In some hotels and other kinds of accommodation including hostels and I believe even campgrounds there is a rule against hand washing your laundry in the sink or handbasin, or in your room. I'm sure I've come across this in multiple countries.

Now one of the tips for saving money when travelling on a budget is to wash your own clothes by hand. Especially when combined with tips for travelling with minimal luggage which include wearing the same clothes over and over by washing them every night in your hotel room. (I believe Rolf Potts advocated this in his no-baggage round-the-world challenge.)

Do we know the reason(s) for this rule?

Is it unhygienic? Does it cause problems with the drains? Does it stain the sinks? Have people gotten sick from preparing food in sinks used for clothes washing?

I'm pretty sure it can't be just to get guests to pay for their laundry service as I'm pretty sure I've seen this even in places that don't offer a laundry service. For instance I think I've even seen it at campgrounds.

Yes I know some places offer a special sink for hand-washing, as does the hostel I currently work at.

Here are some signs I don't have the right to include but can link to: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

If anybody knows what I'm talking about and has a photo of such a sign or rule to contribute then please add it. Whether you know the answer or not (-:

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    Wasting water comes in mind... Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:33
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    @pnuts: I've seen both. Signs telling you not to use the ones in your room. Signs saying not to use the handbasin in the bathroom or the sink for dishes I'm pretty sure at campgrounds. Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:34
  • @MeNoTalk: That would be a valid reason in Australia and other places with droughts or water shortages. But I'm sure I've seen it in other places too. Places that don't bother asking you to limit your shower time or turn the tap off when you're brushing your teeth, that don't have dual-flush toilets, etc. Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 4:46
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    I have never seen such a sign in Europe or Asia - quite the contrary: At least in China, rooms in better hotels often have a built-in clothes line (e.g. extensible across the bathtub) as an additional amenity. Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 11:35

2 Answers 2


Rick Steves has a post on this and his answer comes down to:

Interpret hoteliers’ reticence as “I have lots of good furniture and fine floors in this room, and I don’t want your drippy laundry ruining things.” But as long as you wash carefully and are respectful of the room, go right ahead.

It's also possible they want to save on water, but then you'd expect to see warnings on showers as well.

It's also possible they want to charge you for a laundry service instead, as they can do this more efficiently and in batches.

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    Incidentally, I have seen warnings on showers to save water. Although I've never actually seen a sign prohibiting laundry in the sink...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 10:32
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    @Flimzy yeah, Point Hostel in La Paz, Bolivia suggests you save water by sharing the shower with a friend :)
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 11:14
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    @MarkMayo you can also cut down on hotel bills by sharing the room with a friend (make sure it is the RIGHT friend). Then the shower, and other hotel room facilities too. Nice! Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 15:12

There is one more issue. If you wash something in the sink, it's wet afterwards (how surprising!). Now, if something is wet, it will need to dry. During the drying process, it will create a lot of humidity. Of course, taking a shower and drying your towel also creates a lot of humidity, but doing laundry just puts an extra dimension to it. Unless you hang everything in the bathroom and the bathroom is very well ventilated, it will cause an issue for the walls, furniture etc.

In the hostels, the extra humidity may be an issue for the other guests, especially if very wet clothes are hung on the heaters, which are then set to the maximum. Not everyone can sleep well in the tropical climate...

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