Trying to figure out how you’re going to get some laundry done on tour? We get it — when you’ve been on the road for three weeks, finding a quick and easy place to wash the band’s dirty laundry starts to seem like an emergency.
But taking the time to occasionally wash your clothes doesn’t have to be an expensive or dreaded tour-chore. That’s why we put together a list of 11 practical and creative ways bands can do laundry on tour:
- The Local Laundromat
- Use The Hotel Laundry Room
- Book An Airbnb With Laundry
- Ask Your Followers For Help
- Ask If The Venue Has Laundry
- Bring Lots Of Spare Clothes
- Go To A Dry Cleaners
- Wash In A Sink & Blow Or Drip Dry
- Charity Of Churches/Shelters
- Trucker Gas Stations
- Bring A Mini-Washer
If you’re booking an entire tour, working with promoters, driving to the venues, hauling the gear, selling the merch, playing the shows, and keeping yourselves fed, you certainly can find a couple of hours to do some laundry — especially if you try a few of the things on our list.
How Do Bands Do Laundry On Tour?
1. The Local Laundromat
Starting with the most obvious solution to any laundry crisis, the local laundromat is, and probably always will be, the go-to place for touring bands to do some laundry.
Laundromats certainly aren’t the most affordable way to wash your clothes, but at least they’re easy to find. If you’re in a city that doesn’t have a laundromat, you should probably fire whoever booked your tour — you’re in no-man’s-land.
Laundromats are everywhere, and they’re fantastic places for doing one very specific thing: large loads of laundry.
Even the most basic laundromats usually have several industrial size laundry machines, meaning you don’t have to worry about overloading those suckers.
For bands on a budget, you’ll need to include laundromat costs into the band’s tour expenses, but it doesn’t have to break the bank if you do your research.
According to Laundry Solutions, the average cost of washing a load of laundry hovers right around $2, and the cost of a single dry-cycle is typically the same. If you remember to bring your own detergent, that’s only $4 per load.
Depending on how much laundry your band needs to do, and how much you’re willing to cram into a single machine, you should be able to get away with doing everyone in the band’s laundry for less than $15.
Although some laundromats are set-up to accept debit or credit cards, most are usually coin-operated, so remember to bring plenty of quarters.
Most laundromats will also have a TV, outlets for charging phones or laptops, a few vending machines, some picknick tables, some even have WiFi.
While the laundry is going, kill two birds and get something to eat or check-in with the promoter in the next city.
2. Use The Hotel Laundry Room
If your band is lucky enough to stay in hotels, there might be a laundry room where the band can wash one or two quick loads of laundry before calling it a night.
Although hotel laundry rooms are notorious for being unreliable, the good ones are an efficient place to wash some clothes, especially for touring bands.
The convenience alone makes hotel laundry rooms a valuable asset to touring bands. If you can wash your clothes where you sleep, it’s certainly more time-conscious than spending a few hours sitting at the laundromat.
However, unlike laundromats, hotel laundry rooms usually only have one or two of each machine type (wash and dry) and you’ll be lucky if no one else gets to them before you.
You’ll probably need to wait on other guests, but since most hotel laundry rooms are just renovated storage closets turned into claustrophobic nightmare rooms (like a padded cell in a mental hospital) you might want to wait in the lobby.
Depending on the hotel you choose, the lobby may have complimentary coffee/tea, a comfortable sitting area, and probably hotel WiFi you can access while you wait.
Unfortunately, another downside to hotel laundry rooms is cost. I haven’t seen too many hotel laundry machines that are free, despite being an amenity of the hotel, and the cost of a few quick loads can easily add up to roughly the same as at the local laundromat.
Also, there’s not always a guarantee that the hotel you book will even have accessible, functioning laundry machines.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked into a hotel, only to find that the laundry room, swimming pool, and hot tub are conveniently “under routine maintenance.”
Make sure to call ahead if you’re staring down the barrel of a band laundry catastrophe, or just try something else on our list.
3. Book An Airbnb With Laundry
Airbnb rentals are frequently more affordable than hotels and usually provide a lot more value. Even if you’re not doing laundry, they’re worth considering, especially for touring bands on a budget.
If you’re unfamiliar with Airbnb, it’s essentially an online marketplace for lodging. People use the platform to list vacation homes or mother-in-law apartments for short-term rentals, exactly like a hotel.
The benefit for anyone, but especially bands, is the quality — instead of renting a room from Super 8 with two twin-size beds, you can rent someone’s second-home for the same price, and that includes all the comforts of a homestay.
You’ll likely be able to shower, use a kitchen, do laundry, watch TV, and get a bed (or couch) to yourself, instead of having to share a bench in the van.
