My mom has taught me a lot of important life lessons, but arguably the most useful thing I’ve learned from her in recent years is how to wash my own clothes while I’m traveling. Before she showed me how to wash clothing by hand in a hotel sink, I would either a) pack enough socks, underwear, etc to last my entire trip (which took up lots of space in my suitcase), or b) track down a Laundromat and waste my precious travel time and money waiting for my clothes to finish their wash and dry cycles.
Below, I’ve given step-by-step instructions on how I wash my clothing by hand while I’m traveling. I try to wash my clothing in small batches throughout the course of my trip so I never have to spend more than 15 minutes doing my laundry. Plus, doing laundry a few times over the course of the trip prevents me from having to do it all at once and subsequently having nothing to wear while waiting for it all to dry.
What you’ll need to hand wash clothes:
- Travel packets of laundry detergent (I use Woolite)
- A clean sink
- Somewhere to hang clothing (back of a chair, shower curtain rod, etc)
How to Wash Clothes While Traveling
Step 1: Add most of the packet of laundry detergent into the sink, then fill it with warm (not hot!) water. Leave some room in the sink, otherwise it’ll overflow when you add the clothing.
Step 2: Put a few items of clothing into the sink. If you’re washing larger items, like shirts, add in only 2 or 3. For smaller items, like underwear, you can add more. If the clothing is stained, rub it gently against itself to remove stains. Otherwise, gently knead the clothes to fully soak them in the soapy water.
Step 3: Let the clothes sit in the soapy water for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how smelly/soiled they are.
Step 4: Rinse the clothing 1 to 2 times to remove all the detergent. Personally, I like to leave the soapy water in the sink and reuse it if the clothes I just washed weren’t really dirty, so I rinse the clothing in the shower (rinsing in the shower also minimizes the amount of water that’ll inevitably get all over the bathroom floor).
Step 5: Wring out as much water as possible from the clothes, being careful not to stretch the fabric or work it too hard. If you have extra towels on hand, you may want to roll the clothes in a dry towel to soak up excess water.
Step 6: Let the clothing air dry. If possible, hang the clothing outside or near an open window to prevent it from smelling mildew-y once dry.
If you think you’ll be doing laundry while traveling, do yourself a solid and pack clothing that’s easy to wash by hand and that’s not easily wrinkled. Some hotels and AirBNBs will have irons you can use to smooth out your clothing, but many won’t, so that’s something to consider! Also, you’ll want to give the clothing plenty of time to dry. Packing damp clothes in your suitcase is a guaranteed way to make them smell musty (not to mention you’ll get all your clean, dry clothing wet).
Tell me: Have you had to do laundry while traveling before?
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