One important thing you need to consider before beginning your tri-country journey across the Alps is how to wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Because you will have to wash your own clothes and you will need to do this every night.
Because the key to hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is to pack as little as possible, your hiking clothes will get repeatedly used and abused. (Yes, even if you’re using luggage transfer, you’ll want to keep your load to the absolute minimum.)
And given the remote locations of some of your accommodations and lack of time to properly do your laundry, you’ll have to make do with what you have, where you are. (In other words, in possibly some pretty primitive conditions.)
So what’s the best way to wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc? This post covers the most efficient method to wash them yourself, where to find actual laundry facilities when you need something more thorough, and other helpful TMB laundry tips.
I’ll start with the best, most efficient way to wash your clothes on the TMB regardless of where you are staying. This will be the method you’ll use most often and can adjust to your accommodations. Read on!
Step 1: Use the right soap
As someone who travels all the time (and almost never wants to take the time to deal with a foreign laundromat), I have tried all kinds of travel laundry soaps for washing my clothes in hotel sinks. And they’ve all been magnificent failures. (Like these pathetic excuses for laundry detergent.)
That is, until I discovered Dr. Bronner’s before my 2022 Tour du Mont Blanc. (I know, right? What rock have I been hiding under? Actually, it was definitely this one…)
Dr. Bronner’s is marketed as the 18-in-1 soap and many people hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc use it for just about everything. You can brush your teeth with it, wash your hair and body with it, clean your dishes with it, and much more. And if you want to know how to wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc—this is all you need.
Dr. Bronner’s pure-castile liquid soap comes in tons of scents from rose to tea tree to lavender and more. (I personally use peppermint.) But the important thing to know is that the scents are subtle and not at all overwhelming.
I buy the big container to keep at home, and use it to refill my travel-size bottle before all my trips. (Yes, I use this on all my trips—not just the Tour du Mont Blanc.) You can pick up a 2-pack of full size + travel size bottles here.
All my laundry trips are here… but head here for the 10 best Tour du Mont Blanc tips you’ve never heard before.
How to use Dr. Bronner’s to wash your clothes on the TMB
The best part about Dr. Bronner’s is that you don’t need to use all that much each night to clean your dirty hiking clothes (which means you don’t have to carry that much).
Plug up the drain in your sink and fill it up with water. Whatever temperature water you can get is fine. If I’m in a hotel where I can get hot water, I’ll use that. If not, cold water it is! And on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you might only be able to get cold water anyway.
Note that you may have to get creative with this very first step as your sink might not have a drain plug. I have used all kinds of things for this—a paper cup (spoiler alert: not great), a small wash cloth, one of my socks rolled up and shoved into the drain hole, etc.
I’m not joking when I say I will absolutely bring my own drain plug on my next trip. These thin silicone drain stoppers are perfect actually! I really wish I had put as much thought into this as I did my hiking nail color.
As your sink is filling up, add just a cap-full of Dr. Bronner’s to the running water. Note that even though it won’t lather up a lot, it’s still working. (The official dilution is 1 tbsp of Dr. Bronner’s to about 1 gallon of water, which is about the same ratio. So, if you’re filling a tub instead, adjust accordingly.)
Also check out: Tour du Mont Blanc Self-Guided Vs. Guided – Which is Best for YOU?
Step 2: Wash your clothes
Add as much of your clothes as will fit in the sink. (You may have to do two “loads” depending on the size of your sink). Agitate them, knead them, rub them together, whatever it is you usually do to try to get your clothes clean.
Personally, I knead them, flip them, knead them, flip them, repeat. Washing your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc is not unlike baking Bavarian pretzels actually. Hmm…
Do what you have to do to make sure all the air bubbles are out and all of your clothes have sufficiently soaked up the soapy water. Do this for about a minute.
An alternative to washing in the sink
Look, hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is not glamorous by any means. You’ll actually be lucky if you have a sink and a bathroom to yourself to even wash your clothes in some of the refuges. But there is an alternative that may work best for you!
