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Best gear for washing clothes in hotel

Looking for recommendations for gear when washing clothes in sink or bathtub? Such as clothes lines etc.

Posted by
1884 posts

My trip to Ireland last year changed my mind about bringing my 'washing up' gear. I am no longer bringing my clothesline, large baggie to wash in, or powdered laundry soap. I found using the shampoo found in almost every hotel and washing in the sink and hanging stuff in the shower worked really well. Sometimes I could put a hanger over the shower control and hang several things from that. I figure I will save a few inches and ounces without them.

Posted by
11368 posts

I take concentrated liquid soap sold in camping stores and a sink stopper. I also have hotels do my laundry if there long enough.
I bring clips with a hook on them and blow up hangers.

Posted by
2768 posts

Extra large - 2.5 gallon - ziplock bags are very useful. Put clothes, water, and soap in and you can knead, shake and wash clothes without a bin or sink stopper.

Soap of some sort. I have concentrated liquid from REI meant for camping, anything can work. Shampoo is fine in a pinch.

I’ve never brought a clothes line - I just hang clothes on the shower or otherwise make do. I can see where it could be handy but I don’t like bringing a lot of stuff.

A travel towel is good. Some hotels dont provide enough towels - I use 2 per shower. Having a quick dry, fold small towel is great to roll clothes in then squish to ring out as much water as possible. And you can later use the towel for a regular towel or beach towel if needed.

Posted by
5145 posts

I do my lingerie in the sink using the hotel shampoo. Roll in a towel and stomp on it to get out excess water. Then hang in the shower. Everything else gets hauled off to a laundromat once a week. I'm past the point of doing all my laundry in my room.

Posted by
3265 posts

I'm more like CJ, but sometimes I don't have to hand wash, and I'll send it out via the hotel whenever possible. I do however bring a clothesline for the times that I must. I, too, use shampoo provided by the hotel and the sink. Basically, whatever works best for you. I'm sure our systems have all changed through the years and will again...or mine will likely anyway.

Posted by
2925 posts

I took these folding hangers to Italy. They worked great to dry everything except socks which I hung over the towel bars.
For soap I took Forever New. It washed everything clean without needing multiple rinses. I just bought more for home lingerie washing and travel. Be sure to buy the granular to avoid 311 bag issues.
I took the RS clothes line but only used it twice to dry socks when we had a balcony. It was awkward to use and would not take it again.
I need to buy a flat sink stopper. Not all sinks had a stopper and the stopper I took was almost too small.
I read about using baggies to wash in but that was more effort than it was worth. I just used the sink.

Posted by
15726 posts

Here's what I carry:

Sea to Summit Ultra Sil 8 liter dry sac I use it to wash my clothes in, it takes up no room and weigh one ounce. I have run into too many tiny sinks. And I like this better than Ziploc bags. It can also be used as a laundry bag.v

Sea to Summit or Travelon Laundry sheets A pack of 50 fits in the palm of your hand. Two to three per load. If I'm in the UK I'll pick up a tube of Dr. Beckmann's travel laundry soap. I don't like perfumey soap so I bring my own.

Convert-A-Hanger Converts those no hook hangers into ones you can use anywhere.

Flexoline clothesline. Add a cable keyring and you can hang this anywhere. I always say I'm going to leave it home but on every trip I find I use it in at least two or three hotels.

Tide pen mini.

Small spray bottle for getting rid of wrinkles. (I find water works fine.)

I try to hit a laundromat every couple of weeks or let my hotel do pants and shirts depending on price. The older I get the more I like this convenience.

Most important is traveling with either blends or quick drying clothes.

Posted by
14293 posts

I’m a 2 gal ziplock gal. I reinforce the sides with mailing tape so then I can easily wash jeans in it. I take a plastic tubular hanger ( the kind with a built in hook too) and a couple of clothes pins. I can get a shirt, unders, a pr of socks and in a pinch a pr of pants on the hanger at the same time.

I just use the hotel shampoo or body wash.

I started out with the clothesline, sink stopper, etc but have honed it down to this.

Ive also seen what goes in to sinks and I don’t want my clothes touching that!! With the ziplock you can also put a load in to soak, place it in the shower and head out to dinner.

