On a long road trip, doing your laundry can be a hassle. Use a bucket, some detergent, and the motion of your vehicle to agitate your sudsy duds. It worked in Rocinante (Steinbeck's camper truck), and it works in a Nissan.

If you need to wash on the go, the other options are terrible: you'd need to store your nasty duds and wait for the sweet salvation of a washing machine at your destination. Or you could stop intermittently at quarter-sucking laundromats. Neither is a great option.

Here's a description of the genesis of the technique, courtesy of Steinbeck himself:

Quite early on my trip, however, I invented a method for washing clothes which you will go a long way to better. It came about this way. I had a large plastic garbage bucket with cover and bail. Since the normal movement of the truck tipped it over, I tethered it by a length of strong elastic rope of cotton-covered rubber to the clothes pole in my little closet, where it could juggle to its heart's content without spilling. After a day of this, I opened it to dispose of the stuff at a roadside garbage can and found the most thoroughly mixed and kneaded garbage I have ever seen. I suppose all great inventions spring from some such experience. The next morning, I washed the plastic bucket, put in two shirts, underwear, and socks, added hot water and detergent, and hung it by its rubber rope to the clothes pole, where it jiggled and danced crazily all day. That night I rinsed the clothes in a stream, and you've never seen clothes so clean. Inside Rocinante I strung a nylon line close to the window and hung the clothes to dry. From that time on, my clothing was washed on one day of driving and dried on the next.

That is a long way of saying, "Put the clothes in a bucket with some water and some soap." Read on for an even longer version with photographic accompaniment.

Step 1: Equipment

You will need the following for the wash cycle:
  • dirty clothing
  • a lidded five gallon bucket
  • some detergent
  • enough room in your backseat or trunk for the bucket

You will need these for drying:
  • hangers
  • functional rear windows
There was a lot of room for improvement in the drying portion of the laundry. I somehow misplaced my telescoping painting pole, which I'd intended to use a bar across the backseat from which the hangers could hang. Stringing a line was a pain and too saggy, so this method is limited to just a couple of items.

(There are so many uses for a telescoping pole, five gallon bucket, and a painter's drop cloth. I've kept them in my trunk on the off chance that I'd need emergency seating, an emergency tent pole, or just needed to paint myself out of an emergency. They've saved a few trips to the mountains and a trip to the beach. I have yet to find myself in a painting emergency, but it's all about the peace of mind. Be prepared.)
<p>I know this is an old thread, but I was curious as to where you saw that beautiful beast that is Steinbeck's van.</p>
<p>National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA.</p><p>http://www.steinbeck.org/pages/permanent-exhibition-halls</p>
I love it! Now I just have to figure out how to do this on the Muni/BART/CalTrain LOL.
Rig it to one of the overhead bars. You will still not crack the top fifty weirdest things seen on BART, nor the top 100 seen on Muni.
Nice project... Hey, where's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travels_with_Charley:_In_Search_of_America">Charley?</a>

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