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Would appreciate any tips & tricks on experiences with laundry during a trip

Posted by
2447 posts

Are you staying in a hotel or apartment? This is probably more info than you want:

I stay in hotels and sink wash on the first night of my stay in each town. If I stay longer than 2 nights and have another two nights of drying time, I will do more loads. I always do a dark load and a light load, just like home. I've always used Forever New powder, but think I'm going to change to sheet soap like Earth Breeze to save a little bulk. With either one, use little soap and rinse well. Don't wring or your clothes will wrinkle; blot with a towel to get out as much water as possible. Except for a couple blouses that go from rinse to hanger and drip dry overnight, I lay out clothes on the towel, roll it up and stomp on it on the tile floor. Get an extra bath towel from the maid. I take four folding hangers and the RS clothes line. I also take a flat sink stopper that you can buy from Home Depot or the 99cent Store because not all hotels have sink stoppers.

Posted by
2871 posts

I stay in apartments with washing machines.
Not many dryers in Europe in general, so you will hang clothes to dry on a (usually) provided folding rack.
Some apartments have a balcony so you can speed the process in the sun.
Perhaps some actual fixed washing lines outside of a window….just be careful not to drop anything below, you’ll never get it back!
I like laundry sheets….Tru Earth is one brand…made in Canada.
Saves room as they weigh nothing.
You can also use a bit of one for hand washing.
It took a huge grease stain out of a top I had spilled some on.
Take all quick dry clothing with you.
If a place has an iron, that’s a bonus.
If not, well, as long as you are all clean and fresh, no one cares.
If you try to wash jeans or sweaters, it will be days before they are dry, so leave them at home.
We used to hang laundry off the back of boats when we were out sailing years ago…..can’t try that on a train! ☺️

Posted by
8204 posts

med34ns you can start here: Rick Steves laundry in Europe

Personally, I dont like to do sink washing anymore. So I prefer to go ahead and pay the hotel to do it for me. Yes it costs a lot, but it's worth it to me. You just have to be careful on the timing so that you have enough days in one place that it will be done before you have to check out.

Posted by
15313 posts

It may depend on what time of year, and hotels versus apartments? As all of our longer trips have been during warmer months - thus no need for heavy sweaters/sweatshirts and whatnot - we pack shirts/blouses in fabrics that can be sink-washed and will dry overnight. Same with undies, and I have socks that will also dry overnight. For sink washing, I bring a travel-sized bottle of Dr. Bonnner's liquid castile soap (super concentrated, mostly organic, Fair Trade, and so pure you can wash your dishes and yourself with the stuff) and a little Oxyclean powder for any stubborn stains on lighter clothing.

I also pack along along 2 plastic hangers - some folks use ones that are inflatable - for hanging stuff overnight, and a flat sink stopper as a fair amount of sinks haven't had stoppers or plugs. Hangers provided are too often the type that can't be removed from wardrobes or closets, thus bringing a couple for drip-drying in the shower. Travel clotheslines have not worked especially well for us.

Bottoms are all dark-colored to best hide dirt/mishaps, and we lean to tidy denim. It's not everyone's thing, I know, and they don't get sink washed but that's what works for us. We take 2-3 pairs, wear one and pack the others. All tops and all bottoms go together, nothing gets into the suitcase that will only get worn once, and no high-maintenance fabrics that require ironing or special care.

The whole caboodle gets a thorough wash-and-dry at a coin laundry once during a 3-week trip, using soap purchased from on-site dispensers. We like self-serve laundromats as we can wash/dry 2 loads at one time (one dark/one light), and they have decent dryers. I figure it's part of the travel experience 'cuz we've interacted with other travelers and locals during our wash-ups! Have never used a hotel service because of the price and because I'm picky about wash temperature.

I know some of the above looks more like packing than laundry tips but it sort of all goes together, if that makes sense?

