Laundry 101: how to keep your clothes clean while traveling

If you really love me  

tattoo my name on your neck in fancy script

name a ship after me

buy me lots of shiny jewelry that will probably give me a rash

wash my stinky socks in a giant Ziploc bag and hang them on hotel radiator so they’ll be dry tomorrow morning.

No lie: some of the times in my life when I’ve felt the most affectionate towards HOB is when he’s been scrubbing my clothes in a cheap European hotel.  It’s a sign of love, and more importantly, it’s a sign of dedication to budget travel.

I’ve already exhorted you to pack light, and if you follow my advice, you won’t be packing many clothes, so obviously you’ll need find a way to do your laundry.  While almost all Europeans towns, with the exception of tiny villages, have public laundromats, we generally prefer to wash our clothes our room.  Laundry has become part of our nighttime travel routine.

I carry a clothes washing kit, which includes a mini clothesline,  one inflatable hanger, and a jumbo zip lock bag.  For soap I use the hotel’s shampoo, or if there is no shampoo available, either Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap or instant soap sheets.  The jumbo zip lock is a washing machine: we put in laundry, add water and soap, and then squish up the whole business to make suds.  After dumping out the sudsy water, we add more water for a rinse cycle.  The clothes get a final squeeze to get out as much water as possible, then we hang to dry.  Out of respect for the hotel, we try to keep the drippiest portion of the clothes drying over a bath or shower.  Once the dripping has ceased, we rig up the clothesline for maximum air circulation. Since HOB and I follow intense itineraries and change hotels frequently, giving the clothes enough time to dry can be an issue.  Fortunately, as we often travel in winter, there’s usually a radiator we can hang our heaviest clothes on that will dry them overnight.  In the worst case scenarios I’ve repacked damp clothes in the laundry zip lock and rehung them once we reached our new destination.

Some small hotels and hostels have rules posted: It is forbidden to wash clothing in your room.  You know what’s fun?  Being a grown-ass adult who uses the noise of the shower to mask the sound of your illegal panty washing activities.  So go ahead, pack light with clothes you can wash in a sink, maybe break a few rules while you’re at it.  And if you want show the love to your sweetheart, wash their stinky socks too.



  1. We apparently are laundry sisters! My husband and I call it the laundry dance; the antics of daily clothes washing in small European bathrooms. 🙂


  2. The laundry dance–LOL–I love it!


  3. You need to trademark this method. I never ever thought of the ziplock for a mini washing machine–that is genius! And what about this inflatable hangar that I never heard about before. I’m sold!


    1. Patent pending….


  4. You just saved me $2 in quarters. Excuse me while I go wash my clothes in the campground sink.


    1. Now see, that’s $2 you can save for your next vacation!


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