Updated: Apr 28
We (clean) travellers have a choice: pack and carry around enough clothes to ensure clean clothes for every day of a trip or do laundry along the way. This is an easy choice when packing for a weekend jaunt but once a trip is longer than a week or two, it's time to figure out another solution. Perhaps you will hire porters to move your luggage for you. I met one young man who packed 30 pairs of socks and underwear for his month-long trip and was just throwing them out daily! Some might choose to rewear dirty clothes over and over again, never washing, but that's disgusting. Don't be disgusting.... and if you stink, please don't sit next to me.
I'm going to assume that my readers are not going to hire porters, nor are going to lug around multiple suitcases or backpacks. You, dear reader, will have to get laundry done on the road. The two main choices are to do your own laundry or pay someone to do it for you.
If your wardrobe consists of bathing suits, t-shirts, shorts, and lighter clothing you can consider handwashing in a sink or bathtub. On the other hand, if you've been wearing winter woolies, then mechanical means is a better choice. I have a packing cube designated as my laundry kit containing the essentials for laundry on the road.
In some countries, same-day laundry services are readily available and affordable since many homes do not have washers and dryers. The bonus is the fabulous smell when you pick up your laundry at the end of the day. These tend to be quite inexpensive, usually charged by weight.
In other countries, self-service laundromats are more common. I am less fond of these as I need to gather enough coins to feed the machines and the dryers usually run very hot for 5-10 minutes cycles. Hostels and guesthouses may offer machines (often coin-operated) as part of their amenities. Hotels usually offer laundry services but charge ridiculous prices.
Laundry On the Road: My Laundry Kit
I've gotten to the point in my life where I refuse to consider rewearing dirty clothes. I can't carry as much as I used to yet I want clean underwear daily. My laundry kit sits ready to be transferred to case or camper. Having a ready kit with all the supplies in one place makes the job much easier and it's a lot less likely that I'll forget something important behind.
The Scrubba Washing Bag is a clever waterproof bag with little nubbins inside to help agitate and scrub the laundry. Laundry can and has been done very successfully in a sink without this wash bag but this is easier and less messy. Simply fill with water, add detergent, seal it, and shake it up. Turn on some tunes and have a dance party. Rinse by repeating with clean water. I've been very happy with mine for about 8 years. After drying, it rolls up very small and has been very handy as a dry bag on the beach or in the rain.
Favourite Laundry Detergent. You don't have to go out and purchase anything different than what you use at home. If you use pods or powder, throw some in a sealed bag in your laundry kit. Put some liquid in a travel container. I use TruEarth laundry strips at home, so that's what's in my laundry kit. They don't take up a lot of room and are biodegradable, giving me peace of mind especially when camping in pristine and environmentally sensitive locations.
Clothes Lines are pretty important, too, if you're a fan of dry clothes. Many, but not all, of the places I've stayed will include a drying rack. I installed a hotel-style retractable line for inside Wanda but it's my little MEC line that has travelled everywhere with me for the past 30 years or so. The portable line has been reliably strung across rooms, around trees, and between furniture. There are a few clips on the line but they are pretty useless so I also have a few clothes pegs in my laundry kit. (Links included do not generate revenue for me, they are included for your convenience)
Along with having enough clean clothes, my rules for packing require me to be able to lift the fully-packed bag over my head or comfortably carry it up several flights of stairs. That means I will have to plan for laundry on the road. I choose the best laundry option for the trip, whether that's a Drop & Dash laundry service, a self-service laundromat, amenities at my digs, or using my own laundry kit. My first choice is to use a Drop & Dash service. It's easy to drop off in the morning and pick up clean, folded laundry at the end of the day. It's inexpensive and contributes to a local small business. Finding hostels and guesthouses with machines can be convenient if the machines are in working order and there isn't too much competition from other guests. Doing hand laundry in your room takes at least a half hour to wash, rinse and hang a week's worth of travel clothes. Time is needed to allow the clothes to dry. Using a self-service laundromat is often the simplest solution for camping or road trips, when available. Hotel services for your regular laundry is extravagant and I don't think it's worthy of being a Splurge.
How do you handle the laundry issue when you are away from home on longer trips? Do you do your own laundry when you are on the road or do you look for a service?
updated January 2023
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