Posted by
7472 posts

When we took for first few European trips, we brought two RS rubber braided clotheslines for our underwear and brought a line to string around the room for each Day 1 of RS hotel locations. I brought Woolite little packets of laundry detergent, and we washed them in the sink.

Now we just wash everything with the hotel shampoo. We hang them with one of the RS braids or the hotel hangers. We stay more than two nights at several places now, so there’s less importance of washing everything on Day 1.

Posted by
302 posts

I made a huge change by now, literally, NOT changing my pants or skirt until after 4 or 5 wearings. For a typical 3 week trip I can just wash underwear ( pretty much as described) nightly. If I stay in a hotel, on arrival, I pay to have my plane yoga pants washed, then pack them away for the return home. For tops I hang them inside out. I have a travel size spray bottle with good-smelling ironing linen spray. This doesn9 exactly answer your question, but is a different solution!

Posted by
3074 posts

I'm with Karen (not literally, but in terms of undie usage). We wear stuff several days. We take camping undies, 2-3 pairs. They dry fast. I take them into the shower with me. That's a convenient place to wash stuff. I'll give no more details.

Posted by
1259 posts

From years of bicycling touring, I learned to step into the shower wearing my skin layer. By the time I’ve washed my hair and soaped up the nasty bits, underwear is pretty much clean. Peal it off, rinse. That takes care of daily chores. Washing a shirt, pants, or sweater usually starts in the shower and ends in the sink. But I don’t need bags or special dedicated tools. However, I do carry rubber gloves so I can use hot water and avoid harsh soaps if things get ugly. I have not need to yet, but I’d ask to use the hotel machines or pay for laundry service if necessary.

Choice of easy care, quick drying clothing is more important than having exotic washing equipment.

Posted by
2635 posts

I use the liquid soap and/or shampoo provided by the hotel, give things a good wring, place between 2 layers of a towel to really get the excess water out and then hang wherever possible. I use the hotel’s sturdy pants hangers for jeans, regular ones for tops and have my own plastic single clips for socks, undies and bras. I use the sink for most items, tub for jeans.

Posted by
8664 posts

I've not used it, and am not recommending it, but there is a special mesh bag called "Scrubba" that is intended for doing sink washing. You fill it with your washables, and then soap, soak and knead in the sink. It has some plastic protrusions that are supposed to help "agitate" the clothes so its a more thorough wash. I read an article in a magazine about it, saw it on Amazon - no experience with it, but might be of interest if you plan to do this a lot.

Posted by
24 posts

We always do sink washing on our land trips and river cruises in Europe. I have found that a bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap does a nice job. It is a large bar of soap so only take half of it. It is found in the laundry section of the grocery store and costs about a dollar. Sinks can be tricky so I pack a flat white drain stopper which was purchased at a Menards.
We have found that Ex Officio underwear and Smartwool socks are great for travel. Anything like pants, skirts would be sent to the laundry on the ship if needed.

Posted by
36 posts

I'll add a recommendation for soap in the room usually the body wash. I also took some Columbia pants this year. I rolled up the clothes in a towel for excess water. The clothes always dried overnight. I just hung them over shower rod. I think Naphta soap would be good, too. I didn't think of that.

Posted by
12200 posts
  1. A two-gallon zip lock bag. It's my portable washing machine. There's much less mess when the agitation is done in the bag rather than the sink. I start with soapy water then drain, add water, drain, etc. until the rinse water is clear.

  2. Dry laundry soap sheets from REI. They come in a little plastic case not much bigger than dental floss. They work best if you follow directions, mix with warm water to turn it into liquid soap, before using. Three or four sheets is recommended for full loads, usually one sheet for the amount I'm doing.

  3. Something to wring with. Clothes dry much faster when you wring them completely before hanging them up. Instead of using up every towel in the room, I pack a chamois or synthetic chamois. Lately, I've been packing a synthetic chamois but it's usually pretty worn out by the end of the trip. It's also a back up towel when I stay in a hostel that doesn't provide towels.

I used to pack one of the twisted clothes lines. I don't do that anymore because I'll only wash one or two pairs of underwear and one or two pairs of socks - sometimes I'll add a t-shirt. I use available hangers or shower curtain rod (with something underneath to catch the drips). I found I wasn't using the clothes line so stopped packing it. I'll stop at a laundromat once about every ten days and wash and dry everything that needs it.

