How to Do Laundry While Traveling

July 20, 2012 by

Dream Travel Job, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

There’s just ONE chore from the real world that we can’t escape when we’re on the road: laundry. The chore of all chores. (Well, you could technically escape the hassles of cleaning your wardrobe, but we’re big fans of hygiene.)

Does anyone ever delight in laundry detergent, fabric softener, and waiting around for cycles to end? Probably not. We’re here to make it easier.

Before you leave

Venice laundry

There’s no need for a dryer in Venice! Photo credit: Nicholas Boos via Flickr.

Here’s a no-brainer: make sure most (if not ALL) of your laundry is clean and ready to wear before you hit the road. There’s nothing wrong with prolonging the task.

While you don’t want to increase the weight of your luggage too much, it doesn’t hurt to include at least a small, travel-sized packet of detergent before you go, or a reusable bar of laundry soap. If you’re planning on getting suited up for at least one glamorous event during your travels, pack a small bottle of wrinkle releaser as well.

A few other items that may be necessary to purchase include:

  1. A light, but durable clothesline: When you don’t have the option of a dryer, you’d be surprised how well a portable clothesline comes in handy (especially one with suction cups). String it up anywhere – between bunk beds or across your room – but be mindful of your roommates, if you have any! You can also use paperclips as clothespins.
  2. Sink stopper: If you’ll be washing your clothes in the sink, a stopper might come in handy. You’ll find that your hotel will be without one when you need it the most.
  3. A military-style mesh laundry bag: These lightweight but incredibly strong bags will help keep your dirty laundry separate from all the clean stuff, without adding any extra weight.
  4. Dryer sheets: These are definitely optional, but dryer sheets have the ability to keep your clothes smelling fresher, longer. You’ll need it depending on your location and activities.
  5. Hand-washing detergent: Some companies, like Tide, have tiny travel packets of detergent that can be used especially for hand washing clothes. Take warning, though: these packets do NOT go in a regular washer!
  6. A packtowel: This is a small towel made up of a chamois or microfiber material, with the ability to absorb up to seven times its weight. It dries your clothes so much quicker! To use: squeeze the water out of your clothes, then put them inside the packtowel and squeeze again to soak up excess water.


Remember the days of old when hand-washing required a scrub board, a wash tub, and a manual wringer? Well, if you want a job well done, they’re still probably required; however, it IS possible to clean your clothes in the sink. Just ask Viator’s Dream Travel Job traveler Ryan van Duzer:

Washing your underwear in dish liquid not appealing? You can simply use a bar of soap, or buy the aforementioned detergent specifically made for hand-washing.Travel packets start at only $1.39/packet!

Some tips for hand-washing:

  1. If you’ve just checked into a new place and are planning on staying for more than three days, hand-wash your clothes on day one so that they have time to dry (especially important if you’re in a humid climate).
  2. Clean the sink with soap first.
  3. Be conservative with the detergent – you don’t need a lot for big bubbles!
  4. Only fill up the sink halfway, or less. You need room for your clothes.
  5. Let your clothes soak for a few minutes.
  6. Knead your clothes with your hands while still in the water.
  7. Unplug the sink and rinse off the soap.
  8. Squeeze vigorously, and hang to dry. Don’t wring – doing so will stretch the fabric!
  9. Use a towel or packtowel to get rid of excess water.
  10. If placing on a rack or hanger somewhere to dry, place a towel underneath to catch drips.

Machine or professional wash

If you’re really not into hand-washing your clothes in the sink, check your accommodations beforehand for laundry services. Hostels typically have their own laundry rooms, usually with a fee of a couple dollars per load (much like in apartment buildings).

Just don’t get your keys trapped in the dryer…

And, of course, if you’re in a city then it shouldn’t be too hard to find a laundromat. Plot potential places on a map, read a few reviews for quality’s sake, and head over with your laundry. You might even find it’s a great place to mingle with the locals, or just people watch!

Fun tip: If you’re traveling in a third-world country where you get the biggest bang for your buck, seek professional laundry services to take care of your laundry. If you shop around, you can find some quite cheap services with a turnaround of typically 24 hours. This way you don’t have to waste valuable hours in a laundromat!

Read more travel tips!

Other tips

The following are some more tips to keep your wardrobe hygiene in top shape:

  1. Use odor eaters in your sneakers if you’re an active traveler who intends on spending lots of time getting fit.
  2. Keep climate in mind. If you’re going somewhere with a lot of humidity (i.e. a jungle), articles of clothing will take much longer to dry.
  3. For wet spots, use a hair dryer to blow dry (e.g. the waistband on a pair of boxers).
  4. Pack clothes that dry quickly, like those made up of polyester fabric.
  5. Shampoo can double as a mild detergent, and hair conditioner can be used as fabric softener.

Candice Walsh


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10 Responses to “How to Do Laundry While Traveling”

  1. Katie Says:

    Thanks for an entertaining post and some great tips! I usually pack a small amount of laundry powder in a ziplock bag for travel. Also, I make sure I have at least one or two clothing items that are ‘quick dry'(available from most good outdoor stores) so I’ll always have something clean to wear!

  2. greg loftus Says:

    I watched the clip on washing in the sink and leaving the water runnning like that is very wasteful. In many countries water is scarce and should be used wuisely. He needs a sink stopper. The wprlds biggest problems are yet to come and water shortage will be the biggest one.

  3. Linda Says:

    Nah dont use any of the above, I have travelled for many years both in Army and Civilian….Carry small elastic line, cheap shampoo, always do my laundry daily in the shower…no problems…all good, using shampoo makes clothes smell really nice….

  4. Mike | Homeless On Wheels Says:

    Best solution to laundry is to not wear clothes! Seriously – try a naturist vacation; you’ll not have clothes to wash if you’re not wearing any.

    For when clothing is unavoidable, wear as little as possible, and go for light and simple garments that will not only be more comfortable, but easier to wash.

    Choose medium to dark colours – they won’t show dirt as readily as whites and brights, allowing you to get extra wearings between washings.

    If you wear sandals or other footwear that doesn’t need socks, you won’t have those to wash. On a similar note, and at the risk of TMI, consider going “commando” and you won’t have underthings to wash.

    Shower with your clothes on (after emptying pockets and removing your belt) – it is an easy way to wash one complete outfit. Once you’ve washed and rinsed the clothes on your body, take them off and finish showering yourself.

  5. peggy Says:

    Try using Purex laundry strips cut into one or two inch strips and discard the softener part. Wash underwear or small items in the shower with the strips and they’ll come out smelling like freshly washed laundry.

  6. Pretraveller Says:

    Thanks for the tips on washing clothes on the road. I usually find that most hotels and hostels will have a laundry room with a washing machine and dryer which is good for most things.

    Another tip is to ensure that the clothes you plan to take with you can go through a washer and dryer OK and don’t have any special cleaning requirements.

  7. Lily Says:

    Well I washed my clothes with dish liquid and not bad :))))))

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  9. Michaela @ Lightweight Eats Says:

    On a somewhat related note: a toothbrush and toothpaste do a really good job of washing dishes on the road. I do this all the time in hotels!

  10. Alex Says:

    I hadn’t thought of the towel tip before. Another good tip if you don’t have a sink or sink plug (or spare sock) is to use an inside-out dry bag to wash clothes in – you don’t even have to get your hands wet. 🙂