Post Playa Cleanup

Playa dust is extremely alkaline and every bit as caustic as acid. Long term storage of items without proper washing first will usually result in the destruction of those items. Over time it will break down fabrics, threads, leather, etc...


Remember that playa dust is similar to products used to make plaster, concrete, and drywall - all of which are water activated and get rock hard. Preliminary cleaning should always be done dry and don't start wet cleaning unless you have time to go from start to finish.


Unpacking all that dust covered gear is fun and the smells bring back fond memories in most of us so it's not as bad a task as it sounds. First things first - shake out as much dust as possible. Your first step in cleaning should always be to get rid of as much dry dust as possible.

If you have access to an air compressor, blowing the dust off will help substantially.


You may remember from chemistry class that acid will neutralize alkalinity. Luckily for us there is a cheap acid found in any supermarket called white vinegar. Lemon juice is also acidic but is more costly. Fill a big tub with water and add some vinegar (approximately 1 ounce per gallon of water). Drop your clothes in and agitate then let it soak a few minutes. Pull the clothes out and wring out the vinegar water. They may now be washed normally.

Note: Some folks prefer to do the vinegar rinse in the washing machine, but since there is much to be washed that I don't trust a machine for I use the tub method.


I found most of our whites such as socks were impossible to get fully clean, although a pre soak in Oxyclean helped substantially.


Most boots are never the same after being saturated so these may be neutralized with a pump spray containing a vinegar / water mix. If your boots are waterproof, simply dip them in your vinegar / water solution. Follow up with a through rinse.


Although some folks machine wash tents I feel much safer hand washing them. Start by turning them inside out and giving them a thorough shaking. Next soak in the vinegar water, then transfer to soapy water, and follow with a thorough rinsing. I usually put the tent up to make sure its completely dry before storing. Avoid storing damp tents.

Note that this would be a good time to waterproof your tent again.


Other items I hand wash are my playa coat and camelback.

Saving Dust

In the course of cleaning up you may accumulate quite a pile of dust. gather it up and save in a zip lock bag or sealable plastic container. When you are missing the playa just pull out your dust and wet it a little - the smell will be a happy reminder of home.