Laundry on the Go

April 22, 2015

You’re set on travelling the world. You’ve saved your money, bought your ticket, and packed only the things you need. Good on you for packing light! It’s more convenient, saves you money, space and time while travelling, but leaving your closet at home means you will probably have to do laundry while you’re travelling. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, hostel or roughing it outdoors, there are plenty of cost-efficient ways to get your clothes clean.

Hotel/Hostel Laundry:

Sending your clothing out to be washed locally or by the hotel can be expensive while you’re travelling, but you can wash most clothing in your bathroom sink. Some hostels may discourage this, but if you’re discreet and don’t drip water everywhere, you can get away with it.

If your hostel or hotel doesn’t provide a sink stopper, you’ll need to bring one. Get details on what to look for in a stopper below.

Washing: After plugging the sink, fill it with your clothes, warm water and soap. Agitate the clothing by stirring the water, and let the clothes soak for an hour. After an hour, agitate the clothes some more and rinse thoroughly. This should be enough to clean lightly soiled clothing, but large stains can be removed by scrubbing spots with soap before soaking.

Drying: Most clothing can be hung to dry. While outdoors is preferable, indoors works fine, too. If hanging indoors, just hang in the bathroom or as near an air conditioning unit as possible without creating a fire hazard. If you want to dry a heavier fabric in a shorter time, you can wring out more water with a towel. Place the garment flat on the towel and roll the towel up tightly, with the garment inside. You’ll be surprised how much water a towel, especially a travel towel, will absorb even if you’ve wrung the garment out.

If you don’t want to wash your clothing yourself, you can send your clothing out to be cleaned or find a local laundromat. These are the more expensive options, but sending your clothing to be cleaned is a real time saver, and visiting a local laundromat can be a chance to meet some locals (and most of them have WiFi).

Outdoor Laundry:

When washing your clothing out on the trail or while camping, it’s important to have bring all the supplies you need with you. Washing should always be done in a bag or bucket, and never in your water source because the soap can pollute the water source. If you have a large plastic resealable bag like an Aloksak bag or Scrubba, you can create a little washing machine. Put your clothing and some soap in a bag. Fill the bag with water, leaving some room for air. Seal the bag, and shake the bag. Let the clothing soak for an hour and shake again. Dump the water at least 60m from any water source (to avoid contamination). Then clothing can be hung to dry.

When camping and hiking, all waste products, including laundry wastewater have to be considered. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap is a great, environmentally friendly choice, and can stand in place of almost any cleaning liquid: shampoo, soap, dish and laundry detergent. Sea to Summit’s “Wilderness Wash” is another great Australian product, but does not have quite as many uses as Dr. Bronner’s.

Your Travel Laundry Kit:

To make your own travel laundry kit, you will need:

  1. A travel clothesline: Some places will have some clotheslines, but if you need to make your own, you can make one from rubber bands.
  2. Sink Stopper: You have options here. A film canister lid or sock stuffed down the drain will get the job done, but the best ‘universal sink stopper’ is a flat, wide one. It works in most sinks, and you can order one before you head out on your next adventure.
  3. Laundry Bag: If you’re washing in a plastic bag, we recommend The Scrubba or the aLoksak bag.
  4. Soaps: Bars travel better than liquids or powders. We like Octagon (Which has about a million other uses, like Dr. Bronner’s), Dr. Bronners, and Sea to Summit the best for travel.