Rick Steves' Tips For Doing Laundry In Your Hotel Room While Traveling Abroad

Preparing for a lengthy vacation entails dealing with the all-too-familiar conundrum of determining whether you've packed enough clothes to see you through the entire journey. You may be inclined to bring half your wardrobe "just in case," but that can only lead to overpacking and the subsequent burden of exorbitant baggage fees. Packing enough and washing your clothes along the way is still the way to go, but you don't want to spend a fortune on hotel laundry or allot precious vacation time at laundromats, either. And besides, it's not like self-service laundry facilities are easy to find abroad. The most practical and economical solution is washing and wringing on your own, which renowned travel extraordinaire Rick Steves assures isn't the worst thing in the world.

While he extolls the convenience of launderettes, Steves notes that it's vital to master doing DIY laundry on a hotel sink. His first nugget of advice is to make things easier for your future self by packing light and selecting garments that are easy to wash. These clothes are usually dark, fast-drying clothes that don't require additional pressing. To ensure a seamless laundry experience, he recommends conducting a "wet rehearsal" at home before your trip by hand-washing the clothes you plan on bringing so you can gauge how easy (or challenging) they are to launder without a washing machine.

Swap detergent for hotel shampoo

While the whole point of laundry is getting rid of dirt and grime from your clothes, Rick Steves said that you don't have to sweat it out too much. When you're on the go, you don't have to subject yourself to an exhaustive cleaning process, eliminating the need to buy or pack laundry detergent. You can use the toiletries available in the room instead. They may not be formulated to deep clean fabrics, but they're enough to keep your clothes and underwear fresh for wear for the rest of your trip.

"I just wash my laundry in the sink generally. I use the shampoo that comes in the hotel room," Steves told Insider in an interview. "My philosophy about washing clothes on the road is you don't need to have the high standards that you have at home. If you get a step to 65% clean, that's dang good when you're on the road. Don't stress out about that."

But if you insist on packing detergent for thorough cleansing, Steves noted that you can funnel liquid detergent into small travel bottles to minimize bulk. Just be sure to secure them inside a resealable bag so they won't spill out and stain the rest of your stuff while in transit.

Create a makeshift washing machine

Rick Steves pointed out that some hotels, especially those in Europe, go out of their way to dissuade guests from doing laundry in their respective bathrooms by putting up deliberate signs and removing the stoppers in the sinks and tubs. But the travel expert said that as long as you're not damaging the property, you'll likely get away with doing laundry discreetly. It's worth carrying a drain-stopper in case the hotel you booked doesn't have any, or consider stuffing items like socks and pill bottle lids into the drain hole to temporarily prevent water from escaping as you wash your clothes. Suppose you don't want to risk it. In that case, Steves says an alternative is creating a makeshift washing machine by using a large resealable bag, adding soap and tossing in your garments, shaking well, and draining the contents before rinsing.

To avoid making a mess in the room, use your wringing and twisting skills to eliminate excess water from your clothes. One good trick is to wrap them in a towel and then step over it to expel the remaining moisture trapped within the fibers. If the hotel isn't too strict, set up a clothesline to hang and dry your stuff in the shower area. Otherwise, place them by the bathtub's edge or inside the closet. With these tips, you can wash your clothes efficiently on the go, all while remaining respectful of the hotel's policies and maintaining the tidyness of the room.