Scrubba Laundry Wash Bag - A First Timer's Review

Packing/Gear, Travel Tips
Medium sized Scrubba wash bag. Fits pretty small in your backpack, is a bit of a mess first learning to use it, but it might just be a keeper.
Medium sized Scrubba wash bag. Fits pretty small in your backpack, is a bit of a mess first learning to use it, but it might just be a keeper.
Doing hand-wash is a normal part of budget travel. So how about this bag that touts itself as a portable washing machine for backpackers?
Last Christmas I received quite a few fun travel gadgets as gifts! My friends know me so well. :) One item I got is something I've been curious about for quite a while but it was never a priority to get one (both because of price and logistics). A Scrubba Wash Bag; essentially a portable little washing machine bag!

I have to say that when I first opened the gift I was excited, then I thought wow, I really don't want this extra bulk in my bag - but I'm certainly not going to ask to return it! I want to try this thing out on my next trip. So here I am now in Costa Rica. After I removed all the packaging, I was surprised how little space and weight it cost me. I have the medium sized bag, by the way. It packed pretty flat so it became a member of my "everything" half-cube full of miscellany; the "stuff drawer" of backpacking.

Today was its maiden voyage into washdom. I started with a "larger" load, then tried a mini-load of just undies. Here's how it went:

1) Prepping the Wash

The highest fill-line on the bag shows a picture of 2 t-shirts, 2 pair of socks, and 2 underwear so I decided that 2 pair of shorts and 2 tanks tops would be about the equivalent. As the first step, it shows putting water, soap, and clothing in the bag. So, um, water first or clothing first? That will make a big difference in the final fill level. I went in the order on the bag so water, soap, clothing.

Since I have the luxury of a suicide-shower (AKA hot water), I decided to fill the bag in there. Okay, it's getting heavy. Let me do some lifts with the bag as it fills. Getting a workout while I do laundry - double win.

With the bag filled to the marked line, I put my stinky clothes in (don't judge - it is a hot tropical climate after all and we all know how ripe things can get).

For the mini-load, I used the bathroom sink to add water, but the bag is big so it was really awkward to get it under the faucet to fill it even for a tiny load. Count on using a bigger sink, shower head, or any other kind of water faucet you can find.

2) Seal 'er Up

Next step is to Roll and Clip; roll the top down and secure the clip in dry-bag fashion. Looking more closely at the little drawing, I think I was supposed to roll it forward and clip it in the front. Maybe that would have kept it from leaking, or maybe I had it too full.

To deflate, there's a release valve to let all the air out. Hopefully you left it exposed and didn't roll it up in the step above. Do not make the rookie mistake I did and lay the bag down to do this lest you want to get immediate suds and water coming out of the valve. Just leave the bag upright, squeeze the air out, and close the valve back up.

3) Agitate, Spin, Rinse, or Agitate Anyway

Now here's the part we've all been waiting for. Lay the bag on its side and scrub, mash, squish your clothes against the nubbed washboard on the bottom. I pictured I'd be like a pioneer in the olden days washing my laundry at the edge of the stream, scrubbing out the trail dirt in a satisfying motion, perhaps even singing a little tune. Not the case.
Washing a large load ha ha.
Washing a large load ha ha.
I had a hard time actually pressing down enough to get the clothes to rub against the bottom because there was so much water in the way. So I was just sort of swishing them around. There was no "scrub". Then my roll un-did itself just enough to let out a gush of suds and water. Re-roll, re-clip, bye bye release valve.

Using one hand underneath and one on top, I managed some washboard action, hopefully enough. I kept it up for the full 3 minutes of the suggested 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

For the mini-load, this proved MUCH easier! I think the bag was just too full the first time. I think the fill line represents the line AFTER the water and clothing are in. So fill the bag in this order: a little water, soap (since in most countries you can only get powdered soap), clothing, water.

4) Dump, Rinse, Dry - What a Mess

Okay so the little drawing is so nice that you simply remove (as if by magic) the dirty water and fill with clean water. I'm dying laughing here. Picture pouring out a bag of soapy water along with the clothing into a sink. Soapy mess! The outside of the bag got soapy, the clothes are now in the sink that I need to use to rinse my bag out so I can use it to rinse. I can't properly de-suds the inside nor outside of the bag at this point. I did try to follow directions all the way though and indeed rinse my clothes in the bag the first time. which entailed yet another water/clothing dump into the sink. Yeah, no. Unless you do not have a sink and the bag is your only vessel, don't bother with it past the wash cycle.

Pull your clothes out and rinse them in the sink. Then after those are wrung out and hung (or rolled in a towel - see How to Wash Your Clothes While Traveling), you can rinse your bag in very awkward and messy fashion.
Just rinse your clothes in the sink. It's a lot less messy and more efficient.
Just rinse your clothes in the sink. It's a lot less messy and more efficient.
Success! My first load of laundry with my new portable clothes washer!
Success! My first load of laundry with my new portable clothes washer!

But How Well Did It Clean?

So far so good! My clothes are almost dry and they smell wonderful. I do recommend doing some spot scrubbing on problem areas (i.e. undies) before washing as it still is just a glorified hand-wash. Hopefully I'll get better at it the more I use it but so far I think I'm sold!

It's a little pricey for a bag at around $55 ($40 for the mini) but it weighs in at only 5 ounces (2.5 ounces for the mini) which is not bad! It's nice that it doubles as a dry-bag for trips on rough boats but I wouldn't take it under water since my bag already spat out water on my first use. Of course that could be operator error. ;)


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