“Have you seen what they’re charging for laundry here?” I said to Rich, aghast. “It’s more than we paid to buy these clothes.” We were in Hong Kong’s legendary Peninsula Hotel, splurging on two nights of luxury on a long road trip. The glamor of our surroundings, and the prices, were stunning. “I think we should just hand-wash the stuff ourselves. We’ll leave the windows open tomorrow while we’re out, and the heat will dry these things by the time we get back.”
This seemingly foolproof plan was, however, doomed to failure. While we were gone, the housekeeping staff, possibly in mute rebuke for such low-class goings on, closed all the windows and set the air-conditioner to arctic. Arriving back at our room in the early evening, we discovered our clothes were not only as sodden as ever but were now disagreeably clammy to the touch. We spent our entire last night in one of the world’s most glamorous hotels drying socks with the hair dryer.
Maintaining even basic levels of wardrobe hygiene can be challenging during long journeys. When practical, we turn the job over to the hotel’s laundry service, but we often wind up washing our clothes in the sink and drying them in the shower stall, at the window, or draped over the railing of whatever bamboo hut we’re occupying at the time. Over the years, we’ve developed three simple strategies to help with the washing and drying.
1. Buy easy-care clothes. Leave behind jeans that take three days to dry and must-iron linen shirts; pack garments that won’t wrinkle and will dry in a flash (or at least overnight). Yes, I’m talking about that ExOfficio underwear with the slogan “17 countries … 6 weeks … One pair of underwear. (OK, maybe two)” and those lightweight, rugged, wrinkle-resistant clothes you see in travel shops and catalogs. Pack a few fussier, more glamorous garments if you must, but count on these travel-savvy essentials for the long haul.
2. Bring plenty of bars of Lush shampoo. Being solid instead of liquid, it’s very lightweight, and it can wash just about anything from your socks to your hands to (I am reliably informed) your pet's hair as well as your own. I've read that hair conditioner can be used as fabric softener, but since my travel wardrobe doesn't require softener, I haven't put it to the test. (If you try it, I'd love to hear how you like it.) For longer journeys, you can renew your supply at Lush stores in most major cities around the world.
3. Pack a clothesline. Not every room comes conveniently equipped with long shower rods or horizontal bars on a sunny window. We’ve used various kinds of cord in the past, and Rich’s latest find is Coghlan’s Pegless Bungee Clothesline, which has kinks in the rope designed to hold garments in place without clothespins. We’ll let you know how it works for us.
And here’s a tip I’m definitely NOT going to implement: showering with your clothes, as suggested in this Wikihow travel article:
"Socks and underwear can easily be washed when you shower before bed - put them on the shower floor (avoiding the plughole), and agitate them with your feet as you shower. Shampoo is a mild detergent that also works on washable fabrics, and you can rinse as you step out."
I suppose to save even more time, you could just shower with your clothes on (as Cary Grant did in the famous shower scene from Charade). But I can’t feel that either your garments or your skin will benefit from any sort of combination approach. Please promise me you’ll budget the extra five minutes to wash your clothes separately from your person. Thanks, I knew I could count on your good sense.
This post was written in response to questions I've been asked about packing for long and varied trips. Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I haven't obtained any free or discounted gear or supplies in return for promoting anything on this blog. I'm just letting you know about products that Rich and I consider to be the most useful for our kind of travel.
I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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