Easy Steps for Washing Clothes When Travelling

Keeping your clothes fresh and washed while travelling is always a struggle.

Over the years my travel style has altered and so too has the way I launder clothes when travelling.  Some of this is affected by my style of travel (camping, backpacking, road tripping, luxury escapes), not to mention who I have been travelling with (on my own, with a partner, as a family).  Then of course there is the dreaded budget to contend that determines my choice. 

Each of these items influences my way of washing clothes when travelling.  So, let’s walk through the steps for choosing the best way to deal with dirty clothes when you next travel.

In this Article on How to Do Laundry While Travelling You Will Learn:

laundry mat to visit for washing clothes when travelling
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Options for Washing Clothes When Travelling

We are going to begin by looking at the different types of travel washing for all budgets.

Hotel Laundry Service

In your hotel room (usually in the wardrobe) you will find a laundry bag and pricing schedule to complete for using the hotel laundry service.  To use the service, you must fill in the form which comprises of a list of all items of clothing; you must tick which items you are laundering and how many of each of those items.  Each item has a set price to be laundered.  This results in this being the most expensive way to launder your clothes whilst you travel.

However, if you have a suit, business shirt or dress that requires dry cleaning or pressing it may be the best option.


Now some hotels and other accommodations provide a coin-operated laundrette, you will need to check the website of your accommodation to learn whether this facility is available. 

Otherwise, you will have to go in search of a laundrette.  Depending on your travel destination the service that you receive at the laundrette will vary.

1. Laundry Service

Generally, I have found that full laundry service is provided in developing countries.  A laundry service operates by weighing your dirty washing and charging you by the kilo.  The laundry service includes washing drying and folding of clothes.  It usually takes 24 hours before your clothing is ready to be collected.

2. Self Service Laundromat

Whereas in developed countries you are more likely to find a self-service laundromat that has coin-operated washing machines and dryers, you will need to provide your own washing powder. Sometimes (but not always) there is a vending machine that provides individual portions of washing powder. 

The one thing I hated about visiting the laundromat when I was backpacking was sitting waiting for my clothes to wash for a couple of hours.  These days many laundromats have free WiFi or a café is located nearby.

Self-service laundromats are also often available at caravan parks making it easier for washing clothes while camping.  You can put your clothes into the machine go back to the campsite and return an hour later when the washing is done.  Caravan parks usually provide washing lines to dry clothes in the sun – but you will need to bring pegs as well.

Washing Machine at Your Vacation Rental or Holiday Cottage

If you’ve chosen to stay in a holiday apartment or chalet, sometimes a washing machine (and dryer) are provided.  If this is something that is important to you, when choosing your short stay accommodation do your research.

To help you with how to choose the best accommodation for use the…

When we have stayed in accommodations with washing machines there is usually a sachet of laundry powder provided – but again double-check.

Top Trip Tip: Pack portioned washing powder in zip-lock bags or laundry liquid in travel containers*

Hand Washing

The cheapest way to wash clothes when you travel is to hand wash.  You can use a laundry soap bar, laundry soap sheets* or take a travel-size bottle of laundry detergent (the travel-size laundry detergent will not last very long so consider your length of trip).

This is how to wash clothes by hand with a bar of soap or laundry soap sheets:

  1. Fill a basin with water
  2. Wet the clothes
  3. Rub the soiled or smelly parts of the clothes with soap
  4. Dip clothes back in the water
  5. Vigorously rub the fabric of clothes
  6. Give them a swirl in the water
  7. Empty the basin and refill it with clean water
  8. Rinse clothes
  9. Empty and refill the basin again
  10. Rinse clothes again
  11. Wring out clothes
  12. To dry hand washing clothes, hang the clothes over a rope or pegless clothesline.
    • As the clothes are not spun dry with a machine they do take longer to dry – usually 24 hours

The benefits of handwashing are:

  • Saves money
  • Reduce the amount of luggage
    • Perfect when you are backpacking

To reduce how much luggage you pack use these…

Travel Laundry Kit

As a result, I have discovered some handwashing tools and other laundry items to take when you travel.

1        Dirty Laundry Bag

First of all, you need to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes.  Back in the day when I was backpacking I just used a plastic shopping bag – but we all know now that plastic is bad for the environment.  Now there are drawstring laundry bags included with sets of packing cubes*.  Personally, I don’t like mesh laundry bags as the smell and dirt can escape the bag and contaminate your clean clothes.

These days I travel as a family, and I have everybody’s dirty washing to collect.  You could use a collapsible laundry hamper*, I like this option as it has a drawstring top to contain the clothes and handles to make it easy to carry to the laundromat or you could use a collapsible laundry basket*.

2        Universal Basin Plug

If you are going to do hand washing you will be utilising a basin at your accommodation.  But more often than not the plug is missing.  Take a universal sink plug* to fill your basin with water to start hand washing.

