Doing laundry is probably not the first thing on your mind when planning a trip to Europe, but it’s essential because you’ll eventually run out of clean clothes. While traveling, you can pack less and save money on baggage fees by washing your clothes!
Here are 6 ways to do laundry while traveling in Europe:
- Take advantage of hotel and hostel laundry services.
- Find a local laundromat.
- Hand-wash clothes in your bathroom sink or tub.
- Keep a spot cleaner on hand.
- Use a portable wash bag like the Scrubba.
- Hand-wash outdoors.
- Shower with your clothes.
Reading this article will prepare you for your next trip around Europe by showing you how to keep your clothes clean and fresh, even while on the go.
1. Take Advantage of Hotel and Hostel Laundry Services
Most full-service hotels offer laundry services, including washing, drying, and folding clothes. Usually, it’s as easy as handing your clothes over and filling out a form that details what clothing items you’re giving to the service.
This service will come with an additional cost, but when you consider the time and energy saved on not having to do your own laundry, the convenience may be worth the extra expense!
However, Europe is already an expensive continent to travel around, and some hotels can charge quite a bit for laundry services. In Western Europe, you may be looking at $30–$50 for a load of laundry. The price is likely lower at budget hostels, but you may also get a lower-quality wash.
You may also need to consider the time it takes to complete the laundry. It’s not a good idea to give your clothes to a laundry service when you have a flight or a train to catch in 12 hours. Most laundry services require a full 24 hours to get your clothes back to you, so make sure you keep this in mind. This can also put a damper on travel plans, or at the very least, slow you down.
Finally, when giving your clothes to a service, you’re taking the risk that your clothes may get lost in the shuffle. It’s quite common for clothes to disappear at a laundry service mysteriously. Many people don’t realize some of their clothes are missing until it’s too late.
2. Find a Local Laundromat
Locals have to do laundry, too! There’s more than likely a laundromat close by in bigger cities that you can use to save money. One downside to this option is that you’ll have to stay at the laundromat until your clothes are done being cleaned, so you miss out on half a day of exploring whatever city you’re in.
Because you’ll have to stick around the laundromat, consider bringing a book, headphones, or games (mobile games are great, too!) to keep yourself occupied while waiting. Some laundromats in Europe have WiFi, but I wouldn’t rely on that.
If you don’t speak the language, ensure you have a translator app downloaded on your phone to translate the instructions on the machines. Note that machines usually work with coins. But although many laundromats have ATMs or coin machines on-site you can use, it’s handy to keep local currency on hand.
Keep in mind that if you’re staying in a rural area, you may not be able to find a laundromat. Even if you can find a laundromat, you’ll be limited to its operating hours.
Overall, taking your clothes to the laundromat is an inexpensive way to get all your laundry done at once. Another advantage is that you’re doing it yourself, so it’s unlikely that you’ll misplace anything.
3. Hand-Wash Clothes in Your Bathroom Sink or Tub
You can hand-wash dirty clothes in a sink or a bathtub and then hang them to dry. This method is especially great for washing smaller items, such as socks and underwear. It’s also best with quick-dry fabrics. If you’re washing something that doesn’t dry quickly, like denim, you’ll need to allow time for it to dry before you repack.
To wash your clothes effectively this way, you’ll need some products:
- Sink stopper: A sink stopper will plug the drain so you can fill it up and wash your clothes. Some hotels and hostels have stoppers already, but you don’t want to be in a situation where you need to fill the sink, and your accommodation doesn’t have a stopper. I recommend the 1st Choice Sink Stopper (available on Amazon.com) because it’s cheap and fits most sink drains.
- Travel clothesline: To hang your clothes to dry, you’ll need a clothesline. The Coghlan’s Clothesline (available on Amazon.com) is great because it doesn’t require clothespins. Instead, you pull open the braided material, which cinches the clothes as they dry. It’s also adjustable in length and is heavy-duty; therefore, it can hold quite a bit of weight.
- Detergent: You’ll need some laundry detergent, and I recommend getting travel sink-size packets for convenience. I use the SinkSuds Laundry Detergent (available on Amazon.com) when I travel. They’re designed for use in sinks, and they don’t shrink or fade clothing.
You may have never hand-washed your clothing before. Here are the steps to do it:
- Wash out the sink or tub to remove any dirt or residue.
- Fill the sink and add your detergent.
- Place a couple of items at a time in the sink.
- Swirl and knead the clothing for about two minutes. Spend extra time scrubbing any stained areas.
- Rinse the clothes in clean water. If you’re only using one sink, make sure you wash everything first, empty the sink, clean it, and then refill it with clean water for rinsing. Swish the clothes around until there are no more suds.
- Squeeze out the water. Don’t wring your delicate items, as this can damage them.
- Hang your clothes to dry.
Consider getting a small washboard, such as the TOPBATHY Washboard (available on Amazon.com), to help you get stains out. I like this washboard because it’s small and durable, so it doesn’t take up too much space in the luggage, and I don’t have to worry about it breaking during transport.
