July 8, 2011


I have been getting some good questions lately covering a wide range of topics. I thought that today I would address one topic that seems to come up often and be kind of a hang up for the first timers out there.

A lot of people see vehicle dwelling as a form of homelessness and when they think homelessness they think “dirty”. The next question of course is how they are going to lead any sort of a normal life (work, school, friends, etc) while being a dirty homeless person. Dude, calm down! This isn’t Oliver Twist. There are plenty of places to shower if you know where to find them.

~ Showers ~

I have pretty long hair that curls in humidity. I also go to both work and school every day so access to a shower was essential. There are a lot of shower options out there so keep your eyes open.

  • We have a gym at school that is free to students. It has showers and very nice facilities and all you need is a student ID. I have an ID but I still use the recreation building showers. They’re more private, no one watching you come and go, and during the summer I even leave my stuff in a locker (unlocked), that’s how few people are around. Most campuses have a boat house, pool, or rec center with showers that no one will notice you using.
The Gym:
  • Even super cheap gyms have showers and once you have a membership you can take advantage of their other perks too. Gyms like planet fitness have $10/month promotional memberships that also give you access to tanning and massage chairs.
  • It took me a while to figure this out but just because you’re not staying in a hostel doesn’t mean you can’t use the showers. Some hostels you can walk right into but for about $4 they will give you towels and you don’t have to sneak around. I haven’t found a hostel yet that won’t sell you a shower for $4 or less but that adds up, so I would only use it while traveling.
Truck Stops:
  • Also sell showers but don’t usually provide towels
Rest Stops:
  • OK, I’m inserting a warning here: Not all rest stops are ok with you washing your hair in the sink. Pennsylvania was great about it. Mississippi called the cops thinking we were runaways. It’s good in a pinch though.
  • This is actually a great alternative if you have access to a secluded swimming spot. Do Not under any circumstances use regular shampoo or soap! There are many very inexpensive biodegradable options out there that won’t harm the environment.

Sorry, not going to happen

So there you have it, from urban to rural car dwelling, there are always options. You could even make a solar shower with gallon jugs of water left to heat up in the sun. There are also shelters that offer shower facilities if you want to go that route. Keep your eyes open, there are some great options out there.


  1. Good notes, especially on how to avoid looking like the dirty hippy crowd. Peace

  2. Campgrounds are another possibility both private and gov't operated). You won't be able to drive in, but no one usually checks if you walk in.

    Cyndi @ RVly Ever After

  3. I saw an interview with a young Mexican girl in a makeshift camp in southern California some time ago. The interviewer made a remark about how neat, tidy and clean everything was. The girl replied "we are just poor, we are not pigs."
    The interviewer seemed shocked that poor people liked to be clean.

  4. I like it, now hopefully people out there will see the info and pass it on the "dirty" people and maybe they'll use it, Not you Ash, I know you're clean

  5. I know this is an older post, but I wanted to comment about showers. I find it funny that people assume because 24 hours have passed that they are suddenly contaminated and filthy.

    Before I went nomadic, I had already acclimated myself to showering (with soap) once a week. And I acclimated myself to shampooing every other week. I do it usually on Sundays so I can keep track. Every Sunday is bath time, and every other Sunday is shampoo time.

    You can go cold turkey with the shampoo, but your hair will be greasy for a few weeks before it calms down. Or you can go one day longer in between shampoos for a week or so, then go another day, etc. It takes a few months or more, but it'll be way easier psychologically. Soap/shampoo strips oil, which causes a negative feedback loop. When you strip it less often, your body doesn't produce as much.

    I recently told someone at work that I shampoo every two weeks, and she couldn't believe it, b/c my hair looked clean and did not have an odor. And one while getting a haircut, the hairdresser comments on how healthy my hair was.

    People with long hair have an easier time of it, b/c of the weight of the hair. If it's shorter and you wake up with bed hair, simply keep a spray bottle of water with you and wet it down and then comb it into whatever style. Or take a comb and/or brush into a bathroom and wet them in the sink.

    Even if you do have access to a shower everyday, you don't need to use soap and shampoo to feel clean. Water is what cleans.

    I don't expect everyone to bath/shampoo with the same frequency I do, but there is no need to bathe everyday, and certainly, one should be able to go at least three or four days without shampooing.

    Do you really think people were filthy for thousands of years before soap was invented? I only bath my cats quarterly, and they smell great!


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