Travel light by packing less and doing laundry. If you travel for more than a few days you should plan on doing laundry in the sink/tub of your hotel or B&B. This keeps the weight of your bag down so it is easier to carry or maneuver. Never done laundry by hand in a hotel sink? It’s pretty simple. Here’s a quick guide to doing laundry or washing clothes while on vacation.
Use the hotel sink or tub to do your laundry
A quick pre-rinse will get some of the dirt out of the clothing before the wash phase begins. Pack a small lightweight sink stopper. You’d be surprised how many hotels don’t have built-in sink stoppers or the ones they have leak. A sink stopper is a clever and inexpensive must pack gadget. Fill the sink or tub with water, immerse the clothes, and knead them with your hands, much like kneading dough. Then drain off the water, squeeze the clothes to remove as much of the dirty water as practical, and set them aside.
2. Fill the basin with soap and water
Begin the wash by refilling the sink and adding travel soap or detergent. Add the wet pre-rinsed clothing to the basin. If the clothes are badly soiled, you might let them soak for a bit at this point (probably ten minutes should do it) however most of the time that won’t be necessary. Wash the clothes by kneading them thoroughly. If you’re trying to remove a stubborn stain, rubbing that portion of the fabric against itself is helpful (when doing this with socks, try slipping them over your hands like mittens.) Remember that washing is primarily a mechanical process, not a chemical one.
3. Drain the dirty water
When the wash water stops getting noticeably dirtier, drain it. Then refill the basin with clear water, and rinse the clothes the same way you pre-rinsed them. Drain, squeeze out the water (wringing the clothes will extract more water but is more damaging to fabrics so use your judgment), refill, and repeat until the rinse water remains clear. You might need several rinses if the clothes were particularly dirty or if you used too much soap, usually two or three rinses suffice. This entire process, apart from any soaking, should take no more than a few minutes.
Rinsing can often be done more effectively in a shower or tub than in a sink. If laundering silk, try giving it an extra/final rinse containing some hair conditioner, which (because silk, like, hair is a protein) keeps both the fabric nice and lessens wrinkles.
Rolling wet clothes in a towel, and wringing the towel tightly (with clothes inside), is an old traveler’s trick to extract water and speeds up the drying process considerably. The towel both absorbs the moisture and protects the fabric from damage due to wringing. This technique works with any towel, but using a viscose towel is particularly productive, as you can separately wring out the towel and reuse it to good effect (whereas a regular towel, once damp, will cease to be effective).
7. Last-minute drying
If some item of your clothing isn’t quite dry when you’re ready to depart in the morning, use a hairdryer on it. Alternatively, you can do as they do in the army and put it on anyway. Though it might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it will dry next to a warm body. A better solution, though, is to choose travel clothes made of quick-drying (and wrinkle-free) fabrics. A shirt made of Coolmax® (or some similar fabric) will not only dry quickly but will keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter than cotton.
Final Thoughts on Doing Laundry on Vacation
If you’re traveling on business, you’re unlikely to want to wash your dress shirts in the sink. Letting the hotel do your laundry is a better but costly option. Should you choose to have the proprietor of a B&B or small hotel do your laundry, be sure to negotiate the fee in advance.
When traveling for extended periods, some people like to splurge on a “real” laundry every couple of weeks or so, especially for large/bulky items of clothing that are more troublesome to hand wash. Drop-off laundries in some places are notorious for “losing” items. A deterrent to such a problem is to spread out your clothing on their counter and take a quick photo with your phone to help resolve any differences of opinion at pickup time. Lastly, keep a stain stick in your backpack or bag for quick fixes on the go.
An alternative is to go to a laundromat. While you can do a lot of laundry at once you will need to stay there to keep an eye on your things. Consider if the time spent in a laundromat should be part of your travel itinerary vs doing laundry in your room.
Use packing cubes to keep soiled laundry separate from clean clothes.
The hotel plastic bag found in the closet is also good for keeping dirty and even wet or damp items away from clean clothes.
White clothing shows dirt faster, avoid packing white, instead opt for darker or patterned clothing.
Invest in clothes designed for travel. Travel clothing has all the properties you need to look good and feel good while exploring the world. Travel clothes are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, stain-resistant, and quick drying. It’s our experience that clothes that you buy for travel you end up wearing long after you’ve returned home. Shop men’s travel clothing. Shop women’s travel clothing.