Posted by
5067 posts

First, before I forget, if you are traveling with someone, pack half your stuff in his (or her) bag and vice versa. Bags get gate checked occasionally regardless of bag size or weight. If that happens and a bag goes it's own way, at least you'll have half your stuff and can get by until the other bag arrives.

Washing tips and gear: Take "quick dry" clothing and wring out each piece thoroughly. Then shake the piece vigorously to throw off any excess water and "unwrinkle" it. Roll it up in a towel and really squeeze it. A lot water will still come out.

Soaps: We've found those supplied by the B & B / hotel work fine. We take a couple of three ounce containers with good sealing tops with some Prell concentrate shampoo just in case.

Drying tips: A braided stretchy cloths line such as the one Rick Steves sells by itself doesn't always lend itself to oddly shaped rooms. Go to an outdoor sporting goods store, REI, or military supply store and get about 18 feet of nylon "para" cord or parachute cord. It's very light, takes up little space and is very strong. Attach it to the stretchy end of the cloths line with a good knot. You should be able to rig a drying line no matter how your space is configured. Take one heavy duty leaf bag (cut open) to place under the wet clothes if you have to hang them over a wooden floor or rug and not the bathroom.

Posted by
18866 posts

Plane tickets $2000
Hotel room $2000
Food $500
Hotel Laundry $50

Hmmm, I found the best tool for cleaning clothes in the hotel is a credit card.

Another option is to find (in advance of the trip) a local laundry shop. Why? Well, its easier, and it gives you an opportunity to interact and meet people and be a bit local (yes, not every european washes their own clothes). Cost is generally half the cost of the hotel and you dont have to carry around folding hangers and clothes lines and irons and ..... making it so much easier to travel with nothing more than a 7.5 kilo underseat bag.

Posted by
4603 posts

I've gone through a number of trials for laundry but often all I take is a 2 inch cube of laundry soap I got at a health food store. Fels Naptha isn't available in our stores anymore and I find it harsh on my hands. The new soap cleans better than hand or face soap and lasts a long time. However, I usually rent an apartment with washing machine.
I have a longer upcoming trip where I will need to wash heavier clothing so may take a zip lock bag or my largest 'dry bag' for soaking then washing. A cruise sink is tiny and no way I am going to spend port time in a laundromat.

Posted by
713 posts

I found the best tool for cleaning clothes in the hotel is a credit

Oh, James, I like the way you think. :-) And I agree with this too:

Another option is to find (in advance of the trip) a local laundry

On my 9 - 14 day trips to the UK, I've found laundrettes. Not always in advance, but pre-trip scouting is a good idea. I've done self-service washing and also paid for a service wash. In the former situations it was a nice break, didn't take all that long, and almost every time I got talking to either locals or other tourists. In the latter case it was lovely to drop off a load of dirty stuff, go off on my daily explorations (I was in Penzance that time), and come back to a big bag of clean duds.

Posted by
18866 posts

Maria, and my clothes are dry and neatly folded. While I have a washer and dryer in Budapest, its one of those tiney washer/condensing dryers and it takes 2.5 hours to run a tiny load. So the lady in the laundry about three blocks away and I are have become great friends over the years. I'm not putting it down, but hand washing every night isnt my idea of a holiday. Especially in the European unairconditioned summer when I can burn through 2, sometimes 3 shirts/pants in a day. If I were to do it, I would buy the detergent in the city I arrive at. The idea of shopping for daily needs adds to the flavor of the trip for me. I look for ways to interact in the economy, part of my fun; dentists, pharmacies, grocery stores, clothes, laundry. Doesnt make it the best idea, just one that works for me. AND, i can travel with a backpack most of the year.

Posted by
19171 posts

In 24 weeks of travel in Europe over 19 years, I've developed a system for washing clothes nightly that works well for me.

I don't think I have ever stayed in a hotel with laundry service; at least not since I traveled on business in the 1980s.. Occasionally, when I've stayed in a room in a private home, my hosts have let me wash clothes in their machine. At first, I looked for laundromats, but I couldn't usually find them in the small towns where I like to stay, so I gave up trying and developed a wash-as-you-go system.

Soap: The only soap I take with me is a bar of ivory. No need to worry about the quantity of liquid or leaking containers. One bar works for bathing, washing my hair if shampoo is not provided by my host, and for washing clothes. I just wet the clothes and rub them on the bar of soap until I get enough suds.