Posted by
2037 posts

For any items you plan to bring, wash them in the sink and hang them to dry. See how long it takes. No jeans, no cotton boxer. Take advantage of heated towel racks to help speed up drying time. Just know that some places turn them off in the summer.

If you are staying multiple nights on one place, you can probably hand wash and line dry a lot. Bring a clothesline with you.

We’ve stayed in many apartments with washers. Often they advertise a dryer, also. But it turns out to be a drying rack, not a machine. But we stay 3+ nights per stop, so not a problem.

Laundromats are available, but sometimes not in touristy areas. Sometimes you can drop off laundry and they will do it for you “ Wash & Fold”. Take advantage if you find one, just don’t cut it too close to when you need to leave that city.

Posted by
183 posts

In the past, we’ve just taken a trip to a laundromat every 5-7 days. But for our trip this summer we tried sink washing.

Instead of worrying about whether or not the sink will have a stopper or bringing a stopper along, we took a couple giant ziploc bags (3 gallon?) to wash things in. I got the idea from this forum and it worked really well.

We also took a couple of high absorbency microfiber towels to squeeze the water out. That way we didn’t have to bother with requesting extra towels at every hotel stop. The biggest challenge I found was getting the clothes wrung out enough to dry in a reasonable amount of time.

We got a travel clothesline that worked well-called a Flexo-Line 101. We took a couple of carabiners to help attach it to various items in hotel rooms for drying.

Consider taking clothes that will be wrinkle free and quick drying. I had luck with LL Bean’s Streamside tees and Eddie Bauer button up blouses. My husband and I both had the Dry on the Fly pants and/or shorts from Duluth Trading.

Maybe most importantly, do a little bit of laundry every night or every other night. Even with just two people, you quickly run out of places to hang it to dry. Heated towel racks were also very helpful when available.

Posted by
10344 posts

If you are washing by hand, pack blow up hangers as the clothes dry faster when using them. Also buy little hooks for drying socks and underwear, they are very helpful. For detergent use laundry sheets.

Posted by
422 posts

I have done two things.

I pack detergent in small bottles and wash my clothes in the sinks of my B&Bs. I also pack a clothes line to hang everything. Even if I wash just underwear this way, I feel a bit cleaner. However, I have washed clothes, too.

I have also used laundromats in Ireland, France and Spain. Your hotels will know where they are, and Rick's travel guides list their locations.

Some European laundromats operate differently from American places. In Europe, laundromats often have a control panel for each washing machine and dryer in the place. Just try to figure it out. If not, watch how other people use the laundromat control panels. In the end, they're not difficult to operate.

Posted by
2871 posts

One thing I will add is that laundry soaps in Europe are sometimes extremely highly and over scented.
Best to bring your own in whatever format, if you are sensitive to strong smells.
Laundry sheets come in unscented, they really are great.

Posted by
390 posts

Laundromat all the way - or apartment washer - even drop-off service. Visiting a laundromat can be an interesting cultural experience.

I find it exhausting just reading the accounts of washing in a bathroom sink and hanging up to dry, never mind considering actually doing it. Plus, for the amount of space all your washing and drying equipment takes up in your suitcase, you could probably pack a few more pairs of underwear and socks.

For me, being on vacation is an escape from housework, rather than a reversion to washing methods more primitive than what I have at home.

Posted by
4086 posts

Over the years l've done laundry myself or had it done for me all the ways listed above. I pack the ways suggested. I wear everything 2-3 times before washing it -- except for panties of course. As Sarah Murdoch once said, "a girl's got to have her standards." 😃

I will correct one statement about cotton boxer shorts, though. On a trip that included my husband I learned that his thin cotton boxers dried faster than the expensive travel panties I brought. Discoveries like that are a good reason for test washing at home. 😉

A correction to Rick's laundry advice based on my most recent trip last summer -- the cost was about €20 or £20, regardless of whether I did laundry myself in a laundromat or had it done for me by a service. Both the € and £ exchange rates were at about parity with US$.

