Doing Laundry on the Road: A Practical Guide
Whether you’re traveling light or on the road for the long haul, you’ll invariably need to do laundry. Consider this your handbook with all the tips and tricks you’ll need to keep your laundry fresh and clean while traveling—without slowing you down.
On some trips, keeping clothes fresh when traveling isn’t a huge concern—you’re either wearing the item only once or a quick refresh with fabric freshener and you’re good to go. But if you’re on the road for an extended period of time, you’re traveling light and plan to wear items on repeat, or if you have a spill or other stain-inducing mishap, doing laundry away from home may be a necessity.
While washing clothes isn’t how most people want to spend their travel time, with a few simple tricks and a little bit of planning, it doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Read on for your guide to keeping your clothes clean while you’re away from home—because no one wants to skip out on an adventure because of dirty laundry.
The Basics: Make Less Dirty Laundry When Traveling
There are some simple tricks to avoid having to do laundry while traveling and keeping your clothes more fresh while traveling. Consider bringing clothing made from quick-drying fabrics. This can especially be important for underwear: You can buy special travel underwear made from fabric that’s quick-drying, and made with antimicrobial and moisture-wicking. That way, you only need a few days worth that can be washed and dried at night, rather than letting two weeks worth take up precious suitcase real estate. Also consider wearing items that can be worn more than once before washing, like jeans and sweaters.
Organization when traveling is key, and it’s helpful to have a checklist of items you’ll need on your trip for reference. Obviously, Pack-It Specter Clean and Dirty packing cubes are ideal for separating clean and dirty items. They can also keep wet and dry items separate in case you need to move on before your clothes are totally dry (also great for wet gear after a day swimming).
Other pro tips for travelers to keep clothes fresh for longer:
● Pack dryer sheets or lavender sachets to stash in your luggage to keep things from getting stinky.
● Save those silica gel packets you get when you buy new shoes and electronics—they’re great for wicking away moisture in humid climates.
● Pack a bleach pen. These are TSA approved and helpful for small stains.
When to Use Laundromats or Dry Cleaners
Almost every city has laundromats located fairly close to most accommodations so you can walk there with just your dirty laundry. The packable duffel is perfect for these types of scenarios. Add to streamline your gear, go with a duffel that converts into a backpack so you can haul your bag to the laundromat.
You can find laundromats by doing a quick internet search, or by asking the staff at your hotel. Self-serve laundries are easy to use, you just need coins, detergent, and something to keep you busy while you wait—simply follow the operating instructions posted on the machine. You can also bring your own powder detergent if you’re particular about using your brand or unsure if the laundromat will single-use laundry detergent for sale.
In some places, it may be more affordable to drop your laundry off and come back later or the next day and it will have been washed, dried, and folded for a fee. This is a popular laundry option for travelers in India, Southeast Asia, and many other budget destinations.
Dry Cleaners, on the other hand, are notoriously costly and not so great for the environment, plus they can be tougher to locate. However, many suits, dresses, and other more formal clothes, or those made of certain fabrics, must be dry cleaned, and washing them on your own would ruin them.
Use Laundry Facilities Where You’re Staying
If you’re staying in a short-term rental or hostel, look for laundry facilities listed in the amenities when you book, or ask the owner once you’re there. Many hostels offer laundry facilities for their guests, something that will be listed on their amenities, as well. Many hotels also either offer a laundry service for a reasonable fee or have on-site laundromat facilities.
How to Do Laundry in Your Hotel Room
Many people opt to wash clothing items in the hotel room sink or bathtub. Some hotels have a laundry line that stretches across the shower, but travel clothes lines are also an option if you know you’re washing a lot on your trip. Another handy item to have is a sink stopper, although you can almost almost find a way to plug a sink when needed. You can bring a baggie of powdered detergent of your own, get small travel-size detergent packets or pods, or even use bar laundry soap—all of which will go through TSA screening without an issue. These simple items are easy to pull together and keep organized once you’ve got a system that works for you in place.
Washing clothes by hand is fairly easy:
- First simply fill the sink with very warm water and a bit of laundry detergent.
- Let your dirty laundry soak.
- Consider draining the sink and soaking it all again if your clothes are particularly soiled from hiking, sweating, and general travel grime.
- Clean the clothes by rubbing fabric-against-fabric in your fists to remove any stains and give the clothes a strong agitation.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Wring out excess water and hang to dry on a line or even on a balcony.
If you’re an ardent traveler (or just hope to become one), having a laundry plan in place will make taking those dream trips easier—it’ll be one less thing to worry about.
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By Rebecca Treon on February 27, 2020
Rebecca Treon is a Denver-based freelance food and travel writer. She has two children who are learning to be intrepid travelers like their mom. When she’s not busy adventuring with her family, Rebecca can be found experimenting in the kitchen or attempting to have a green thumb.