As exciting as going on vacation is, something that never fails to stress me out is how to keep my clothes clean while traveling. Whether you have the opportunity to do a load of laundry while on vacation, or brought just enough clothes to get you through the trip without having to wash anything, inevitably, some clean clothes and dirty clothes are probably going to have to spend some quality time in your suitcase together. And if, like me, you don't like it when your foods touch, you probably also don't like when your clean and dirty laundry fraternizes either. But there are ways to make sure your clean clothes stay clean, and even ways to clean your dirty clothes when you're on the go.
Because whether you've had an unfortunate spill, accidentally didn't bring enough to wear, or simply don't like that stale feeling of your clothes being cooped up for too long, there are some simple things you can do to keep your clothes looking, feeling, and smelling fresher without having to find a laundromat. And don't worry, it doesn't involve taking up much more room or weight in your bag. Here are eight tips for keeping your clothes clean while you travel:
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Packing reusable laundry bags while traveling will help you separate what's clean from what's dirty. Keep one bag for shoes (definitely don't want the bottoms of those rubbing up on your clean clothes); keep one bag for swimsuits; keep one bag for clothes that need to be washed; and even keep one bag for clothes that have been worn, but don't quite need to be washed yet. Not only will using laundry bags keep everything cleaner, but it will also help you stay organized and keep track of what outfits you have left.
When your clothing choices are limited, you can't always sacrifice an outfit for a spill. Should a little coffee find its way onto your top, treat it with an on-the-go stain-fighter so no one will be the wiser.
These heavy-duty water-tight bags aren't just good for protecting your electronics and other valuables that you want to keep waterproofed while traveling, many travel-bloggers also recommend them for doing laundry. All you have to do to prep is dump your dirty clothes into a bag, cover them with water, add a few drops of detergent, and then seal the bag. Then just massage the bag so that the soap is evenly distributed, and let your clothes soak for 10 minutes before taking out your clothes and rinsing them in a sink or shower.
If you prefer to just wash your clothes in a sink or bathtub though, just bring along a universal rubber-stopper. It will make it so much easier to hand-wash your clothes in any bathroom. (Just don't forget the travel detergent!)
How to dry your clothes in a hurry though? If you have clothes that won't dry quickly on their own, ask for extra towels if you can, or bring along a thin, yet highly-absorbent towel. After washing your clothes, all you have to do is lay one piece at a time flat on the towel, and roll it up like a piece of sushi. Gently squeeze, and even let it sit for a bit before unrolling and hanging your clothes up to dry.
And speaking of hanging up to dry, a travel clothesline will be your best friend for on-the-go laundry. However, you don't even need to wash your clothes before hanging them to clean. If you're staying somewhere with a window or outside-access, hang your clothes in the sun to kill bacteria the old-fashioned way: with UV light.
Regardless of where you're staying though, one of these lines can easily be strung up by fastening the ends over doorknobs, or using the suction-cups to hang it in a shower or between any two walls. Plus you won't even need clothespins. Just drape clothes over the line, or tuck corners of your clothes into the loops made by the twists in the line. Easy-peasy.
7. Freeze 'Em
If you have access to a freezer, for a quick-fix, pop your clothes into a gallon-sized sealable bag, and leave them in the freezer overnight. This won't clean your clothes like a proper wash would, but if you just need to kill some odor, this will help.
8. Pack Compatible Clothes
If you're traveling somewhere you're able to do this, pack clothes that are easier to clean. Pieces that are made of quick-drying fabrics (think microfibers or blends — materials you would exercise in) are going to be easier to care for than thicker or natural fibers (like denim or wool) as they're generally lighter and dry faster. If the styles you need aren't made in these types of fabrics, at least try to pack clothes that are hand-washable instead of dry-clean only. That way, in a pinch, you'll always be able to clean it on the road.
Happy (clean) travels!