Below is my personal ranked list of how to do laundry in Europe from my favorite to least favorite. Mostly I do what's most convenient depending on where and when I need to do it.

Here's the list:

  1. Do it myself in the apartment I'm renting.

  2. Do it myself near where I'm staying. I've met many interesting people, both locals and other travelers, at laundromats. That includes the young heavily pierced and tattooed guy who helped us in Koblenz, the Aussies we met in Annecy and the manager of the laundry I used near my B&B in Edinburgh. I was there mid-afternoon just about the time the little kids got out of the school nearby. She had a practice of giving them a "wee biscuit" whether they were alone or with a parent. She wouldn't tolerate the boys about 12, who swooped in and tried to grab all the cookies. She shooed them out and they got nothing.

  3. Have it picked up from me in person and returned to the hotel when it was done. That was in Cardiff and has only happened once. The older guy who picked it up chatted with me for several minutes, dispensing some good tourist advice which I fortunately followed.

  4. Have it done for me by the place where I'm staying. I don't have issues with my laundry all being washed in one load, so this is a reasonably priced option whether they do it themselves or send it to a service. One B&B in Sarlat did it themselves and charged nothing. I've also given it to hotels in Turkey, Greece, and Ireland with good results. We ended up having to supervise the drying at our hotel in Berchtesgaden because the women who were doing it took a break and forgot to dry it.

  5. Drop it off at a laundry service and pick it up later. We had prompt and good results in Santorini where we waited at a nearby restaurant while it was being done. We had lousy and bad results in Belléme, France where our laundry hadn't even been put in the dryer when we went back at the time we were supposed to pick it up.

  6. My least favorite is always sink washing, but sometimes it's the best hotel alternative and it's definitely the cheapest. It can be the most work, but actually take less time than my #1 favorite because I can sleep while it dries.

One bit of advice about using laundromats on your own in a country where English is not the first language... Be sure to notice if there's an English translation of the instructions. I've felt like a dolt on more than one occasion when I tried to figure out what to do in the local language only to get toward the end of the guidance and see that it starts over in English.

Posted by
4374 posts

We got a travel clothesline that worked well-called a Flexo-Line 101. We took a couple of carabiners to help attach it to various items in hotel rooms for drying.

There are many such lines available -- in fact, I think the RS store has them. They are good and do work, but we've found they are too short to really be effective since their length makes it difficult to secure the ends to anything.

We solved that problem by going to an outdoor shop and buying 20 feet of "para cord". It is very small, does not absorb water, and is very light. We attach about 5 feet to the loop on one end, and the rest to the loop on the other end using very, very good knots. We've never been in a room in which we could not find good, strong places to tie off.

We also carry a heavy duty garbage bag to place under the wet items to protect the flooring.

Posted by
15313 posts

One more note..
My first trip to Europe (1973) was with a traveling choir when I was barely 18. There were 3 busloads of us. Seven countries in a month, and ALL of us cash-strapped young folks did our laundry in sinks. It's not impossible...even tho I now do a laundromat wash every 12 days or so! :O)

Posted by
531 posts

I've done a little bit of everything for laundry in Europe. I've had Airbnbs with washers and dryers, I've used laundromats in France, and I've brought a Scrubba bag and done wash in my room.

For my upcoming RS BOEE tour, I'm going to use my Scrubba bag again bc I spent far too much time in laundromats on my last tour and some of my items shrunk even though I put them on low heat in the dryer.

I plan to wash one outfit per night at hotels where we have at least a two-night stay so they have enough time to dry. Because I wash in cold and hang dry, I don't feel comfortable handing my clothes to someone else to wash them. I also use Earth Breeze laundry sheets so I don't have to buy and lug around liquid or powder detergent.