There’s this thing called a Scrubba – it’s a portable washing bag for just this kind of situation. It’s a waterproof bag that you fill with soap and water and wash your clothes in. The inside of the bag is lined with little scrubbers to help agitate and scrub your clothes clean. The bag itself packs up pretty small and is pretty lightweight.
If you’re concerned that you may not be able to properly wash your clothes in a sink, this is worth considering. This is definitely the way to go if you’re worried about hogging a refuge sink. You just fill it up, then you can take your Scrubba outside or anywhere else to do the washing and soaking parts.
Step 3: Let them soak
After you’ve done all the squeezing and scrubbing, let them soak in the soapy water for about 5-10 minutes. It helps if, during this step you can start looking at all the cute baby ibex photos you took that day and forget about your wet clothes completely.
Step 4: Drain, refill, & rewash
Once you’ve remembered your laundry is soaking, return to the bathroom and drain the yikes-that’s-gross brown water from the sink. Once empty, re-plug the drain and refill the sink with clean water.
Now squeeze, knead, agitate your clothes in the clean water to try to get the rest of the dirt and oils out. (So much dirt. So much oils.) If your clothes are really filthy, you may need to repeat this process a couple of times. No judgment!
Looking to hike the TMB? Check out the perfect TMB tour I took here.
Step 5: Rinse your clothes with cold water
After the sink water begins to turn clear (i.e., you’ve gotten most of the dirt and soap out), drain the sink again. Rinse each item out one last time under cold running water then put aside. When you’re done you should have a pile of soaking wet but much cleaner hiking clothes.
Read also: Where to Find the Tour du Mont Blanc Sign and How to Get There
Step 6: Squeeze as much water out as possible
Once you’re done rinsing, squeeze the excess water out of each individual item. This will definitely take some elbow grease (the only good kind of grease) and I know you only have so much of that left in you after hiking the TMB all day. Just use whatever you’ve got left that you don’t need for shoveling food into your mouth hole.
Wring the water out of each item as much as you possibly can. Squeeze, wring, fold, whatever you need to do. This is crucial.
Step 7: How to get even more water out
This next step is the most helpful thing I learned in 2022 while trying to perfect how to wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc the most efficient way possible.
Lay out the towel you used to dry yourself off after your shower. (Or, you know, if you have a clean one lying around. The TMB isn’t exactly bountiful in clean fresh towels so…) Lay it out flat on the floor and spread your wet clothes out on top of it, trying not to overlap them.
If you only have one towel available to you, make the most of it and really cram your stuff together. If you have two, spread your items out a little bit more. FWIW, I always recommend traveling (and hiking) with a quick-dry microfiber towel or two. I have this 3-size pack and take them everywhere with me.
Next, roll up the towel tightly into a long roll. A laundry burrito, if you will. If your stuff only covers half the towel, fold it in half first and then roll. Now, walk back and forth on top of the roll. Make sure to push down as hard as you can with your feet. (But maybe don’t jump? Wet bathroom floor and all. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.)
By doing this you’re squeezing even more water out of your clothes—all the rest you couldn’t wring out with your tired, lifeless hands. Do this for about a minute or two, pushing down from end to end.
Pro tip: Don’t do this in your socks as I’m doing in the picture. Unless you want soaking wet socks. Do it in your bare feet.
Step 8: Hang to air dry (the right way)
After you’ve squeezed as much water out of your clothes as possible, unroll your bundle and take all of your clothes out. (They should be much less soaking wet now!) You’ll want to hang them all up to dry overnight. This method will differ depending on where you’re spending the night.
Some refuges have drying racks, clotheslines, or a drying room where you can hang your clothes. If you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll have plenty of space to spread your clothes out. The absolute best way to dry them overnight is to hang them outside if you can. (If it’s not raining, obviously.)
If you have a balcony, you’re in the best shape! Hang your clothes on doorknobs, over the doors, over the backs of chair, spread out on the chairs, etc. (Just be careful about hanging them over the railing as one brisk wind could send your unmentionables flying.)
Other ways to dry your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc
If you don’t have an outdoor area to hang them, hang them over your shower door, from hangers around your room, over your open windows, wherever you can. Time to get savvy! Hang them up before you go to eat dinner, then flip them all over/rotate them before you go to sleep. Try to give all sides equal drying time.
