Lovin’ the Scrubba wash bag. Traveling light on a multi-week adventure means, there is laundry to do at various points along the way. Hotel sinks and showers, buckets on a sailboat, a friend’s bathtub, a collapsible washbasin on a backpacking trip … all have served moderately well as containers for washing and rinsing socks, undies, pants, shirts, blouses and skirts by hand. But unless one is really fastidious about washing and rinsing, hand-washing laundry in a sink can create a watery mess. And rarely does that get clothes as clean as one would with a visit to a Laundromat or, if one could pack along a portable washing machine … like the Scrubba.
The Scrubba wash bag ($65) is a brilliantly designed, packable, portable, compact washing machine in a bag – a florescent-green dry bag to be exact. Weighing just over 6 ounces, the Scrubba is made of urethane-coated nylon to make it waterproof and features a clear panel strip of marine-vinyl down the front of the bag, rather like a window on the door to a washing machine. The window is rather useful to ensure you have adequate detergent and also agitation action moving the clothes around inside the bag when performing the “rubbing” steps against the built-in washboard. The washboard is basically a textured plastic mat on the inside back of the bag that provides the cleaning surface to rub clothes against … a modernized version of the old ribbed washboard that predated washing machines of today.
There are essentially six steps to cleaning a small load of clothing, all conveniently printed on the side of the bag to ensure you don’t forget what to do. After testing extensively during a one-month sailing adventure around New Caledonia and to Australia, we have the following tips for ensuring clothes become as clean as they can be with as little effort as needed:
- When filling the bag, there is a water-line indicator. Add your clothes (two pair of lightweight pants and three lightweight shirts for individuals who wear size small garments are as much as you can hope for — less is always more) and sufficient water to fill to the line. Don’t overfill!! Add a small amount of detergent … use less than you might imagine.
- Roll the bag down, purging as much air as you can from the bag during this step. You will want to roll the top about 4 to 5 times before clipping the ends and securing – just as you would with any dry bag except this time, you are looking to keep the water in, not out.
- Use the built-in valve to squeeze out as much remaining air as you can – which is MUCH easier if you have already removed most of the air as recommended in step 2. This valve can be a pain to work, especially with cold water and very cold hands – not an uncommon situation when washing outdoors using stream or piped water from a well.
- With the bag lying washboard side down on as flat and stable of a surface you can find, spend a solid 3 to 4 minutes using both hands to firmly rub and roll the clothes against the washboard – somewhat like kneading bread dough with vigor. Remember, this is a nylon bag, so sharp objects outside and inside the bag (zip up zippers, remove pins and other sharp objects from pockets) can puncture the bag rendering it a bit less useful. Use the clear window to ensure your clothes are moving about and that there is adequate sudsing action.
- Once the wash cycle is completed, dump out as much of the soapy water as you can from the bag and your clothes before adding fresh water to the bag and putting it through a rinse cycle – same routine. We found two to three cycles of fill with fresh water, seal, rub, and empty adequately cleared out most soap residue – as long as you don’t overuse your detergent. Alternatively, if quantities of water are unlimited, you can simply place the open bag under a faucet and let fresh water run over your clothes while you continually squeeze and massage them to work soap out.
With a bit of practice, the Scrubba wash bag becomes very easy to use and, somewhat surprisingly, even working to clean red dirt stains from white clothing we would have never gotten out with basic hand washing in a sink or bucket before. Even “he” found it “fun” to do – and who doesn’t argue if “he” wants to do laundry?
And because it is so useful and multifunctional – dirty clothes bag, dry bag, extra stuff sack — the Scrubba wash bag is now part of our “take on every trip” kit that gets packed no matter how short or long our adventure may be.
We are proud to give the Scrubba our HITT Seal of Approval.