On top of that, booking an Airbnb (that includes laundry machines) will save your band time and money because you won’t need to pay the hotel or laundromat fees.
Just toss a load in before you head out the door, or before you go to sleep, and voila, you’ve got clean laundry.
The only caveat to considering Airbnb, is every rental is different.
Fortunately, like Yelp, there’s a rating system and a place for renters to leave public reviews. If a stay looks nice has sketchy reviews, you might not want to take the risk.
Additionally, if you’re unsure whether or not your stay will include laundry machines, just double-check the description, or skim reviews previous renters have left.
Over 80% of Americans have a washer and dryer in their home, according to PR Newswire, so the chances that you’ll be able to clean some clothes are pretty good.
But if laundry isn’t mentioned anywhere, send a quick message to the renter — you should get a response back fairly quickly, and if it’s a newer listing, they may have just forgotten to mention laundry.
Another thing to mention is, the machines at laundromats are designed to endure the abuse of countless careless individuals, but the machines at an Airbnb actually belong to someone.
Just remember to be careful — and dammit, if you’re going to use someone else’s dryer, always remember to clean out the lint filter.
4. Ask Your Followers For Help
For whatever reason, bands that self-book tours seem to think that DIY means they literally have to do everything themselves.
And while having a plan to be independent is smart, laundry is absolutely one of those things you might need to ask for help with on tour.
If you don’t already have a network of friends or family to reach out to, you can always ask your followers for help.
Depending on how nicely you ask, someone out there is going to be gracious enough to let you use their personal laundry machines.
When you stop in a new city, put out feelers on social media. Ask if anyone would be willing to let you wash some laundry — more than likely, your network of followers will be happy to help.
As payment for letting your band wash some nasty tour laundry, give away some free merch or grab an acoustic guitar put on an intimate living-room show.
Transform the experience from awkward laundry exchange, into an unforgettable memory for both you and your fans.
In addition to getting some fresh, clean clothes, asking your followers for help (beyond an Instagram share or re-tweet) can be an opportunity to connect on a personal level and develop lasting, meaningful relationships with your fans.
5. Ask If The Venue Has Laundry
OK — before you stop reading, it’s not as stupid of an idea as you might think. It’s a stretch, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
(I actually debated whether or not to include this, because it makes the whole list seem like something I pulled out of my ass, but I think you’d be surprised.)
When I was in high school, I worked at an event venue and restaurant that booked everything from bar mitzvahs to “celebrations of life.”
We had a washer and dryer in the break room for cleaning tablecloths, towels, curtains, and other linens.
We constantly washed and dried work uniforms, aprons, and miscellaneous items for clients. Anyone that had booked the venue could access the laundry machines.
As far as I knew, there weren’t any policies against letting other people use the machines. In fact, one of the managers actually used the washer and dryer to do her personal laundry on slower weeknights.
I don’t personally remember doing laundry for any bands, but nobody ever asked and as a naive high school kid, I never thought to offer.
If any of the bands or artists had come to me and asked if there were laundry machines they could briefly use, I would have happily shown them where to do so.
6. Bring Lots of Spare Clothes
Unfortunately, this is how a lot of bands choose to “do laundry” on tour.
We all know how the male brain works — packing 15 pairs of clean underwear seems like a great way to avoid doing laundry on a two-week tour.
But never doing laundry also means hauling a duffel bag of dirty underwear everywhere you go. And nobody wants to drive for 8 hours with that stuffed under the backbench of the van.
Unless it’s just a quick run of shows over a long weekend, I wouldn’t recommend seriously considering this option.
Editors note: If you’re planning on going the entire tour without changing your underwear, I guarantee your bandmates will be rolling the windows down and stuffing air fresheners down your pants when your stinky-ass inevitably has to pile back into the van.
It’s a tour, not an 80’s summer camp. Take a shower and do some laundry.
7. Go To A Dry Cleaner
Appearances are important for touring bands, especially if you’re trying to re-produce a performance that looks, sounds, and feels uniquely the same night after night.
For many bands, agreeing on a uniform or stage-costume can be a fantastic way to make sure the band, as a whole, looks the same at each show of the tour.
However, unless your end-of-tour goal is to look like Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, you’re going to want to get things dry cleaned occasionally.
A popular uniform I’ve seen bands elect to wear on stage are suits, ties, pressed button-downs, and slacks — all of which need to be dry cleaned (depending on the materials).
For bands in this boat, even if you have two or three pairs of the same outfit that you can alternate between, you’ll still want to make a routine trip to the dry cleaners, especially on longer tours.
In these scenarios, you might want to consider paying an additional person to come out on tour with you — someone who’s willing to shuttle laundry to-and-from the venue or hotel room while everyone else is partying.
