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Washing Clothes in the Shower

I've experimented with many different methods for washing clothes on the road - washing in the sink, using a portable wash bag, using laundromats, and yes, even "shower washing."

I go into the pros and cons of each approach in my post The 7 Methods of Doing Laundry While Traveling, but I wanted to specifically call out this weird yet unique approach to cleaning your clothes.

The point of this post isn't to tell you how to clean your clothes in the shower (hopefully that's obvious), but it is to let you know that - while it may feel weird - it's also easy, reliable, effective and... not as weird as you might think!

a woman in the shower with clothes

I thought I was crazy for doing this, until I read this great post on the REI expert advice blog in regards to packing light; which made me feel slightly better - specifically the part where it says "wash items while you're showering," - so it's nice to know I'm not completely insane.

Sanity aside, there's no way to sugar coat it, so let's just jump in...

Washing your clothes in the shower is... weird.. but it's only weird the first time, and then - if you're already accustomed to hand washing your clothes in some manor - it becomes one of the easiest ways to wash your clothes, especially if you're only washing a few small items.

I hand wash my socks, shirt and underwear most days, and my shorts and/or pants once every few days, depending on use; this is usually done with a portable wash basin or wash bag; but on some occasions, when I know I won't have a lot of time, I will wash my clothes in the shower.

You simply wear your dirty clothes into the shower (that's the weird part), and hand wash them as you undress. It's fast, simple, and no one even knows you're doing it (unless you're putting on a show).

a man in a shower with a wet shirt

An important thing to note here is that this method really only works with lightweight, quick-dry fabrics - I've never tried it, but I imagine washing jeans in the shower would be a nightmare.

But if you're rocking quick-dry hiking pants and shorts (as I recommend in 9 Tips for Packing Fewer Clothes), you should be good to go - it's the same material used to make modern-day (men's) swim trunks, so it's thin, lightweight and easy to hand wash - and you can't tell me you've never never washed your swimsuit in the shower.

a woman showering in her swimsuit

Always remember to bring a "clean clothes" bag (or your portable wash bag) - so you have a place to put them after they've been cleaned.

A few things to note...

1) You can use shampoo, body wash or bar soap on your clothes, they're actually more gentle than traditional detergents, but it comes with a caveat - because they're more gentle (i.e. less powerful), they won't be as effective for getting stains out.

2) If you plan on hand washing regularly and want to travel prepared, consider general purpose camping soap or laundry soap bars.

3) Even if you wash your clothes regularly, you'll eventually want a more thorough, machine-wash, "professional" clean - clothes need to soak and go through a thorough rinse in order to be truly clean, so don't throw your washer out the window just yet.

person pulling a washing machine out of a window

I highly encourage you to try this at home - especially if you're planning a big trip or attempting "extreme" minimalist travel for the first time; once you have the process down, it can easily integrate into your normal morning (or afternoon, or evening) routine.

Shower washing is, and always will be, a little too weird for most people, but for those of you who try it, you'll be rewarded with more time, a smaller backpack, and a story to tell your grandchildren (who won't even know what a washing machine is).


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