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How To Do Your Laundry While Thru-Hiking

It is important to know how to safely do laundry in the outdoors. If you are a long-distance hiker keeping your socks clean should be high on your priority list. Dirty socks not only wear out faster they can also cause blisters.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       06/25/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
6/25/2021
pouring water over dirty socks into ziploc bag

1. Pour water in a large sealable plastic bag

Find an area at least 200 feet from any water source. Place dirty clothes in a large sealable plastic bag. A one gallon plastic bag works well. Add enough water to fully cover the dirty clothes.

dirty socks in zip loc bag with soap being poured into bag

2. Add biodegradable soap

Add a few drops of biodegradable soap and seal the plastic bag. Do not add too much soap. It is always better to add less soap at the beginning. 

You should never use normal laundry soap in the wilderness. Biodegradable soap is much safer because it can break down faster in the wilderness. Never use biodegradable soap in streams or any natural water source. Always wash clothes at least 200 feet from any waterway.

soapy socks being immersed into ziploc bag with soapy water

3. Agitate the dirty clothes

Agitate the dirty clothes inside the plastic bad. Add additional soap if needed. Using too much soap will require more water to rinse out.

pouring soapy water out of bag while clean socks are still in bag

4. Safely dispose of the used dirty biodegradable soap mixture

Dispose of the used biodegradable soap and wash water at least 200 feet from any water source. Never wash clothes in a stream.

hands wringing out soapy socks

5. Wring out your clothes

Wring out your clothes to remove the soapy water.

water being poured over soapy socks

6. Rinse clean clothes with water

Place your clothes back in the sealable plastic bag and add water. Agitate your clothes to remove any remaining soap. Dispose of the remaining water at least 200 feet away from any water source.

wringing soapy socks out

7. Wring out clothes

After all the soap is rinsed out of your clothes, wring out any remaining water.

tying socks onto hiker backpack to dry

8. Securely hang your clothes to dry

Then, you can attach your clothes securely to your pack to dry while you hike. Most backpacks have loops that make this process easy (typically at the bottom of your pack).


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Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.