Make Doing Laundry During Your Hotel Stay Easier With These Tips From Rick Steves

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Imagine living in Europe for four months every year and only bringing a carry-on bag of your clothes. That sounds impossible, right? Not so, according to Rick Steves, the popular guidebook author, television host, and European travel expert. The self-proclaimed semi-minimalist is a fan of avoiding all the hassle of checking a bag at the airport, instead preferring to pack light with a carry-on and do his laundry in the hotel sink, he said in an interview with Business Insider.


One of his top travel tips is to pack clothing made of fabrics that are durable yet lightweight and won't wrinkle easily. Bonus points if the item dries quickly, as in five minutes from wringing it over the sink to walking out the door. Steves has name-dropped Dash Hemp shorts, Patagonia pants, Meriwool base layers, and REI shirts as some of his favorites. Before he heads to Europe, he always tests the clothes in his sink at home to make sure they will hold up on the road. Don't forget to pack a travel laundry bag so you can keep your clothes separated.

How to wash your clothes in a hotel room

Hoteliers aren't the biggest fans of guests washing their clothes in the hotel room, says Steves via his blog Rick Steves Europe. You can only imagine how many guests have left soaking wet towels and clothes hanging over the side of furniture or dripping onto the carpet. You might even see a sign that says "no washing your clothes in the sink" or a lack of drain stoppers to discourage you from banging out a sneaky little laundry session. In that case, says Steve, wash your clothes carefully and dry them discreetly.


Fill the sink with warm water and make some suds by emptying out the contents from the hotel shampoo bottle. Either pack a drain stopper or line the sink with an empty plastic bag before you fill it with water. If you're in a pinch, you can always use a sock or the cap of a pill bottle to stop the water, Steves notes. Toss in your clothes, shuffle them around a bit, and let them soak. Like a pot of pasta, you'll want to stop by every so often and give them a little swirl. A good rule of thumb is to let your clothes soak for 10 minutes then drain the soapy water. Refill the sink with clean water to make sure you got all of your makeshift "detergent" out of the clothes.

How to low-key dry your clothes while traveling

In hot climates, you might enjoy wearing a shirt that's still a little wet, as it'll stave off the heat for a good 15 minutes or so, says Steves. But if you'd rather wait it out, you have a couple of options. Before you hang up any of your clothes to dry, wring them out as much as possible with your hands or by rolling them up inside one of the hotel towels, sushi-style. The last thing you want is little pools of water around your hotel room. Then, you can either drape them over the side of the bathtub or hang them in the closet next to your dry clothes. To hasten the process, invest in a couple of inflatable hangers, which will separate your newly washed clothes from your dry-and-ready ones, explains Steves.


Another option is packing a portable clothesline. You can find compact kits that take up less room than a water bottle, like the Sea to Summit Lite Line Camping and Travel Clothesline. However you decide to dry your clothes, avoid draping them outside over the balcony. Remember, you're trying to be discreet. If your clothes end up a bit pruney and you haven't already read Tan France's packing tips to avoid wrinkled clothes, see if your hotel has an iron to lend you or take a hot shower so the steam relaxes stubborn fabric. With Steves' clever tips, you can officially skip the laundromat and spend more time sightseeing — as it should be.