Packing light equates to a need for washing a few articles of clothing over and over again.Â The specific aim of this review is to provide guidance for those who might not have fully mastered every facet of the high art of in-sink laundry.
This is a topic that everybody needs to know about.Â Even if you’re extremely rich, overnight services are not always available.Â Some high end hotels won’t wash your under pants for any price.Â It follows that a modicum of self-reliance seems required for even the most powerful captains of industry.
The first step is to choose your clothing carefully.Â You might prefer cotton and wool fabrics at home, where energy intensive washers and dryers unlock their potential for providing comfort.Â But, on the road, these fabrics tend to be bulky, absorb moisture, and harbor odors.Â Denim is heavy and extremely slow to dry.Â In contrast, many non-wetable fabrics made of synthetic blends do not absorb water.Â Blends of polyesters, nylons, lycras, and similar fabrics can appear wet because water clings to them due to electrostatic forces and surface tensions, but since the water molecules do not actually inculcate themselves into the polymers themselves, they dry faster.Â Socks and most pudendal underpants represent items that need to be washed after every single use, so they’re the most critical garments to select carefully.Â Pants and many shirts can often survive for more than one day of use without triggering an arrest by the local health authorities.Â Nevertheless, it seems easy to love high-tech fishing gear made of sun retardant, non-wetable fabrics that pack down into very low volumes and do not wrinkle too much when they are wadded up.Â
Color can be an important consideration.Â Solid blacks, like all whites, will prominently display every speck of dust they accumulate.Â Other solid colors also produce relatively sharp contrasts with stains.Â Dull, dual or multi-colored clothing hides dirt, stains, and wrinkles.Â High energy, high bleach laundry systems might get the discoloration out of your white underwear at home, but all travel gear should be multi-colored, and that rule holds in spades for underwear.
You can carry single-use packets of laundry detergents.Â Travel packets are available from well known brands, including Tide, Woolite, and others.Â I prefer to use ordinary hand soap for socks, and leave some of the soap in them.Â That is, I prefer to NOT rinse them very well after the last soaping.Â This is because the soap powder will dissolve in the sweat upon the next wearing.Â It not only acts as an effective anti-deodorant, it decreases friction and reduces blistering.Â Keep in mind that athletes are frequently advised to rub a bar of soap on their socks before practicing.Â (Incidentally, under arm deodorants applied to the soles of the feet work even better than soaps for ensuring smell-free socks on long airplane trips.)
When washing these clothes in a hotel bathroom, it’s often useful to start by getting into a shower with your clothing on, not off.Â This will usually allow you to apply soap or shampoo directly to the areas that need them most.Â In medicine, these are often referred to as intertriginous zones, where skin meets skin, such as the junction of the upper extremity with the thorax (a.k.a. “axilla” or “armpit”).Â Once you’ve starting the process of washing these areas, then put a stopper in the drain and take the clothing off.Â Dropping the clothing to the bottom of the tub allows them to be washed with your feet while you conduct your ordinary rituals of bathing.Â Stomping on your clothes with your weight applies energy to drive water in-and-out like only the most vigorous of hand washing routines can match.Â And, it makes your feet feel good.
Wringing out clothes prior to hanging is hard work.Â Best to start this process with your feet as well.Â For fast drying, roll your articles in cotton bath towels prior to hanging.Â This can reduce drying times dramatically.Â And again, once you have rolled your articles into a bath towel, stepping on the role will increase the effectiveness of the maneuver.
Wind is the best drying force, but its availability is limited in many hotel scenarios.Â You can quick-start the drying process for socks by placing them over the nozzle of a hair dryer if available, and letting the wind fill the whole sock.Â I travel with postal-weight rubber bands that can be used to fix the socks to hairdryers that can then be left on their side on a sink top for 5-to-10 minutes while I do something else.Â Hair dryer nozzles in shirtsleeves and pant legs can also help speed things along when you’re in a rush, but these articles require much more of your active attention, and as a consequence, hair dryers aren’t preferred.Â Hotel lamps with incandescent bulbs are the next best thing to a real clothes dryer.Â Hang your big articles over the tops of the lamp shades.Â Socks can be dangled over the metal stays that fix the shade to the lamp.Â When you’re stirring, the radiant light from the lamp will dry most clothes in a few hours.Â Even after bedtime, there is often more air moving over a lampshade in the room than over a true clothes line in a little bathroom.Â Even when the bulb is an energy saving fluorescent model with little heat output, lamps are often good surfaces to maximize the exposure of an article to moving air.Â Lamps can usually be moved to a place where you can capitalize on any moving air from a climate control system.Â Of or on, turn the articles that you hang over lamps from time-to-time to dry moisture that tends to linger in creases and thus speed the process.
There’s little that matches the satisfaction of starting a new day on the road without a single article of dirty clothing.Â Washing daily or semi-daily allows one to experience the joy of clean cloths regularly while avoiding the dysthymia of placing dirty laundry in your bag.
P. David Mozley, M.D.