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I occasionally travel for the weekend to a location 3 hours away by car. I have some toiletry items that I've often had to pack lightly damp, and despite me trying to take them out right when I arrive at my destination they do start to take on an unsettling smell. Mainly, those items are:

  • Toothbrush
  • Hairbrush
  • Shower shoes

While not something I've experienced as of late, I could imagine this also applying to things like damp towels or swimwear.

Currently, I pack them by putting them in gallon plastic bags, with the bag zipper half open. I then carry them in my suitcase with the rest of my (dry) items.

Drying them off before I pack them is obviously preferable, though sometimes it can be hard to get them fully dry, especially with the shower shoes since they're lightly absorbent and I'm sometimes showering close enough to departure that I can't let them fully air dry before I go.

How do I prevent damp items from getting gross while traveling?

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    As I like to think about it, the overall amount of "grossness" is always the same, it just depends on the distribution. Wrapping stuff airtight makes it itself 100% gross and the rest of the bag 0% gross, while just throwing it in without wrapping makes everything 10% gross. Doing something like half-open zippers maybe makes the stuff 80% gross and the rest 3% gross. At the end of the day, a matter of preference. I like airtight.
    – MaxD
    Mar 1, 2022 at 14:46
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    Are you travelling with your car? Anyway, adsorbent shower shoes are a good growing culture for fungi and whatsnot, do you really think it is a good idea?
    – EarlGrey
    Mar 1, 2022 at 19:12
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    @EarlGrey yes, it's my car. And no I don't think it's a good idea lol, I'm intending to buy less porous ones soon. The issue still stands though that they can be hard to fully dry regardless
    – Drake P
    Mar 1, 2022 at 21:28
  • This sounds more a question for LifeHacks SE than here. They're full of clever ideas.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 2, 2022 at 9:15
  • For toothbrushes in particular, I'd highly recommend Steripods. Those are covers with built-in fresheners to stop odors.
    – gparyani
    Mar 3, 2022 at 11:02

6 Answers 6

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Enclosing them in a bag stops other things getting damp off them, but does not help to dry themselves. I suggest

  • wrap the toothbrush in a small dry towel.

  • wrap a hairbrush in a paper or cotton bag, not a plastic one.

  • hang a facecloth from a line in the boot (trunk) or elsewhere.

  • place shower shoes in the boot.

Put those last two items in the travel bag just to get them in and out of the hotel, and unpack them when you get to your room / car.

This will keep them ventilated, whereas mould grows and and bacteria multiply rapidly when you shut them wet in a bag.

For damp towels and swimwear, similarly don't pack them away but arrange them so they can ventilate. I actually string a line inside the boot/trunk for this purpose.

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    Pardon my ignorance, what do you mean by "boot"?
    – Drake P
    Mar 1, 2022 at 8:10
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    I apologise, I thought "boot (trunk)" made it clear. The luggage compartment at the rear (or sometimes the front) of a car is called the 'boot' or the 'trunk'. Mar 1, 2022 at 8:11
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    @DrakeP in the UK we call it the boot although we do recognise trunk as the US form. For some reason we seem to have different names for most parts of motor vehicles.
    – mdewey
    Mar 1, 2022 at 11:45
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    @WeatherVane ohh I see, I thought you were referring to the type of luggage called a trunk which was throwing me off. I comprehend now
    – Drake P
    Mar 1, 2022 at 15:43
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    For car travel, I often just toss things in the back seat unpacked. For my toothbrush, I have a ventilated case to put it in. And for any travel, I try to remember that almost anything can be bought after arrival.
    – WGroleau
    Mar 1, 2022 at 16:16
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When driving, I don't pack wet/damp things except to get them to the car, instead spreading them out in the back.

But in general, it's far easier to have spares for travel that you bring back again. Then at least to go there you can pack dry; they may still be damp coming back. Toothbrushes especially are consumable and I keep a spare in my wash-bag, but hair brushes aren't expensive, and, while I'm not sure what you're referring to by "shower shoes", flip-flops* are often used for that and are the cheapest footwear you can buy. They also wear out, so getting a spare pair isn't even wasteful. In fact, having two of some things on the go can make each one last longer, as giving them the chance to dry out stops them spoiling.

To get clothing drier when at a hotel, try wrapping it in a towel belonging to the hotel, and trampling on the towel. This will help with the shower shoes, even if the towel is slightly damp before you start.

* Also called jandals, thongs, etc.

