Travel Laundry Detergent & Other Solutions for Doing Laundry While Traveling

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
Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar SoapYesNoNo
Travel Size PerfumesYesYesYes

Travel Soap & More to Wash Clothes on the Road

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

how to do laundry while traveling

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.

Hawatour Portable Travel Elastic Clothesline

Travel laundry 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.

The Laundress Travel Pack Set

Luxury travel laundry set by the Laundress

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 Crease Release, Fabric Fresh, Signature Detergent, Stain Solution, Wash and Stain Bar, and vinyl pouch.

Tide Travel Detergent Sink Packs

Tide travel size laundry detergent 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.

LG Travel Laundry Detergent Sheets

LG dry 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.

Scrubba Portable Laundry System

Scrubba travel 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.

Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover Liquid Pen

Tide Stain Pens for stains while traveling

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.

Sea To Summit Trek & Travel Liquid Laundry Soap

Travel size concentrated laundry detergent

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.

Fels-Naptha Bars

Fels-Naptha has a cult following as a stain remover, poison ivy remedy and component of homemade laundry detergent. People swear by this soap for stain and odor removal. So no surprise that many travelers will also cut off a chunk of a bar, toss it in a plastic baggie, and use it as their travel laundry detergent.

It’s a super compact solution, and not subject to liquid rules. You can shave a bit of the bar into hot water, or directly rub on the soiled spot. In general, Fels-Naptha is safe on colors, but as with any detergent, be cautious with expensive or delicate clothing.

Travel Size Perfumes at Sephora

Sephora travel size perfumes

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.

Don’t Wash Your Clothing– Wear Merino Wool

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Merino wool is softer than regular wool, temperature regulating, and–most importantly for our purposes here– odor resistant. All this moisture-wicking, odor resisting goodness means you can wear merino wool clothing for longer before you need to wash it.

For anything that’s not a beach vacation, I make sure to pack a couple pairs of Smartwool socks. They can be re-worn multiple times without getting smelly, and the same goes for their tees and sweaters. (They even sell Merino underwear, but I think I’ll stick with a fresh pair everyday, thanks).

You’ve probably never paid so much for a single pair of socks before, and some of their other basics skew a little pricey. But they’re great quality and really do deliver on the odor resistance.

You can check out Smartwool’s offerings for men and women on Amazon, or on Zappos.

Emergency Cleaning Options

Didn’t bring laundry soap with you, but need to clean your clothes on the road? Shampoo will do in a pinch. Shampoo is generally gentle and works just fine for hand washing clothing. Remember that a little will go a long way, especially if you’re washing in a small volume of water like the hotel sink.

The exception here is 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner formulations, and tinted shampoos (like the kinds used to add color to your hair or tone down brassiness). Most hotel shampoos should work just fine. Do avoid bar soaps, as many are formulated with moisturizers that won’t wash out completely, and can leave spots on your clothing. The same rule applies to body washes. You should be fine with gel type body wash, but cream based moisturizing washes shouldn’t be used on your clothing.

As a last resort, hand dishwashing liquid can also be used, so long as it doesn’t contain any bleaching agents. Use only a tiny amount, and avoid using on delicate fabrics as dishwashing liquid is concentrated and can be harsh. Your jeans will probably wash up fine–your favorite sweater, not so much.


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.

Freelance writer, full-time traveler.