Drying Jeans

Why would you want to do this?

Back in June, over the course of about a week, I flew SEA-YVR-FRA-DEL-MAA-DEL-NRT-HND-YVR-SEA while visiting Chennai.

Planning that’s a bit of a different story, but the important piece here was that I decided to spend a day in cities along the way and wasn’t going to be able to leave a bag anywhere when it came to Japan because I was flying into Narita and out of Haneda.

That decision optimized the whole trip around my bag. I opted to go for the 15L IKEA FÖRENKLA backpack along with the IKEA UPPTÄCKA 33x25x9cm packing cube (sadly no longer available, though the AmazonBasics Cube Set has one that’s around the same size) to organize my clothes and used the top of the bag for other stuff.

The problem here was that this size bag really isn’t enough for a week full of clean clothes, nor really do I want it to be enough because then my bag would be heavy. Practically speaking, this means that I’m going to be doing some laundry.

You can pay to do this, but if you only brought one pair of pants, you aren’t going to go anywhere for the day while they clean them.

Travel Laundry

There’s a couple of pieces to this, a basin that can be used for washing, a suitable detergent, and drying.


Let’s start with with the washing basin. If the sink or tub you’re going to use has a working stopper, then you’re good to go. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that many hotels don’t have working stoppers in either the bathtub or the sink. You can often use a rag as a makeshift stopper, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as a common 11cm (4.5in) stopper, which is also handy if you like to take baths.

A Note on Detergent vs Soap

Travel Tide

The second part is detergent. This is a bit more variable than you might think. If you’re not washing many cycles in a bathroom, you can get away with using shampoo or body wash, but I’d recommend using laundry detergent for more soiled clothes.

There’s a few things that you find in detergent that you don’t see in regular soap, including water softeners, surfactants, enzymes and optical brighteners. These components do a good job getting rid of stuff you have on your clothes and pulling it into solution in the water.

You can either bring a small bottle of liquid detergent that you usually use or pick up a three pack of 5mL packets of Travel Tide from Bed Bath & Beyond for about $1.50. In US units, 5mL of tide is about a teaspoon’s worth or half a fluid ounce.

I usually like to agitate, soak, and then rinse twice to get as much of the detergent out of the clothes before drying. This is especially easy in a room with two sinks, but you can use the tub for rinsing if not.

Getting Clothes Dry

Assuming that you’ve followed the directions so far, you’re now going to have some wet clothes, maybe a pretty wet pair of jeans, even after wringing them out well. You could just hang them and wait to dry, but a pair of jeans in particular doesn’t dry very well, even overnight.

What you’ll want to do now is lay down a towel and roll the clothes up in them. In a roll, apply pressure to extract water into the towel. Walking on the towel works particularly well. You can then unroll the towel and your clothes should be about as damp as coming out of a washing machine.

For most clothes, you can hang them overnight and they should be mostly dry, but you can also use the in-room hair dryer to help dry them out. For jeans, use the dryer in one pant leg at a time to flow air through it. You should be careful to not restrict air flow through the jeans and not let anything get too hot. If something gets slightly too hot, it may trigger the smoke detector in your room and get a fun visit from the hotel (lesson learned: Don’t put a sock around a hair dryer). Hair dryers also automatically shut down for a while when they get too hot internally, so it may take a few rounds of drying to make this work.


While it sounds a little crazy at first, washing clothes while traveling means you can pack lighter. This means that it’s easier to take public transportation or even bring back more stuff from wherever you might visit.