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Thread: Laundry

  1. #1
    Registered User DownEaster's Avatar
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    Question Laundry

    As I've accumulated the clothes for next year's through-hike, I've noticed that most of them are labeled "machine wash cold, delicate cycle; tumble dry low heat". But I've heard hikers claim that they'll wash on the most vigorous cycle because of the extreme dirtiness, and dry on high to cut the time.

    I don't know if a delicate cycle is adequate, not having the stomach to accumulate a load of really filthy clothes if I don't have to. And I don't want to risk brand new polyester and wool clothes on a high heat experiment. (I remember old polypropylene base layers would melt at high heat.)

    What's the reality? Are laundry instructions needlessly cautionary, or are through-hikers destroying their clothes in the wash?

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    In my mind, the reason for washing hiking cloths isn't to get them pristine clean... it's to get the smell out of them.
    If the gentle cycle can't accomplish that basic task, time to throw the cloths out.

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    Even after washing they will still look dirty

    Im not real concerned about my clothing. You shouldnt be either, dont get attached to it, its just another tool.

    Vinegar in rinse cycle helps with funky synthetic -bacteria odor, the kind that keeps coming back when shirt warns from body heat.

    Unless you wash in a large group to save $3, drying your 3 non absorbent clothing items takes literally 10 min. If all thin synthetic, maybe 5 min
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-27-2017 at 23:22.

  4. #4
    Registered User DownEaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Even after washing they will still look dirty

    Im not real concerned about my clothing. You shouldnt be either, dont get attached to it, its just another tool.
    I don't care much about appearance (though it could help in town to appear like a "normal" person). I do care if the clothes shrink or fall apart and thus don't function.

    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters
    Unless you wash in a large group to save $3, drying your 3 non absorbent clothing items takes literally 10 min.
    Just my zip-off hiking pants and 2 pairs of underwear gets me 3 items. The base layers and fleece beanie I sleep in add 3 more. It'll be more like 13 items than 3, and I'll probably wash everything (except the Frogg Toggs I'll be forced to wear meanwhile) each time I hit a town.

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    I wash most everything together on normal cycle. Commercial dryers can get very hot, so I check often and usually pull out the items as they become mostly dry.
    Lonehiker

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    Hikers one way or another destroy their apparel. Are you really considering prioritizing the word of hikers, most of whom are younger males often with limited laundering experience that often don't wash their own apparel off trail or look disheveled with their clothes in disarray on trail, how to launder their apparel over the makers of the apparel?

    I'd say overall more experienced thru-hikers whether male or female that have invested heavily in their apparel and kits tend to be better at washing their apparel and overall maintaining their gear.

    MW said, "I'm not real concerned about my clothing." I'm very much not of that opinion after having ruined several $$$ merino torso pieces, a few merino beanies, and a few $$ rain jackets through careless ignoring of laundering instructions.

    Washing delicates, woolens, UL rain wear, etc in larger heavier mixed loads with a throw it all in the washer and dryer together do it all on one setting and in only one load as fast as possible as cheaply as possible attitude has ruined or decreased the durability and performance of more hiker apparel than I can recall.

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    Most of my hiking and kayaking clothing is what I call "quick dry." Completely wet pants dry in just a few minutes in the sun. If you wash it in a commercial laundry and you are in town for say a run to the store and a night in a hotel, you could just take it back to the hotel & hang it up. Or, like someone else here said, put it in the dryer (more st commercial dryers run very hot) and only let it run a short time, checking it often.

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    I wash my wool stuff seperately, mostly. They are base layers. My synthetics are outer layers and get dirty. They all get dried together, the synthetics are done faster, they get pulled out first.

    I'm of the opinion that if it can't take a little laundering without falling apart, it sure as hell isn't going to stand up to the rigors of hiking day after day and its not going with me. Clothing is a wear item, something that needs to be replaced, like shoes, shirts, pants, socks. It is going to have a useful lifespan and then its done. Treating it like cashmere, or silk, is kind of foolish. Wash it, dry it wear it.

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    Clothing will not last and will need to be replaced - hike funk may not be removable after the AT - some have tried many have burned their clothes after failing. So don't plan to keep them beyond the AT, if it happens consider it a bonus.

    But what causes wear is dirt in the fabrics, it grinds them apart (also friction against the pack etc.). Best thing IMHO is to get as much dirt out as possible, which means the most vigorous cycle, which will be the best also at dealing with the hiker funk.

