• Nicole Griggs

How to Keep Your Van Clean

Updated: May 24

Or: How many more times are we going to flood our van because we forget to empty the gray water tank?

Stainless steel sink in wood countertop in a van
The sink in a van is so multi-purpose it’s often the first place to get dirty and cluttered

Cleaning day is everyday when you live in a van. This bit of insider knowledge was definitely not conveyed in all those lovely #vanlife photos we saw on #Instagram when we were first dreaming of making our own tiny home. We’ll let you in on this secret now before you get caught in the same trap we did:

Living in a van is constantly messy, no way around it.

As soon as you wake up, you realize how many bugs made themselves at home with you during the night. Once you’re done screaming and shooing them out, you realize how much dirt and leaves from yesterday’s adventures is grinding under your feet. Once you're done sweeping, you notice that all the movement from yelling at bugs and sweeping the floors has caused leftover sawdust from the build to fall gently down, like fresh snowfall at Christmas, to settle gently upon every surface possible. It’s enough to drive anyone mad.


Wet ‘n’ Wild

Daily cleaning and tidying up is something you just have to force yourself to grow accustomed with. However, dust and random leaves that you really don't know why they followed you back home is one thing. Flooding your van each time you brush your teeth is another. That's right, we're talking #graywater tanks.


Please, if you're another #vanlifer or #buslifer living in a #skoolie, let us know if you've ever forgotten to check your gray water tank and suddenly feel a slimy sensation underneath your bare feet. You look down and to your horror you see a lake of water puddling at your toes. And it stinks like toothpaste and dirty dishes and grime. Sorry to paint such a horrific picture but we've done this five [expletive] times.


This is a mistake we can’t figure out how not to make. Old habits are hard enough to break, let alone 30 year old habits. The our sink doesn’t go into a septic tank or lead to pipes like we’ve taken for granted all our lives. We've taken, for granted, the fact that in every other living situation, water is just gone once it's down a drain. It’s a lame reason but we just keep forgetting.

Woman in mask holding cleaner and full trashcan in camper van
Never fear, the Super Cleaner is here!

I do like this experience, though. Not the cold, awful feeling of dirty water wetting my feet as I’m absentmindedly washing the dishes. But, I enjoy how present we have to be with our lives, even in our daily routines. We can’t rely on traditional plumbing to whisk our water away or to supply it, for that matter. It's a conscious effort to remember where and when we're going to fill up our fresh water tank and (clearly) also an effort to remember when to empty out the gray water.


Since we've flooded our floor so many times, we've become experts in cleaning. Still, cleaning is rarely anyone's favorite, so to pass the time while we clean we usually listen to a podcast or an audio book. Right now, we’re in between novels so we’ve just started Hunting Warhead. If you’re interested in true crime, investigative journalism, and justice for child abuse victims, we can’t recommend it enough.

Besides all that, we would love to say that we have some special trick to keeping the van clean for longer than 12 hours but we're pretty sure it’s impossible. While it was surprising to us once we moved into the van, since we fell hook, line, and sinker, into believing everyone’s sparkling clean photos on Instagram were real, we still have adapted to sighing loudly at the gathering pool of water on the ground and then rolling up our sleeves and get to work.


Thanks for reading and see you out on the road!

Want to see more of our adventures? Follow us on Instagram @theadventuringgriggs

169 views0 comments