Watching your precious inventory of clean clothes disappear by the day while traveling can be a bit stressful, especially when you start to run low on things like socks and underwear.
Your first instinct might be to pack more clothes but at a certain point, it’s just not practical to load down your baggage with 80 pounds of wardrobe.
Luckily, when staying at a hotel you may have more options for keeping your threads clean than you think.
In this article, I will break down all of the different laundry options you can look into while staying at a hotel and give you some tips on how to best use them.
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Different types of hotel laundry options
When looking to book a hotel or when staying at a hotel, you always want to know what your options are when it comes to laundry. Below are a few different options you might have at your disposal:
- Laundry machines on site
- Laundromats nearby
- Hotel laundry service
- Hotel dry cleaning
I’ll cover each of these in detail below to give you some specific insight and tips on how to best go about them.
Laundry machines on site
Some hotels, especially extended-stay properties, may have laundry machines on site that are open to all guests to use.
Typically, these will not be free but should still be very cheap for you to use just like a public laundromat would be. For one load of washing and drying, you could expect to pay about: $4.00.
The machines may only take quarters but some hotels have linked up with apps that allow you to purchase credits if you download the app. Unfortunately, some of these apps are property-specific so even if two different properties use the same app your credits don’t always transfer.
Using on-site laundry rooms would be the preferred method over a laundromat because they will be much more convenient and typically more safe/secure since only hotel guests will have access.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about finding transportation to the laundromat and dealing with broken machines with no staff to help.
Usually, you can buy laundry detergent and even dryer sheets from the hotel’s front desk if they have a laundry machine (but these can be expensive). Also, a lot of extended-stay properties are located next to stores like Walmart so sometimes you can get the laundry supplies you need next door.
Tip: If on a long trip or road trip, consider booking an extended stay property (even for just one night) in the middle of your trip so that you can take advantage of laundry machines.
Some hotels may not have laundry machines in the hotel but they may be located very close to a laundromat. If you are choosing to use a local laundromat and you are not familiar with the area, your number one concern (in my opinion) needs to be if it is safe.
I would recommend checking with the hotel to see if they would recommend that laundromat and if the local area is known to be problematic for crime or shady activity.
If you are in a foreign country, there is a good chance you’ll stick out like a sore thumb in a local laundromat and that can make you an easy target.
Also, if you are in a foreign country, laundry machines may not be as easy as you think to work. You may need to ask for assistance or use some type of translator app to try to decode the instructions yourself.
Hotel laundry service (wash and fold)
Quite a few hotels have laundry services (with wash and fold). This is when things can start to get really pricey but the convenience factor also jumps up when utilizing the services.
Wash and fold service allows you to essentially drop off all of your clothes for cleaning. When your clothes are ready they are delivered back to you nice and folded making it really easy to stay on top of your laundry with virtually no effort.
If you go this route, the only time consuming part of it for you will likely be filling out an inventory sheet.
Some hotels will require you to list every single item on a form that you are submitting for a wash and fold. This means every little sock and undershirt needs to be accounted for.
Here’s an example of what a laundry inventory sheet from a hotel looks like:
It seems very tedious but at the same time it’s a very good idea because it’s extremely easy for laundry items to be misplaced or lost. Filling this out will (hopefully) prevent you from losing your favorite t-shirt or getting someone else’s underwear thrown into your pile.
Once you fill out your form, there should be a laundry bag that you can throw all of your clothes into and then you can deliver the bag to the front desk or sometimes call for someone to come pick it up.
Note that a lot of hotels simply partner with local laundry service businesses. The hotel may still help arrange the pick up and drop off of your clothing items but essentially you will be doing business with that laundry service and not the hotel.
You may want to clarify how that relationship works in the event that something goes wrong such as some of your clothes come up missing as that actually happened to us before!
As mentioned, the cost for a wash and fold can get wildly expensive and there are different ways that you might be charged.
For example, you could be charged based on the total weight of all of your clothes.
Or, you could be charged per item with some items costing more than others which is why the inventory sheet can be so important. In this case, you may pay something like $4 for socks, $11 for pants/shirts, etc.
Pay special close attention to the pricing menu if it is available to you because sometimes the wash and fold costs can become prohibitively expensive. One load could easily cost more than your hotel nightly rate!
As for how long it can take for a wash and fold service, that is going to depend on the hotel. Be sure you get clarification on how long it will take but many will allow you to pick up your clothes the same day as long as you drop them off that morning.
Some hotels may also offer expedited laundry services.
