How Can I Properly Wash My Clothes in a Hotel Room?

Travel light by bringing fewer items and doing laundry on a vacation or the road. You won’t even need laundry service. If you’re staying in a hotel or B&B for more than a few days, plan to do laundry in the sink or tub. This lightens your bag’s weight, making it easier to carry and maneuver. Have you ever done your clothes in a hotel sink by hand? It’s pretty straightforward. Here’s a brief guide on washing or doing laundry while on vacation.

Pre Rinsing

Before beginning the wash phase, a fast pre-rinse will remove some of the dirt from the clothing. Bring a small, lightweight sink stopper with you. Many hotels don’t have built-in sink stoppers, or if they do, they leak. A sink stopper is a valuable and affordable item to have on hand. Fill a sink or tub halfway with water, submerge the clothing, then knead them with your hands like dough. Then drain the water, squeeze the clothing as much as possible to eliminate as much unclean water as possible, and set them aside.

Soap and Water

Fill the sink with water and add travel soap or detergent to start the wash. Fill the basin with damp, pre-rinsed garments. If the clothing is heavily filthy, you may want to soak them for a few minutes at this point (around ten minutes should be enough), but most of the time, this isn’t necessary.

Knead the clothes thoroughly before washing them. Remember that washing is essentially a mechanical process, not a chemical one. If you’re trying to remove a stubborn stain, rubbing that section of the fabric against itself can assist (when doing this with socks, try slipping them over your hands like mittens).

Drain Dirty Water

Drain the wash water once it has stopped becoming substantially dirtier. After that, refill the basin with clear water and rinse the garments in the same manner as you did before. Drain, squeeze out the excess water (ripping the garments will remove more water but may be more destructive to the textiles, so take caution), refill, and repeat until the rinse water is clear. If the clothing was foul or used too much soap, you could need more than two or three rinses, but two or three would usually suffice. Apart from any soaking time, this entire operation should take no more than a few minutes.


In many cases, rinsing in a shower or tub is more effective than rinsing in a sink. If you’re washing silk, give it an extra/final rinse with some hair conditioner, which will keep the cloth lovely and wrinkle-free (since silk, like hair, is a protein).


The classic traveler’s tip of rolling damp clothes in a towel and wringing the towel tightly (with the garments inside) to drain water significantly needs up the drying process. The towel absorbs moisture while also protecting the cloth from wringing damage. This approach works with any towel, but a viscose towel is handy because it can be wrung out separately and reused to significant effect (whereas a regular towel, once damp, will cease to be effective).

Some individuals like to splurge on a “real” laundry every couple of weeks or so when traveling for extended periods, especially for large/bulky items of clothing that are more difficult to hand wash. Some drop-off laundries have a reputation for “losing” goods. Spread your clothes out on their counter and take a short shot with your phone to resolve any disagreements at pickup time. Finally, keep a stain stick in your backpack or luggage for last-minute remedies.

Another option is to use a laundry delivery service. While you can do a lot of laundry at once, you must remain present to keep an eye on your belongings. Consider whether or not a trip to the laundromat should be included in your itinerary rather than doing laundry in your accommodation.


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