How to Wash Dishes While Camping

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There’s nothing quite like the feeling of waking up in a tent, surrounded by nature. But after a few days of living off canned beans and granola bars, you might start to miss the comforts of home—like, say, running water and a dishwasher.

Washing dishes while camping can be a bit of a challenge, but with a little creativity and these tips, you’ll be able to get the job done and still enjoy your vacation.

1. Do Your Research Ahead of Time

This is important for two reasons. First, you’ll want to make sure that there are no fire bans in effect in the area where you’ll be camping.

If there are, you won’t be able to use a campfire to heat up water for washing dishes. Second, find out what kind of water is available at the campsite. If there’s only stream water available, you’ll need to bring along a water filter or purifier.

2. Invest in Some Good Biodegradable Soap

You’ll want to avoid soap that contains phosphates, as these can pollute waterways. There are plenty of great eco-friendly options available nowadays, so do some research before your trip and find one that works well and doesn’t cost too much money.

3. Bring Along a Brush or Scrubbers

If you’re going to be doing any cooking while camping, you’ll need something to help clean off those pots and pans. A stiff brush or steel wool scrubber should do the trick nicely.

4. Wash in Small Batches

If you’re washing dishes for a group of people, it’s best to wash them in small batches rather than all at once. Not only will this save you time and energy, but it will also conserve water.

5. Try to Save Water

Because there’s no running water available, you’ll need to ration your dishwashing water wisely. A good rule of thumb is to fill up one basin with soapy water for washing and another with clean water for rinsing.

6. Start with the Dirtiest Dishes

Wash the dirtiest items first and work your way down to the cleaner ones. This may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to get caught up in conversation and forget which dish is which after they’ve all been sitting in soapy water for a while!

7. Utilize the Sun’s Energy Whenever Possible

After washing each dish, set it out in the sun to dry instead of using a dish towel (which will just get dirty). The sun’s UV rays are great for disinfecting dishes naturally.

8. When All Else Fails, Wipe Them Clean

If dishes are only lightly soiled or if you’ve run out of clean rinse water, simply wipe them off with a clean rag or paper towel instead of going through the whole wash/rinse/dry cycle.

9. Don’t Forget About Storing Your Dishes

Once they’re all clean, make sure to put them away in a dry place where critters can’t get at them. Ideally, this would be in some kind of storage container with a lid that can be securely closed.

10. Wash Them at Home

And finally, if you don’t have access to running water or if campfires are not allowed in the area where you’re staying, you can always wait until you get home to wash your dishes!

Once you’re back home, empty out any remaining food from your dishes, give them a good rinse with warm water, and then pop them into your dishwasher as usual.

With any luck, you might even be able to convince someone else in your household to wash them for you!


Washing dishes while camping doesn’t have to be difficult— just follow these simple tips and you’ll have clean dishes in no time! And remember: if all else fails, wait until you get home to wash them! Thanks for reading!



Allen Joe is a writer for camping and outdoor site He loves spending time outdoors, especially when he's camping or hiking. Allen also enjoys playing guitar and spending time with his wife and dog.

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