Tuesday Travel Tips: How to Hand Wash Clothes

21 Sep

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]1: Beware of washing powder in developing countries.
How do women who wash by hand in dirty water get their kids’ school shirts such a blinding white? They use a powder with lots and lots and lots of bleach. Avoid for anything not pure white. (In fact, avoid white clothes in general.)

Framed picture on wall of girl in white glass holding martini glass at crotch level.

2: Plan ahead.
Turning your smalls inside out is one solution to a clean drawers shortage. But it ain’t exactly pleasant. As you plan your travel, work out when you’ll need clean clothes and ensure you’ve got the vitals clean and dry in time.

3: Consider the environment.
Don’t waste fresh water on endless rinses in countries where it’s hard to come by. Don’t pollute clean water sources with soap, shampoo or powder. If you have access to a drier, use it only when you have to. In cold climates use a radiator or stove; in hot, rely on sun.

4: Rinse before you wash.
Get rid of serious, ingrained travel dirt before you even think about soap. Soak clothes for a few minutes in clean water. Then pound, knead, mangle, even trample till the water looks like ink. Repeat until the water looks clean. Then, and only then, get out the soap.

5: When hand washing, use hand soap.
Normal soap works great on laundry, is kind to hands and forces you to actually scrub stuff. Soap every bit of the cloth – not just the visibly grubby bits – and get a good lather going. Soak briefly before rinsing. If there’s any dirt visible after you rinse, repeat.

6: Good shower? Do your washing in it.
If you’re staying somewhere with a Western power shower and hot water, wash clothes as you wash yourself. Shampoo, bodywash or soap work fine, and trampling is good exercise. Third world bathroom? Don’t even think about it.

7: Damp climate? Wring clothes to death before you dry them.
Get rid of excess moisture before you try to dry your clothes, or they’ll be hanging out for days. Twist them up one way, and wring. Twist in another direction, and wring. Carry on wringing till you can wring no more, then shake clothes out and hang them up.

8: In emergencies, towel dry.
Desperate for something, anything, to wear? Wring it thoroughly. Spread it out on one towel, put a second on top, roll the parcel up and wring it viciously. Turn the towels to the dry side and repeat. This will leave most garments dry enough to “pass”. (Assuming, of course, you have to towels.)

9: Watch the weather.
Make like mum. Take your washing in if it looks like rain. Put it back out again when the sun comes out. Allow more days than you would imagine possible during rainy season in the tropics.

10: Avoid drying on flat surfaces.
Lines are best. Wind permitting, bushes work better than either railings or flat surfaces. If you have to dry on a flat surface, turn your washing regularly. It halves the drying time.

11: If you’ve traveled with wet laundry, start all over again.
More than two hours festering in a plastic bag, and clothes smell like dishcloths once they’re dry. Bite the bullet and start again. From the very beginning.

12: Store up plastic bags.
Sturdy, laundry-sized plastic bags can be like gold dust. Hoard two or three at any given time. You’ll need them.

13: When you can’t be *rsed, ask a professional.
If a heap of dirty clothes is spoiling your day, or your week, send them out. Places that charge by weight are always cheaper than those that bill by item.

This is the first of a regular series of travel tips. What would you include? Drop me a comment and let me know what you think.

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8 Responses to “Tuesday Travel Tips: How to Hand Wash Clothes”

  1. forrestblogging at 2:56 am #

    Great list. Also on point one – those bleaches they use, they can cause awful skin rashes, even if you don’t think you (or your kids) have sensitive skin.
    Having lived for just over twelve months in PNG, I learned all about washing in the tropics, washing in countries where the power and water supplies are never dependable, and washing in countries where the washing powders are questionable when it comes to what is in them. The main thing I learned? Never take anything you value, clothing wise, to a country without ‘modern’ washing facilities unless you plan to hand-wash it as your great-grandmother’s antique lace bridal gown you inherited – because otherwise it is going to get trashed, and soon.

    • MummyT at 4:31 pm #

      Skin rashes?! Yikes…

      Where in PNG were you? What were you doing there? We’re off to Papua next…

  2. Nicole at 12:02 pm #

    Nice tips! Also, if you’re in a humid climate, make sure clothes are completely dry before throwing them on a pile or shoving them into a bag for a couple days. No amount of nasty bleach will remove the tiny black mildew spots that’ll spread throughout them.

    • MummyT at 4:33 pm #

      One of Z’s T-shirts made it to the black spots stage once. Mildew… This I never knew…

  3. Jenny at 10:48 am #

    Great tips! I usually used laundromats when I traveled, but might try hand washing on my next trip!

    • MummyT at 12:58 am #

      Ooohhhh… having recently handwashed, from a well, six days worth of trekking mud from items including a mosquito net, a blanket a backpack, a daypack, two coats and two pairs of jeans, i would say laundromats are the way forwards. if you can find them, that is. though hauling that much water is great for toned arms…

  4. forrestblogging at 9:48 pm #

    I lived in Port Moreseby in 1996-7. The whole reason I was there was very complicated … I unfortunately missed the coup by a few days (of all the coups you wanted to be involved in, the Sandline coup was actually safe and would have made good dinner party anecdotes for later.) It has been awhile, and my time in PNG was not a good one, so it will be really interesting to read what you think of the country. Where in PNG are you going?

    • MummyT at 1:07 am #

      we were going to go to indonesian papua, but i think we’ve decided to stay in maluku and experience more here. i think either papua or png is a two-month journey in itself to do more than scratch the surface.

      maluku, too, is not somewhere you can do in a month, but beginning to get a handle on the various aspects of the place. weird things like everyone believing in magic apart from the pastors and imams. (top tip: when talking to tribes about shamans first establish whether your interpreter believes in magic…)

      just found out that there is a little religious violence on the island we were heading to on tuesday, so off to see the police tomorrow to take advice on whether we can do it. (it’s only in one town, which i think we can skip out of and avoid, plus flesh wounds only).

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