How to wash clothes while traveling

We’ve got our quick dry clothes, and we’ve got our Woolite.  Now it’s time to wash our clothes.  The ideal goal is to carry around as few dirty items as possible while traveling so that one soiled shirt doesn’t stink up our entire bag.

Whenever we are able to, we’re going to do a small wash of clothes every single evening.  Now, at first this will feel like a real pain in the ass since you’re not used to it, but just like everything else, once you get your routine down, it’ll be a piece of cake.  I promise.

Wash every night = dry by morning = no dirty clothes ever in our bag.

If your clothing is made of quick dry material such as polyester or nylon, then your clothes should be completely dry in about 3 to 6 hours depending on the local climate.  If you’re in a hot, dry environment, we’re looking at 3 hours tops.  If you’re in the humid jungle, drying will take a little longer.

The first thing we need is a sink.  I haven’t yet found a hotel/hostel sink that won’t work, so that is what we will use.  Make sure the sink is clean; if not, then wipe it down with some soap and water.  Check the drain stopper to see if it works.  If it doesn’t work, then bust out your own plastic drain stopper and lay it flat against the drain.  Fill the sink with plenty of cold water, and while it’s filling up, measure out a cap-full of Woolite (roughly a quarter of a fluid ounce) and drizzle it into the sink with the water coming out of the faucet.

Don’t use too much detergent.  It’s not necessary and it’ll only prolong the rinsing process.

Once we have our sink full of soapy water, grab your clothes for the day – which on most days will be a shirt and a pair of underwear – and soak them in the water.

Agitate.  Agitate some more.  Really work the clothes with your hands.  Do this for about 3 to 5 minutes.

Drain the dirty water.  Once the water’s gone, squeeze any excess water out of your clothes.  Leave the clothes in the sink and fill it back up with more cold water.

Agitate.  Agitate some more for several minutes.

We want to make sure that all the detergent is completely rinsed out of our clothes.  

If you don’t get all the detergent out, your clothes will smell bad.  This is the reason why Woolite is completely awesome; it rinses out of your clothes super fast.  During the rinsing process, grab a shirt in the sink, lean down, and give it a smell.

How does it smell?  It should smell nice and clean.

Drain the water and then squeeze all the water you can out of your clothes.  I bunch mine up into a little ball and squeeze it really hard a few times with my hands.  Set everything aside for a second and go grab a bath towel.  Lay the towel flat on a bed or dresser or whatever flat surface you have available.

Take your clothes and lay them flat on top of the bath towel.  Like so:

Roll the towel up with the clothes in it.  Take your rolled up towel cylinder and give it a squeeze.  This will remove most of the water from the fabric.  If you skip this step, your clothes will take about twice as long to dry.

Unroll the towel, take your clothes out, and hang them up in an open area with plenty of air flow.  Most places will have hangers, but if those are unavailable, you can use your flexoline.  Make sure you don’t hang your clothes inside a closet and close the door.  If you do this, your clothes will take forever to dry.  You want the closet door open so the moisture can actually escape.  I made this mistake once and learned my lesson by having to haul around a bag full of wet clothes.  No bueno.

And that’s all there is to it!  Once you get used to this process, most nights it’ll only take a total of 10 minutes to do a wash.

A special note about washing shorts and jeans. Since we’re (hopefully) wearing underwear, it is usually not necessary to wash your shorts every single day. I can usually get by wearing the same pair of shorts for around 3 days before washing them, and since the shorts are quick dry, they can be treated the same as everything else.

Jeans are another matter. Regardless of what you do, they will take much longer to dry because they are made of thick cotton, hence require some additional planning. My method of washing jeans is to strategically wait until I know I will be staying in the same hotel room for at least 2 consecutive nights. When washed on the first night, they will have approximately a day and a half to fully dry out, which, if you do the bath towel trick, should be plenty of time no matter where you are in the world.


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