Before leaving for a backpacking trip to Europe this summer, I went to REI in search of handy travel tools. One item I bought was Pocket Laundry Wash made by Summit to Sea. Its small yellow container closely resembles those Listerine breath-freshener strips. It snaps open and closed, and inside are 50 thin sheets of dry soap, called “leaves.” This product is ideal for backpackers or campers who must pack light and need a simple way to wash clothes in a sink or bathtub. It sounded ideal, as I wasn’t in a position to spend time or money in a laundromat.
I found this tiny soap product to be very handy for backpacking, but they were slightly cumbersome and didn’t get my clothes quite as clean as I would have hoped.
Here are some of the perks and misfires of the Pocket Laundry Wash:
- This soap is not liquid and it is TSA carry-on compliant, so it is easy to bring with you to the airport if you are using carry-on luggage (and you don’t have to worry about nasty leaks).
- It is very affordable; it only cost around $4 for the whole pack.
- It is extremely lightweight and small (around 2 inches by 3 inches), making it very portable and great for people traveling light.
- The leaves are made of pure soap and are biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about the environment.
- The soap dissolves well and doesn’t leave any residue, as promised.
- The box says to remove the soap leaves with dry hands. However, several times when I was washing clothes in the sink, I realized I needed more leaves once my hands were already wet. There were several times when I tried to grab additional leaves with slightly wet hands, and the leaves clumped and got stuck together, making it impossible to grab just one or two leaves. You really have to make sure your hands are totally dry – even slightly damp hands will make them stick.
- The leaves did not get very sudsy. The box recommends using “4-5 leaves as required,” but I found that I often needed more to feel like my clothes were really getting clean.
- The soap doesn’t work perfectly. While my clothes felt and smelled clean enough to wear again, some items still looked slightly dirty, like my white socks. My travel partner, who has higher standards than I do when it comes to clean clothes, felt like it didn’t work well enough to really clean her clothes. She used antibacterial hand soap instead, which was much sudsier and made the clothes smell and look a little more fresh.
I love that this product is compact and eco-friendly and that it didn’t take up any space in my precious liquids bag for my carry-on backpack. However, they didn’t have as much cleaning power as I would have liked, and the clump factor was frustrating. These were fine for a short trip of just a few weeks, but if I was going on a longer trip in which my clothes had a chance to get really dirtied, I would buy a small tube of laundry soap at one of my destinations to get the clothes fully clean.
I looked online, and Sea to Summit makes several products in the same style and same type of container, such as body wash, shampoo, hand wash and shaving soap. I may be willing to give one of these a try in the future, but unless the airlines get really crazy about carry-on liquids, I will probably stick to liquids for now. These dry products seem to be best if you are in a situation in which liquids are out of the question or when you are camping and perfect cleanliness isn’t as much of a concern.
Have you ever used this product or something like it? What did you think?