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    I know that sustainability isn't the point of this SE, but just throwing away your toothbrush, hairbrush, and flip-flops after every night on your trip is just wasteful. Mar 1, 2022 at 14:25
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    @user2259438 who said anything about throwing it away? I didn't. Note I said "they may still be damp coming back" which should make it pretty clear Mar 1, 2022 at 14:31
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    ... In fact as I implied with the "getting a spare pair isn't even wasteful" it's clear I didn't mean your overall lifetime consumption would go up. Obviously I need to really emphasise the lack of waste. Mar 1, 2022 at 15:01
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    @NateEldredge No, but that's a fallback that comes naturally from this approach. Use one at home. Pack a clean dry one. It doesn't get gross on the way there. Keep it out and ventilated on the journey home (first para) and it won't get gross even if it's still wet when you leave. IME occasional journeys of a few hours wet aren't a problem anyway. Only if you have to pack it away tightly and it gets gross on the way home do you have to clean it, but that's OK because you've got one at home as well. Mar 1, 2022 at 15:30
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    ... BTW for toothbrushes specifically, give them a good rinse, then use a dishwasher if you have one Mar 1, 2022 at 15:30
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Attach the wet items to the outside of your bag to dry. Use easy to attach and remove clips such as carabiners.

enter image description here (image source)

Larger items like shower shoes (flipflops/thong sandal) and maybe the hairbrush, can be attached individually. If your shower shoes have a wider, over-the-foot band that doesn't fit in a carabiner, use a strap to secure them. A band of hook and loop tape (the kind with the hooks and loops on opposite sides of the same strip) will work for this, or tie loop at either end of a short piece of rope, and attach the loops with a carabiner.

enter image description here (image source)

Put smaller items in a mesh bag or pouch. Attach the mesh bag to the outside of your bag. (Make sure to pack any private items in a separate pouch, and put that one inside your bag before carrying it in public.) Mesh bags come in a wide range of styles and sizes, and you can find very inexpensive ones at dollar stores and the like. Look for a bag with a sturdy loop to attach your carabiner. Or you can even repurpose a mesh produce bag, like the kinds that you get oranges or potatoes in.

enter image description here (image source)

An advantage of this method is your gear is all attached together, so you don't have to unpack it when you get to your car, and repack it at the end of the day. The downside is that your gear will be rather floppy and rattle-y, and you may get some strange looks if you're walking through a public space like a hotel lobby. Then again, people may admire your ingenuity in finding a clever travelling/packing solution.

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    This also works when traveling other than by car.
    – Willeke
    Mar 3, 2022 at 5:36
  • @Willeke sometimes. My clean wet kit ended up as dirty wet kit again when it got put in the luggage compartment of a bus with no warning or time to remove it; Even cycle touring, wet stuff clipped on the outside of luggage picks up dirt Mar 4, 2022 at 15:05
  • If you're going to let someone else handle your bag, definitely don't have a bunch of stuff dangling off of it. Stow the loose gear securely inside the bag before handing it off. Really would've thought that went without saying.
    – csk
    Mar 4, 2022 at 18:32
  • @csk (you forget to @-me so I only saw this years later). When I said "no warning or time to remove it" I meant exactly what I said. Not a minute to stow my kit, not even 10 seconds, or I would have been stranded. As I stepped on the bus I was told my bag was too big and it had to go in the luggage compartment. It was no bigger than others that had gone ahead, but the driver must have decided that there were enough big bags already and the last few of us couldn't carry ours on. Feb 2 at 16:43
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What you can do is buy some silica packets and put them together with the object inside a plastic bag. This way the items won't make everything wet and the silica will absorb the moist.

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Since it is your car, if you leave the shoes in the trunk (not sealed nor in a bag), after a couple of hours they will be dry.

Brushes, simply wrap them in a towel and carry them in the space above the trunk. They will be dry, or at least they will not stink.

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Consider shoes that have no cloth - something like a Jandal, Flip Flop, or Thong. Even Crocs could be suitable. Being hard plastic they won't absorb any water, and should get 80% dry by merely flicking them. A wipe with your towel should see them completely dry.

Carry a couple of tooth brushes, and dispose of the old one before leaving rather than taking it with you.

Try using a hard plastic comb instead of a hairbrush. Sure its not as good, but its dry and you can save space. I had a stainless steel one and it was awful at combing, but cheap injection-moulded plastic ones are ideal.

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    For those objecting disposing of almost new toothbrushes, keep those you used at home and needed to replace, those will do for a short time away from home.
    – Willeke
    Mar 3, 2022 at 9:08

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