Wash day blues… and whites and reds too!

It’s been a while since I’ve travelled anywhere and had to use a launderette.

The first time was in Ambleside back in the 1970’s and the last time was on Orkney about six years ago. It’s not that I’m averse to sitting in launderettes waiting for my clothes to wash and dry, because it was something that I had to do once a week when I was a student in the mid-1990’s.

Yes, one of the joys of travelling light is the prospect of having to wash and dry your clothes on the hoof. All you need is a sink, some washing stuff and some hot water and Bob’s your uncle, Charley’s your aunt and it all comes out in the wash. Or does it?

Well yes and no…

On the yes side, I’ve been washing and wearing clothes over and over again on travel trips for more years than I care to remember as I see it as one of the trade-offs for travelling with hand luggage only.

T-shirts, trousers, socks, shreddies and travel towels have been washed and worn on walking holidays, sightseeing visits and business trips too. It’s rare that it’s taken longer than overnight for anything to fully dry thanks to the judicious purchases of travel specific clothing, but if there has been a little bit of dampness left in anything, it’s usually disappeared shortly after wearing said item once more.

On the no side, it’s been heavier items such as jeans and other cotton based items that have presented problems. Whilst jeans can be worn and worn again if you’re not fussed about getting into clubs or the kind of bars that have a dress code and meatheads to enforce it, cotton t-shirts can honk something rotten after a day and take ages to dry too.

Sometimes though, even travel specific clothing can throw up a cleaning problem. I was away earlier in the year and cooked up a chilli for an evening meal. Nothing fancy you understand as it was a simple matter to open up a couple of cans and warm them through on the camping stove.

Problem was that the heating up and eating of the chilli had a significant side effect. No, I wasn’t looking for ‘Hughie!’, but small spots of chilli sauce on a white t-shirt do tend to be noticeable… That took a couple of washes at home with a spot of Vanish to remove!

Moral of the story – I’ll wear a red t-shirt the next time I’m cooking chilli.

But I digress. Washing, drying and wearing on the go isn’t hard. I’ve just finished off one tube of Dr. Beckmann travel wash that I picked up in a local supermarket at home last year, but I usually favour Lifeventure Fabric Wash to do the deed. It’s available in airport security friendly 100ml bottles, lathers up well for the most part and works.

Fill the sink with water, add the Fabric Wash and then do the washing before rinsing well in clean water. Once done, it’s time to wring the items out, do an air-wrap (basically it’s grab hold of a shirt or whatever and then swing it above your head or in front of you for a few minutes). After that, roll the item up in a travel towel a few times and then hang it up to dry.

Although I have dried clothing in a bathroom in the past, I now stick the shirt, trousers or whatever on a hanger and dry it in a well-ventilated part of the room. If the room has a balcony and it’s a warm day, then it’s hung over the balcony, a chair or a door handle until it’s near enough dry to wear once more.

Now there are some places that I’ve stayed in over the last year that have a specific policy against washing clothes in the bathroom, but I have to admit to ignoring any notices and discretely doing the washing anyway, especially if I’m staying there for one night only.

Caroline and I recently stayed in an apartment in the Lakes that didn’t have a washing machine – there was a shared use one on the site – so all we did was our usual wash and wear thing in the bathroom and dry things outside on the backs of the patio chairs and keep an eye on the ducks and squirrels that were wandering around the back of the apartment.

For us, it’s second nature to go down the wash and wear route, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there are those who don’t want to do it for a variety of reasons.

Some don’t think that they can fit the time to do it into their daily schedule while others simply don’t want to do it. Some would rather pack more clothes into their bags and get someone else to do it for them (and pay the going rates and then go on to moan about what the going rate was online afterwards…).

Me? I’ll stick with what I do at the moment thank you very much as I’d rather use any money charged for laundry services on food, drink or travel costs! I’d also ensure that anything that I’m likely to wash and wear is colour fast too by using the washing and wearing processes at home before heading off into the wide blue yonder….

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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