Paying for laundry while cruising is something that can get expensive, fast. Unfortunately, self-serve laundromats are very, very rare in this part of the world and if you don't do your laundry yourself - you are more likely than not going to pay a service or an individual to do it for you. A load can cost anywhere from $15-$30 depending on the size, and once you start throwing in blankets, sheets and towels it can get even more expensive.
In order to limit having to pay someone to do our laundry, I have learned that doing a little bit every single day is key. Because the clothes we wear are mostly all very small (shorts, tank tops, onsies...etc) and made of quick dry materials (I live in clothes by Lululemon which are almost all made out of performance fabrics) this is very easy. Hand washing every day is also an easy decision because of our high-output watermaker, which means we always have plenty of H2O at our disposal for washing and rinsing, though I still use it sparingly.
I fill a bucket with some water and soap (I prefer Method Concentrated Laundry Detergent - buy before you leave though as you will not find this in the islands), put the dirty clothes in from the day before, allow to soak for an hour or two or longer (sometimes overnight). If the load is particularly dirty I will add some Borax powder as a detergent booster. I then intermittently agitate the water with my feet (think Lucille Ball from the famous grape stomping episode) for about two minutes each time to work out any grime. If some clothes need spot treatment, I will use a little stain remover, letting it set for as long as needed, and scrub with a hand brush. Once I am convinced they are clean - I will rinse each item individually on our aft deck with our shower hose and wring each piece out individually. Wringing small clothes is easy, but things like towels, sheets or sarongs are more tricky. What I do is fold these bigger items in half, stand with a foot on one end and begin twisting with my hands until the item is one tightly wound band that goes from my hands to my feet. I then give each item a vigorous shake and hang out on the lifelines to dry, making sure to use at least two old-school wooden clothespins on each item (three or four on towels or sarongs). In the constant breeze and hot Caribbean sun, this takes no more than an hour or two. So far, this has produced great smelling, clean clothes.
A typical load will include Isla's clothes (usually shorts and a tee shirt or a onesie or two), a pair or two of my underwear, a pair or two of Scott's boxers, a tank top, a tee shirt and a pair of shorts. Usually our clothes are only sweaty and not really "dirty" (with the exception of Isla's, of course) so this is another added bonus. I will also wash Isla's sheets regularly (they are sarongs, so this is easy - they are a very versatile item down here and dry in no time!) and I also hand wash our bath towels about once a week, though these are tricky and require a lot of water since they are very, very absorbent.
Doing a little bit of laundry each day is easy and almost effortless. For me, it's become as second nature as making breakfast. We haven't paid a laundry service since we left Grenada and have not a single piece of clothing in our laundry bag. A wise man once said "a penny saved is a penny earned" and hand washing laundry by hand is just that (yes, even considering running the generator and making water). Cha-ching.
Some tips for hand washing laundry while cruising:
• Do not let things pile up because once you do - hand washing becomes a burden and overwhelming. I don't go more than two or three days (max) without washing (and usually this is only due to rainy, inclement weather).
• Don't overload the bucket. Make sure there is enough room for adequate sloshing. If clothes are too tightly packed in, this will defeat the purpose.
• Try to hang items to dry in the mid-day sun when they take the shortest amount of time. Also - if you can - try to time it so you avoid a rain shower when drying. While some consider this an "extra rinse", it adds a significant amount of time to the drying. I avoid the "rain rinse" as much as possible.
• Stock up on clothes that made of "performance materials". They are much, much easier to wash and dry and require significantly less water than heavy cotton and/or jean fabrics (our shirts are usually cotton (but thin), but my shorts and Scott's shorts are made of all tech-fabrics).
• Because of our lat/long, we live in bathing suits during most of the daytime hours (I have at least ten and all are mix and matchable - Victoria's Secret has great suits for good prices, ladies!) - this also REALLY helps with keeping the laundry situation manageable.
• If clothes are particularly salty, I will do a pre-fresh water rinse before laundering to make sure it doesn't get salt on all the other clothes (salt water is THE ENEMY and once items are salty, they never ever fully dry).
• If you want to get really technical with hand washing, you can check out my old method here (though I find it's overkill and not really necessary for basic laundry).
When two people, with the same life long dream of sailing around the world find each other, there's only one thing to do... make it happen!
Scott and Brittany departed in 2010 with big plans to "see the world" from the deck of their sailboat. After sailing from Chicago to Trinidad via the "thorny path", they are now back at it with their first baby and second boat. Check out all the juice at http://windtraveler.net.