One really great solution is to carry a clothesline with you. Something like this braided cord clothesline is perfect because you can attach it to almost anything and you don’t need clothespins at all. If you’re limited to where you can hang your clothes to dry, this is ideal for getting airflow to both sides.
If some of your items are still damp in the morning, attach them to the outside of your pack to dangle and dry in the air as you continue your hike. For this, I always attach a handful of diaper pins and small carabiners to my pack. Diaper pins are like giant, sturdy safety pins. I actually use these for so many things (that couldn’t be further from diapers).
After just a little bit on the trail, your items should be dry. (You just might have to wear something dirty until then.) Keep in mind that it’s not so bad to wear a damp top, but do what you can to avoid hiking in damp socks! Or underwear… that can’t be good for you.
But first, wear the right stuff
Not all hiking clothing is created equal. You can’t just throw on any ol’ pair of pants and tops and hit the trail and expect them not to smell or grow little organisms of their own. One easy way to conquer washing your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc is to buy the proper hiking gear in the first place.
For instance, you’ll want to stay away from cotton. Cotton is super absorbent and holds in that moisture which keeps you disgustingly moist (yeah, I said it) which makes your clothes (ergo, you) smell. When your clothes stay moist (blech), that means they will keep your body cold in cold weather and hot in hot weather. Which will make you sweat more. Gross.
Instead, opt for merino wool and/or synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon. These materials help wick moisture from your body and they dry quickly. Many of them are antimicrobial so you can wear them longer without stinking and be confident knowing you’re more than just a vehicle for some hitchhiking bacteria.
The best tools for washing your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc
As always, when preparing to hike the TMB know that less is more. Keep your pack as light as possible, but know that you’ll need/want to keep yourself clean and healthy at the same time. Pick and choose the TMB laundry essentials you think will work best for you from the following list:
- Dr. Bronner’s soap – travel size + refill
- Quick-dry travel towels
- Portable clothesline – no clothespins required
- Clothespins – in case you want to use someone else’s clothesline
- Drain stopper for sink or tub
- Diaper pins – so many uses!
- Carabiners – small
- Darn Tough merino wool hiking socks (above all else! Bow down to Darn Tough!)
- Synthetic fabric hiking tops – filter for men/women on the left
- Synthetic fabric hiking pants
- Synthetic fabric hiking shorts
- Yes, they even make proper hiking underwear too!
Where to find laundromats on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Washing your clothes in your refuge or hotel sink is not the only way to wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Some parts of this hike may be remote, but you haven’t completely left civilization yet. They do know what washing machines are ‘round these here parts. Not all cities have them, but here are a few of the most well-known options.
Keep in mind that these laundromats are small and everyone and their mother on the TMB wants to do their laundry. If you have outdoor space to dry your clothes, maybe just wash them at the laundromat and hang them up in your room to dry. If you don’t have time for them to air dry, maybe wash them in your sink and take them to the laundromat to dry.
Where to do your laundry in Courmayeur
If you plan a rest day for yourself in Courmayeur, Italy (as is the most popular locale for a rest day), you’re in luck. Courmayeur is home to two self-service laundromats. (I’m not saying they’re cheap, but they’re there.) For a proper washing and drying, check out:
Lavanderia La Candida di Sogna Massimiliano, Via Circonvallazione 65 – Just a 2-minute walk from Courmayeur’s central bus station. This is where I did my TMB laundry in 2019. Super small space but gets the job done.
Lava Più Verrand, Avenue Dent du Geant 64 – on the southern end of Courmayeur (called Verrand), 15-minutes from the bus station.
For all the other ways to spend your day of rest (like where to eat, what to do, etc.), check out my post on how to spend a day in Courmayeur, Italy.
Where to do your laundry in Chamonix
If you’re looking to wash some clothes before or after your Tour du Mont Blanc (or in the middle if you’ve chosen a super unorthodox route, go you!), here’s where you can lug your laundry in Chamonix:
Cham’Laverie, 98 Via d’Aoste. You can even drop it off and pick it up after it’s done. They specialize in hiking gear and can handle it all for you.
