how to pack dirty clothes in luggage main

Packing and traveling are stressful as it is, let alone knowing what to do with your dirty laundry as it accumulates during your travels. Below are some helpful tips that might help you keep your clothes a little cleaner, or at least stay more organized while traveling. 


The Hotel Pile

For those who only travel to a single destination at a time. Or are typically staying in the same location for the duration of their trip, the solution is simple. What I usually do is pack a garbage bag or a couple plastic grocery bags to use as laundry bags. 

Staying in the same hotel room means I can toss my clothes into a corner or pile and then collect them all in a single bag when I’m packing up to check out. If I’m staying longer than a few weeks, I’ll pack a laundry bag with me, some detergent, and make sure I know where the closest laundromat is, if the hotel doesn’t have a laundry service. 


Packing Cubes to the Rescue

If you will frequently be stopping and going from place to place, laundry becomes a little bit more of a hassle. You’re forced to continually pack and unpack your belongings, and you don’t want to blend your dirty clothes with your clean clothes. 

If this is the case, your best bet is to purchase a set (or a couple sets) or packing cubes. In essence, these are zippered canvas or nylon bags that allow you to organize your clothes and travel contents into neat compartments. 

You can keep a few extra empty ones with you to place dirty clothes in. Not to mention that whenever you do return home, you can have your laundry already organized into colors, whites, warm, cold, etc. loads.

Backpackers and frequent fliers find packing cubes especially useful since your items can be quickly accessed without needing to dig through the rest of your belongings. You won’t have to repack everything if your bag has to be searched at the airport or you find that you packed your charger at the very bottom of your bag. 

There are plenty of different options as far as material and style go. They’re inexpensive and don’t add any bulk to your travel. 


Alternatives to Packing Cubes

If you have an old duffel bag lying around and won’t be flying, this is a cheap and effective alternative. Fill your duffel bag up as you go and toss it in the trunk of your car to keep your dirty laundry separate from the rest of your clothes. 

If you are living out a suitcase, room for other purchases and disorganization can put extra space at a premium. Instead of packing cubes, you may opt for compression bags, aka vacuum bags. These are giant Ziploc style bags that have the air either sucked or rolled out of them.

I would suggest purchasing ones where you can roll the air out as you never know when and if you’ll have access to a vacuum. These bags are inexpensive, are completely water and air-tight, and free up tons of space in your luggage. 


Plan Ahead

With the advent of the smartphone, it’s pretty easy to find a laundromat or service that will do your laundry by the pound. If you have extra downtime during your travels, taking some time to knock out laundry will save you that time when you get back home for more enjoyable activities. It can’t hurt to pack some Tide pods and know where you can wash your clothes while away from home. 


Washing Clothes while Traveling

If you’re away from home for extended periods, washing your clothes on the go is almost certainly a must. Depending on where you’re traveling, it’s worth checking to see if you can book an Airbnb, hotel, or hostel that has laundry service or gives you access to a washer and dryer. A clean shirt can make all the difference in how you feel for the day. 


Avoid the Post-Workout Stank

Have you ever got back from the gym or a run, taken your clothes off, and then tossed them in the hamper or laundry room and waited days before you washed them? By the time you’ve run them through the washer and dryer, they have a nasty funk stuck in them, right? 

The same thing will happen while you travel and the funk can sometimes get stuck with your bag and other clothes too. One of the easiest ways to prevent this smell from sticking to your clothes is to shower in them. 

It sounds silly, but even just a quick rinse in the shower with your workout clothes on will help to remove a lot of the odor-causing bacteria. When you’re done, you can ring your clothes out and let them air dry in the bathroom. Is it perfect? No - but it does work. 


Sink or Ziploc Bag Washing Machine

Alternatively, you can turn the bathroom sink or a 1-2 gallon Ziploc bag into a washing machine. The bag tends to be a better option, in my opinion, but all you need is a little detergent and warm or hot water. Put your dirty clothes in the bag or sink with the soap, then agitate for 5-10 minutes. 

Afterward, you can rinse your clothes in the sink or shower and then let them air dry. I remember my parents doing this often for my travel soccer games growing up. 


Pack the Right Clothes to Begin with

If you can, pack clothes that are mostly nylon, or at least a nylon blend, you’ll have an easier time cleaning these than most natural fibers. Nylon doesn’t retain much moisture, and therefore it tends to dry quicker as well. 

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