Doing laundry while traveling can be a tedious chore. However, washing your clothes during a trip gives you the advantage of being able to pack less and travel lighter. It can be difficult to figure out the best way to do your laundry while traveling and of course you don’t want to waste much of your vacation time on laundry. 

After many trips abroad, I’ve come up with a bunch of helpful tips for doing laundry while traveling, along with some useful gear. I covered all your options from hand washing in the hotel sink to laundromats and included some useful gear that I’ve found helpful in doing laundry while traveling.

Be careful what you pack

Before I tell you how you can do your laundry while traveling, it’s important to consider what clothes you’ll bring on your trip. Not all types of clothes are easy to wash and some will wrinkle easier than others. The clothes that you aren’t wearing are the clothes that you have to lug around all day. So, make sure you only bring clothes that you’ll actually wear. It’s also smart to bring clothes that are designed for travel, like light and fast drying outdoor clothing.

The ultimate travel fabrics

Some people say you never should bring jeans while traveling. Others say denim is the ultimate travel fabric. Even though denim doesn’t dry quickly, I think it’s great travel fabric to bring on your trip. You don’t have to wash denim often. Just when it smells or really looks dirty. Clothes from merino wool are also great to bring along. This type of material fights odors and stains, keeps you warm, and also locks away odors if you sweat. If you can’t afford merino wool, up your wool game with a synthetic smartwool hybrid.

Don’t pack these items

Never pack white clothing and clothing from cotton. White clothing shows stains immediately (especially sweat stains) and is tough to wash with the rest of your colored clothes. Cotton is hard to keep clean and wrinkle-free while traveling. The fabric breathes well, but dries slowly, stretches after a few hand washes, shrinks in the dryer, and generally wrinkles seconds after you pack it. Also avoid packing heavy fabrics, they are heavier in weight and take forever to dry. 

Packing cubes for laundry

One of the easy steps for keeping your clothes fresh and clean, is to keep your clean clothes away from your dirty ones. Packing cubes are a simple way to separate worn clothes from fresh ones.

Travel size laundry detergent

Rather than carrying a box of laundry soap or having to buy it every time, throw a few travel-size laundry detergent packs into your bag instead. You can bring some powder from the normal size detergent you have at home and put enough for a few washes in a ziplock bag.

Tips for doing laundry while traveling

Now that you know a few items to bring and not bring, let’s move on to how to clean your clothes while you travel. Here are my essential tips for doing laundry while traveling.

Hand wash your clothes in a sink or bathtub

Hand washing is an effective way to clean your clothes while traveling. It’s simple and easy. Basically any sink can become a laundry machine. A bathtub will work too, if you have a lot of clothes to wash at once. Here’s how:

  1. Clean the sink.
  2. Plug the drain in the sink. A travel stopper is nice to bring with you. They are flat, lightweight, and take up minimal room in your bag.
  3. Fill up the sink with warm water.
  4. Soak your clothes for 2 minutes.
  5. Wash your clothes in the sink. Drain, rinse, and repeat at least once. Then add laundry detergent or soap and hand wash each item.
  6. Rinse your clothes. Rinse each item until the soap is gone and wring excess water off.
  7. Finally hang your clothes. I always pack a drying line with me, but sometimes hotels have a laundry line inside the bathroom so search around. If you can’t hang your clothes to dry, try rolling clothes tightly in a towel to squeeze out excess moisture.
Photo by Elena Rabkina 

Wash your clothes in the shower

Another option is to wash your travel clothes in the shower by stomping on them. It really works. I usually do the shower washing exercise every night and dry my clothes overnight. This allows me to travel with a minimal set of clothing.

Hand wash clothes while being outdoor

If you are going on a camping, long-distance hiking or other type of outdoors holiday, you can do your laundry using natural water resources outdoors. When you use the water from rivers, streams, and lakes, make sure you use biodegradable environmental-friendly laundry soaps, as the water will be going directly into the environment.

Photo by Peter Aschoff

No sink for cleaning your travel clothes? No problem!

Sometimes you don’t have easy access to a sink, bathtub or shower. When this is the case you can easily bring a bag that can wash your clothes. A Scrubba bag is one of those bags. It’s a flat bag that has an internal washboard. Just bring some soap, store your dirty clothes in the bag, fill it with water and detergent, seal and deflate, then agitate the laundry by rubbing on the outside, replace the dirty water with clean water, rinse and wring everything out. Easy!

Choose an accommodation with laundry options

Another easy option is to book an accommodation that has a washer. Airbnb and other guest houses will usually let you know if washers are available at your chosen location. Sometimes a host may include the detergent in the price but more often than not you will need to bring your own.

Photo by Filmreal Studio

Use the laundry service in a hotel

Lots of hotels offer laundry services, which is one of the easiest ways to get your laundry done. This option usually is expensive and for me not worth the money.

Do your travel laundry at the laundromat

You can also choose to drop your travel laundry off at a laundromat. In Europe and the United States, you’ll find plenty of laundromats. In Asia, there are often common local places where you can get your laundry done.

Photo by Bryan Papazov

Remember to pack light and to bring good travel fabrics. Get out of the auto-wash habit and use your nose to see what really needs to be washed. 

Do you have experience with washing clothing while traveling? Any special items in your travel laundry kit or any other tips for doing laundry while traveling? Please tell us about it in the comment section below. We’re always looking for recommendations!

Author: Daphne

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