How Do I Wash My Clothes While Traveling?
Maybe you can answer this age-old question for me: How do you wash your clothes when you’re traveling?
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Considering that I travel as lightly as possible—usually with nothing more than a small carry-on—I end up washing my clothes during any adventure trip longer than two days. Helpful hint: Never go to a laundromat or have someone else wash your clothes for you (unless you’re visiting mom, of course) because it uses up too much energy, water, and money. My strategy is incredibly easy, but it takes a bit of pre-travel preparation. Here’s the lowdown.
BEFORE THE TRIP
1. Pack only synthetic-fiber clothes. When it comes to hand-cleaning your apparel, cotton kills. Everything needs to be quick-drying, from your shirt to your pants, underwear, and socks. You know the best brands for travel clothes of these kinds—Patagonia and Ex Officio come to mind, as well as the house labels for L.L. Bean and REI.
2. Bring a length of clothesline, a flat universal sink stopper, and a durable, plastic, zip-sealing bag. You’ll see why below.
3. And bring a small plastic bottle full of concentrated biodegradable soap, like Dr. Bronner’s.
DURING THE TRIP
1. When you’re ready to wash that first load of stinky, dirty apparel, fill the bathroom sink at your hostel or hotel with warm water using the flat stopper, and add five to 10 drops of Dr. Bronner’s. (If the sink is too yucky, use the plastic bag you brought to hold the water instead.) A bar of soap or shampoo will even work here as a detergent.
2. Squeeze and knead the piece of clothing in the water for two to three minutes. Then let it soak for about 10 minutes. Drain the soapy water and rinse the clothing item in fresh water.
3. Gently squeeze the water out of the piece of clothing without wringing it. Then place it flat on a towel. Roll the towel and step on top of it several times to squeeze out the water. Don’t skip this step.
4. Find a place to install your clothesline outside of the bathroom. The items that need to dry will be hung in a less humid area. If you’re in an insanely wet and tropical climate, try to hang your clothes beneath the ceiling fan.