Laundry On The Go

My travel clothesline suffered a fatal rupture in a Seville hotel room, stretched beyond all reason for the last time.  I will replace it, after a decent interval, because doing laundry in hotel sinks is not just a chore. It is a very central tenet of my travel philosophy.

I believe that the only way to take an extended trip without carrying too much luggage is to wash my clothes on the fly. There are many who disagree – about doing laundry on vacation and about what constitutes too much luggage. But with the airlines cracking down on overweight bags, it might be time to at least consider adopting the wash-and-wear vacation strategy.

On our 16-day trip to Spain I had three changes of clothing, including the outfit I was wearing when we left. And, OK, one extra (very lightweight) shirt. This meant I had to do laundry in a hotel room sink every couple of days. We could have looked for a laundromat, but the sink is quicker.

It’s altogether possible to wash clothing in a sink with hand soap or even shampoo, and hang it over the curtain rod, in a pinch. But I pack a little laundry kit that contains:


Here’s the process

      1. Stuff the dirty clothes into the sink, add water and soap, leave to soak for a few minutes, then swoosh, squeeze and scrub as warranted. Don’t use too much soap – minimal suds ought to do the job. If you don’t have a sink stopper, stuff a  washcloth in the drain. If you have a lot of clothes, you can use the tub and employ a sort of grape-stomping technique.

2. Rinse and wring clothes out a few times in fresh water until they are no longer sudsy.

3. Wring each article of clothing by hand as hard and thoroughly as you can to remove as much water as possible.

4. If you have a clean, dry towel available, lay it out on the floor, lay the wet clothing on top of it, roll the towel and clothes up like a jelly roll and then kneel or stomp on the rolled-up towel, turn it over and kneel or stomp again. This squeezes water out of the laundry into the towel. You’d be surprised at how effective this can be, even when the towel is already damp.

5. Hang your clothesline in the tub, between bathroom fixtures or wherever you can set it up without doing damage to the hotel room. (DON’T use the emergency fire sprinkler head.) Use the mini bungee cords or whatever else is handy to attach it. Hang the clothes on the line.

The length of time it will take your clothes to dry depends on the material they’re made of, the climate and how thoroughly you dried them in the towel. I’ve had jeans dry in 30 minutes on an outdoors line in the Sonoran desert and I’ve had a microfiber shirt take days to dry in more tropical climates.

A few methods to speed the drying process: hang clothesline above a radiator, apply the hotel room iron or hair dryer to the damp item or even hang it over the coils on the back of a refrigerator. It feels icky, but you can put on slightly damp clothing and your body heat will dry it fairly quickly.





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