The good, the bad and the ugly...
I know it sounds crazy, coming from the convenience of wearing two or three outfits every day, throwing stuff in a laundry basket and then magically, or with a tiny bit of effort, having everything come out squeaky clean.
I'd be lying if I said it was convenient.. it's not... *at least, not always.
I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't trying to convince you to try it.. because I am..
But for those of you who can get over the conceptual hump of hand-washing your clothes every day; the benefits can quickly outweigh the negatives..
In any case, here's the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to daily laundry.
You can pack far fewer clothes, which makes your pack infinitely smaller; the benefits of which I've outlined extensively in The Benefits of Minimalist Travel.
Your choice of clothing is limited to one or two outfits, effectively eliminating the question of "what do I wear today.." thus simplifying your life.
It forces consistency.. knowing you have to wash your clothes at some point in the day; this may be good or bad, depending on how you look at it, but as a long-term traveler, one of the biggest issues you run into is a messed up schedule; whether due to time changes, not knowing where you're going, what you're doing, or how long things take.. jumping cities takes a toll on your mind and body, whether you're aware of it or not.. and sticking to a daily schedule can help mitigate those issues.
It's a perfect excuse to take a break, like the classic, "no, sorry, I have to wash my hair tonight," you can use your laundry as an excuse to take a break from people; and yes, you will meet people you don't like while traveling.. it's impossible to avoid..
It's therapeutic.. like hand-washing dishes, brushing your teeth or taking a hot shower, it's mindless and relaxing; and it reconnects us to how simple life can (and used to) be.
If you don't do laundry every day, or fall behind a few days, you WILL find yourself wearing stinky shirts and shorts.. Yes, it's great that daily laundry can help you keep a routine, but that's just it.. it actually forces you into a schedule if you ignore it for too long. You gain all the freedom in the world by keeping your pack small, at the expense of having to do a few extra chores on a daily basis. However, this is also why packing three days' worth of clothes is so beneficial; you won't always need three shirts.. but it buys you a little extra stink protection for when you get off-track.
You may find yourself lugging around laundry detergent, or, worst-case, using only a little bit and wasting or leaving the rest behind; if the hostel doesn't provide soap (many do).. or if the nearest super market doesn't have travel-sized laundry detergent (most do).. you may find yourself buying a medium-sized container and using it for just a few sets of laundry before moving on... but you don't want to waste it... so you end up carrying it around like a crazy person on the streets of Sau Paulo.. (not that I have experience or anything).
Washing your clothes is the easy part.. it's the drying that gets most people... drying is a pain in the butt, no matter how you approach it.. I go into the details in Laundry on the Road Part II (Drying), but the very short gist of it is that drying is a much bigger problem than washing.. The only advice I can give you is to pack all quick-dry clothing, pack some type of clothes hanger, and hope or plan for warm/hot/dry weather.. Check out my post Dry Times to get a feel for how long it takes to dry different types of clothes based on temp/material.
Hand-washing or shower-washing clothes is the biggest hurdle to overcome when it comes to minimalist travel; and it's definitely not for everyone, or every type of traveler.. but if you're planning for a long trip and are looking for ways to minimize your pack; getting over this hump is the single biggest space-saving move you can make.
If you're not fully convinced, check out the FAQs page for more Q&As around laundry, drying clothes on the road and ideas to make travel/packing easier.
And as always, happy travels. :)