Over the years I have compiled a special set of clothing that I only use for travel. Everything (golf type shirts and underwear) is cotton/polyester blend and has never failed to dry overnight.

So, I wash the clothes in the sink. If I need a stopper, a small plastic bag works. Then I rinse the clothes in hot (not too hot) water and, finally, a second rinse in water as hot as I can stand. First I wring out the hot clothes as much as possible by hand, then wrap them in the bath mat and wring them out to get out as much water as possible. I use the bath mat (I've always found one) because I'd rather step out of the shower the next morning onto a damp mat than try to dry myself with a still damp towel.

For years I've carried a twisted clothes line, but I've not usually found a place to deploy it. There aren't that many place to hook the line in the bathroom, and those are never the right distance apart. I've acquired a clothesline with suction cups because it gives me more ways to string it, but I still rarely use it.

What I have found that work well for hanging clothing to dry is either "drip-dry" hangers, clothes pins with a hanging loop. These work fine for hanging underwear from the towel rack. For shirts, I use inflatable hangers. The thickness of the inflatable hangers keep the sides of a shirt apart to promote drying.

I wash shirts and underwear every night. I can go for three weeks without washing pants (3 pair of washable slacks and several pair of walking shorts). I often find a place to machine wash the slacks part way thru the trip, but, if not, and I am careful not to spill on the slack, I can make them last the trip. It's easiest with dark slacks, harder with khakis.

Posted by
141 posts

A sink stopper is critical. I use Forever New powder laundry detergent - it comes in individual packets for convenience (available on Amazon). Because of a lack of space and the need for my roomie to also wash and line dry socks, undies, I pack Rainbow-Lee travel foldable sock and underwear hangers (velcro wrapper) with six clips - comes in a two-pack on Amazon. I've ditched the clothes line after numerous episodes of trial and error (mostly error). I also plan at least one or two trips to the laundry mat where I've met the most amazing people! Hotel laundry's, for the most part, I skip if they charge 3 to 5 euros for a pair of socks. Some smaller, family run hotels have had the most amazing and affordable laundries as well (Cinque Terre, Antalya - really stick out in my mind as places where the hotel laundry was affordable and superb!).

Posted by
92 posts

It is so interesting to read everyone's different approaches. My current preferred method is using a Scrubba bag - the smaller white version they now sell, with Camp Suds or Forever New soap. Before this I used a 2 gal. Ziplock bag, and now prefer the Scrubba. I typically put some clothes to soak before dinner, rinse them after dinner, roll them and wring them in a pack towel and hang to dry on some of those funny folding hangers overnight. With several plastic clothes pins those hangers also work great for drying socks. I have stopped using inflatable hangers as they did not seem to get things dry any faster. Since almost all of my travel clothes are line dry fabrics, I haven’t used the laundromat in a long time. I learned about Forever New powder and Scrubba bags from this forum and am grateful for all of the knowledge and ideas that are shared.

Posted by
9903 posts

I’m a 2 gal ziplock gal. I reinforce the sides with mailing tape so then I can easily wash jeans in it.

Pam OMG I had no idea that people wash JEANS in the sink!!!! You are one brave woman!!!

Posted by
9903 posts

At the hotel I was in this week, the “basin” was a bowl atop the counter — I bet I could barely have washed a pair of underwear in there, much less a few pairs or a blouse!!! I was very glad I had not planned on sink washing!! It also wouldn’t, I think, have worked to put a flat sink stopper over the malfunctioning domed one in the “bowl” — what a mess!!

Posted by
292 posts

My current setup:

  • Scrubba wash bag: Previous replies mention it; I would say it is NOT essential, but is absolutely an upgrade from sink or shower washing. The "scrubby" side has worked on several stains too. You can absolutely use a regular dry bag or large ziplock as well; it just needs to not leak water.
  • Soak Wash: pricier than other soaps, but technically does not need to be rinsed out. Scents are nice; no complaints.
  • Turkish towel: These thin towels are handy for the pool, beach, whatever, and look nicer than a microfiber towel if you need to take it in public. For laundry I use it to get excess water out if I'm not trying to get every hotel towel soaked (or if I'm worried a fabric might have dye transfer).
  • Get laundry done: if the price is good, let someone else do it.

I don't mess with clotheslines; I just get creative with hangers and towel bars.