3        Travel Size Detergent

When I first went backpacking, I took a bar of laundry soap, this was great as it lasted for ages.  

Since then, I discovered travel-size liquid detergent – but the lid has broken off on two separate occasions.  So now I make up my own travel laundry detergent using travel bottles* and decanting liquid laundry detergent or you could try laundry sheets*.

If you are planning on using a washing machine you will need to take more laundry powder.  You can buy a small 300ml/12floz bottle of laundry detergent, or if you prefer laundry powder measure some out and into a small zip lock bag.

small size travel laundry detergent
Travel laundry detergent

4        The Scrubba Wash Bag

The Scrubba Wash Bag is said to be like a portable washing machine.  Basically, you don’t use a basin for hand washing but instead put the water, soap and clothes into the bag (that is lined with like bean bag).  Then continue with these instructions:

  1. Add clothes detergent and water
  2. Seal bag
  3. Massage the bag for  a couple of minutes
  4. Rinse clothes twice in the bag
  5. Hang clothes on the line

The benefits of the Scrubba Wash Bag* are:

  • You don’t have to put your hands into the soapy liquid
  • You  don’t have to carry a separate container for laundry or use a communal sink
  • That the water is all contained within the bag and not spilling water about
  • The bag does the scrubbing with its wash board like material
  • It is compact to include with my handy things to pack when travelling
the Scrubba wash bag for doing laundry while traveling

5        The Pegless Clothesline

When I first went backpacking 20 years ago I was given two pegless clotheslines, and ever since I have been using them when I travel.  They are not only handy for hanging up the handwashing but also for hanging out wet bathers.

Scrubba also make one which is included in their Wash and Dry Kit*

pegless clothes line for drying hand wash clothes when traveling
Pegless clothesline

6        Sticky Lint Roller

Another item I was given when I headed ofF backpacking was a small sticky lint roller*.  This is a handy little gadget when clothes end up with lint all over them.

To clean the lint off you just rinse the roller in water.

compact lint roller
Small lint roller

7        Sewing Kit

The final item I have in my laundry travel kit is a sewing kit*.  Mine is quite compact with needles, thread, safety pins, buttons and scissors.  It is perfect for a quick fix.

small sewing kit for travel
Travel sewing kit

Top Trip Tip: Use a small packing cube to put all your laundry items together

Choosing the Best Travel Laundry Option for You

So far, we’ve looked at the options for doing laundry while travelling and what tools to include in your laundry travel kit.  But how do you choose which is the best way for washing clothes while travelling for you?

How Many People in the Travel Party

Start with how many people are you travelling with?  If you are on your own even travelling as a couple hand washing a couple of t-shirts and underwear each night is not that much work to do. 

But as a family, rinsing out all this laundry each day will become quite the chore.  Therefore, you may prefer to consider the laundromat or find accommodation with an inclusive laundry.

Top Trip Tip: Consider how much work is involved in handwashing versus visiting a laundromat

Type and Length of Trip

Next what type of trip do you have planned?  Is it an extensive backpacking adventure or a luxury vacation?

If you are backpacking, you have a limited amount of luggage to carry all your belongings.  For example, when I backpacked around Europe for six months, I only took three t-shirts, sets of underwear and socks, two pairs of shorts and a skirt.  I had to hand wash each night so that I had clean clothes for the next day.  As a backpacker, you are also generally watching every penny that you spend.  Laundromats can cost from $5/wash plus $5 to dry, that’s $10 each visit, which can really eat into your budget.  I use to only visit the laundromat about once a week and include in the wash all clothes, towels and my travel bed sheet.

However, if you are only on vacation for a week or two, it’s all about relaxing and enjoying the location.  You don’t want to be spending time doing the laundry, so splurging on either accommodation that includes a washing machine or paying for a laundry service becomes a worthwhile cost and ensures your vacation remains a holiday.

How Much Luggage

The type of trip you take may influence the type and amount of luggage that you take.  Again backpacking you may only have a 65-85L (17-22 Gallons) backpack – this has to carry all your clothes, toiletries, shoes, cooking items, towels and personal belongings.  You have to be really savvy with your packing and this means only a limited amount of clothing – meaning washing more often.

Whereas a road trip or flying vacation could mean a large suitcase or duffle that is just required for clothing, shoes and toiletries.  Everything else will be provided by your accommodation and on top of that you are not carrying it on your back and thus the weight is less important.  Therefore you can take more clothes to last a longer time frame.  You may not even need to launder your clothes whilst away.

Different types of trips require different options for luggage. Discover which is the…

So how to wash clothes when you travel really comes down to how often you need to launder your clothes, how you wish to spend your travel budget and what the ultimate goal is for your trip.

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