Travelers: How To Wash Your Clothes Without Using A Laundrymat

How To Do Your Laundry Without A Laundromat

hanging laundry on a wire

If you have ever done a multi-day bike tour, you have probably needed to do laundry at some point in time. The question is: What do you do when you are in dire need of some clean clothes, yet there is no laundromat or even a shower or sink near your campsite?

Some might be happy to just wear the least dirty article of clothing. As a woman, and a person who prefers not to smell offensive to others, I would rather not wear dirty clothes. Okay, the pair of pants and t-shirts worn in camp can be worn a few times before washing. However, bike shorts and some undergarments really should be laundered more frequently. Of course, that is merely my opinion.

If you are of the same opinion as I am, here is a handy way to take care of that little laundry problem. First a few (three to be exact) supplies are needed: a plastic bag, some sort of detergent, and a water source. Remember when you stopped at the grocery store to resupply? You kept the plastic grocery sack, right? Besides the many other uses (camp trash bag, saddle cover and dry seat at a wet picnic table), plastic grocery sacks make excellent washing machines (I use the term “washing machine” loosely)!

Here’s what you do: Take the dirty clothes and put them in the grocery sack. Don’t worry if the sack has a hole (they are rarely hole-free). Fill the sack with water (preferably from a spigot). Add one of those laundry detergent “sink packs” (such as Tide) or some other form of soap. If you want to be environmentally correct, use a biodegradable soap. Agitate the laundry around in the bag just like the washing machine (hopefully the hole in the bag is not too big). After a suitable wash “cycle”, hold the bag and let the water drain out. Now, refill the bag with fresh water for the rinse, swish it around and drain as before. You may want to rinse a second time. Now you can wring the clothes out and hang up or drape over a picnic table.

If you want to continue with the spin ‘cycle”, and don’t mind getting a little wet (or looking a little strange), you can spin the bag over your head rapidly. As much fun as this sounds, I would recommend doing this portion of the cycle away from the campsite and other people.

There you have it – a way to do laundry without a laundromat, shower, or sink.

Do your clothes get sparkly clean? Not exactly, but they will get you by until you can get to a proper laundry facility.

Photo by mysza831

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4 thoughts on “How To Do Your Laundry Without A Laundromat

  1. Stephanie Samek says:

    Okay, that was a handy article to file away for ‘someday’. Just got back from a weeklong tour where my hot weather clothes got disgusting in a day’s time (sweat and dirt and you-name-it). Had to ride in 90 degree heat over dirt roads. Now I have an option to remove some of the wretchedness before finding a laundromat. I still haven’t tried the shower or sink wash, yet, though. Thanks for the advice!

  2. Gina says:

    If there isn’t a sink or shower to be had for laundry, I use my homemade bucket pannier. I can really agitate in them, or even let the clothes soak if need be.

    I know the buckets are heavier than cloth panniers, but they have many more uses for the way I tour. Seats, tables, water carrier, small animal deterrent, bathing and laundry facility.

    You can find how I made mine here:

    https://pedalparadise.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/how-to-carry-things-on-a-bike/

  3. Norm says:

    There is one soap that does everything for us bikers, hikers and campers! The Original Palmolive Dish-washing liquid. The secret is knowing how much to use.

    I use the original Palmolive for washing the Body, Hair, Clothes and of course Dishes” ‘this eliminates having to carry ANY other soap product …you gotta be real careful with how much you add to washing machines though or you will have a lot of explaining to do at the Laundromat with soap suds flowing all over the place.

    If you are using real Laundry Detergents to wash clothes by hand in a bag as described above I urge you to “Rinse & Ring” out those clothes at least three times with FRESH WATER because many people are sensitive to residues left over in clothes if not rinsed completely.

    I DO NOT use Original Palmolive in BEAR country as it is scented.

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