Hotel dry cleaning
Many hotels, especially high-end properties, offer dry cleaning services. If you’re not familiar, dry cleaning is typically used for your nicer garments when you need your shirts and pants wrinkle free and crisp.
Sometimes whenever you stay at a luxury property they will provide you with credits so that you can get dry cleaning for some of your items for free (usually two).
These credits could be given to you if you book a nice room, have a certain level of elite status, or in some cases you may just be given the credits for staying at their property.
In really nice properties, you will be surprised how quickly they take care of your request for dry cleaning. We once took advantage of free credits at the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong and they brought our clothes back to us in a matter of a couple of hours.
These hotels may also offer additional services like shoe shining so that your entire get-up will be ready to go.
Dry cleaning is usually charged per item and in my experience, dry cleaning done through a hotel is also pretty expensive. You can check out the table above for prices.
Washing your clothes in the bathroom
Even though it might make you feel like a Medieval peasant, washing your clothes in your hotel sink, tub, or shower is not a horrible option.
In fact, for people who essentially live in hotels and bounce around from destination to destination, doing laundry in a bathroom sink is a common practice.
I would recommend buying a special bar of soap or travel detergent that is designed for doing laundry on the go. If you purchase liquid pods, be sure to double bag them in the event they explode. Also, remember that they will be subject to the TSA liquids rule going through airport security.
If you’re not able to pack travel detergent/soap, you can find some small packages of detergent at the hotel front desk or perhaps a nearby convenience store. If you can’t score any detergent, you can still use something like shampoo or even face wash.
The key with choosing a soap is to make sure you have a type of soap that will not irritate your skin!
Steps for cleaning your laundry in a hotel
As far as how to clean your laundry in a hotel bathroom, here are some steps:
- Fill up the sink or tub with warm water
- Add in soap/detergent
- Place clothes in water (you may need to do one article of clothing at a time)
- Gently agitate the clothing items by rubbing the clothing material against itself or using your hands.*
- Allow clothes to soak for 15 to 20 minutes (not always needed)
- Drain the water and then squeeze the dirty water out of the clothing
- Run water from the faucet over each piece of clothing and then squeeze the item to remove all water until clear but do not ring them out as that can damage the clothing fiber quicker.
*This should be enough to get out basic odors but if you need to get a heavy stain out of them that could require a more vigorous scrubbing. Also, If you are using the tub, you can use your feet to more easily agitate more clothing.
Steps for drying your laundry in a hotel
There are a few methods you can use to speed up the drying process. I would highly recommend you use the towel drying technique.
To do this, place your wet clothing item on top of a towel and then roll the towel up with the article of clothing inside. Next you need to stand on/walk on/squeeze the towel in order to expedite the water being absorbed by the towel. This can dramatically cut down on the drying time!
Your next step for drying your clothes would be to try to set them out to dry.
One effective method is to set them out on the balcony (if you have one and the weather is appropriate outside). But you can also look for coat racks, hooks, or just use chairs or the iron board to hang your clothes.
If you’re okay with adding an item to your packing list, you can get a travel clothesline.
Avoid hanging your clothes in bathrooms because the ventilation is not usually as good and the humidity levels can be quite high. If you have the option to turn on the fan or open a window for more ventilation then utilize that. Also, placing your clothes by the AC unit can help with drying as well.
If you are in a rush there are a couple of additional tactics you can use.
The hotel hairdryer can come in handy to help speed up the drying process.
You can also use the iron to help dry your clothes quickly. One way to do this is to place a towel down on the floor and then place your clothing item on top of the towel. If the clothing item is just damp, the iron should be able to dry out the article of clothing relatively quickly.
Keep in mind that all of these methods are much more practical if you have clothes that are quick to dry. For example, wool/synthetic underwear, socks, and light dri-fit workout clothes are great for utilizing this method. Bulky cotton or denim clothing items can be much harder to work with.
Ironing your own clothes
Almost all hotels provide an iron and iron board, usually located in the closet of your hotel room. If for some reason you do not have one, you may be able to call the front desk and request one be delivered to your room.
Steaming the bathroom
A popular “hotel hack” that has been around for a while is to steam your bathroom by turning on the hot shower and letting it run while your clothes hang in the bathroom and get de-wrinkled.
This is not a very ethical hack in my opinion. The reason is that it wastes a lot of water and energy and in some locations that can be a very big deal.
As you can tell, there are quite a few different options for doing your laundry at a hotel. Generally, the more convenient the higher the cost. While laundry machines and laundry services can be extremely convenient there is a lot of value in learning how to wash your own clothes in a hotel sink which is something I would recommend every frequent traveler to try out.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.