DIY Laundry


Let's face it. Your going to get dirty in India. Really dirty! The cities are so polluted you will need to change your cloths more often as they become black with soot. It is a problem because as a travel you always have limited cloths in your backpack wardrobe.

You have a choice buy new cloths that don't usally fit that well or wash your old ones. Hey an Indian will do it, don't worry, what could go wrong...

Using the flat rocks and a bar of laundry soap the dhobi wala slap your article of clothing, devil is in the dirt style, hard against the the flat rock effectively agitation the soap and knocking out the dirt from the clothing. Shirts or pants buttons are easily broken in the method, it was intended for sheet, lungis, saris, the simple Indian dress. Unfortunately with out hot water or proper laundry soap you clothes are likely to come back semi-cleaned and semi-damaged. They may use bleach as well, cheaper laundry powder (fake) contains powered bleach that can damage your clothing.

In fact this method of Dhobi wala laundry will destroy you clothing, the cotton fibres will be damaged by the slamming on rock.  Slowly too your cloths maybe saturated with dirt because hot water is never used. You should be warned that you best western clothing maybe ruined after sometime in India.

Cotton nit socks will the quickest victims in this laundry abuse. It's a good idea to bring extra socks.

Laundry drying machines are rare if non existent. The idea of paying to dry your cloth, Indian can not accept since it free to hang your cloth to dry in the sun. Even if you are in a hill station that is often clouded over, machine laundry is rare.  The Indian method of drying your cloths in damp condition maybe entail keeping them near the kitchen and tandoori press drying them.

In fairness sometime the Dhobi wala service can be a reasonable service but it is surprisingly NOT cheap.


Typical Laundry Prices in India per Item:

  • Shirt -15 rs
  • Pants- 30 Rs
  • Socks or underwear - 10Rs
  • Jacket - 100Rs

In comparison to coin operated laundry in western countries, laundy is quiet expensive in India. It also take a long time, if you need your cloths washed at 10:00am and the dhobi wala has already left, now the manager is likely just to take your laundry and say tomorrow, what he means is that tomorrow he will give your laundry to the Dhobiwala and tomorrow evening or even the next day your cleaned laundry will return.  To make matters worse your laundry will, about 50% of the time, return not that clean, maybe damp still. Hence you may soon come to the concluding it is quicker, cheaper and less stressful to DIY laundry in India...

DIY Laundry in India

Since you will be traveling with a limited number of clothing and getting dirty rather often you will have to learn to do your own laundry. You can be sure that after a train or bus journey, the cloths you have been wearing will be filthy with diesel smoke, dust and dirt.

I've included a quick and easy method doing your own laundry in India.

1) It is a good idea to have your own laundry soap, preferable liquid detergent. You can bring some with you. Liquid laundry detergent is not available in India, powered laundry soap is ubiquitous and can be easily purchase in small once use packets. Be warned that many Indian made detergents maybe fake or low quality, you can purchase name brands such as Tide which is also recommended. Avoid cheap powders they are just powder bleach.

2) Gloves, since you are exposing your skin to harmful chemicals it makes sense to have some cheap gloves to wear and protect your hands. Of course it is not big deal to do hand laundry a few times, burns a little. You can bring some latex gloves.

3) Water, most guesthouses and hotels provide hot water either by solar or electric. Take advantage of the hot water when you do your laundry it will make a big difference in washing and rinsing.

4) Bucket. The ubiquitous wash bucket is in every guesthouse bathroom. In case you don't know, typically Indians take a shower by filling a large bucket with water then using a smaller pail to our water over themselves to wash. This bucket is also the laundry bucket. A few hotels or guesthouses may try to prevent you from doing your laundry in the room as to gain the profit from laundry services. You should simply request a bucket to use from the management. A waste bin might due as well. Bewared Indians can be touche about their buckets.

5) Brush.  A brush along with you is a good idea. I use one for dishes with a short handle. It costs $1 from a dollar store. Handy for cleaning shoes or stains on your cloths, backpack etc.



Put about half a small packet of laundry detergent in the wash bucket.

Turn the water tap (hot if available) on full, try to agitate with your fingers the soap and water so it gets really foamy.

Usually just wash one item of clothing at time. Plunge your clothing into the soap water and jam it up and down for as long as you feel the energy, at least a minute or two.

Repeat with your other items until the water become dirty. Rinse and repeat. You often have to rinse the laundry a few time to get all the detergent out of it.

That should be it, you laundry will be fairly clean. Works fine for T-shirt and underwear. For more dirty items you should bring/buy a brush alternatively send it to the Dhobiwala now and then and take your chances.


If it's hot, your cloths will probably dry just find under the fan in your room or hanging up near the window. For fast try visit the room top, the traditional place for cloth to be dried.

Laundry Machines in India?

laundry women

(This laundry machine is in Nepal, surprisingly there are more machines in Nepal than India.)

Slowly, laundry machines are becoming available to Indian house holds and businesses- even dry machines. They are available easily in the market place but there seems to be some legion to keeping the millions of dhobi wala employed, and the feeling is the money for the machines belongs to the Dhobi's.

If you can find them take advantage of a real laundry machine, however you should be warned that some laundry service advertise 'by machine' but what they really means is by 'human machine.' So you may have to physically check if there really is a machine of they will just send it to the Dhobiwala and charge you an extra fee.

It's a good time to mention that when you get your laundry back from the dhobiwala, you should check it over to see if it is actually any cleaner, not just rinsed and folded. Soap can be expensive to India.

To sum up, you can assume the any clothing items you bring to India for an extend trip will be ruined and ready for trash pail when you leave, or better yet donate it to the room boy in your guesthouse (he'll probably sell it!)

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