Expert tips for doing laundry on the road

How to do laundry on the road

If you don’t like to talk about recycling, it’s probably because you’re an experienced traveler. Recycling means that you’re out of clean clothes while you’re on the road and that you’ll either have to do the laundry or wear the same thing again.

And maybe again.

Your choices for doing laundry while traveling aren’t always that great. Hotel laundry services are ridiculously expensive. Who pays $7 to clean a shirt? Laundromats are often far away. And DIY laundry in the sink is, well, messy.

When laundry is gone with the wind

As someone who lives on the road, I feel your pain. So does Jennifer Zwicky, a travel agent from Stuart, Fla. A client tried to do her laundry in the sink on a recent cruise and hung a dress on the balcony to dry. A few hours later, it was gone.

Lesson learned? “Be careful what you put out to dry on your balcony,” Zwicky says, “You may find that your couture is gone with the wind.”

The laundry habits of leisure travelers are a dirty little secret. There are no reliable surveys on the subject, and travelers don’t talk about it. But at a time like this, when everyone’s pinching pennies, maybe it’s time for a little openness — and a few insider strategies for doing your laundry while traveling.

For a stress-free trip, you’re better off solving the problem before it becomes one. For a short vacation, pack enough clothes so that you have something to wear every day of your trip. Consider bringing quick-dry fabrics created especially for travelers. Pack a laundry bag to separate dirty clothes from clean ones.

“I plan my daily wardrobe on a spreadsheet, so I only pack enough,” says Candy Adams, a trade show consultant from Vista, Calif. “On the way home, the suitcase is filled with my dirty clothes.”

How to do your laundry on the road

You don’t have to use a spreadsheet, but creating a packing list could help. Make sure you have enough socks, underwear and outfits to last the entire trip. If you’ve done that, you can stop reading this column now.

Still here? Maybe you’re on the road for longer than a few days. That’s certainly my problem (10 years and counting). Or maybe you’re traveling with young kids and you know there will be an accident.

The next-best solution: Find a hotel or vacation rental with laundry facilities. Many extended-stay and all-suite hotels have washers and dryers in their units. I’ve stayed at several Staybridge Suites and Residence Inn properties with washing machines.

If you find a place with laundry facilities, be sure to ask for instructions. When she was staying in a golf villa in Bodyke, Ireland, Joanne Collins tried to open the dryer door before the end of the cycle. “My attempts to open it early must have caused some sort of default locking. No matter what we did, we could not open the dryer door,” remembers Collins, a retired college professor from Belchertown, Mass. The next morning, the door unlocked itself.

Another option: Try a laundromat

A laundromat is another option. If it’s not near my hotel, I cross-check the location against a crime map to make sure it’s in a safe neighborhood.

Michael Kelly, a retired electrical engineer from Palm Desert, Calif., likes the laundromats in Europe. They’re usually clean, and the people who run them are helpful. “While waiting for the wash and dry cycles to complete, we spend our time updating journals, editing photos or popping into a nearby bar or cafe for a quick drink or meal,” he says.

The “last resort” for doing laundry on the road

If no laundry facility is available, you can always try washing your clothes in the sink. Susan Stevens, a retired publicist from Lakeside, Mich., has made it a ritual. She buys a small bottle of dish detergent at a convenience store when she arrives. “Then I hand-wash and hang the clean clothes up in the shower or on the balcony,” she says.

“The sink is our last resort,” says Grant Sinclair, a professional traveler who blogs about his adventures at Our Wander-Filled Life. But sometimes, it’s unavoidable. He recommends packing two items: a sink stopper and a clothesline.

Planning ahead helps, too. “To avoid a laundry emergency, we typically like to start thinking about doing a wash about two to three days before we run out of clothes,” says Michael Rozenblit, a global nomad who blogs at The World Was Here First.

That’s not always possible. I recently spent two weeks on the road with my three teenagers, riding a train from Barcelona to Nice, France. None of our hotels had laundry facilities, and our schedule was so jam-packed with activities that we didn’t have a spare moment to find a laundromat. I didn’t have the budget to buy new clothes, which left us with one choice.

That’s right — recycling.

Are you what you wear?

I write about travel and clothes so infrequently, but when I do — boy, do I hear from you. When the Washington Post published a version of this story last week, I had a large load of comments and emails. So what are your best tips for keeping your clothes clean on the road? The comments are ready for you, and so am I. 👕

Posted in The Navigator Tagged , , , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: