After the ecstasy, the laundry
A Packing List
universal (flat) sink stopper
You'll often encounter sinks without drain stoppers. As washing your clothes is difficult under such circumstances, carry your own. Even if you're not planning to do laundry, it can be used when bathtub drains don't hold water, and to convert a shower stall into an emergency footbath.
A stopper can also substitute as a jar opener; conversely, a flat rubber jar opener can be used as a sink stopper. Other drain-plugging possibilities (depending on the type of drain) include duct or packing tape (if you dry the flange first), a film-cannister cap, and a squash ball (which can also provide entertainment and exercise when you're not washing clothes). In lieu of anything else, try a rolled sock.
detergent, spot remover
I bow to tradition here: individual foil packets of Woolite® cold water laundry detergent. I carry them in doubled Ziploc® bags. There are other options (though I'd avoid those that require carrying bottled liquids), but Woolite has been the traveller's standby for years, and for good reason. Should you take along a conventional detergent of some sort, remember that very little is required to do a sinkful of laundry … or plan plenty of rinse cycles! If you're in Germany or Austria, or live in a city large enough to support a good German deli, try a tube of Procter & Gamble's Rei in der Tube ("cleanliness in a tube"), a handy toothpaste-consistency detergent. If you prefer to use a favourite powdered detergent, a small narrow-mouthed Nalgene® HDPE bottle is a good way to keep a reasonable quantity dry.
The extra-fastidious might also want to pack a spot remover of some sort (StainEraser — which Magellan's carries — works well).
(surgical latex braid) clothesline (carabiner?)
This is one of those items so perfectly designed for its purpose that you wonder why we're not issued with them at birth. If you've never seen/used a good travel clothesline, you're in for a treat; it may well change your (travel) life. Get the right type, though ("Flexo-line®" is the brand I recommend), one made from three strands of surgical latex rubber tubing, braided (not twisted) to form a clothesline, with reliable attachments at the ends. It packs small, stretches l-o-n-g (if you need it to), and holds your damp laundry all by itself (no clothespins needed: you tuck edges of the clothing between strands of the braid, and the latex rubber grips them firmly). Plus, every laundry night, you get to exercise your creativity by discovering the two optimal line attachment locations! (Don't think that you need to restrict your hanging locations to the bathroom. In fact, that's often a poor choice due to lack of air circulation. And your laundry should not be so wet that it's dripping anyway.)
Beware: there are many "travel clotheslines" of poor design and/or mediocre quality. Some have suction cups (these don't work on wood and concrete, and are usually not strong enough to hold wet laundry in any case). Some have simple twisted strands, or are not made of surgical rubber (these won't support your clothes properly, or keep them separated effectively). Some are insufficiently long (these won't reach as many attachment points, or hold much laundry). Such products work poorly, if at all. And you will forever wonder why seasoned travellers consider the travel clothesline to be one of their most treasured "secret weapons". So I repeat: get the correct type.
Latex rubber deteriorates with time, so one of these won't last forever, but I've found them to last for a good dozen years or more. You'll be able to tell when they're reaching the end.
Some people pack latex rubber clotheslines with their medical supplies, as they also make ideal tourniquets.
A carabiner (one is sufficient) will increase your clothesline's attachment options. It needn't be a heavy-duty version; the inexpensive type sold for keyrings (as illustrated at left) is fine, and will tether your keys when you're not drying clothes. Or consider carrying a proper mountaineering carabiner. These are not inexpensive, and much larger, though still pretty light: my Petzl Am'D Screw Lock Carabiner, pictured at right, is only 2.6 ounces (74g). They offer much additional functionality, however: mine has been used to provide a comfortable handle for (often multiple) shopping bags, secure luggage to stationary objects, attach shopping bags and children's paraphernalia to the shoulder strap of my bag, serve as an improvised defence weapon, even tow a car (it will withstand 6295 lbs / 2855kg of force).
These serve multiple functions: they augment what may be a meagre (or nonexistent) supply of clothes hangers in your room, provide an ideal way of hanging wet shirts for drying (keeping the fronts and backs from touching, thus aiding air circulation), and won't stain your nice white fabrics (unlike many cheap wooden hangers). Less obviously, you can — on the type pictured at right — temporarily remove the metal hook (best done at home prior to your trip, as the task will require a pair of pliers to "unbend" it a bit), and use the remaining piece as a fine lumbar pillow to support your back on long flights; the hook slips back on easily once you reach your destination. And when you're not using the hanger, the hook can be used as an additional attachment option for your travel clothesline.
Magellan's sells a different version (shown at left), which you may prefer. I am aware of additional types, but these are the two I prefer; both are extremely light, and pack very small, so you needn't feel guilty. I carry two.
Additional laundry information can be found in the laundry section of the Clothes & Laundry page.
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