How to Wash Your Clothes While Traveling

Travel Tips
Hanging laundry is a common sight around any budget traveler accommodation!
Hanging laundry is a common sight around any budget traveler accommodation!
Because you have such a small wardrobe, doing hand wash is a regular part of traveling.

Getting Dirty

Wear your clothes until they are crawling away. Well, of course you don't want to be a stinky traveler but wear your stuff more than once!

Keep your dirty undies and socks in a separate stash since those are the things you won't be re-wearing. I have been using the Eagle Creek Clean Dirty Cube and I love it. One side is for clean, one side for dirty so this is where my undies, bras, and socks all live. Keep all your other dirties stored properly (folded or rolled) in case you need to wear them in a pinch (which happens somewhat often).

A rinse in the sink can do wonders and you don't have to take the time to do a full wash.

Timing

Consider doing quick-wash or even just a rinse in the sink as soon as you take something off or in the evening before bed so you have some reasonably clean stuff to wear in between "major" laundering. If you had a sweaty day, a rinse in the sink can do wonders and you don't have to take the time to do a full wash. You can even just wash the pits or crotch for a super quick stop-gap. This really extends the "cleanish" life of your clothes!

Be strategic in your laundering. Look ahead to when you will have a least 2 nights in one location (I find that works best for me). That way you can do your laundry after you check in or early the next morning and have time to let it fully dry before you need to pack it back up again. Hopefully your clothes are all quick-dry fabrics! If not, you will need to allow extra drying time.

Doing laundry at my friend's house in Thailand.
Doing laundry at my friend's house in Thailand.
Sink and bathtub washing will just become part of your routine.
Sink and bathtub washing will just become part of your routine.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

• You WILL get the floor all wet under the sink
• At least one clothing item will fall off the line and into the dirt

Washing

Hopefully you have your universal flat or rubber sink stopper with you and with any luck you even have hot water. Many types of soap will work. I travel with a concentrated biodegradable laundry soap but have also used my body wash or the bar soaps you sometimes pick up for free along the way. Powdered laundry soap can usually be purchased at a local shop very inexpensively but if they don't sell it by the gram, you might be in for more than you want to carry.

Put clothes in sink or bathtub, fill the sink, adding soap as it fills. If you have any stains, put a drop of soap directly on the spot and rub that stain out. Agitate your clothes a bit (like a washing machine) then LET IT SIT. This makes a big difference in how clean your clothes get. Slosh it around a good bit again and drain your sink.

Bathtubs give you the extra fun of "grape stomping" your clothes clean. ;)

Be aware that some hostels disallow washing your clothes entirely while others provide nice sunny laundry lines.

Rinsing

Pretty basic. I usually do a bold rinse under the running tap, squeezing and turning each item. Then fill the sink and swish the clothes around one more time to get out the rest of the soap. Then wring each item out before hanging to dry. Sometimes it can be a balancing act piling up your rinsed / need-to-rinse / ready-to-hang clothes on the side of the sink! Inevitably one of your ready-to-hang items will fall into the sink full of water.

Drying

Here's a great trick but you'll need to be able to spare your dry towel. Lay your towel out on your bed and lay your clothing item on it (or puzzle-piece a few items on the towel). Now start at the short end and roll your clothes up in the towel. Press it and squeeze it, then unroll and hang your stuff. This gets a good bit of extra water out and saves drying time!

If you hang shirts upside down, you can avoid the pointy shoulder syndrome.

If you have air-con or a fan, hang your clothes in the breeze. Be careful though about potential puddles underneath since it can make the floor super slippery. For panties and tank tops, loop the panty or one of the tank straps over the clothesline and pull the rest of the garment through the loop. This will keep them from falling off the line. You can pin the other side if you need to.

Try to hang your clothes by the end, don't fold them over the laundry line or they won't dry as quickly. If you hang shirts upside down, you can avoid the pointy shoulder syndrome. Also drying your clothes inside out will help keep the sun from fading them too much and also keep any stray blowing dirt on the non-visible side of your once-clean clothes.

A common sight for a budget traveler.
A common sight for a budget traveler.

If your accommodation supplies a laundry line in the sun, use that! You'll have fresher clothes.

If you don't have a laundry line, then hang your clothes over chairs, on the bed, etc. When one side is dry, turn them over to dry the other side.

Squeeze the excess water out of the bottom of your clothes whenever you walk by.
Sometimes I'm worried about
Sometimes I'm worried about "ghetto-ing" up the place by hanging my laundry out. Then I realize everyone else is doing it too.

Sending it Out

A lot of hostels will provide laundry service (the cost is usually per kg) or there may be laundry service nearby. Depending on where you are, it will either be laundered in a machine and hung dry or hand-washed and hung dry. Clothes dryers are pretty uncommon. You will typically get a better clean this way so it's good to do every month or two if you're on a very long trip.

Coming Home

There's nothing like when you come home and get to properly wash your clothes! The stuff gets so CLEAN!

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