Traveling Shopping Girls have long known that managing laundry while on the road is a hassle. Typically, washing laundry isn’t the problem so much as is drying it. Drying takes time, and it creates humidity in close quarters which can be problematic, especially in some climates.
Shopping Girl gypsies who live the van lifestyle can rely upon laundromats when needed to handle most of their laundering needs. Resorts, campgrounds, and motels may have public laundry facilities available for use. If you are comfortable being a bit bold, you could try scoping out an apartment complex with an accessible laundry room. Pick an area with lots of renter turnover and roommates to make low-key use of the facilities. Other places potentially offering laundry facilities include hostels, local colleges and universities, the YWCA or YMCA, or homeless centers.
Despite these options, a Shopping Girl gypsy will likely wish, at least on occasion, to have the means to do laundry in her gypsy wagon. There might be a tangle with a skunk; a long driving stretch without public laundry facilities suitably located; or an impromptu invitation requiring a dirty dress you were intending to wash at a laundromat days away. Or, you might be in a place where the idea of using the available laundry facilities gives you the creeps and seems unsanitary.
A Shopping Girl gypsy has learned to maintain a diversified arsenal of tricks and tips to deal with a variety of issues while on the road. Here are a few for dealing with clothing and laundry.
The Wear-And-Dispose Approach: This method is more popular with veteran Shopping Girl travelers than you might suspect. Considering the expense of doing laundry at laundromats, the hassle, wasted time, and diverting to find laundromats while on the road, it’s also cost-effective. You probably already have tons of clothes that you don’t need, intending to toss or donate them. Instead, that’s now your disposable travel wardrobe. Start your journey with a bunch of used apparel you don’t intend to keep. If you don’t own enough, score more; Shopping Girls know how to find dirt-cheap clothing bargains at thrift stores, dollar stores, general stores such as Walmart or Target, or on clearance at any store that carries fashion items. Other good places to hunt down cheap stuff include clothing blank suppliers and eBay, where you might score remnant batches of wholesale clothing. Wear the item until it becomes soiled, then throw it away. Many travelers use this method for underwear, socks and bras, if not the rest of their wardrobe. T-shirts are another popular disposable option, since so many Shopping Girls are overloaded with them. When you run out, just hit a thrift store and get some more. Another benefit of this method is that you have a lot of fabric on hand. You can use it to replace mattress fill, pillows, cushions, towels, rags, window coverings, seat covers, make temporary hanging baskets and tied-up containers for storage, and all kinds of other things. Avoid the risk of a too-hobo vibe taking over your gypsy wagon by using your creative genius.
Febreze and Wrinkle Remover: While you don’t want to rely on these to handle all of your laundry, you should keep these on hand for various applications. We’ve mentioned skunks before, but other unpleasant odors can take over when a Shopping Girl is traveling, and Febreze can quickly address such problems without hindering your journey. It’s especially great for things that are difficult or impossible to wash, such as the seats of your van. Wrinkle remover spray is also worth having on hand for when you want to look presentable without having access to an iron. Some products combine both of these features with an anti-static ingredient for even more multi-purpose benefits.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Liquid Soap: We wrote about this in our previous post. Dr. Bronner’s makes a superior laundry soap. You only need a quick squirt from the bottle to wash a load of laundry. It cleans incredibly well, rinses out easily, and smells lovely. It’s safe for the environment, and ethically produced. It is super-gentle, making it perfect for silk, cashmere, wool, and down. As a non-allergenic, simple product, children and people with sensitive skin will not have a problem. Dr. Bronner’s is so multi-purpose that it just makes sense to use this for all of your cleaning and laundry needs.
The Art of Scarf Tying: The cut of one’s clothes can influence how easily the clothes become soiled or affected by body odor. Depending on the nature of your travels and lifestyle, you can select apparel that will be less likely to need frequent cleaning. For example, a loose fitting halter top will stay cleaner than a top with sleeves. Loose clothing stays fresher than tight clothing. Learn the art of creating a wardrobe from several scarves of different sizes and shapes. This is a real, can-do approach that many Shopping Girls have discovered on beach vacations. You can whip together practically any type of outfit this way. Re-sizing requires no alterations, so you can create layers to adjust to the climate. Add in an alpaca throw (travels better than cashmere or wool) if it’s really cold. Washing scarves by hand is easier than dealing with hand-washing regular clothing items.
Take The Plunge: If you have a bin for bathing or just a bucket or similar container, you can also do hand-washing by using a standard sink or toilet plunger. Get a nice, clean, new one of course; they are available for just a couple of dollars, and some even have folding handles for extra-compact storage. Add water to your container, a squirt of soap, and plunge away to clean your clothes. You’ll still need to wring and hang-dry the clothes, but the plunger is an easily portable way to make the washing step easier and more effective.
Pressurized Washing Machine: If you have the space, these little pod washers reward you with laundry that’s about as clean as that from a regular washing machine. They are perfectly safe, as the pressure build-up is minor, controlled manually, and lasts for just a couple of minutes. You do have to use warm water for the pressure effect to work. Place a small amount of water and soap into the pod, add your clothing, close the lid, then spin the pod for a couple of minutes. Pressure will build within the pod, which forces the soapy water through the fabric. After draining the pod, you repeat with plain warm water to rinse, and that’s it! This washer doesn’t wring or dry your laundry, however. The Wonder Wash is an established, popular brand.
Through the Wringer: Old-timey laundry wringers can still be found! However, they are biggish and heavyish. If you want to improve on hand-wringing without investing in extra gear, take advantage of some convenient post or similar object. Be sure it’s reasonably clean and won’t leave sap or other stuff on your laundered clothes. Take your hand-washed item, wrap it around the post so that you are holding one end of the fabric in each hand. Then start twisting it against the post. Twist as tightly as you can (without harming the fabric). Untwist and then twist it the opposite direction if needed. Note that you shouldn’t use a tree if there is a risk that you will damage the living layer under the bark, which can kill the tree. You can get a similar result by wrapping around an object which you can then stand on to hold it in place, then twisting the fabric vertically.
Wear It Dry: This method depends on your location and the climate, but if you haven’t tried it, it’s worth knowing. Your body is a 100-degree heater. So if you put on damp clothing, it will dry fairly rapidly. Whether your circumstances make this wise for your health or comfort need to be taken into consideration, but it can also be a good way to refresh yourself or cool off in hot weather.
Hang It Dry: If you are able to wring your clothing effectively, and will be driving where you are comfortable having the windows open, you can hang-dry your laundry inside of your gypsy wagon. Keep driving safety in mind and don’t block your view!