off white, slightly chunky with the brown bits and all (looks like mashed potatoes with the peel)) mixed with coconut oil and cocoa butter? If you put on at night kind of lavishly you will wake smelling like a cookie but in time your skin should be quite supple and dewy. Hopefully you don’t have any other conditions that are the cause of your dry skin.

      Also have you tried the baby version of Dr. Bronners, just wondering if that made a difference, I’ve never tried it, your thoughts?

    • Patrise says:

      I tend toward dry skin as well, and don’t find alcohol a problem for washing skin in the perspiring areas. for moisture, coconut oil works, but I prefer cocoa butter and aloe.

    • Kimberly Brito says:

      Hi SquekyTiki 🙂 You may choose witch hazel rather than alcohol. You’ll probably benefit from the bin method of bathing with Baking soda because it balances PH. If using Dr Bronners or other soap really dilute it down. You’re Dry skin will probably enjoy Coconut oil, it is so soothing and healing….it also has antibacterial properties so can be used as a deodorant. Happy Trails!

    • Leilani Williams says:

      Hello there. I also have extremely dry skin (and hair) as a result of Hashimoto. For what its worth, I noticed massive dry out while getting away from traditional chemical lotions and soaps. I have since started making my own very simply by mixing shea butter and coco oil. Sometimes I get fancy and add beeswax and castor oil but find I really only need to moisturize once or twice a week. Its incredible. I do my face and hands daily tho as they tend to be dry and I want to keep my face hydrated as much as I can =D

  2. Thank you! I have wanted information like this ever since I realized how badly household chemicals affect my asthma. (I have very “reactive” asthma.) I use vinegar and baking soda for some household cleaning, but this will give me much more.

    Questions: do the essential oils cause reactions in sensitive asthmatics? Also, do you have any suggestions for shaving cream? (I can find that without “fragrance,” but not in a decent price range and not without an environmentally-unfriendly package.)

    • ClassyGlobal says:

      You have to test CAREFULLY with EOs… Everyone’s responds differently so no one should give a blanket YES or NO to sensitivity of any product/ingredient.

      I don’t use shaving creams but a I did a tiny bit of research for ya.
      I am not a fan of big box stores but the sometimes offset shipping costs.
      SOME Kiss my Face products are found at Target and CVS???
      iHerb has these listed $3.84
      Kiss My Face, Moisture Shave, Pomegranate Grapefruit
      Kiss My Face, Moisture Shave, Lavender Shea
      Kiss My Face, 4 in 1 Moisture Shave, Fragrance Free*****
      iHerb has these listed $4.89
      Giovanni, Moisturizing Shave Cream, Invigorating, Tea Tree & Mint
      Giovanni, Moisturizing Shave Cream, Refreshing, Pink Grapefruit & Pomegranate
      Giovanni, Moisturizing Shave Cream, Sensitive, Fragrance Free*****

      • I’ll check CVS and Target if I can find one. My local Walmarts no longer carry Edge Extra Sensitive,which is what I used until now. I use only the fragrance free (not listed in ingredients) versions.

        • Crocky says:

          Hey Calvin, I used to use Kiss My Face moisture shave but have found that lathering up and shaving with just Dr Bronners soap gives me the best shave I’ve ever had. I love the stuff and the cheapest place I’ve found to buy it is Costco. Hope that helps!

    • Kimberly Brito says:

      Hi Calvin, I really enjoy non-toxic cleaning. I’ve been triggered by toxins and fragrance all of my life. Creating a non toxic environment is one of the best things we can do for our health. Though Ive been an advocate for clean living and living this lifestyle for over a decade; Im not a medical professional. I can share my experience 🙂 My feeling is Lavender and the Thieves blend will actually benefit you especially if diluted properly. I found some great specific info with a guick internet search. Here is just one example

      As for shaving, I use a basic non toxic bar soap or Dr Bronners, work into a good lather & shave. I often follow with a quick splash of witch hazel and then a bit of coconut oil for moisture. My husband uses the same lather when shaving but he mixes up a special aftershave of 50/50 alcohol/water with Patchouli & Basil essential oils in a 3 oz spray bottle. Hope that helps and Happy Trails!

      • Crocky says:

        Kimberly, I just read your comment after posting about shaving with Dr Bronners. I’m pleased to hear I’m not the only one, though I invariably use the liquid peppermint soap. Love the stuff.

        I’m eager to try out some of your other suggestions, thanks for the tips!

  3. Great read! I like the use of essential oils. Young Living is one of the best. It may be a bit expensive but worth it in the long run. Calvin Eucalyptus Radiata, Sacred Frankincense or Idaho Blue Spruce all by Young Living may help you. Bob I like your videos keep up the good work.

    • I was only asking if essential oils were safe to use. Treating my asthma with anything scented does not process in my brain because I am very sensitive to the mystery ingredient known as “fragrance” that show up in so many products.