Posted by
14293 posts

Kim, lol! Yes! I always travel with jeans (poly/cotton blend) and I can wash even ones to cover my plus sized self in a 2 Gal bag. One of the reasons I use the bag is weird shaped sinks like you encountered. On my first visit to Rome I had a sink that was so small I could barely wash my hands in it! Forget even getting your face down close enough to splash water on it.

BTW, the poly/cotton blend jeans dry overnight or at most in 24 hours.

Amy, good point about dye transfer, especially from new jeans. Yes, I've had to rinse out a hotel towel OR bathmat when I've had color transfer. Good thing to think about. Do you have a plastic bag for it to go in if it's still damp when you are ready to pack?

Holy cow! Those Scrubba bags are $50? Yikes.

Posted by
10403 posts

We found a good deal on a Scrubba wash bag when we spent a week in Victoria, BC. We bought it, thinking how convenient it would be for hand washing on our European trips. We did a trial, and maybe it was operator error, but it seemed like a huge pain in the butt. I stuck it in our RV for emergency washing. So far I haven't needed it. For those who use the Scrubba, what are your tips for using it?

Posted by
10403 posts

For years I used inflatable hangers. Now I use folding hangers similar to these.

I take several hangers that have clips to hang pants. I can leave them behind if necessary because I get them for free when I buy pants. I used to take a clothes line, but found it too difficult to hang in most places. I no longer bother.

My preference is to rent apartments with a washer whenever it makes sense.

Posted by
2925 posts

We also used the folding hangers. They work great. Instead of hangers with clips for pants, we folded the ends of the folding hangers over the pants legs to hang pants upside down to dry.

Posted by
292 posts

For those asking about the Scrubba, I use it in a pretty lazy way. I fill it up, squeeze out the air, and then might agitate it for a bit, usually on the bathmat towel in the bathroom. Then I might walk away from it and let things soak, do something else, and come back to agitate it some more and empty it out.

Since I use no-rinse soap, if I do a rinse "cycle" at all, it's brief. Then the rest is the same as any other hand washing - take each item out, squeeze excess water, wrap in a towel to get more out, and hang it up somewhere. I also like it because I'm particular about laundry and have a few clothing items I prefer not to go through a machine when I'm not in control of the settings.

The Turkish towel I travel with dries quickly and I normally plan trips where I'll stay a minimum of 2-3 nights anywhere, so arriving in a new town also means it'll be laundry night if anything is dirty, giving everything enough time to dry. I have some bags I use while backpacking that I could pack something wet in, but it's usually not an issue.

I'm finishing up a trip in Morocco and southern Spain now, and can say I've had to wash a lot more than I normally would - it's hot which makes rewearing a challenge!

Posted by
10403 posts

Horsewoofie, thanks for the tip about drying pants using the folding hangers. I will have to try that out.

Posted by
7472 posts

Wow, I didn’t realize people bring so much stuff to wash clothes!

I just use the hotel shampoo and wash a few items in the sink. If there’s no sink stopper, I wash them in the shower. Hang where convenient in the bathroom after rolling in the towel.

When there’s two of us, we bring the rubber braided short line to hold underwear; otherwise, for solo travel, I don’t need it. And, we always wash our tops, underwear, etc. after each wearing; pants are washed less often.

Posted by
292 posts

The no-rinse soap I like is just called Soak Wash. It's a Canadian brand; sold through their own website and on Amazon. I use it from time to time at home as well.

I will admit, I don't usually bring this much stuff for clothes washing, but I was gone for a couple of months this time and liked knowing I had a good setup for washing. If I'm only going to be gone for a couple of weeks, I don't bring much of anything special; maybe just laundry soap at most.

Posted by
503 posts

Instead of worrying about stoppers, different sizes and shapes of sinks, I just take my dirties into the shower with me. After I wash myself and my hair, I move onto the clothes. After I dry off I use that towels and wrap wet clothes in and twist and then hang up wherever I can. If I try to sink wash I somehow get water everywhere including the floor and whatever I happen to be wearing, so into the shower it all goes along with myself.

Posted by
3251 posts

Years ago I discovered that the top or lid of a vitamin or Tylenol bottle makes a perfect sink stopper to let you fill the sink. Of course , now none of us travel with big pill bottles, but you never know! You can also buy large flat sink stoppers in dollar stores.