7 nifty tips to address laundry woes on a backpacking trip

I love travelling, but the major gripe that has lasted me through every long trip is Laundry. I absolutely dread dealing with a pile of unwashed clothes, while running around the city looking hopelessly for a laundromat. In South-east Asian countries like Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, laundromats are few and far between. I would spend my nights in the bathroom scrubbing away at a pile of dirty laundry, hoping that my T-shirts and the other essentials will dry in time before I shift to the next accommodation.

Therefore, I’ve devised 7 nifty tips to address laundry woes on a backpacking trip. If you’re on a month-long backpacking trip and are looking for quick and inexpensive ways to address laundry woes, read on!

1. Finding the nearest laundromat

Couple flirting at the laundromat
The laundromat makes a good place to meet people too 😉

Kudos if you’re in a well-connected city like Barcelona or Madrid, which has almost every other business listing planted conveniently in Google Maps. I love the coin machine types – just pop off the laundry and all gets done. Call me a big cheapskate, but I’ll try not to send my laundry directly to the hotel if I can help it. The prices are really steep, and honestly, I’ll rather be spending on new Zara pieces than on laundry.

2. Buy and throw away

zara summer season
There’s much to throw away when you meet a Zara store in Spain.

This is strategy is one of the best tools in the bag, especially if you’re travelling alone in Southeast Asia. Firstly, it’s pretty unlikely that you will be bumping into anyone familiar along the way, hence it’s less embarrassing to be flopping around in a pair of faded jeans, T-shirt and slippers. Secondly, one can then simply toss these clothes away (freeing up baggage space at the same time) and proceed to buy new ones, which are super cheap especially when purchased from the street markets in Bangkok.

I visited Spain in 2014 and Zara had a summer sale. Naturally, several pieces of apparel including a jacket were left behind to make room for Zara. : )

3. Wash and Dry

tide theory of everything
Use Tide for shiny white collars.

It is unavoidable that you will eventually have to be washing some clothes in your hotel, think lingerie, socks and smaller items. I wouldn’t recommend bringing along liquid washing solution like Dynamo because it gets used up really fast and it’s pretty heavy!

Therefore, place your washing powder in a plastic bottle. I wouldn’t recommend storing them in a plastic bag because holes can be a major bugbear and you don’t really want a washing powder explosion. Choose a washing powder which is gentle on the hands. Or if you’re into fresh white clothes, you could choose Tide, as noted from the recent film ‘The Theory of Everything’.

Apart from washing, some form of strategy is required to dry your clothes. Great if you have sunlight streaming through your hotel windows and hanging racks to lay out your clothes. If no sunlight is available, the options you have are the air conditioning and the hairdryer.

4. Wear as little as possible

gili island
This is a good example of wearing as little as possible. With credits: My Friends

I know this sounds a little strange, and definitely not the sort of advice Mothers would give to their Daughters, but hey, it makes perfect sense!  If you’re in a place with sky-high temperatures, opt for light tops and bottoms, such as a sleeveless top and shorts. These apparel tend to dry really fast when you wash them and they are light to carry around.

5. Reuse, reuse and reuse!

Call me a stinky backpacker, but I’m a strong believer of reusing my jeans and outerwear if I haven’t perspired much in the day. When travelling during the hot summer in India, I reused my jeans for a couple of days – why bother to wash them when they were going to get dirty and dusty anyway! In cold weather, reusing clothes is even more ideal. Simply change the inner layers and you will be as good as new.

6. Invest in disposable underwear

Unless you subscribe to the slightly disturbing theory of reusing your underwear, (eg. use one day and flip over for use on the second day), disposable underwear is your best bet in hot and humid climates. You will feel super fresh, clean and disposable undies don’t cost that much to carry around.

7. It really depends on your travelling partner(s)

lake toba
Your travelling companion is very important.

To adopt these tips, especially Tip 3 and 5 , this last tip is a pre-requisite. Your travelling partners are the key to addressing laundry woes. Be it to accommodate the washing of clothes and hanging them out to dry at awkward locations in your hotel, to ‘tolerating’ the odours/fragrances you exude after reusing your clothes for the umpteenth time. Therefore, it’s imperative that you choose the right partner to go on trips together.

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Have you had to travel for 2-3 months while living out of a backpack? How did you solve your laundry woes? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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