Life in TransitA Digital Nomad in Asia

How To Wash Your Clothes and Dry Them While Traveling


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No one wants to befriend a smelly backpacker.


A couple of friends I met today asked me how I do my laundry when on the move. I thought it was finally time to blog about this and discuss the three methods that I use, and techniques to dry clothes.

In The Shower


When in a rush, or when I need a change of clothes daily, I do my laundry when I shower. Be sure to use this method with liquid soap. More importantly, soap that lathers and foams well. Otherwise you will need a lot of soap.

  1. I wear my top and underwear into the shower to get them soaked.
  2. I soap myself up with the layer of clothes on.
  3. Take them off once the soap is nicely foamed, then scrub them, rinse, then put them aside.
  4. Proceed to soap self again and take a normal shower.

This method works well. However, once in a while, I really feel the need to use strong laundry detergent. So I use the next method.

Using A Plastic Bag


For extra clean clothes, use laundry detergent. Bath soap, while it does a good job at cleaning, is designed to be gentle on your skin. Sometimes you just need something stronger to remove stains or just to get the feeling of clean.

So I tend to keep plastic bags when I go shopping, even at the local 7-11. This allows me to reuse the bags for garbage, or to wash laundry.

  1. Put the clothes in the bag, add some detergent and fill it up.
  2. Let the bag soak for a while, then take it with you into the shower.
  3. Slap the bag, stomp lightly on it, shake it around for a bit. This helps the clothes scrub.
  4. Alternatively, do real work and scrub the clothes.
  5. Rinse the clothes and put them aside.
  6. Proceed with normal shower.

This is the method I use when I am at a short-term stay at the hostel.

Using A Garbage Bin


If there is a clean garbage bin, or if you feel the length of your stay justifies the purchase of a bucket (or pail if that is what you prefer to call it), this variation on the above method works very well.

If you use the container, you can then use your foot to stomp on the clothes while you shower. It’s really old school and you can see people in remote villages do this while washing clothes. It works very well.

Drying Clothes


I used to hang clothes up to dry all around my dorm bed. They make a great privacy curtain and usually dry within 24 hours.

Also, keep a ball of string handy to use as a clothes line when needed. More space around your clothes and without folding them over allows more air to flow around them and they dry faster.

Once in a while, put your clothes in direct sunlight for a few hours just to make sure you won’t have mold sprouting up. This is especially important if you kept wet clothes in your bag for a day or two.

If you do happen to have a large enough wardrobe, taking clothes to the laundromat isn’t all that bad.

For comparison, it costs RM 9 (USD 3) to wash and dry 9 kg of clothes  in Malaysia, while you can get similar service in Thailand for THB 40 per kilogram.

A bag of detergent which you can use probably for a month, costs about RM 2.5 or THB 25.

So I hope this tip helps you decide how much clothes you have to bring, or allows you to stay fresh and clean to go about your day while backpacking.

Please share your favourite backpacking laundry method with our readers!

Tagged: hygiene, laundry
Posted in: Travel Tips