If you’re a traveler on a budget, you’re probably looking to save as much money as you can along the way.
In this post I’m going to show how, by showering with my clothes on, I was able to save $136 during my backpacking trip through Europe.
I’m sure you can think of plenty of things that you can do with $136, like:
Spend an entire week at a hostel (paying about $20 per night)
Buy a plane ticket to a place that’s on your bucket list
Jump off one of the world’s tallest bungee jumps…. twice!
Whatever else you want!
Every penny counts. Especially when you can spend those pennies on epic experiences rather than boring old laundry.
Let’s face it: If you’re planning on doing any type of extended travel, you will have to do laundry eventually. You might as well do it as cheap as possible.
Hostels and hotels are businesses.
Its not like your parents house when you came home from college for a vacation. They aren’t going to be happy to do your laundry for free!
Most hotels and hostels will charge you to do laundry. Simply put: more money in their pockets = less money in your pockets.
So what do you do instead?
Shower with your clothes on of course! Wash your clothes by hand and save money in the process.
Lets dive in:
First things first… I’m not a fashion expert or a fabric guru, I just know what worked for me and the clothes that I had during my trip. So with that said, make sure you look at the type of clothing you have and do a little research before trying this out. Check out the information on the care label on the inside of your clothing before you get all excited about showering with your clothes on!
Most of the clothes I wear traveling are made of merino wool (an awesome fabric for traveling) and this strategy worked fine for me.
Now, before you get started on learning how to hand wash clothes, there are some supplies you will need… all of which you should already have if you normally take showers!
- Shampoo or body wash or hand soap or… well ya know, the stuff that you rub together that makes bubbles and gives you that nice clean feeling. I’ve heard that dish washing soap works well for this too.
- Dirty/ sweaty clothes (there’s no use in washing clean clothes!)
- Towel (preferably a microfiber towel because it soaks up more water and is easier to travel with)
- Place to hang your clothes (a bungee cord is good for this, or a hanger, or the railing on your bed, etc.)
Alrightyyy, lets get started!
Step 1) Preparation
Make sure you have all of the necessary supplies mentioned above.
Two (very obvious) pointers here:
- Don’t forget your towel. Its easy to do especially when its all packed away in your backpack.
- Shower sandals are a good idea if you’re staying in a hostel.
Turn the shower on to a warm temperature, just like you would as if you were taking a shower without your clothes on.
Step 2) Get In
All of your dirty clothes that you are planning on hand washing should still be on your body at this point.
Go ahead and get in the shower.
This part shouldn’t be too difficult, unless of course your shower doesn’t have hot water. If that’s the case, brace yourself and remind yourself of all of the benefits of cold showers!
Step 3) Spin Around
Turn around a few times to make sure that all of your clothing is nice and wet. Depending on the quality of the shower you are in, this might be easier said than done… but stay committed and get those clothes wet!
Well done! You are officially showering with your clothes on.
Step 4) Turn The Water Off
During this step of the process, the water doesn’t need to be on for you to be washing your clothes. Go ahead and turn it off.
This will help save water, keep hot water available for other people that would like to shower after you, and generally make you feel good about doing the right thing.
Step 5) Hand Wash Clothes and Start Scrubbin’
Get some soap in your hand and start hand washing your clothes by scrubbing one of the pieces of clothing.
I like to start with the shirt since it feels weird being in a shower with a shirt on…
Then take off that piece of clothing and rub its fabric together. Make sure that soap gets all over the place, both inside and outside of the piece of clothing that you are hand washing. Keep working in the soap with your hands to loosen up any dirt, sweat, and various germs that you have collected throughout the day.
You might have to use more soap at this point if your clothing seems to have already soaked it all up. Be generous with your soap application (buying soap is cheaper than paying to do laundry). Make sure its nice and soapy so that you get out the smell, dirt, etc.
Step 6) Wash out the soap
Now, turn the water back. Get all of the soap out of the piece of clothing that you just washed. You can do this with multiple pieces of clothing at a time if they are smaller, like socks for example.
Get the clothing as close to the shower faucet as possible. This will maximize your use of the water and get the soap out as quickly as possible.
Step 7) Squeeze Out the Water
Once you have all of the soap out of the clothing, it should be very wet.
You don’t want to be dripping water all over the bathroom so squeeze out the water as best you can. Don’t twist it up or wring it out too hard though because you don’t want to ruin the fabric or stretch it out.
