Friday, August 23, 2013

Laundry on the Go: 10 Ways to Keep Clothes Clean

Here are some tips for keeping laundry chores to a minimum while you are on the go--

 1.  Access to washing machines may be surprisingly limited, depending on  your itinerary.  I was on a two-week cruise last year, & discovered there was no access to washing machines.  There was a laundry service, but the prices were outrageous.   My travel buddy & I improvised with a 2-gallon Ziploc bag & some of my homemade laundry soap.  At night we would add the laundry soap & water to our dirty clothes in the plastic bag.  The overnight soaking, combining with the agitation from the movement of the ship, resulted in acceptably clean clothes in the morning.  A quick rinse, & everything was ready for hanging in the shower to dry.

 2.  Although shampoo or bath soap will do in a pinch, if your trip is longer than a week, carrying your own laundry soap makes sense.  You might not have easy access to a shop that carries it, & even if you are near a laundromat, buying detergent there is expensive.  For a variety of reasons I make my own laundry soap, but if I'm likely to have access to a washing machine, I carry a few Tide laundry detergent pods in a plastic baggie instead of packing liquid.  If I was backpacking for a lengthy period I would carry a bar or partial bar of laundry soap like Zote (my fave) or Fels Naptha.

 3.  Drying socks & other heavy clothing is sometimes not possible overnight.  However, if you roll those items in a towel & apply a lot of pressure, you can remove a surprising amount of moisture before hanging to finish the drying process before morning.

 4.  A travel clothesline is well worth the tiny space it takes in your luggage.  I like the 2-ply elastic kind that has a suction cup on either end, perfect for shower hanging.  Wet items can be hung by weaving edges in-between the elastics.  Small (but not the teensy ones that easily break) clothes pins are also handy, so a few of those go in my bag, too.

 5.  Even if there isn't an iron in your room, chances are good that there is one on the premises, so ask if you really need one.

 6.  Travel steamers work well on wrinkles, but I no longer carry one because of limited luggage space & the fact my travel these days is mostly casual.  However, I did find them very useful when I was doing a lot of business travel & traveled with a working professional wardrobe.

 7.  In a pinch, hanging wrinkled clothes in the bathroom while you take a hot shower will help.  Once you are out of the shower, use your still-damp hands to smooth out the worst of the wrinkles.  Allow clothes to air-dry before donning the garment, or use a hair dryer.

 8.  Preventive measures can decrease your laundry requirements.  Check clothes for stains when undressing.  A stain from dining can be addressed before it has a chance to set, & chances are good you can remove the stain so you can get another wearing out of the clothing article before it requires a full wash.  Tide-To-Go is a handy stick for treating stains as soon as discovered.

 9.  Sometimes the entire garment doesn't require laundering.  For example, on a recent month-long trip the collar of my favorite overshirt, the one with nice buttoned pockets that I wear instead of a sweater over t-shirts, needed a good wash.  However, the rest of the shirt was perfectly clean, as it had gone through a washing machine in Scotland, so I merely soaped up the collar in a London hotel, rinsed & let it dry overnight.  A week later in Paris I dripped something over one sleeve.  It was a quick job to wash only the spotted sleeve, & my shirt made it all the way home before it got the full machine treatment it deserved.

10.  Discarding clothing on the go can delay the day you need to confront dirty laundry.   I once met a woman who in 1968 had sailed solo from Japan to California, the first woman to do so.  I asked her how she handled her laundry at sea. " I didn't do any," she replied, simply.  Then she explained that she bought all her at-sea clothes at thrift shops, then just threw them overboard when they got too dirty.  This won't work on all trips, but most of us have some less-than perfect undies that could be tossed once worn.  If your itinerary starts with dirt-clinging activities & ends with a less strenuous agenda, consider taking & discarding grubbies.  I've left more than one pair of jeans on the road.

When living on a sailboat as a full-time cruiser most of the time I did laundry on board, using a bucket & a (clean, dedicated) toilet plunger as my agitator.  That's why I limited towel usage to handtowels, perfectly adequate for after-bathing, especially when using only a gallon of water in a sun shower (black plastic bag to soak up heat from the sun, with an attached hose for showering) for both shampoo & bathing.  However, when in port we would treat ourselves & our sheets to a laundry service.  Once, in an anchorage near a village in Costa Rica we found someone who did laundry for cruisers for a modest fee.  Later that day we went for a walk & passed by a very modest dwelling surrounded by a low barbed wire fence.  There, drying on the wire were all the the clothes & linens from the Yankee Rogue.  The sight gave us a good laugh.  I didn't care that my undies were hanging on barbed wire.  I was just glad I hadn't had to wring out all those towels & sheets by hand (though twisting them around a boat stanchion would have done the job).

What's in our laundry & how we handle it can tell us a lot about life around the world.  You might enjoy these photos.

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