Laundry du Lyret, 560 Rue du Lyret. Open 7 days a week, right outside the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
Laverie Automatique ‘Aiguille du Midi,’ 174 Av. De l’Aiguille du Midi. Small space in the orange building next to the ice cream shop.
Don’t just do your laundry in Chamonix. Also read: 22 Awesome Things to Do in Chamonix in the Summer.
Where to do laundry along the Tour du Mont Blanc
Even though Courmayeur and Chamonix are the biggest cities along the Tour du Mont Blanc, they aren’t the only ones where you can get your clothes cleaned. Here are some other places along the TMB where you can do some laundry:
- Les Houches (FR) – Laverie Des Houches, 295 Av. Des Alpages, open daily.
- Les Contamines (FR) – Pontet Wash, at the Le Pontet campsite – 2485 Route de Notre Dame de la Gorge, open daily.
- Martigny (CH) – Lavanderie Self Service, Rue du Léman 12, open daily and open early.
- Martigny (CH) – Lavanderie Revolution, Av. de Fully 63, open 24 hours it says!
- Bourg-Saint-Maurice (FR) – Lav’omatic Sarl, 15 Pl. de la Gare, closed on weekends.
- Argentière (FR) – Laverie D’Argentière, 189 Rue Charlet Straton (Chamonix technically), open daily.
Other ways to wash your clothes on the TMB
Fret not, fellow hiker! Even though laundromats on the TMB are about as plentiful as goose down comforters and throw pillows, there are still other ways you can wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc. For instance, you can…
Book a hotel with laundry services
No one says you have to stay at a mountain refuge while hiking the TMB. (See my post on the biggest TMB myths here.) In many places along the way you can stay at actual hotels too. Especially during your rest day in Courmayeur.
And the best part? (Ok, maybe not as great as the hot shower or the balcony over the river with the cool breeze.) Many of them offer laundry services! Get your laundry done while you’re out stuffing your face with pizza or limping your way through the passeggiatta. Some of the Courmayeur hotels that offer laundry services are:
- Hotel Crampon – Where I stayed in 2019 and highly recommend!
- Hotel Berthod – Where I stayed in 2022 and also loved. They have their own launderette!
- Hotel Walser – Great reviews!
- Hotel Croux – Excellent reviews, excellent location.
- Cresta Et Duc Hotel – They also have a sauna and a Turkish bath. Be still my dirty and exhausted heart.
Book a house or apartment instead of a hotel
Besides refuges and hotels, there are always houses and apartments you can rent as well. You can even find these on Booking.com (no need for Airbnb anymore) and filter for properties that have a washing machine.
Remember though that finding your way over the Alps in a snowstorm is still going to be easier than finding a clothes dryer at someone’s house here. So, prepare to still hang your stuff up to dry. But at least you can save your elbow grease for things like lifting a beer to your lips at the end of a long hiking day. You’ll need every ounce you can muster.
Here are some properties in Courmayeur that have washing machines in them (and allow 1-night bookings):
- Petit Bijou, apartment – Excellent location and lovely property
- Casa Julie – Another great apartment in a perfect central location
- L.A. Suite Apartment – Okay this is the plush retreat your rest day deserves.
For more helpful tips on booking great hotels, check out my post on the 16 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Hotel to Pick the Perfect One Every Time.
Have a TMB laundry plan
I hope this post has shown you that there are many answers to the question of how to wash your clothes on the Tour du Mont Blanc. And while, sure, this might not be the #1 priority of most hikers, health and hygiene are still concerns worth attending to! (At least, if you ask me, one of the people who has to share accommodations with you.)
In my opinion, it’s best to prepare for this sort of mundane thing ahead of time so you can concentrate more on the views and experiences in the moment. Book a place that will do your laundry for you so you can spend your rest day exploring and indulging and petting all the local puppies instead of sitting in a cramped laundromat watching the machines go ’round and ’round all day. Happy hiking!
More info for your TMB trip
- Heading to Europe? Find great places to stay and book your room here.
- Need a rental car? Check out the best local deals here.
- Don’t forget to pick up a TMB guidebook!
- What else should you pack? Don’t miss my complete TMB packing list here.
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