5 Do-It-Yourself-Laundry Options While Traveling

Part 2 in the series, “Doing Your Own Laundry on the Road”

Last week looked at soaps available for washing your own clothing while you travel. This week we’ll look at the actual hand-laundry process.

Self-laundry Options and Methods

1. Bathroom sink. Washing laundry in a sink requires access to a stopper of some kind. Often the stopper in a hotel sink doesn’t work well—or it has been removed altogether in an attempt to discourage guests from washing out their clothing. But that needn’t hinder you. Just bring your own universal sink stopper. Or use a lid from a pill bottle. Or you can wad up a sock and stuff it in the drain—especially if you first wrap the sock in a plastic bag. You can also line the sink with a plastic bag. Let your imagination be your guide for employing any malleable, watertight material that will plug the drain long enough to wash out a few things.

Buckets were provided at our hotel in Southeast India.

Buckets were provided at our hotel in Southwest India.

2. Ice bucket or plastic wastebasket—with contents removed first, of course. Some hotels in other countries even supply a bucket for this use.

3. Plastic bag. The bag technique turns a plastic sack into a mini washing machine. While you can press lighter-duty bags into service, some travelers prefer to bring their own sturdy bags that are built to stand up to the task. Two such brands are Aloksak and Scrubba. Not only are they lightweight and easy to pack, but they can also be used for storing dirty laundry between washings.

Aloksak has a wide selection of bags for protecting electronics and locking out dust, sand, water, and odors. They even sell bags for emergency water collection. The 16″ x 24″ size bag is superb for washing clothing.

Another brand, the Scrubba Wash Bag, comes with little “washing nobules” that act as an internal washboard.

To wash in a bag, first add a bit of soap or detergent and fill the bag with water. Mix until well dissolved. Add clothing and agitate. Seal the bag and allow the clothing to soak for 10 minutes. Then dump out the water, making sure no suds remain in the bag, and rinse the clothing. This method works especially well at hostels where doing laundry in public sinks isn’t always appreciated.

It was surprising how quickly and efficiently this college student did her laundry with a little soap and water by slapping the fabric against a sloped granite slab.

We were surprised how quickly and efficiently this college student did her laundry with just a little soap and water by beating the fabric against a sloped granite slab.

4. Shower. Some travelers eliminate containers altogether and simply wash clothes while taking a shower. This method usually works best when laundering only a couple of articles at a time and scrubbing/rinsing each piece as if it were another part of the body: neck, arm, shirt, shorts…

5. Beating on rock. On a trip to India several years ago, my daughter and I visited a college in Bangalore. When she saw women students doing laundry on the dorm’s rooftop, using very little water, she asked them to teach her their method. Rough stone blocks were placed at a convenient height next to water faucets. Once the article of clothing was soaked by pouring soapy water over it, the fabric was rubbed and slapped against the stone to release any soil and perspiration. The garment was then held under the faucet and rinsed with running water.

My daughter asked for a lesson in this novel method of clothes-washing.

My daughter asked for a lesson in the novel method of washing clothes on a granite slab.


Now it’s time to get rid of all the suds.

  1. Drain the sink or dump out the alternate container you’ve used. Rinse any vestiges of soap from the container, and then refill it with water. If you happen to have a small packet of vinegar from your evening take-out meal, go ahead and add a little to the rinse water. That will prevent any soap from remaining in the fabric’s fibers.
  2. Submerge the clothes and swish them around until thoroughly rinsed. Remove from the water and wring as dry as you can.
  3. It’s not a bad idea to repeat the rinse. Washing machines often perform more than one rinse cycle to make certain no soap or detergent is left to dry and stain your clothing. You might consider doing the same, especially if you’ve used beauty-bar soap as your cleaning agent.
  4. Drain the rinse water from your container.

Instead of dunking small, delicate items, you can hold them under running water as you squeeze and rinse out the suds. Wring as above.

Whether you do you laundry in a sink, bucket, bag, shower, or with running water and some rocks, now your wardrobe can stay fresh and clean no matter where you travel—even when taking only carryon luggage.

Next week: “Meeting the Drying Challenge”


Fiercely Frugal Savage Sister Diana has gathered packing pointers over the years on numerous domestic and foreign trips. Most recently, she travels in conjunction with the publication of her latest book, 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

© 2014 The Savage Sisters

This entry was posted in Pennywise Packing Pointers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.