Posted by
6478 posts

Something I do in general is to pack a tiny natural ingredient bar of soap that smells fresh or like lemon or rose. That keeps my suitcase nice-smelling while stored at home and on a trip, and I use it towards the end of my trip.

For washing clothes, I don’t bring anything extra except some Earth Breeze laundry sheets in a quart Ziploc bag. If there’s no sink stopper, I just wash it quickly while holding one hand over the drain.

When I’m traveling by myself, I wash my underwear & shirt each night or a dress every other time I wear it. It’s easy for me to soak it in the sink while I’m looking at my iPad and then swish, rinse, roll in a towel and hang. It’s probably 5 minutes of work. If my husband is with me, we trade off with our clothes.

I try all potential clothing items at home, first, because I’ve had shirts that took two full days to dry, so they didn’t get to come along.

If the hotel shampoo smells good and the scent doesn’t bother me (no headache reaction), I use it sometimes as the sink detergent.

Posted by
4086 posts

I just ran into this article on the Washington Post's "Travel: By the Way."

It may not have a lot to add for many, but it's got a good summary of hand washing tips that extend to what fabrics to pack.

The definitive guide to doing laundry in your hotel bathroom:

As I said previously, doing laundry in my room is my least favorite, but sometimes it's a necessary evil.

Posted by
6478 posts

Lots of good advice in the article. If you decide to use the warm towel rack in the bathroom, just be careful of the heat & your fabric. We've used them for cotton items, and it was great. I used one in Paris for a favorite dress and fortunately noticed it was beginning to melt the fabric before it became unwearable. : (

Also, when rolling up a garment in a towel to remove the water - their burrito comment. : ) It helps to just let it sit for a minute before unrolling it. I used to rush it through the rolling, stepping on it steps, but allowing it to just absorb into the towel for a minute or two helps a lot!

Posted by
1207 posts

Thanks Lo for that article. The two things I took away from it are the importance of letting your clothes soak for a few minutes - like woolite always tells you to do. The second was that the liquid shower gel that the hotels give you should be used as a last resort since it's the hardest to rinse out. Never knew that. I also pack a 2 gallon ziploc bag to wash clothes in case the sink stopper doesn't work.

Posted by
288 posts

I usually wash undies and socks while I’m in the shower. Very easy and quick. And I do use whatever ever the hotel gives me for soap and it’s always fine. That’s the bulk of what I wash while traveling anyway.

Posted by
2871 posts

If you don’t have a sink stopper, and you have a bottle with you that has a removable lid , try using a lid to block the drain.
Some vitamin bottles have wide lids.
Used this method once in Turkey and it worked well!

Posted by
324 posts

My lazy person handwashing procedure...

Get in the shower and wash your body, then put clothes on the floor of the shower while washing hair. Do a final rinse of the clothes after all of the soap suds have cleared. Wrap clothes in the towel that you just used for your hair to blot excess water, hang to dry.

I'm a big believer in multitasking! 😁

Posted by
404 posts

In general, I usually don't do laundry on trips that are no longer than 2-weeks. That said, I do wash my synthetic underwear (ExOfficio) and sock (Merino) in the bathroom sink.

Most of the time, I'll get in the shower with my underwear and use bath/shampoo soap, wring-out and air dry. Otherwise, I use these these travel soap leaves which is good for small items like underwear and socks.

Longer trips, I'll bring a laundry bag or, unused sleeping bag stuff sack, to the laundry and do a load, usually around day-10 for 3-week or longer trips or, when the opportunity is available. I did have a rental which had the washer/drier combo in the kitchen, the knob readings were worn and it took me a bit to figure out how to use but, wasn't hard, just required a bit of patience. Bottoms (pants/shorts) usually don't get washed on trips unless it's needed, usually it's just underwear, socks and the shirts that need it. As been pointed-out, driers are available in Europe but, most people air dry so, if you're renting a place, check the closest for a drying rack or, see if there's a laundry line outside a window.