      • Suzi says:

        “Fragrance” is often chemical make up, not pure distilled essence. I have reactive asthma too, although not bad and only occasional. Start with one small bottle, of say, lavender, or peppermint, and see what happens. (they both are good for so many things you can’t go wrong with either.) Go slow. Remember, dilute, dilute, dilute! Never use full strength! Try Lots of helpful info there, plus their oils are 3rd party tested for purity, and compete in quality with any of the high end MLM oils. (Stay away from cheaper, drug store oils (not pure) as they may cause allergic reactions.) Trust me, our group has done extensive research. Give it a whirl and see what happens. Good Luck!! 😉

      • Patrise says:

        I’m experienced with asthma and allergy – and it’s essence by essence, Calvin. I’m reactive to pine, but cedar is fine for me. most other plant essences are fine. You may not want to inhale large volumes of vapour, but that would be difficult unless you had vats of the stuff.

        I use fresh plant essence too – for instance, for asthma/bronchitus/cough, I pour boiling water over a bowl of lemon balm and inhale the steam. With a towel draped over my head, for an especially mysterious look! I suspect lavendar would work well for this.

    • Kimberly Brito says:

      Thanks for reading Richard! Essential oils are so luscious they can become an obession. I love Frankincense! Happy Trails!

  4. ClassyGlobal says:

    Loved this article. I’m a Dr. Bronner Fan as well as I love Indigo Wild and their products.

  5. Jimbo says:

    It’s amazing how a few inexpensive products can substitute and take the place of the everyday things we do. And such a savings of water and resources.
    Using 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a gallon of water to do a complete top to bottom body wash as opposed to taking a long hot shower that uses 18 gallons of water is great.

    And the Sun Laundry is something I am going to give a try. To be able to just take off my clothes and hang them straight on the clothes line to clean them will be a great time saver, not to mention all the water, detergent, and electricity it will save as well.

    Thank you for all these fantastic ideas that will save money and time while providing the same results or maybe even better than the conventional way things are done.

    • Diana Graham says:

      A weird coincidence or cosmic connection… You decide. I JUST subscribed to your YouTube channel yesterday. And here I get sent a ink to your article today.

      I’m pleased about it anyway.


    • Kimberly Brito says:

      Jimbo, thanks for reading & your kind comments. These are great ideas and isn’t it wonderful to have a nomadic forum to share them within? I love learning new, easier,cost effective and eco friendly ways of doing things. Happy trails!

  6. Sarah says:

    This is a great post!! Love the essential oils, Kimberly- like Richard, I use Young Living brand. Another set of products people might want to check out is Norwex brand cleaning cloths, body cloths, etc. They contain silver and can clean with just water, no harsh chemicals. You can use essential oils with them as well. They are somewhat pricey, but they will last a very, very long time!

  7. Marilyn Ferguson says:

    I have tried to go to your spot on YouTube but it will not go there when I press it

  8. Vickadee80 says:

    This is probably my number one concern in planning for living full-time in a van – I like to be clean, and water is the essential limiting factor. This article is the one I’ve been waiting for, full of useful tips and actual “recipes” to answer my questions. I’m looking forward to testing them out!

  9. Kelly S says:

    Only one comment really, regarding hanging your clothes out in the sun.
    Turn them inside out first, otherwise the UV from the sun will cause your clothes to fade.

  10. Patrise says:

    Other herbal/plant essentials:

    tea tree oil (meleleuca)
    works remarkably well for anyone plagued with athletes foot or other fungal infections

    eucalyptus is endorsed by the cdc as an effective insect repellent, especially for mosquitos.

    aloe vera
    fresh or gel in a bottle is excellent for sunburn, scrapes, irritated skin. A nomad might even be able to keep a plant growing in your rig, or perhaps you find it growing in desert climes!

  11. Linda Sand says:

    You know how your skin continues to develop a sunburn even after you come inside? Vinegar will stop that process. Then Noxema will cool it down and protect your skin. Most people don’t know that the guy who invented Noxema was looking for a burn treatment.

    As to conserving water I learned I could put less than 3 oz of water on a wash cloth and use that to scrub my body from head to toe. Since my hair is short I even wash it in that process. Water, after all, is the universal cleanser.

    • Jimbo says:

      Linda you are amazing!!!!
      3 ounces of water to take a complete scrubbing to clean your hair and body? Since there is 128 oz to a gallon of water, you could bathe everyday for 42 days on just one gallon of water. That is conserving in the most efficient way.
      That solves one of the biggest problems that most people have as an excuse to not pursue the van life.

    • Bob Bob says:

      Wow, that’s very impressive! You are the master of water conservation!

  12. Carolyn Rose says:

    This is very helpful. I don’t like using chemicals and end up spending a fortune on natural products. These are great tips. Thank you!

  13. Sherry says:

    Lots of good ideas here except the rubbing alcohol.

    Rubbing alcohol is not good for you and is toxic to many people.

    Just one website on the issue:

    There are lots of warning websites and many believe it also causes cancer. Some people actually die from using it. Just thought I’d better mention it.

