What are the proper steps to wash clothes using a hotel sink?

Assume that I have no supply of proper laundry detergent either. Can bar soap be used? What about liquid soap or shampoo? Which would clean the laundry better?

Its the second time I try this week and neither time my laundry came out smelling fresh or clean. Both times I used a different bar soap. All the clothes are either cotton or linen without needed any special care, so this is for washing regular daily clothes.

The clothes are dirty from general use, mostly lots of sweating and dirt from sitting on benches, rocks and seats of various kinds (bus, taxi, buggy). No food stains involved but it would be nice to know how to wash common things.

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    Tell us more about the clothes and the dirt. Getting grease and grime out of a large pair of jeans is much harder than rinsing a little sweat from a light cotton shirt. Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 21:29
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    This might not work well for lots of clothes at once or for heavily soiled clothes, but on the rare occasions I need to wash an outfit while traveling I just put them on and take a shower, rub them down with bar soap, rinse well, hand wring and hang to dry. Laundry soap often has an added scent - could the lack of additional scent be what you're noticing? I use unscented soap at home and my clothes never smell any particular way.
    – Sean
    Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 21:32
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    Getting some proper detergent for handwashing is going to make a real difference. I usually keep a couple of the little Woolite packets in my travel bag just in case. Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 23:34
  • There's a reason washing machines are standard these days and why they take more time agitating clothes than you're probably willing to do by hand in a hotel sink. When you add to (or rather subtract from) this equation proper detergent then the results will be even worse. There's no "one simple trick" that washing machine makers don't want you to know. Basically you just need to learn with not so fresh clothes. Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 23:58
  • Usually I get laundry done but sometimes there is no time or opportunity, so I would like to have the wash laundry in sink life-skill (TM).
    – Itai
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 1:35

1 Answer 1


One of the many challenges for the touring motorcyclist is laundry. Yes, I can take a day out of the tour and wash things, but it's a day lost, so if at all possible it's better to handwash things the day after they're used. The few things I've learned over the years while living out of a motorbike include

  • Bring a travel plug, cheaper hotels and hostels often don't have sink plugs.

  • Carry some hand-washing laundry detergent with you. When in the US, I've had success with Dr. Bronner's soap, and the labels make interesting (if bizarre) reading material when you're rained into your tent.

  • Don't use excessive detergent, just enough to raise a lather. Work the laundry in the sink, one garment at a time, for a minute or two. Soak for a minute. Repeat. You can directly apply soap to stained areas and rub the fabric against itself between your knuckles.

  • Rinsing is important. Work the fabric as if washing, and change the water frequently. Continue until no lather is produced.

  • Warm water helps for both washing and rinsing. Hot just hurts your hands.

  • Wring dry. If you have a dry(ish) towel, lay it flat and put the garment inside, then roll it up into a long thin sausage, take one end in each hand and twist forcefully into a helix (counter-rotate the two ends around the long axis of the towel), to drive the water out the garment and into the towel. Two damp things dry quicker than one really wet one.

  • If you have a motorcycle and a bungee net, you can dry things really quickly by bungee-netting them over your top box or luggage. Make sure they are well attached if you do (string tied through them can help here). Failing that, a piece of string strung across a hotel room or balcony is a big help. Man-made fabrics dry very much quicker than natural ones. Unblended cotton is very slow. Denim is glacial; it also weighs a ton when wet and breaks your washing line. Leave your jeans at home.

  • Do not drip water on other people's nice floors.

  • Good point about the plug! That was my first challenge, I managed to block the sink with a sock but I'm definitely getting one for next time. Trying this out on one garment that didn't come out clean from yesterday's attempt (!!!) although I did notice soaking took care of most dirt (but not the smell of sweat).
    – Itai
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 11:03
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    If without laundry soap, any liquid soap/shampoo you carry is likely to do the job, if it has a nice smell it might hide your body odours a bit as well. Soap bars should be your last option, harder to get enough larder and harder to wash out.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 20:13

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