If you ever have a power outage and need to do an important load of laundry, consider the bathtub! We’ve done bathtub laundry all over the world, mostly because you can do it in any location that has a tub, and this simple practice saves a bundle of money if you’re traveling.
How do you do it and get your clothes dry in time?
There are 2 ways to tub-clean your dirty togs. If you’re taking a shower, you can always conserve water and throw your dirty clothes in the bottom of the tub to benefit from your shower water. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but it works if you just need to get your clothes clean quickly. Otherwise, here are a few steps involved in the bathtub method:
1) Run the water and plug the drain. Be sure to put enough water in the tub to just cover your clothing. I simply use the hotel soap, but you can always bring your own biodegradable laundry powder or laundry bar soap if you think ahead. On expeditions, we always have a little bio-soap on hand to hand-wash clothes in rivers.
2) My friends in Nepal let the clothes soak for a few minutes. Then you can rub it all over the clothing, and scrub around the really dirty areas.
3) Next, get your children in the tub and let them walk all over your clothing. It’s a fun game for them and massages their feet. If you have no children around, do it yourself or you can “agitate” your clothes by hand, too. One reader told me she does bathtub laundry at home and uses a spare toilet plunger for her “agitation cycle.” Be sure to hand scrub your dirty areas by hand with your soap.
4) Drain the dirty water and run more water over your clothes to fully rinse them out. You might need to rinse twice if you’ve used a lot of soap.
5) Wring each piece of clothing out and then hang them to dry over the tub. Depending on your climate, you should have dry clothes in a few hours, almost as long as it would’ve taken you to take your clothing to a laundry service to do it for you.
And the price is right.
I’m no fan of doing laundry, mostly because I know in developed countries we do way too much of it and our microplastic-laden clothes are contributing to our toxic shorelines. Hand-washing means you’ll really only wash those clothes if you absolutely have to, not just because you wore them once.
We like this system because it’s cheap, it didn’t require any plastic, we get a little exercise doing the laundry, and it conserves water when we use our own shower water for the first part of your washing cycle, to just get the clothes wet. For a family of 4 traveling in the Himalaya, hand-washing is a regular part of our routine. Try it for a week, and you’ll start thinking about the water, the soap, where it goes, and how often it actually needs to be done. Do you hand-wash when you travel? What tips can you share?