    If clothes melt in a particular dryer there will be a note or you will be told, but it's not normal. High heat drying also is the best way of getting rid of bedbugs which occasionally show up in AT hostels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    I wash my wool stuff seperately, mostly. They are base layers. My synthetics are outer layers and get dirty. They all get dried together, the synthetics are done faster, they get pulled out first.

    I'm of the opinion that if it can't take a little laundering without falling apart, it sure as hell isn't going to stand up to the rigors of hiking day after day and its not going with me. Clothing is a wear item, something that needs to be replaced, like shoes, shirts, pants, socks. It is going to have a useful lifespan and then its done. Treating it like cashmere, or silk, is kind of foolish. Wash it, dry it wear it.
    Respectfully, why through ignorance of appropriate laundering, should we allow apparel replacement to be more frequent than required, particularly when some apparel has a significant financial replacement cost and possibly, on a thru-hike, other hassle factors? WHY shorten the lifespan and possible performance of apparel through such a simple thing that isn't that complex as laundering? Laundering is not that difficult folks. Instructions are included. If you're trying to make the case for ignoring manufacturer's laundering instructions I'm not buying it. Been there. Done that.

    This reminds me of my consumption oriented brother who has a buy new paintbrushes, even expensive higher end Purdy brand paintbrushes, every time he paints mentality when what he could be doing is taking care of the ones he already bought. (painting technique, cleaning, and storing).

  11. #11

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    I don't dry on high heat because I don't want my synthetics to melt, but I think some do just to save time when in town. I have used high heat in the past to save time, but sat over my clothes like a hawk to make sure I took them out before they started melting.
    Whether you think you can, or think you can't--you're right--Henry Ford; The Journey Is The Destination

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Are you really considering prioritizing the word of hikers, most of whom are younger males often with limited laundering experience that often don't wash their own apparel off trail or look disheveled with their clothes in disarray on trail, how to launder their apparel over the makers of the apparel?
    Not without significant confirmation based on experience, which is the point of this thread.

    In my urban neighborhood there are decent opportunities for day hikes, but getting to even the closest state park which allows backpacking is a logistical and bureaucratic pain (traffic, registration, reservations, auto-cancellation of solo reservations in favor of larger groups, & c.) so I haven't gotten my hiking clothes really filthy. Thus far I've followed the washing instructions and everything has gotten clean. I lack the experience of actual trail laundry needs, and I hope that the fine folks here at WB can impart some useful knowledge.

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    Be careful with things like Merino base layers. My Icebreakers have holes in them that likely came from not washing them in the delicate cycle when I first got them. That and pulling off my t-shirt and just hiking in my base layer shirt probably didn't help.

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    I'm keeping the wool to socks, a buff (though I may even swap that for a synthetic), and a mid-layer shirt I'll send home after the Smokies. I've found some microfleece long johns that I like, and a polyester long-sleeve wicking T with "Fresh IQ advanced odor protection". I'm aiming for greater durability at the expense of (likely) greater stink.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonehiker View Post
    I wash most everything together on normal cycle. Commercial dryers can get very hot, so I check often and usually pull out the items as they become mostly dry.
    My typical load of laundry, always washed on normal cycle with normal laundry detergent, is comprised of the following: socks, pants, shirt, running shorts (used as underwear), sleeping socks, long john tops/bottoms (both silk), and microtowel. Every so often the following are included in that load: gaiters, synthetic cap, Tilley (sun hat), synthetic gloves, wind jacket, and shoe inserts. I rarely wash my rain coat/rain kilt on the trail. Those I would hand wash as needed. That covers all of the clothing that I take on deep 3 season trips.

    I am tight with my money and have found that I get good longevity from my clothing following the above wash principles. I don't recall ever reading the laundering tags on clothing. I will reiterate however, commercial dryers can get very hot, so I check often and usually pull out the items as they become mostly dry. I've never had a synthetic item melt.

    I do not buy expensive clothing (my windshirt from Golite is probably most expensive item I have purchased and even then it was from STP) as if you do any amount of hiking, items are going to wear out anyway.
    Lonehiker

  16. #16

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    Be careful if you are treating your clothing with Permetherin for ticks, strong washing and drying will make the product wear off more quickly meaning less protection and sooner reapplication. I believe the recommendation is gentle wash hang dry which is opposite of how a thru hiker typically washes clothes. I find that heavily used hiking clothes retain a lot of body oils and the only way to get them sort of clean is to use a enzyme prewash. I run supplex nylon zip off hiking pants and find that the cloth last far longer than the stitching. I have a hand sewing awl and buy a heavy thread used for stitching outdoor gear from a local gear shop and restich the worn out seams.

