Tips and Tricks for Laundry on the Road
Even on a short trip to Costa Rica you may find yourself in need of clean clothes half way through your travels.
Two sweaty t-shirts, a salt crusted rash guard, mangrove swamped board shorts, mud caked hiking pants, six smelly socks and some unmentionable unmentionables – that’s just from one days’ activities.
Adventure travelers could easily go through two or three changes of clothes before dinner, and while you may not be vain or fashion conscious the other people in the restaurant will appreciate it if you at least rinse the stink out.
There are suggestions on the packing list recommending materials (quick dry, dirt deflecting etc.) and types of clothing that may make laundry day easier.
Use a Service
There are essentially no self service laundromats in Costa Rica, but laundry services are fairly common. Pricing is typically by the kg ($0.40-$1.20) and works out to about $8-$12 per load for wash, dry, fold (and maybe deliver).
Most hotels and resorts will accept your dirty laundry and return it neatly folded in 4-24 hours. They may be using their own laundry or the same service mentioned above but you can expect to pay 2x to 5x as much. Many price by the item, $1 to $4 per piece.
Do It Yourself (airBnB or VRBO)
Some rental properties include laundry facilities and if you’re panning a down day hanging by the pool you can get a few loads done.
- Don’t assume there will be a washing machine. In fact, even if it’s listed as an amenity you should check a day or two before you arrive to make sure it’s working. Renters can be very tough on washers – pockets full of sand, tennis shoes full of mangrove swamp muck, overloading – and things can take months to get repaired. Even if there’s a machine and it’s working don’t assume you’ll want to use it (see mangrove swamp muck above).
- Don’t assume there will be a dryer. Electricity is expensive and often the only option is a clothesline. That’s fine unless it’s raining or you are trying to do seven loads for your whole family for the whole week.
- Don’t forget to purchase detergent, softener, dryer sheets etc. You probably won’t find your normal brand and even if you do it’s probably not the same so consider splurging on scent free or hypoallergenic just to avoid unexpected rashes, hives or other reactions.
Do It Yourself (sink)
Do-it-your-selfers (or house renters who find out too late that the washer is broken or missing) can benefit from these tips for laundry in a sink or concrete wash basin (two flat sinks side by side, usually outside near the clothes line).
- Please never pollute streams or rivers.
- If you’ve never hand washed before it’s simple. Just wet, soap and squeeze and squish until clean. If you have a flat clean surface you can use a kneading motion pushing a small pile of clothes down and away from you then rolling them back towards yourself. Rinsing well takes about 3 times as long as washing and can be accomplished by using the same motion as washing while continuously adding fresh water.
- Wash a few items at a time. Lugging 30 lbs of wet clothes around for a couple of days until it decides to stop raining or you find a dryer is no fun at all. If you only have a few wet things you can strap them to the outside of your pack to dry.
- A great way to get a clean outfit is to just step into the shower fully clothed. Wash and rinse as usual then strip and repeat to get yourself clean too.
- Wring hard to dry, and if you have a spare dry or semi-dry towel from your hotel you can remove more than twice as much water by rolling a single layer of clothes in it and wringing again. Stepping on one end of the towel and twisting the other with both hands will give you the most leverage. Please make sure the floor is clean and don’t ruin the towel by grinding it into dirt or gravel.
- Line drying can be pretty quick if you’ve brought the proper fabric and the sun is out.
- If you’ve splurged for A/C use it. The air coming out is not only cool, but dry relative to the surroundings and things hung in the air stream can dry almost as fast as in a clothes dryer.
If you Decide Not to do Any Wash
- Always at least rinse the river or ocean water out of things that get wet. If you don’t the bacteria will have a field day when you pack them away.
- Dry completely before packing if you possibly can. If not try leaving the wet stuff on the outside of the pack or spread around in the car. If you pack wet things you have about 4-8 hours to unpack them before they start growing stuff that will never come out.