Whether you’re working on a farm in Nicaragua living in dirt stained thrift store coveralls or supervising as a French country club manager with a pristine uniform, you’ll find that you will inevitably need to bring out the suds and do some laundry.
But depending on the ethnic, economic and environmental situation you may find yourself in, laundry may not be what it was back home. In the modernized world, washing machines are a dime a dozen in developed countries, with many homes fortunate enough to have a dryer as well. However, we often take the pleasures of water, heat and electricity for granted. Several countries around the world are not as privileged and wash their clothes in a tub and use a clothesline to dry them, as water is precious, and electricity is sometimes not even available.
When you travel abroad, you might find the cultural approach to several daily tasks contrasts what you were familiar with, and that is one of the most valuable and beautiful aspects of traveling. Exploring alternative techniques to do basic activities is a lesson that not only humbles, but encourages the mind to grow and stretch with the exposure to diverse experiences.
Best Items For Easy Laundry
Successfully doing laundry abroad begins before you leave home, with the type of clothes you pack, the detergent that you bring along and how many clothes you’ll have to wash. The less clothing you bring, the more laundry you will have to do but the trick is to have clothes that wash and dry easily.
Clothing items that are made from heavier materials like cotton and denim will take much longer to dry than clothes that are made from materials such as nylon and polyester. If you are going to a warm climate country, bringing clothes that are made of linen and other lightweight materials keep you cool and keep your laundry woes at bay. Sarongs, the shawls that you see many in many South East Asian beach environments is also an exceptional travel item to bring with you as it can be used as a towel, a seat, a scarf and clothing, and they are very fast drying. If you are heading to colder regions, think about layer pieces that are easy to wash and then bring along one thick coat that you won’t have to wash, but will keep you plenty warm.
Micro-Fibre Travel Towel
Towels can take up a fair amount of space in your bag and can take quite a long time to try as well. Instead of bringing your fluffiest towel, try a micro-fibre towel instead that is much smaller and lighter. Micro-fibre towels are just as capable of drying you after a shower or swim, they can assist when doing laundry and they dry extremely fast!
There are a few different methods that you can use to take care of your laundry; it all just depends on what supplies are available to you and which process you find most convenient.
Hand Washing in a Tub or Sink
Using a tub of water and hand washing clothes is one of the most common methods of laundry around the world, whether that is a plastic tub in the backyard or your hotel room sink. The items that travellers have to wash most often are their socks and underwear, small items, which can easily be handled in a sink or small tub of water. Instead of unnecessarily spending money on laundry services, simply fill up a tub with water, add the detergent and scrub clothes against each other. Next, rinse out the soap from the garments, wring them out by hand, place them in your travel towel and squeeze. This extra step with the towel helps absorb as much moisture as possible out of your clothes so that they can dry faster. Usually if you are using this technique you will also be utilizing a clothesline to dry your clothes, instead of a dryer.
Hand Washing in a Natural Body of Water
If you are blessed with a freshwater river or lake nearby, you might find yourself doing your laundry in the natural source rather than into a tub. Although food and dirt stains are not incredibly harmful to the integrity of the water, the soap that you use could cause severe ramifications for the wildlife as well as any people who drink from the water source. There are many brands of washing detergent that are biologically friendly and natural. Even when doing laundry in sinks, you might think about using all-natural detergents, as many drains where you dump your dirty soapy water, lead to the ocean and other important water sources.
Laundry Services & Establishments
If you have still not found a suitable technique for handling your laundry on your own, never fear, for most hostels and hotels have laundry services, and there are usually local Laundromats as well. However these options are usually much more expensive than doing your own, as hotels understand that travellers have limited options when it comes to laundry. A slightly cheaper option would be to head into town to find a local Laundromat, which will have washers and dryers available and since you’re not paying for someone else to do your laundry, you’re saving some money as well. A few aspects to keep an eye out for when it comes to laundry services include the price (some services you pay by kilo, while others you pay per item of clothing) and the timing (professional laundry services can sometimes take three days to return your clothes back to you, while doing it in a Laundromat will take you three to four hours.
Travel Laundry Equipment
So what are you going to need to bring so that you can avoid high costs of professional services and keep your clothes smelling and feeling fresh? Bring these items along and you will be so well equipped that washing machines will seem redundant compared to your laundry skills.
A Sink Plug/Drain Stopper
You never truly know what to expect when you are going overseas, so bring along a sink plug, drain stopper to plug up the sink or tub next time you’re taking care of a load of laundry. If you feel that you don’t need this item because you just need running water, think about the times when you might want to soak your extra muddy socks or you have very limited detergent and want to preserve your suds as long as possible, you’ll be thankful you brought the plug.
Detergent comes in a few different forms, ranging from liquid to gel to soap bars to powders. Each one has its strengths, but the most travel savvy choice is the soap bar as it has no risk of spilling all over your belongings and barely takes up any space or weight in your bag. Not to mention that airline regulations only permit limited quantities of liquids into your carry-on bag, so bringing a bar eliminates that conundrum completely. As mentioned earlier, be conscious of the type of detergent you are buying as this can save you money as well as helping to preserve the environment. Biodegradable organic detergents will keep the ecosystems clean and your skin from feeling irritated from too many chemicals. Don’t forget to take the more affordable route and instead of buying name brand products, pick up generic local brands. With brands like Tide, a large percentage of the cost actually comes from marketing and sales costs.
Why do I have to bring a stretchy clothes line instead of a simple rope to hang my clothes to dry? Well unless you want to lug around a whole set of clothespins, a stretchy clothesline will allow you to twist your clothes into place. These ropes are made with elastic bands that are braided together to create a geographically versatile tool that can easily adjust to hold all types of clothes and dynamically reach between a large range of spaces for hanging.
Travel towels are some of the niftiest tools to have with you since they can help dry you and your clothes! Made of micro fibre materials that are quick drying, these petit pieces of fabric pack into extremely compact sizes that are perfect for travel. If you plan to be out on your own for awhile, bringing along a larger micro fibre towel just for showering and another smaller one for laundry would be convenient and hygienic and still wouldn’t take up too much space.
Depending on where you’re traveling to and why, you may also prefer your clothes not smell like airline cargo and suitcase. When packing your clothes, place a dryer sheet between each layer to keep clothes smelling fresh. If you do happen to find a Laundromat you can also save yourself the sometimes impossible task of finding dryer sheets.