General practice, I'll pack two drier sheets in a zip-loc bag. About 1/3 of the way into the trip, I'll pull one out and use it as a bag freshener to keep the interior of my luggage from smelling too much; shoes and dirty socks are the usual culprits. The second sheet is either back-up or, I give it away as invariably the topic of smelly luggage comes up with whomever I'm traveling with.

Posted by
3134 posts

My first choice is to do what @Stan suggests. I'm on vacation so I let the hotel do my laundry,
My second choice, should there be no said laundry service, is to do what @horsewoofie suggests and in the manner she does it, except I bring my own microfiber towel for the absorption and stomping. I use an RS clothes line for drying.
-I also uses @Pam's system of a premade wash bag instead of the sink. I support the edges of the freezer bag with packing tape. This is large enough to wash unders, socks and tee shirts.

Posted by
17 posts

On my bikepacking trip thru Europe this past July I was doing laundry every evening in the sink. This was necessary because I had to travel light with everything being carried in a bag on the bicycle.

I took a small (89 ml/3 fl. oz.) bottle of castile soap (Dr. Bronner in their peppermint scent, FWIW) and used it to wash my clothes (and my body if the hotel soap scent wasn't to my liking). A little goes a long way. All of the clothes I brought were tech fabric and quick to dry, tho I used the "towel burrito" method to expedite things. Whether bike kit or streetwear it was all some kind of wicking synthetic material, save for one of my t-shirts which was a thin merino wool blend. All of these things I washed in cold water (best way to keep tech fabrics in good shape) and things both washed and rinsed easily - castile soap is quite basic and doesn't tend to linger on fabrics.

I hung things to dry on closet hangers that I put on the shower rod - didn't need a lot of space and things were completely dry by morning. Hoteliers were happy to provide an extra towel for laundry drying duties - just ask. And most will have a sink stopper available if your hotel sink lacks one (tho in my travels every hotel sink had a built-in stopper that worked well).

In a pinch I certainly could've used a laundromat or a hotel laundry facility for my streetwear, but my bike kit I only ever wash by hand. So I figured it was simpler to just wash the other stuff at the same time. It's not like I was carrying much with me, anyway.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
947 posts

I have hand- washed clothes in sinks. I switched to taking clothes into the shower with me, washing myself and the clothes as best I can. Then I queeze a quick drying polyester towel around each item at a time, trying to wring as much water out as possible. I wring the towel out every so often. Then I hang them on plastic hangers and hang them wherever I can. Sometimes I put clothes on that are still wet. My clothes washing behavior is probably too obsessive-compulsive. Actually, I would rather use a washing machine but only if it is in the hotel or close enought to the hotel.

I stayed in a hostel in London, England, that had washing machines and dryers, although I used only the washing machine and let my clothes air dry. In Mexico in August to September (2023), only one place I stayed at had washing machines. I didn't use them because they only kept the laundry room open from 9am to 6pm. I thought it was rather stupid that we couldn't use the washing machines in the evening, until i read that Mexico does not have self-serve laundromats. I suppose that in this hostel, a staff member would have to wash and dry and fold your clothes for you. Which maybe could have worked been OK if I had waited until after 9 am to go out and do activities, dropped my clothes off at 9am, and returned to pick them up at 6pm or a little before.

Posted by
2224 posts

Like Barbara G, we use the giant Ziplock bags rather than filling the sink with water. They work very well

Posted by
5163 posts

Just an FYI, the OP posted this back in mid-August and has never returned.

Posted by
65 posts

I take along a couple 2.5 gallon zip lock bags and sinksud packets. We had bike shorts that had to be washed everyday.

We partially fill the bag, add soap, and clothes and agitate. Works great.

We also have a small clothline. But the best thing was a double sided “hat clip”. We were on a boat with sliding door. I used the double sided clip to secure the shorts to the handrail which prevented losing them into the river.

Learned i needed one packet of sinksuds per biking day.