How to Do Laundry While Traveling

If you're going to be away from home for more than a few days, washing clothes along the way will mean carrying far less. On an extended trip, washing clothes may be the only way to travel. It's not difficult or even time consuming to wash your own clothes while you are away.

Steps

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    Plan ahead. Part of being able to do laundry on the road is packing accordingly. Pack lighter, wrinkle-resistant clothing that will dry quickly.
    • If it will be cold at your destination, dress in layers. You can use lighter garments, and you may not need to wash the outer layers as frequently as the inner ones.
    • Pack fewer garments. Plan to wash a few items more often. You can travel with as few as two or three changes of clothing and not have to carry so much luggage.
    • Plan to wear some items more than once before they are washed. You should wear clean underwear daily, but you can wear pants and outer shirts a couple of times before washing, if they are not too dirty. However, make sure they pass the smell test: if the strong odor you notice is not detergent or fabric softener, wash it.
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    Bring laundry supplies. It is generally easiest to find these items at home, where you know the area. See the list below in the Things You'll Need section. If you choose wisely, all the laundry supplies together can take up less space and require less weight than one change of clothes.
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    Many US hotels have their own self-service laundries. Be sure to bring sufficient change in addition to travel-size detergent sealed in a baggie in case of accident. Dryer sheets such as fabric softener and color/stain removers travel well in baggies. Consider bringing a tube or two of spot remover for small soiling emergencies. (These are also great at work, in the car, or even in your home laundry.)
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    Keep alternatives in mind. If you are more willing to spend money rather than time, you need not do all your laundry yourself.
    • Find out if there is a laundry service where you are staying. Many hotels and hostels offer laundry service, which can be a good option if your budget permits or your wardrobe requires it.
    • Look for a laundromat or laundry service near where you are staying. Most towns and cities have them. They are a good alternative to washing clothes by hand, especially if you have more clothes to wash at once.
    • Remember that you can mix approaches for laundry. You might pay to send clothes that need to look good for a business meeting but wash underwear and pajamas by hand in the sink to save time and money.
    • Check days and times. Depending on where you are, laundry service may not be available on Sundays. You may need to drop off your laundry before a certain hour to have it back the same day or the next day.
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    Watch your timing. If you have a couple of days' outfits and you think ahead a bit, you can generally avoid having to cram damp clothing into a suitcase just before a long flight or bus trip.
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    Shower first. While not strictly required, it will get you out of your dirty clothes (the ones you need to wash) and it will mean you shower with a dry towel if you're doing laundry by hand.
    • Consider showering in the evening, either before dinner if you need to freshen up, or before bed. You'll avoid taking the day's travels with you to bed, and your laundry and towel will have overnight to dry.
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    Plan where you will hang the laundry before you get anything wet. Almost any hotel or hostel room will have some option for hanging laundry if you get creative, but it's far better to figure out where to hang stuff before you have a bunch of wet laundry.
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    Place the sink stopper (plug) in the drain.
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    Add laundry and soap, shampoo, or detergent, as you fill the sink with cool or warm water.
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    Wash the clothes by moving them around in the soapy water. You can apply extra soap or detergent directly to any stains and any places you know are dirty: bottoms of socks, underarms, underwear, and so on.
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    Rub the fabric against itself gently to help the soap do its job.
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    Drain the soapy water out of the sink and squeeze the laundry gently to get most of the soap out.
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    Refill the sink with clean water to rinse the laundry. Squeeze the water through the fabric a bit.
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    Drain the sink again and let the laundry drip out for a few moments.
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    Squeeze out excess water with your hands. Do not wring or twist the fabric. Just squeeze. The more water you get out this way, the less your towel will need to soak up.
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    Lay the damp garments in a single layer on a bath towel.
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    Roll the towel around them and squeeze to remove most of the excess water, or put the rolled towel on the floor and walk back and forth on it. At this point, most garments should dry reasonably quickly and you should be able to hang them without too much dripping.
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    Hang the clothes to dry. Leave as much space around them as possible, and leave closet doors or windows open (climate and security permitting) to ensure air circulation.
    • Many hotel rooms include at least a few hangers in their closets.
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    Hang the towel to dry also.
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    Dry garments the rest of the way. If hanging overnight did the job, great. If not, try these options.
    • Use the hotel iron. Many hotel rooms include irons and ironing boards, and you can press the whole garment or just touch up cuffs, collars, pockets, etc. that didn't dry completely. Make sure the fabric can take the heat, and avoid ironing silkscreens on t-shirts.
    • Leave it hanging longer. If you're staying another day and one or two things in the closet won't be in the way of the hotel staff, leave it be.
    • If the room has forced-air heat or ventilation (like a blower, usually below the window), drape the garment so the airflow hits it. Either hang the garment on a chair in front of the blower or -- for faster drying, although it can make your garment kind of stiff -- drape it directly over the blower vent (reposition as needed).
    • Put it on, anyway. It may be a bit uncomfortable at first, but your body heat will help to dry stuff the last part of the way in a reasonable time. Don't do this if it's cold or if you already have a cold and are trying to stay warm.

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