    • Kimberly Brito says:

      Hi thanks for sharing. We use nominal amounts and mix with water. We often reach for white vinegar as the alternative. White vinegar can be used diluted with paper towels or cloth for the whole body wash down instead of vinegar referenced in my post. Also, white vinegar or witch hazel can be substituted for alcohol in the hand sanitizer mentioned in my post. Thanks for sharing this info! Happy Trails!

  14. Drew says:

    Great article. I am going to try some of these things!

    Toxins were mentioned throughout the article, so I want to raise awareness about another source of toxins: the burning of trash in a campfire.

    I have noticed throughout the Northwest that the National Forest Service has been posting informational signs at developed campsites about the toxins released when burning various kinds of trash. Even burning cardboard is something that is being discouraged. Here is a link to an informational PDF that explains the toxic hazards of the practice:

    • Bob Bob says:

      Drew, I’m not a big campfire guy, so I rarely build one, but I really appreciate your information, that is really good to know!!

    • Kimberly Brito says:

      So true about campfires! We don’t usually have one but some do. We grew up having them morning to night camping as kids. Today we’re more aware so this is a great point to share. Thanks! Happy Trails!

  15. Linda Sand says:

    Also be careful with hand sanitizers if you have pets/children around. Kids have died of alcohol poisoning from licking their hands after using sanitizers.

    • Kimberly Brito says:

      Great point! Though I think those cases are when children were eating the sanitizer rather than a quick spritz and rub. We don’t have children with us but we dilute all alcohol used and many times even substitute white vinegar or witch hazel for alcohol. Always caution first! Safe & clean naturally! Thanks for sharing & Happy Trails!

  16. Todd says:

    Hi Bob,

    Can’t seem to find your email address so thought I’d ask here if you know if any others are camping near Brawley, CA now over the Thanksgiving weekend and where that camp might be?

    Thank you,

    • Bob Bob says:

      Todd, because it is so close to Slab City, most people just go there. To the east is the Glamis Sand Dunes and to the south is Holtville which is BLM land. All of those offer great camping.

  17. J Dutreaux says:

    Cool post! I was looking for such an informative article on water conservation. Mom and I just sent a bunch of supplies to Standing Rock as they prepare for wintering down for the next few months. Our water is so precious and it truly needs protecting. I’m going to share this post with a few friends that are protesting the pipeline as I write this post.

  18. Nancy says:

    Great information. I like minimizing my impact on the desert. Desert soils have less biological activity than soils in moister parts of the country. I’ve been washing my hair with baking soda (half a teaspoon for my short hair) and rinsing with vinegar, for several years now. I don’t use soap on my body.
    For non-greasy dishes I wipe with a paper towel then leave it in the sun to dry. For greasy dishes I use Dr Bronners with some baking soda.

    I will add my toothpaste recipe:
    Coconut oil, xylitol, baking soda, essential oils (peppermint, spearmint). I don’t measure- I just mix it up to make a stiff paste. I add baking soda bit by bit until it starts to taste like baking soda.
    To use it, just scoop some up on your brush. It’s pretty gritty from the xylitol but the xylitol dissolves quickly in your mouth.

    Xylitol discourages the bad bacteria that cause tooth decay.

    I will

  19. Great post! I already clean with natural products, but have been thinking of ways to use less water. I also love essential oils and have several on hand to play with. Getting ready to hit the road in a little over a month, and am living in my house truck here in the driveway to get practical experience. That has hit home how much water I use, even though I’ve cut out so much waste…this was a timely post for me. 🙂

  20. bess cooper says:

    I love these articles. Am thinking very seriously of the small motor home or van living. Have been wanting to do this for about 10yrs. now. So I’m doing this.

  21. JIM PETERSON says:

    We are at The Slabs now if anyone would be more comfortable knowing someone here. Scope out our website and you’ll recognize our rig. We’ll be gone 11/30 but plan to come back on 12/2. Just stay straight on the main drag coming in. When you reach the end of the road, you have to turn right OR turn left. Turn right and you’ll see our rig on the left. It’s an area called the California Ponderosa if you ask around (or notice the signs). If George is around, just tell him you’re looking for JIM & ANNIE. This is our 2nd year there and George is a friend of ours.

  22. Sharon says:

    Where and how do you get the water?

  23. Sharon L says:

    This article is wonderful. My husband and I are looking into possibly doing full-time RV living and I have been wondering how we would be keeping ourselves, our dishes and our laundry clean, especially if we did a lot of boondocking. I love all the ideas. I just might not be able to implement the essential oils because we have cats and I’ve heard they are toxic to cats.

    Coincidentally, my husband and I own a non-toxic cleaning business that we started 11 years ago.

    • Sharon L says:

      Wanted to say also that the reason we are thinking of doing full-time RV living is thanks to Bob. We discovered minimalism on Youtube and were watching some videos and Cheap RV Living Videos came up as suggestions and we’ve been watching them for a while now. We love your channel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge