Doing Laundry While Traveling: Travel Laundry Detergent and Other Solutions

How to Do Laundry While Traveling

True story, I once spent more than the nightly rate at my hotel just to have them do a small load of laundry. That’s what I get for trying to pack extra light and underestimating my own propensity for messiness.

But you don’t have to pack two weeks worth of clothing or blow your budget on laundry services. One easy option is springing for an Airbnb with a washer/ dryer for longer trips–oftentimes hosts provide the detergent so you don’t need to pack anything extra. Even if you’ve only got a hotel sink to work with, here’s some easy, packable options for staying clean and fresh on the road:

Travel Laundry Detergent Quick Comparison Chart

Travel Laundry SolutionCompact size? Good for delicates? Subject to TSA liquid rules?
Travel Laundry KitYesYes(ish)Yes
Hawatour Travel ClotheslineYesYesNo
Laundress Travel KitYesYesYes
Tide Travel Sink PacksYesYes(ish)Yes
LG Travel Laundry Detergent SheetsYesYes(ish)No
Scrubba Portable Laundry SystemNoYesNo
Tide To Go Stain Remover PenYesNoYes
Sea to Summit Travel Laundry SoapYesNoYes
Travel Size PerfumesYesYesYes
QUICK TIP:
Although you could replicate some of these solutions by just pouring detergent into a small baggie or container, be cautious about traveling with unmarked chemicals or powders that might look suspicious to overzealous TSA agents.

Sealed, single use containers with clear manufacturer branding are the safest way to go. Also, remember that if you’re traveling with a carry-on only, any liquid detergent will need to fit in a quart size baggie with your other liquids.

Travel Soap & More to Wash Clothes on the Road

1The Whole Shebang: Soap, Sink Stopper, & Travel Clothesline

This great little travel laundry pack has everything you need to clean clothing in your hotel sink or tub. The kit includes classic Tide sink packs, a handy sink stopper, and a portable bungee travel clothesline. The entire set will slip into a corner of your luggage, and will have your laundry situation sorted in no time.

2Hawatour Portable Travel Elastic Clothesline

If you’re planning on washing more than a couple pairs of undies while traveling, think about bringing a compact travel clothesline. It’ll help your clothing dry more quickly and evenly, and you won’t be scrambling to find spots to drape all that wet clothing.

3The Laundress Travel Pack Set

For those looking for a more luxurious way to do laundry on the go, The Laundress offers this handy kit of their favorites. The set includes Fabric Freshening spray in their classic scent, Delicate Wash, Crease Release spray, Stain Solution, and a laundry bag.

4Tide Travel Detergent Sink Packs

The classic Tide liquid detergent in small packets just the right size for a sink’s worth of laundry. The small packs are also TSA compliant, so they’re safe to toss bring in your carry-on bag. Convenient and a tried and true brand, these are always a safe bet.

5LG Travel Laundry Detergent Sheets

Don’t want the combined TSA and potential leakage hassle that comes with liquid detergents? Toss a pack of Lucky Fiji’s nifty dry detergent sheets in your luggage. They dissolve easily in warm water, and work just as well as the liquid stuff. The box comes with 3 packs of 15, or you could try one of these even smaller sheet packs.

6Scrubba Portable Laundry System

If you won’t have a sink to scrub in, or just don’t want to get your hands wet, give Scrubba’s laundry wash bag a try. It’s lined with gentle scrubbing nodules to get an even deeper clean than hand washing in a shorter time. The wash bag also folds down to about the size of a wallet and can double as a dry bag on your travels.

7Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover Liquid Pen

Avoid having to do laundry at all by treating small drips and spills with Tide’s stain remover pen. Toss one in your toiletry bag and whip it out for all those red wine and pasta sauce incidents. Just be careful though, it can damage delicate fabrics. It’s best to do a test spot before you go crazy erasing stains.

8Sea To Summit Trek & Travel Liquid Laundry Soap

Sea to Summit’s travel laundry detergent comes in a TSA approved bottle, with a tight sealing lid, so you’re good to toss it in your carry on. It’s a favorite of backpackers, and the concentrated formula means you’ll get plenty of washes out of this little bottle.

9Travel Size Perfumes at Sephora

Don’t pretend you haven’t done this before! Travel size perfume vials are perfect for slightly stinky travelers because they’ll fit in the tiniest corner of your makeup bag. And honestly, if your problem is just that you need to get an extra wear out of clothing that’s a little less than fresh, there’s nothing wrong with spritzing with perfume and setting out to explore. We featured the Atelier Cologne Perfume Palette above, but Sephora stocks tons of perfumes in travel perfect sizes.

Men aren’t excluded from this trick, either. Sephora has a wide selection of mini size men’s colognes perfect for throwing in a travel toiletry bag.


FAQs

I have super sensitive skin. What travel laundry detergent should I use?

If possible, bring along the exact detergent you use at home. Vacation isn’t the best time to experiment with new, potentially skin irritating chemicals. If you’re not able to find your favorite in travel size, detergent pods are also easy to travel with, and nearly every brand offers a “free and clear” option. (Just be careful not to smoosh them!).

Also, if you don’t anticipate needing a large amount of detergent, you can simply pour some in a travel bottle. The same leak proof bottles you’d use for shampoo will work fine for at least a couple loads of laundry.

We stay in Airbnbs or other vacation rentals pretty frequently, and it’s hard to predict what kind of laundry detergent will be available. I’ve gotten used to just bringing some of my own detergent along.

My clothing is silk/wool/dry clean only. Can I still wash it?

Play it safe and follow the care instructions for your garment. For delicate clothing, gently spot clean, try washing with lukewarm water only, or simply wait until you get home. Laundress has excellent delicate (in our list above) and wool and cashmere detergents.

Cotton and synthetic blend fabrics are versatile and easier to clean. In addition, heavy weight fabrics like denim will take longer to dry. Try to keep in mind ease of washing and drying when choosing your travel wardrobe.

This isn’t to say you should eschew nicer clothing. I usually bring one nice dress for fancy restaurants. Many can be travel friendly too–check out our list of the best little black dresses for travel here.