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For those looking to travel this summer, either via road trip or plane, two of my best tips for managing laundry on the road.

If you are going to be gone for a bit you have two choices: Pack a boatload of clothing, or take fewer sets of clothes and do laundry on the road. For up to two weeks, I can comfortably do the former. Of course, it helps to live in REI cargo shorts and tees.

But if I am packing light, or staying longer (or both) I wash on the road. I refuse to pay hotel laundry rates. In many cases it is actually cheaper to re-buy the clothes. But neither do I want to waste travel time at a laundromat.

On a road trip, I turn my car into a wonderfully efficient washing machine by bringing a 5-gal sealable Home Depot (orange) paint bucket. In the morning, put in yesterday's clothes, add a little cold-water concentrated detergent and fill (mostly) with water. The vibrations of the car will agitate the clothing, cleaning as you drive. It works wonderfully well.

When you stop for lunch, change the water. Swish it a bit and change it again for the afternoon drive. No detergent for the afternoon -- you are now on rinse cycle. When you get to your evening's destination, drain and wring the clothes and let them dry overnight.

For living out of a hotel, I wash clothes in a heavy duty (as thick as you can find) plastic garbage bag, which works WAY better than a sink or tub. Two days worth of clothing in the bag, a little detergent, water and knot it. Knot it again a few inches down the neck. (Get most of the air out first.)

Next, knead the clothing/water/detergent in the bag for ten mins. Then do a rinse cycle (same thing, w/o detergent). The ability to knead/flip/roll/turn over the clothing in the waterproof bag it why this works much better than in a sink or tub. The friction cleans the clothes.

Wring clothes and let them dry overnight. I turn the bag inside out to let it dry efficiently, and store the detergent bottle in the sturdy waterproof bag.

In both cases, I bring about 50 feet of thin, nylon cord for drying. I have yet to find a hotel room in which I could not set up a good drying line w/50 feet of cord. Takes up almost no space or weight. As you get ready to return home, transition the heavy plastic trash bag into a dirty clothes bag.

That's my best travel tip as we head into the season. What do you guys have to offer? Sound off in a comment!
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23 comments
 
Whoa! Boy, are you motivated. I'd love to take a cross-country road trip and have these kinds of problems though. Great information!
 
Not so applicable for me living in Japan (where owning a car is ridiculously expensive to begin with), but maybe +Josh M can find this useful for the future, eh Josh? ;)
 
I do this with Ziploc bags and camp soap on backpacking trips. Instead of a clothesline, I strap my wet laundry to the outside of the pack. My tip: Remember to check all the pockets BEFORE doing the laundry thing. Anybody know how much soap it takes to raise the exposure of the images on a CF card by 1 EV? Please tell me I'm not the only one dumb enough to do this.
 
Wow, pretty cool. I'd suggest "outdoor" clothing made from things like polyester and nylon for very fast drying times. I prefer Patagonia Capilene baselayers for shirts. (as long as you can look "sporty" and/or just ware t-shirts
 
Another tip is to make sure you wear the right clothes where possible. Heavy cotton t-shirts, boxers and socks take forever to dry. A good dri-fit polester or similar material will dry in about 10mins. Quite important when you're travelling in cooler climates!
 
Most national hotel chains have an on-site coin-op laundry. Most often, $1 to wash, $1 to dry. All in it takes less than 2 hrs. And, I can work between cycles (or read Strobist.com). I've been on that program for 12+ years.
 
to be honest david, I havent been in a long enough trip where all my cloths needed laundering. All my trips were kind of planned out to the smallest details and the amount of time dictates the amount of cloths (that's a no brainer). But I really appreciate the details, and I love how efficient and independent this is, I might try it just for the fun of it :)

gonna give that a shot on the next GPP ;)
 
Let me understand this, you travel with Large Heavy Duty Plastic and Rope. Well Dexter, sounds like you have things under control.
 
Don't forget duct tape. :D
 
David, the quick dry clothing and bag method is exactly how we scout leaders and boy scouts do laundry on multi-day hikes. Look for the white compactor bags at your grocer. They last a long time. I like your car method as well. I'll have to try that one.
 
David, there is of course the third, unmentioned, option. The one my best friend and I employed whilst students backpacking Europe. It goes like this;

Two sets of clothes. 
 
You might want to check out the "Scrubba" project on indiegogo, which features a foldable laundry washing bag complete with scrubbing board inside... (hurry if you do, funding ends soon on this project!)
 
Instead of a plastic garbage bag I use a 20L Sea to Summit dry bag. MUCH stronger and more useful on the road but I do everything else much the same.
 
I've had a bottle of laundry detergent open in my suitcase. I recently bought laundry detergent in little plastic pellets that dissolve in the wash.

In an emergency, hotel sample size shampoo works well.

To pack small, buy new undies. The bag of 6 at Walmart is much smaller space than I could ever squeeze 6 from the drawer into.

Ziploc makes large, sturdy bags for storing sports stuff. That's what I use cause it is resealable.
 
thanks for the tips david....this will help me out on my extended summer vacation this year!!!! pack light...buy new if required is my motto....go as casual as possible.
 
buy bags of new underwear, wear one day, turn inside out for the next day, discard. Easy!

;-)
 
awesome! will try the latter technique as i mostly fly around -- this sounds cool!
 
Clark Howard would be proud of your money saving technique.
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