Dealing with travel laundry may be the least glamorous detail of trip planning. However knowing how to wash clothes while traveling, without paying a small fortune, is something worth thinking about. Hotel laundry charges can make weary travelers’ eyes pop from their sockets.

Popular gadgets such as a travel washing machine, or the well known Scrubba wash bag, are a cost we think you can skip. Having done many international cycling trips, end of day always finds us dealing with sweaty laundry at hotel stops.

How to wash clothes while traveling

Drying laundry Camogli, Italy

 

For those with backpacking laundry, and no access to sinks or showers, we suggest you read Packing List for a Long Distance Walk from one of Canada’s most respected adventure writers Leigh McAdam.

How to Wash Clothes While Traveling  

Pack the right clothes to wash

If you plan to be handwashing clothes in a sink, or even at a laundromat, for the love of travel, leave the jeans at home. 

Wrinkle free, lightweight, easy wash and quick drying. At least 90% of what you pack should fit that description. Your clothing will be tightly packed and need washing either by hand or in a washing machine.  

How to wash clothes in a hotel – The sink method

As the hotel room door opens we gaze hopefully for a sink larger than the size of a saucepan. Packing a universal sink stopper can be a helpful part of a travel laundry kit. As I am always packing lightly, I make due with a sock as a sink stopper.

Should one hit the travel laundry jackpot, the shower will have hand held wand for rinsing clothes. These are the hopes and dreams of the traveling cyclist with sweaty clothes begging for a washing machine.

We pack small sheets of laundry detergent or packets of laundry detergent granules. Swish either in the sink of water prior to adding your clothes for washing.

When handwashing travel laundry, please be respectful guests. Minimize the amount of water that gets on the floor. 

How to do laundry while traveling – The shower method

Perhaps the best method to wash clothes in a hotel room is to take them in the shower. You can wear them and soap them up while on your body. No need to pack travel laundry detergent. Use the soap available that you will use for your own shower.

Take the clothes off and give them good stomp as you continue to shower. Then one final rinse and the washing clothes, and your own shower, is complete.

laundry drying in croatia

Clothesline in Split, Croatia

How to dry clothes while traveling

After the rinse cycle, whether using the sink or shower, wring the clothes out by hand. Then fling them to your partner, avoiding wet smacks to the face if at all possible.

Place a towel on the floor. Lay the clothes flat on the towel and roll the towel. Proceed to  stomp mercilessly on top of the towel roll, as if attempting to extinguish a forest fire.

Basically get as much water out of the laundry as possible.

From there search out the best location to hang up the travel laundry. Ensure that you are aware of the rules of your accommodation regarding hanging laundry on balconies or windows.

If window or balcony use is permitted, look for creative techniques of maximizing window openings as laundry drying real estate.

It can be a delicate game of how-many-clothes-can-you-hang-in-a-window-before-your-underwear-lands-on-your-neighbor’s-deck?

Using clothes hangers balancing on upper window sills is our best suggestion.

Packing a portable clothesline and clothespins is often recommended. We have never found a hotel room that accommodates a line well. Best saved for camping laundry.

Drying clothes in open window

How to dry clothes while traveling in an open window

How to wash clothes in a bag

In the travel advice world, the current sales of washing bags are highly recommended. I think you can save your money. Using a dry bag or even a 3 liter zip plastic bag could work. 

In looking for the best method to wash clothes in a hotel room, a big bag of water seems an unlikely solution. Perhaps for washing clothes while camping, this technique is appropriate.

The overall concept is put water, detergent and clothes in the bag. Seal and shake or agitate for several minutes. Remove and repeat with the rinse cycle.

I have visions of wet laundry and a flood of sudsy water enthusiastically leaping on the hotel room floor.

Using hotel laundry services

If you are in North America or Europe and have unlimited funds, this is a convenient option. How to wash clothes while traveling, if you have no concern over price.

Look for a plastic laundry bag often found in the hotel closet. Check the price list and brace yourself. One washed and pressed shirt can cost an arm and a leg.

A slight exaggeration however, we have seen rates as high as $70 per load. 

Might as well just buy a new shirt rather than washing one’s own.

Washing clothes by river in Peru

If you think travel laundry is a hassle be glad you don’t have to use the rocks by the river as seen here in Peru.

Booking accommodations with self serve laundry facilities

For travelers staying for more than several days in a location, this solves the travel clothes wash dilemma. Many AirBnB or VRBO rentals include at least a washing machine, if not a dryer. When booking accommodations look for what laundry facilities are available.

Some rentals go as far as providing detergent and dryer sheets. We see this as winning the travel laundry lottery. Other rentals, campgrounds or motels will have self serve coin laundry. You will require your own laundry travel kit with detergent and a supply of coins. 

Do you have any other tips on how to wash clothes while traveling?

Other articles of interest

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The Ultimate Guide To Sustainable Travel – 10 Tips To Travel Responsibly

International Travel Tips – Travel Advice in Uncertain Times