Hand-washing is the most affordable way to do your laundry while traveling in Europe, but it does take time and effort. You’ll also need to allow time for everything to dry, which can be tricky if you’re always on the move.
4. Keep a Spot Cleaner on Hand
While this isn’t a way to do laundry per se, keeping a spot cleaner on hand is a great way to avoid stains. A spot cleaner is small enough to fit into your purse, and you can use it to stop a stain from forming if you’re out and about. So the next time you get sauce on your shirt while eating pasta in Italy, you’ll avoid that stain!
You can’t go wrong with the Tide Stain Remover (available on Amazon.com). This pen breaks stains down and works on all the most common stains, including tomato juice, ketchup, BBQ sauce, coffee, wine, and tea.
5. Use a Portable Wash Bag Like the Scrubba
An innovation you might want to check out is the portable wash bag. The most popular brand is Scrubba. Scrubba bags claim to be portable washing machines. They’re sealable, waterproof bags where you can put in a small amount of clothing, warm water, and detergent. Then, you roll up the bag and push it down to rub the clothes against an internal washboard in the bag.
After around five minutes of rubbing the clothes around the bag, you untie, empty the clothes, and rinse them. Then, you hang them to dry.
These bags cost around $60 (or more), so there’s a small initial investment, but saving on laundry service costs may be worth it. However, like hand washing, you’ll need to account for air-dry time.
Your clothes likely won’t look as nice as if you used a laundry service or a laundromat, but if you’re on the go and want to save some money, this is a good option. And if you’re backpacking, you don’t necessarily need to be looking super fancy anyway.
Another benefit of this bag is that you carry it with you, so if you find yourself in a city that doesn’t have any laundromats or at an accommodation that doesn’t have laundry service and you don’t want to hand-wash in a sink, you can use the bag to get your clothes clean. This is also convenient if you’re spending more than a day camping or trekking outdoors.
6. Hand-Wash Outdoors
If you’re going on a camping or hiking trip (in the Swiss mountains, anyone?), you can use natural water sources outside to wash your clothes. People have been washing clothing in rivers and lakes for centuries; there’s no reason why you can’t!
If you do this, make sure you use biodegradable and environmentally-friendly laundry soaps to avoid hurting any wildlife. I use the Tru Earth Detergent Sheets (available on Amazon.com) on my hiking trips. I particularly like these sheets because they’re good for sensitive skin and are vegan-friendly.
7. Shower With Your Clothes
It may seem a bit strange, but showering in your clothes is an effective way to get them clean. You can choose to wear your dirty clothes as you scrub and let your body wash and shampoo run over them so that they get cleaned as you do.
Another method I’ve used often is to bring my dirty clothes in the shower with me, pour some laundry detergent over them, and then stomp on them to get them clean. Then, all I need to do is give them a good rinse and hang them to dry. Try it!
With this method, you’re clean and fresh, and so are your clothes! It’s a good way to save some water, too.
How To Pack for Your Trip Other
Doing laundry while traveling in Europe shouldn’t be too difficult, but there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself even before you leave.
- Pack the right clothes. Especially if you’re going on a long trip and will be washing the same pieces over and over again, you won’t want to bring delicate or finicky fabrics that are difficult to wash. Cotton typically doesn’t travel well, as it is difficult to keep clean and wrinkle-free. Don’t bring dry-clean only items, and don’t bring fabrics that are harder to keep clean, such as satin, silk, and leather.
- Bring quick-drying fabrics. Denim takes forever to dry, so you may want to avoid packing too much of it for a long trip (it takes up a lot of space in luggage, too). Instead, bring clothes in quick-drying fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, and other synthetics. Also, ensure your towel is quick-drying; thick fluffy towels take longer to get dry.
- Keep airline restrictions in mind. Like the United States, European countries have restrictions on the size of liquid containers you can have in carry-on luggage, so make sure any laundry detergents are within these restrictions.
- Bring a laundry bag. You’ll want to keep your clean clothes separate from your dirty ones, so you’ll need a laundry bag to put your worn clothing in. My favorite laundry bag for travel is the UniLiGis Laundry Bag (available on Amazon.com) because it’s thin and with a square base, so you can hold more clothes in it than normal. It also has a locking closure, ensuring no spills during travel.
- Don’t bring clothes that are irreplaceable to you. If you’re using laundry services and laundromats, there’s a chance that things will get lost in the shuffle. Such a scenario is never ideal, but it shouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s probably best to avoid packing your favorite shirt or an item of clothing that holds sentimental value to you.
Keeping these things in mind while packing is the best way to make sure doing your laundry in Europe is as stress-free as possible.
While traveling in Europe, you should be focusing on the experiences you’re having, not worrying about laundry woes.
While you can wash your clothes while traveling, it’s best to travel light. That way, you’ll save on baggage fees and avoid the hassle of cleaning too many clothes.
If you’re staying at a hotel or hostel that offers a laundry service, take advantage of it. Or, find a laundromat and do your laundry yourself. You can also hand wash your clothes in a sink or outdoors.
It would help if you invested in a portable wash bag, such as the Scrubba.