One of the most useful skills to have when travelling isn’t being able to find free wifi or reading a map. It’s actually about making sure you don’t stink. Let me teach you how how to hand wash clothes when traveling.
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How Travelers Handle Clothes Wash
Why the heck would you want to do your laundry when you’re on vacation? You have a point.
But here’s my counterpoint. If you want to enjoy your vacation, the rule of packing light that I introduce in minimalist travel packing tips is a strong reason.
As much as it seems like a great idea to pack clothes for every single occasion and to have one outfit for every single day of your 2 week trip, it’s just not feasible or you’d need to lug around a brick of a suitcase.
Why should you hand wash your clothes
Pack less – got it.
But if you have less clothes, socks, and underwear, you’re going to need to re-wear them at some point right?
Some might point to hotel laundry or going the nearby laundromat but 1) ain’t got time for that and 2) do you think we’re made out of money?
That’s where hand washing comes in.
The travel clothes washing technique
Once you learn the travel clothes washing steps, you’ll understand how easy it is and why you might as well do this on your own.
Step 1: Drop the sink stop and fill up with warm water
The water here should be warm but not too hot because you don’t want to burn your hands.
In the case where your accommodations has a broken stopper or is non existent, you can stuff a plastic bag there to slow the draining of water or you can just skip this step and use a constant flow of warm water.
You could in theory use the bath tub for this if you have maybe a large load but I wouldn’t recommend it because it’s back-breaking.
Step 2: Drop in a few pieces of clothing into the sink
Unlike a laundry machine, you don’t want to dump all your dirty clothes into the sink. At most you’re cleaning 2 items at a time. Otherwise the sink will get too full and things’ll start splashing all over the place.
Step 3: Add soap
Soap is what makes the magic happen. You can use almost anything here as you saw in the initial photo:
You only need to put in a small amount in the case of a liquid.
For soap bars, you can drop the whole thing in.
Agitate the water a bit for soap suds/bubbles to form or drop in more warm water.
Step 4: Get your scrub on
There’s no specific scrub technique you need to follow but there are a couple of basic motions you can do. Use whatever you’re comfortable with.
- Take two ends of the garment and rub them together
- Take two pieces of garment and rub them together
- Scrunch the clothes together in the warm water, push down, and turn it around (you can pretend to be a washing machine here as well if it help with your rhythm)
If you’re using a soap bar, rub the bar against a part of the fabric and that should be enough to work with. Sometimes I even keep the soap bar in the clothes as I’m scrubbing.
In between, wring or squeeze out the water. Be careful not to wring too hard if your item is delicate.
Repeat this 2-3 times.
If there’s any rule of thumb, do any or all of these with vigor!
Step 5: Rinse
With the same warm water, rinse your clothes out to get the soap off.
Unplug the sink and allow the water to drain out the soap as well.
Wring your clothes out.
Step 6: Cold water rinse
With the stopper in place, fill your sink and clothes with cold water.
You don’t need too much here as this is just the final rinse.
If you’re in a rush, you can also just keep the tap running and rinse your clothes on-the-fly.
Do one final wringing of what you just washed.
Step 7: Towel wring
This step is incredibly important if you want your clothes to dry quickly.
Take a large bath towel (the hotel ones and not the quick-dry travel towels work best here) and lay it flat and open.
Lay out your clothes flat on the towel and space them out.
From one end of the towel, roll it up into a big Swiss Roll.
Wring out the clothes with good force to make sure the exceess water gets absorbed by the towel. One good wrong should be good.
Unroll your towel and take your clothes for the next step.
Step 8: Dry overnight
The last step is to hang your clothes to dry.
If you’re staying in a hotel, there’s usually a clothes line above the tub and this is often a great place to hang your clothes.
Clothes hangers in the closet work well.
For backpackers, packing clothesline string can come in handy as well if there are no obvious drying areas.
Worst case, you can hang clothes on various pieces of furniture too.
Watch how it’s done
When we talk about old-school Going Awesome Places, this is it. This is literally my second edited vide on the YouTube channel and it probably shows.
This video shows you how to hand wash your clothes when travelling and just how simple it is.
Ever since learning how to do this, I’ve done this for practically every single trip that’s 1 week or longer.
How often to hand wash your clothes
This is a matter of preference, your travel schedule, the convenience of the accommodations you have (hostel vs. hotel vs. Airbnb), and ultimately procrastination.
My advice is to start hand washing your underwear daily when you start travelling and almost immediately.
This sounds crazy and a little too aggressive but this makes sure you always have a supply of fresh undies on the road.
When it comes to your shirts and pants, those you can do every 2-3 days.
Personally, I hate having to do massive piles of laundry near the end because it takes forever to do and you also run out of space to dry them all.
Using the clothes washing technique frequently while travelling, means you’re doing it in small quantities and keeps things manageable.
It also guarantees that you won’t have to put on stinky clothes because you put things off for too long.
What you should read next
Travel Resources For Your Next Trip
If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.
Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.
Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.
Vacation Rentals: Airbnb is the market leader but you’d be surprised how you can find cheaper deals on the lesser-known VRBO.
Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.
- Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
- RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
- SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
- Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
- InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.
If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.