Step 8) Set it aside
Find a (clean) place for you to set your newly washed clothing.
I like to wipe off the top of the shower door to make sure there isn’t dust up there and then simply flop it over the door until you’re done showering.
If it gets a little wet during the rest of your shower, just squeeze out the excess water again before you get out of the shower.
Step 9) Repeat
Well done! You just finished washing one of the pieces of clothing. Now go ahead and repeat steps 4-8 until you’re completely naked.
Being naked should be a good indicator that all of your clothes are washed and currently set off to the side in a clean location!
Step 10) Take a shower
Take a shower like you normally would… I’m going to skip the step-by-step instructions on this one since I’m hoping you know how to do this and have successfully showered before. =)
Step 11) Move along
If you’re traveling on a budget and hand washing your clothes, it’s probably safe to assume that you don’t have your own personal shower. If this assumption is correct, there are most likely other shower-hungry travelers waiting for the shower. So lets get out of the way so others can shower as well.
Dry yourself off, put on some clothes, gather your freshly washed clothing, grab your soap, and head back to your room.
Step 12) The Reverse Fruit Roll-Up Technique
This is one of the most important steps in the process. If you don’t do this, the chances of your clothes being dry by morning are not very high.
Remember those sugary delicious treats you used to pack in your lunch that have no nutritional value at all? That’s right, I’m talking about Fruit Roll-Ups!
Well here is the thing: you are going to make one of those with your clothes.
Imagine that the towel is the wrapper and that your clothing is the tie-die edible deliciousness inside.
I prefer to start with one of the larger articles of clothing, like a t-shirt, since there is more water that needs to be removed.
Now take your clothing and align it with the top edge of the towel.
Next, you simply roll up the towel and piece of clothing together tightly, like you would with a sleeping bag.
Step 13) Squeeze
Once you have your oversized-Fruit-Roll-Up-hand-washed-laundry masterpiece put together, give it a good hard squeeze to get as much water out as possible.
Once again, don’t squeeze too hard or twist it too much as you don’t want to ruin the clothing.
Step 14) Hang it up
Great! Your clothing should now be damp, but it definitely should not be soaking wet.
Now simply hang up your clothing wherever you can find. The closer you can get it to the window or fan the better, as it will dry faster that way (just make sure it doesn’t blow away if it’s near a window).
If you’re concerned with someone stealing your clean underwear and t-shirt, try to hang it above or on your bed.
Step 15) Repeat until complete
Now just repeat steps 12-14 until all of your clothing is hanging out to dry.
At first it seems a little weird, but it works great, especially when you have limited clothing.
Congratulations! You now know how to successfully hand wash clothes in the shower!
Your clothes should be dry or close to dry by the next morning depending on the climate of where you are traveling.
Here are some additional things to note before trying this out:
Don’t hang your clothes on a hook: I made this mistake once and the shirt got stretched out quite a bit where I had it hanging on the hook. I had to wash in the shirt in an actual washing machine to get it out. It doesn’t look good though so don’t do it!
Wear your damp clothes in the morning: If your clothes are still a bit damp in the morning, make sure you wear those clothes. Do not pack them into your backpack or suitcase. Trust me on this one – your clothes will get super wrinkly and won’t smell too good when you open your backpack or suitcase.
Try the sink: If the shower sucks or isn’t available at the time you can also hand wash your clothes in the sink in a similar fashion (I prefer the shower since not all sinks are clean enough for me to want to wash something in it).
Just be creative when you’re traveling and you’ll figure it out!
Also, I haven’t tried this with jeans so I’m not sure how this would work out =]
So there it is. That’s how you take a shower with your clothes on and save yourself some cash money in the process.
If you’re wondering how I arrived at $136, here you go:
On average, at the hostels that did have laundry facilities it would cost me about 5 euros to wash and dry my clothing.
I backpacked for 50 days and had two sets of clothing (two shorts, two shirts, two pairs of underwear, etc.). Since I would do laundry every other day, this would be a total of 25 days doing laundry multiplied by 5 euros per load.
That would total 125 euros, which at the current exchange rate makes it about $136.
Sure the estimate might not be 100% accurate depending on the type of traveling you’re doing, but the point is that you can be creative while traveling to save money.
If you are on a budget, then every dollar counts and finding ways to save money will help you enjoy more experiences in the long run.
Spend money on experiences… not laundry!
What are some creative ways you have saved money while traveling?