  17. #17

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    I treated different clothes differently.

    Cheap $6 lightweight synthetic t-shirt and shorts on normal cycle. Washed the hell out these, about once a week on normal cycle. The only wear on the shirt was from the pack webbing at my back. I goofed up and pulled them out of the dryer too late a few times when they were burning hot. No damage caused. I had some awesome thin underwear that I washed in a bag every few days and it dried overnight, that held up well.

    I babied my expensive wind shirt, and didn't even wash it during my hike. Still managed to get some kind of thread pull across the front of it. It snagged on something.

    Rarely washed the relatively expensive wool base layer that I only wore in camp and to sleep in.

    I retreated everything with permethrin in Damascus. My general rule of thumb would be to wash what smells as often as you want, and don't worry about it.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Respectfully, why through ignorance of appropriate laundering, should we allow apparel replacement to be more frequent than required, particularly when some apparel has a significant financial replacement cost and possibly, on a thru-hike, other hassle factors? WHY shorten the lifespan and possible performance of apparel through such a simple thing that isn't that complex as laundering? Laundering is not that difficult folks. Instructions are included. If you're trying to make the case for ignoring manufacturer's laundering instructions I'm not buying it. Been there. Done that.

    This reminds me of my consumption oriented brother who has a buy new paintbrushes, even expensive higher end Purdy brand paintbrushes, every time he paints mentality when what he could be doing is taking care of the ones he already bought. (painting technique, cleaning, and storing).
    Because normal daily wear and tear is going to damage the garments long before laundering will destroy them. following the laundering instructions for fragile garments is not going to extend the life any. Compare it to driving a brand new car in a demolition derby, but you are insistent on changing the oil every three thousand miles. A thru hike is a demolition derby, your clothes are the car and changing the oil is doing the laundry. No matter how much oil changing you do, you car is still going to get smashed to a pulp, because that is the nature of hiking. Dirty clothes.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    Because normal daily wear and tear is going to damage the garments long before laundering will destroy them. following the laundering instructions for fragile garments is not going to extend the life any. Compare it to driving a brand new car in a demolition derby, but you are insistent on changing the oil every three thousand miles. A thru hike is a demolition derby, your clothes are the car and changing the oil is doing the laundry. No matter how much oil changing you do, you car is still going to get smashed to a pulp, because that is the nature of hiking. Dirty clothes.
    Questionable analogy.

    "...following the laundering instructions for fragile garments is not going to extend the life any." REALLY? All it takes is one haphazard wash and/or dry ignoring laundering instructions to which I've been guilty too many times. Tell that to my wallet when on the second washing of two new perfect Smartwool $70 EACH knit 150 wt tee shirts washed on a regular hot water cycle turning in hot them into expensive rags with long pulls and armpit and sleeve tears that snagged on other hiking apparel containing closed zippers, velcro, and toggles. Tell that to a cherished flawless Minus 33 $110 Kobuk 1/2 Zip(400 gm/m2) heavy wt merino LS shirt piece that came out of the washer with long pulls in it because a zip pull snagged it which is one reason why the laundering instructions say to hand wash and dry in the shade. How many times my 100% merino pieces lost their shape resulting in hanging off my shoulders I don't want to recall. Same with a 320 wt Icebreaker Expedition wt merino top. Tell that to a $35 alpaca beanie first time washing it dried on a med heat setting removed from the dryer no longer able to fit a Ken doll. Tell that to two rain jackets washed with other apparel on two different occasions and then dried with everything else resulting in delamination of the lining on one and resulting in a tear and heat hardened large hole in another which I then had to hike wearing in the rain in the one and sleet in the other getting close to hypothermia as a result. AND, these aren't really fragile wt or micron pieces.

    "Because normal daily wear and tear is going to damage the garments long before laundering will destroy them." This situation assumes the laundering was fairly appropriate. I thought appropriate laundering during context of hiking was what this thread was about?

    Again, there is no reason on a thru-hike to replace apparel more than necessary because its life span or performance characteristics were imperiled due to careless washing or drying.
    I don't know how more significant of a confirmation you want based on personal experience which I was hoping you wouldn't have to experience DownEaster. It's your money your apparel do what you want but I don't buy what you're saying Egilbe.

    Now, I know what Mom went through trying to explain to me all those hard headed teen yrs why wash needed to be separated and laundering labels should be read and followed.

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    Hey! I separate my laundry!

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