How to wash your clothes by hand while traveling quickly and effectively

clotheslineYou have set out to travel to extract yourself from the daily routine, but there is one chore that will never go away: dirty clothes (nudist colonies an exception). And if you´re trying to save money on the road, or just don´t trust that random lady on the corner lavanderia, washing your clothes by hand is the only option that´s left. The good news is that it´s easier than you think, and with practice becomes no chore at all and you can tailor it to your situation. Here´s a quick run down on how to get it done.

1 Get some detergent. In a lot of places corner stores will sell single-load bags of powdered detergent for next to nothing. Another option is to purchase travel detergent before leaving.



2Get something to hold the water. A sink with a sink stopper (universal travel sinkstoppers can be found on the internet for <$10), a washtub, a bucket, whatever. Just make sure it´s (relatively) clean. Asking the hostel or your host if they have a washtub laying around is the best option, and if it´s a country that is mostly bereft of washing machines finding one is guaranteed.


3Put the detergent in the water, and make sure it´s nice and dissolved. There are usually instructions as to how much to put in, but as a general rule for powdered detergent, 2-3 handfuls is usually good for a small load. Now is a good time to read the label of the clothes and figure out if any special treatment is needed. Also put in the bleach now if you´re going to get the whites extra white (gloves recommended with bleach). And unless you have a large amount of clothes that hold their color really poorly, washing whites with colors really isn´t a problem. This is particularly true with synthetics that basically never lose color.


4Throw in the clothes. It´s important to put the clothes in AFTER the detergent has dissolved since you want the detergent-soaked water, and not clean water, to penetrate first. If you have the time and want the clothes extra clean, give the clothes a little rub and let them soak for a half hour, preferrably in the sun (to warm the water).


5Grab an article of clothing and rub it against itself until you get a nice foam. Go over sensitive spots (crotch, puts, etc.) a few times. Turn socks inside out to get the interior fluffy and keep the outside structurally sound.


6Ring out the clothes and dump out the dirty water.



7Give the clothes a rinse. If the water still looks dirty after the first rinse, give it a second to get all the detergent out.



8Ring out the clothes and hang dry. There are some latex travel clotheslines out there, but they don´t hold a whole lot of clothes and the ones with suction cups are useless. Go with the ones with the velcro ends. If you need the clothes to dry quickly and you have a towel available in the hostel, lay the towel out flat and roll up the clothes in it. Give the towel a good twist and it really sucks out the water. Works particularly well with synthetics (underwear can get dry enough to wear this way).

Some situations call for unique solutions, but the basics never change: wash, rinse, and dry. What other tricks have you used while doing the laundry on the road?

Photo Credit: martcatnoc, see his photostream

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