If you don’t have that kind of money, another alternative idea for bands with uniforms, is to purchase a travel steamer.
Although it won’t necessarily keep you smelling fresh and clean, it will at least help keep your vibe in check so you don’t look like you’ve been wearing the same suit at every show of the tour (even though we all know you have).
When you get off stage, change in to something more comfortable (and less smelly) if you plan on interacting with the kids that came to see you play.
If it’s been a while since you’ve done laundry, just bring some body spray, plenty of deodorant, and some gum, and pray that everyone has a stuffy nose.
As for your uniform, you can pick up an odor eliminator spray for pretty cheap. If you give it a spritz and hang it up to breathe, it won’t completely remove the smell of body odor, but it’ll at least dilute the stench so you can smell a bit more like flowers than butt-sweat.
8. Wash In A Sink & Blow Or Drip Dry
Certainly, a DIY option, but soaking your clothes in a sink and hanging them up to dry is probably the cheapest and most common way I’ve seen bands keep their clothes at least semi-clean on tour.
In fact, when I first got the idea to write this article, I quickly asked around to see what other people suggested bands do, and this was the only solution anyone mentioned.
Giving your clothes a quick rinse and scrub in a hotel, venue, or gas station bathroom before hanging them up to dry, is certainly a frequent laundry solution for many bands.
If you’re in a hurry, using a hairdryer to introduce some heat will slightly speed up the process.
If you don’t have a hairdryer, you can pick one up at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army for less than $5, or you can grab this top-rated Conair for $15 on Amazon.
9. Charity Of Churches/Shelters
Another creative stretch, but churches are a viable option for bands that might already have a support group through a faith-based community.
Whether you’re actively involved in your church or just a band that identifies as religious, you can try booking a few shows at churches instead of clubs or bars.
Likely, you’ll have an opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded individuals, and hopefully they’ll want to be charitable and giving.
If you’re lucky, the church itself might already have laundry machines on-site for less-fortunate members of their congregation. But if not, they’ll certainly have connections you can leverage.
If they regularly put on nativity or performance-oriented services they’ll have somewhere or somewhere designated to wash costumes and set linens.
You might come up empty handed here, but it’s worth shooting your shot if you’re looking for somewhere to wash laundry in a pinch.
10. Trucker Gas Stations
I’ll never forget the first time I stepped foot in a trucker gas station.
The food mart was like a mini-mall — every brand of soda, energy drink, candy bar and chips I could crave.
They had pinball machines, camouflage hats, pocket knives, a restaurant, a laundromat, oh yeah… and showers.
It was almost traumatizing, as a 10-year-old, to think about some long-haul trucker showering just a few feet from where I was pooping.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized how beneficial a place to shower, shit, eat, do laundry, and get gas could be — not only for truckers but also for a band on the road.
Prices for laundry and showers at these kind of gas stations of course varies, just like gas does, but generally you can probably do both for less than $20.
The only real caveat to mention here is you’re probably only going to find gas stations like this where it’s difficult to find anything else: Texas, the deep-south, and country-mountain states like Wyoming and Idaho.
If you’re touring the east coast or midwest, you’re not going to find too many luxury trucker oriented gas stations.
11. Bring A Mini-Washer
What?! A mini-washer?! Yes – they do exist and they are fantastic tour accessories.
This non-electric, portable, compact mini washing machine is designed for campers or tiny-home enthusiasts trying to minimize space consumption.
But they’re also great for bands on the road that don’t want to hand scrub clothes in a sink, tub, or bucket.
They’re not huge, so you should probably only wash two or three items of clothing at a time, but they are certainly effective and a dependable laundry alternative for touring bands.
You’ll still need to hang, drip, or blow dry your clothes after washing them, but at least you’ll be able to reliably remove stains and unpleasant smells from your favorite jeans and t-shirts.
Where do bands shower on tour? Bands shower where they can. Hotels, gas stations, beaches, campsites, fans’ homes, and community centers are popular shower locations for many bands. A gym membership to a national gym like Anytime Fitness, also is a common way bands can regularly and dependably find somewhere to shower while touring.
Where do bands sleep on tour? Touring bands often sleep in the van or bus that they use to get from city to city. Depending on the success of the band, and the amount of revenue they generate, bands will occasionally spend a night in a hotel or other rental property. Check out our article all about this specific question.
What do bands eat on tour? What bands eat on tour entirely depends on the type of budget they have for food. Most bands eat lots of fast-food, gas station grab bags, and junk that is cheap and easy. Healthier alternatives are pricey and tough to come by, but protein bars, pre-made smoothies, and meal replacement shakes are better for your body and will help maintain a higher level of energy while traveling from city to city.
For more industry tips and music marketing hacks, check out Ennui Magazine.