It is important to know how to 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.

How To Do Your Laundry While Thru-Hiking

How to Patch a Jacket

pouring water over dirty socks into ziploc bag. The start of the laundry cycle

1. Pour water in a large sealable plastic bag

It is important that you find an area at least 200 feet from any water source. You don’t want soap contaminating a 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.

adding biodegradable soap to dirty laundry in a zip lock 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.

agitating the dirty laundry to start start the cleaning process

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.

4. Safely dispose of the used dirty biodegradable soap mixture

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

Wringing out the laundry to aid the drying process

5. Wring out your clothes

Wring out your clothes to remove the soapy water.

adding clean water for the rinse part of laundry

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 out the socks to remove excess water, an essential part of the laundry process

7. Wring out clothes

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

attaching the laundry to the outside of pack to aid in drying

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).