I've always packed heavy and never had to do any laundry but I'm packing light this time so what's the deal with laundry places? Are they common? Do I need to bring my own degergent?
Laundry places are in the same places in Europe as they are in the US - near where people who can't afford washers/dryers live. So, in less wealthy parts of town, generally not convenient to tourist areas, but often near hostel areas. If you are packing light, you probably won't have a full load before you need to do laundry, which is why people wash "a few things" in their room, and save a trip to the real laundry for once a month. Euro detergent is the HE type they sell in the US for front loaders. And front loaders take FOREVER to run a load.Easiest thing is to bring small amount of cold water-type detergent from home and wash in sink. Don't forget braided clothes line, and to dry stuff in towels before hanging up! Shampoo doesn't work as well, since it has all the conditioners in it, unless you use solid shampoo (liggett, burts bees).
I always bring Woolite (or similar) and do my laundry in the hotel sink. This works fine. My trips are usually for 21 days or so and I often choose to wash my clothes well (i.e. at a laundromat) once while away. The above advice re: a clothesline is worth considering.
Just apply the old backpackers' tip: Hair shampoo works just like detergent. Fill a sink with warm water, add maybe the size of quarter full of shampoo, wash your stuff. Once the sink is empty again just rinse it under running water and hang it in the sun to dry.
laundry mats are a pain in the neck in Europe and good luck trying to figure them out in countries where you don't speak the language. hand laundry in your room is the ticket. and pack things that dry quickly. many rooms have those great ceramic radiant heaters and hanging things over those-they dry in a jiffy. if you have heavy things like jeans or cords or a towel that you know will take a long time to dry, wait until you stay somewhere for a few days and wash them then, I had slacks once that took 2 days to dry. it is all an adventure, take some of those spot wash throw away things for little stains when the whole item isn't dirty.
A slightly more expensive but convenient option- even if they don't advertise it, most European hotels, guesthouses or B&Bs will clean your laundry if you ask. But, the price might be a little steep.
We did the laundry bit last summer and found that these new "energy-efficient" washers and dryers take an interminable amount of time. For this reason this year we have converted to clothes that will wash in the sink and dry overnight. For three weeks we are each taking a 21" carry-on suitcase. After much research, primarily on this board, we have decided to carry Fels Naptha and do our laundry on our own in the evenings.
We have never had trouble at l'mats (tho my wife has steadfastly refused to accompany me to one). Most of our washing is done in sinks or showers in apartments or hotel rooms. Heavier items, such as jeans, can sometimes need a machine. It is a good way of meeting local people. In Paris, two women patiently pointed out all the steps needed and we enjoyed the time so spent.
You will NOT need detergent, as Europe is littered w them and no l'mat worth a damn is w/o that.
My daughter and I also pack light. We had 4 outfits each and used wool lite...2 Rick Steves' travel clothes lines. We put the wool lite in those small plastic squirt bottles. We washed in the bathroom sinks. In the hostels where there were shared sinks we used a 2-gallon zip lock bag.
We used a laundry once in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Hand washing a few clothes in your hotel room each night is quick and painless. This concept produces a lighter suitcase (fewer clothes); plus, you can be out sight-seeing rather than searching for self-service laundries and sitting in front of washing machines. Woolite makes individual packets of detergent, the perfect size to hand wash a sink-full of clothes. Note: cotton clothes take a very long time to dry, so consider using clothing made from the new, fast-drying, wrinkle-resistant fabrics.
Agree shampoo works great. We ran out of Wool Lite towards the end of our trip and used shampoo instead.
I pack light AND I am the laziest person when it comes to laundry. In Madrid I went to a laundry/dry cleaner place and paid 8 euros to have my laundry taken care of. TO me it seemed a lot of money, but it was a time saver. I dropped off my laundry at 9 am and picked it up at 4. Not only did my laundry smell amazingly fresh, I spent more time sightseeing. Plus with the recommendation of the laundry owner, we ate at HIS favorite place, which was a real gem!
If you decide to "rough it" and wash a few items in your sink, bring a water absorbant towel. Its like a chamois. You can find it on Rick's store, or camp places like Sports Chalet or REI. Roll your clothes in the towel and squeeze (or stomp) the heck out of it. That will help speed up the drying process.
Nordstorm's powder lingerie soap (available in 5 oz travel size) lasts a long time and bypasses the 3 oz liquids/gels rule. I just noticed larger than 2 gal Ziplock bags at Target today; plan to take 1 or 2 on our Oct trip because they will hold more than most sinks. We've also left laundry and picked it up at the end of the day---a nice break once or twice in 3-4 wks of travel. I also like laundromats for the opportunity to meet people/read/catch up on my journal.
If you are going to Rome there is a street-level place in the inexpensive area north of the Termini train station that will wash and dry a load and throw in 15 minutes on their internet terminals for a reasonable price. I stayed online for a whole hour, then fluffed, folded, packed and caught a train to Venice. Warmer than outside (it was March) and the Bangladeshi proprietor was a hoot("Why are you leaving? Don't you like Roma?").
i also use shampoo. and i only wash underwear and other lightweight stuff. i discovered this trip that a lot of hotels have built in clotheslines over the tub--looks like a chrome button. you just grab it and pull it out and hook it on the other end. can't believe i never noticed it before. lightweight stuff dries overnight.
