Sink Laundry: The Secret to a Broke and Active Lifestyle

Sink laundry is an easy way to save money when traveling or working out a lot

What is Sink Laundry?
Sink Laundry Checklist
Easy Sink Laundry Solution
Shower Laundry
Most Effective Sink Laundry
How Much Soap to Use
The Value of Doing Real Laundry

Your passion may be fitness — your goals revolve around physical achievement, but we all know your real favorite pastime is doing laundry. At least, it would seem that way based on the amount of time and quarters you spend washing your foul-smelling clothes.

Whether you’re a competitive athlete or becoming more consistent at the gym, one of the biggest unforeseen sinkholes of time and money is that massive pile of sweaty shirts, shorts, and underwear you’re accruing. Given the commitment you’ve shown thus far, you know progress doesn’t come easy, and sacrifices will need to be made.

But unless you’re being paid to play, wash-n-fold service is entirely on you, and you probably have other things going on in your life which, unfortunately, must take priority — job, cooking, romance, kids, drunken inlaws, etc. Money isn’t really the issue, it’s the cumulative hours spent separating, carrying, transferring, drying, and folding laundry that’re the real bummer.

The best way for active people to keep themselves sane in the laundry hustle is to wash sweaty workout clothes on-the-go. This keeps your shorts and shirt rotation small (maybe four of each) and prevents you from doing laundry twice a week, like a professional domestic.

What is sink laundry?

Sink laundry is the art of washing your clothes in the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or shower, immediately after you get them dirty. If you soap, wring dry, and hang immediately, there’s a good chance your clothes will be ready to wear again within 15–24 hours. Sink laundry is an efficient way for both active people and broke travelers to cheat a little bit and do a bit less laundry. (Note: I learned the secrets of sink laundry when backpacking in Spain)

Sink Laundry Checklist

In order to do sink laundry, there are a few must-haves and a few nice-to-haves.

In order to do sink laundry, you need:

  • A reliable running water source
  • A place to dry your clothes

In order to do better sink laundry, it’s good to have:

  • Polyester or nylon clothing (fast drying)
  • Hot water
  • Soap of some kind
  • A cleared sink or shower drain
  • Privacy from your peers
  • An outdoor drying area with wind or direct sunlight

With these basics in place, you’re set to get your clothing passably clean for the time being.

Sink laundry is a scalar notion, ranging from less smelly to fully clean. Here’s how to — in ascending order of cleanliness — make your clothes go from standing upright on their own, to “actually, not that bad.”

Minimum viable product: less smelly

Many active people sweat like cheese fondue fountains, drenching their clothes in a thick, musty fluid that eventually hardens into something resembling the rigidity of papier-mâché. Worst of all, once they dry, they’ll somehow smell even worse. It’s as if the drying process chemically changes your crotch stank into something more permanent, like firing clay in a kiln.

You can get an extra wear or two out of your sweaty clothes (before finally laundering them properly) by immediately:

  • Rinsing under flowing water (preferably hot water)
  • Wringing as dry as possible
  • Repeating steps 1 and 2 about 3x
  • Hanging or lying in the sun to dry

By immediately diluting your taint odor with water, you prevent the worst of the scent from lingering. This strategy will keep your unlaundered clothes undetectable from distances of over 3 feet. Basically, don’t shove your crotch in anyone’s face, and they won’t know you’re wearing the same shorts as yesterday.

Best for travel: shower laundry

This option is good because you don’t need to make a separate trip to the sink to sort of wash your clothes. Shower laundry is a good alternative to sink laundry when traveling, as you can get more privacy and experience less judgment from your peers.

Basically, wear your clothing into the shower, soap your body and clothing as normal, then undress and rinse your clothing in the running water. 

Remember to wring your clothing as dry as possible and then put them out in the sunlight or hang in your least-humid room. Fire escapes are a great drying environment, as are window ledges. From experience, I recommend “pinning” your clothes to the window by closing a small corner of them in it. This’ll keep them from flying away into an alley or the street when it gets windy.

Best case scenario: time and soap

Given enough time, space, and soap, sink laundry can be almost as good as a washing machine. In this method, you’ll be able to soak, soap, agitate, and dry, almost as if you’ve paid cash money to wash your clothes.

  • Rinse your workout clothes in warm water
  • Put a splash of soap in a sink or bucket – Fill sink or bucket with warm water
  • Toss in your clothes
  • Using fingertips, vigorously swish clothes around in soapy water for ~30 seconds to ~1 minute
  • Rinse under running water
  • Wring dry as best as possible and place in open air to dry completely

This method can probably only be used if you’re in your own apartment or you’ve rented a private space when traveling. 

A note about the amount of soap you use

FYI, if using liquid laundry detergent, please use far less than you think you need. Overuse of laundry and dish soap is very common. People want their stuff to be cleaner, so they use more soap.

But get this, the people who’ve designed this hyper-concentrated soap product are very smart. They’re probably just as smart as rocket scientists, but decided to maintain a healthy work-life balance and/or make a lot of money at a less stressful job. It’s chemical engineering — they know more about soap than you do.

Please, if you’re washing a couple pairs of shirts and shorts in your sink, use about a tablespoon of laundry detergent. Our rivers and water treatment plants would thank you, if they could speak or had feelings.

Do real laundry once in a while

Sink laundry isn’t a long-term solution to your laundry needs. It’s best when used in travel scenarios and to keep your pile of workout clothing manageable between full loads.

Doing regular laundry is an essential part of a modern, clean, and sexually attractive lifestyle. However, working out is also part of a modern, healthy, and sexually attractive lifestyle, so there needs to be balance.

Wearing clothing that isn’t perfectly clean at the gym, or when outside exercising, is okay, because you probably won’t be looking for a sexual partner during these activities. If you are, and this is part of your strategy for finding a sexual partner, you may wish to reconsider your choices. Hitting on people at the gym (or when sweaty and exhausted in general) might be considered creepy.

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