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Doing laundry while traveling is one of the best ways to pack less clothing. While there are laundry facilities on the road some travelers prefer the flexibility of hand washing. Take a look at our hand washing tutorial (updated in 2019)!
How to Hand Wash Clothing when Traveling
Unfortunately, one household chore still remains whist you blissfully travel the world – washing your clothing! Doing laundry on the go is the smart traveler’s secret to packing light!
The following tutorial will teach you the best way to wash and dry your dreaded laundry and assist with some helpful tips and tricks to make the chore simpler.
Even though you have three different options to do laundry while traveling, it’s inevitable to handwash your clothing at one time or another. Follow this easy step-by-step tutorial!
A few convenient travel tools will help make hand washing a bit easier. Pack a universal sink plug such as this one and a travel laundry line such as this one so you can easily wash your clothing anywhere.
It might help to start by trying to pack lighter clothing that are quick drying and wrinkle resistant, choose fabrics such as rayon or polyester that are pretty wrinkle resistant and dry very quickly.
Note: merino wool is the best fabric for travel because it can be re-worn several times without washing. If you attempt to wash this while traveling it may take forever to dry! Learn more about merino wool here.
Please read this post on how to pack for long term travel for more tips!
It’s not only classic laundry detergent that can be used for hand washing – you can also utilize your shampoo or even a bar of soap.
It would be beneficial to invest in a multipurpose product on shorter trips that can be used as a washing liquid, dish detergent, body wash AND shampoo but on longer trips you have to use what you can.
On shorter trips, you can also pack a few single use detergent packets such as these for a quick wash on the go.
Step 1: Fill Up
Add your chosen detergent to fill the sink, tub, bucket, or even ziplock bag with cool/warm water. Follow the instructions from the garment care label, most will say hand wash in cold water.
Remember to stick to garments of similar coloring if washing newer clothing, colors can still bleed!
Step 2: Wash and Soak
Wash the clothes by swirling them around in the water. Apply extra “detergent” directly to any stains or particularly dirty spots, rubbing the fabric against itself to help get a thorough clean.
Leave the garments to soak for 20-30 minutes for a regular wash or 1-2 hours for dirtier items. If your clothing is very filthy, an overnight soap soak might be in order.
Step 3: Drain and Rinse
Drain the soapy water and rinse the garments under the tap to get rid of the excess soap and detergent. For an extra clean feel, let the clothing soak for 5-10 minutes in clean water to remove the soap with ease.
Step 4: Twist Out the Excess Water
Squeeze and ring out the water with your hands, removing as much water as you can before step five.
Step 5: Lay It Out
Step five and six are optional but are highly suggested as they will help your clothing dry much faster. Lay the wet garments in a single layer on a bath towel. A travel towel like this one works great for this!
Step 6: Roll and Squeeze
Roll the garment up in the towel, squeezing out the excess water as you go. For thicker garments, walking back and forth on the rolled towel works well, eliminating dripping in step seven.
Step 7: Hang to Dry
Hang the clothes overnight to dry ideally outdoors if the weather permits. Alternatively, the bathroom is a good location when you can’t hang the clothing outside.
When possible, hang garments close to the air conditioning, fan, or heater or leave the windows open (if suitable and safe) to allow air circulation.
Backpackers, budget travelers and long term wanderers love the Scrubba Wash Bag. It saves you money by allowing you to efficiently and effectively wash your clothes anytime, anywhere. This works especially well for adventurers getting off the beaten path with limited access to laundry facilities or those that would prefer the convenience of doing it themselves.
For delicate clothing, Scrubba has a new, more gentle wash bag called the Allurette.
Top Travel Washing Tips
- Keep humidity in mind, garments will take longer to dry in jungles and rain forests than in deserts. Keep an eye out for sunny spots to ensure clothing gets as dry as possible but even “quick dry travel clothing” can feel moist on the skin in this climate.
- Utilize your shower time – wash smaller items, such as socks and underwear. When you shower shampoo works as a great detergent.
- It’s important to ensure your clothes are fully dried before you repack, if not you could end up with feet stinking garments, gross. A handy dry bag such as this one can keep any wet clothing from stinking up the rest of your belongings.
- Don’t let your laundry pile up! Wash as you go.
Do you hand wash clothing when traveling? Share your tips in the comments!
For more travel tips, please read:
- Which Packing Organizers Should I Choose?
- The Best Travel Backpack
- Top 20 Suitcase Recommendations
- Travel Experts Reveal the Best Carry-on Bags
- Money Belts and Anti-theft Travel Accessories
- Top 5 Travel Bags for Women
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