We've had some fun adventures with laundromats in Europe. In Interlaken, Switzerland, first we had to figure out the correct coins to use in the machines, (this was before Euros) and be sure to use the extractor (what's that?) in between the washer and the dryer. Then there were the rates, which varied, depending on the time of day. (The dinner hour being the most expensive.) Then getting our almost, not quite, dry load back to the hotel on our bikes, and decorating the entire room with damp laundry...but it was an experience.
In Venice, we went to one recommended in Rick's book one morning. They wouldn't have a machine free until the afternoon, but we could leave the laundry. However, it was necessary that we come back at the time they put the clothes into the machine, and stand there and watch them do that! Then we were free for the rest of the afternoon, until it was time to pick it up.
The above was the fun stuff, now for the practical side. Be sure to take readily washable and dryable things that do not require pressing. Coolmax is great for T shirts and underwear, and so comfortable. Supplex, a sanded nylon fabric, is very nice looking. In addition to detergent and a clothes line, take a flat sink stopper. A couple of inflatable hangers take little space and help things dry more quickly.
I usually do a combo of washing my own & having it done through a local laundromat - some can be pretty cheap if u don't have the time or energy to do it yourself.
As far as soap, I'm very sensitive to chemicals, so I take this castile soap from Country Rose that serves as a body wash, shampoo, dish & laundry soap! It's obviously great for packing light! And it'll work great as a spot remover as well! It only contains olive oil & whatever essential oil scent you choose, if you choose one, so it is mild enough even for newborns.
Note - if you're used to using traditional shampoos, you'll have to go through a detox period where u get rid of all the junk it puts on your hair before your hair will get fully clean. So I wouldn't recommend using a natural shampoo for the first time while on vacation.
Laundromats are not common in most of the places we stayed (Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France) and it was a PAIN to find one when we needed one! So... I was glad that I had brought a few sample sizes of Woolite and we washed out socks, etc. a few times. The best thing I did was bring older socks and t-shirts. After a few weeks, we just tossed them out! Of course, with 4 boys, it was the easiest way to do laundry! Our hotel in Paris charged a hefty price for laundry that was sent out. But my husband did say that it was softer and better than our cleaners at home. Bring some Woolite, a clothes line, and clothing that dries quickly!
A good way to wash undergarments, especially for girls, is to put them on the floor in the shower while you wash. By the end of the shower, they've been soaped/shampooed and rinsed. It saves time.
But then again, make sure the shower is clean!
I use a similar strategy for laundry as some of the others. To begin with, I use mostly "travel friendly" Tilley clothing, which is designed for washing in a Hotel room sink and drying by the next morning (without wrinkles).
I usually wash small items in the sink every day or so, and do a larger laundry in a Laundromat every 7-10 days. I agree with the others, the machines can be a bit difficult to figure out, but there are often other travellers or "locals" around that will help out.
You might check the travel laundry kits either in Rick's store or Magellans. These contain a rubber clothesline, some liquid soap and often a sink plug. Be sure to get the clothesline that is braided with loops on the end (the goofy suction cup models don't work).
I find it's often not necessary to use the clothesline, as there's often a shower bar or something else that can be used in the bathroom to hang clothes. BE SURE it doesn't "drip" on the floor, as the Hotel will tear a strip off you!
If you are using laundromats or washers here, it's best to wait and buy your clothes soap here (there are plenty of options for those with sensitive skin) since washers here are different, so US soap may not work (it's too foamy and won't wash out properly).
Or get soap in the US that's made for side-entry washers. But if you are trying to save space & weight, best to buy it here.
I plan to bring some Woolite with me. I also found this small container of liquid Tide for 4 washes. I do plan to check my luggage. I'm staying with a friend in Germany so I can use his washer & dryer for the time before and after we head out for our smaller overnight trips. The big thing for me is I also have sensitive skin. I cannot use his detergent as it is very concentrated and has fragrance. I used to get huge red welts all over my body from detergent until I switched to the stuff free of dyes & fragrance.
If you're staying at hostels they will recommend a place for laundry 9 out of 10 times.
My preference is for laundromats because you spend the 2 hours getting it over with. I can go out at night for a drink instead of washing underwear in the sink. But I always bring a 3oz. bottle of dish detergent in case I need to do laundry, run out of shampoo or just wash off my hands.
Jason, we had a laundromat one block from our hotel in Munich. The directions were on the wall in English as well as German. For about 50 Euro cents, they sold the correct detergent. I didn't realize it was available until after I'd started my load, and I used a sample pack of regular US liquid detergent and had no problem. The wash cycle only took about 30 minutes, and the dryer took about 60 minutes. They had these "spinning" machines in between the washers and dryers. I asked a German man who was using it what it was for, and he said that it spins the clothes again and cuts the drying time by about half... BE CAREFUL though. Their coldest cycle in the wash is still warm, so be very careful about your colored loads! I understand that if there's no other option, you can wash things in the sink, but considering there's no A/C in Europe, it takes FOREVER for some clothes to dry... We had a washer in our apt in Prague but no dryer. It took a day and a half for our stuff to dry...