Hostels only guarantee that you will have a mattress to sleep on—everything else is a bonus. After you wash your clothes in the sink (student-traveler style), it can be tough to dry your clothes without a dryer and in such limited space. However, there are some techniques that you can use to dry your clothes fast.
Take white vinegar with you to add to the wash water. The vinegar helps clothes dry soft, so you can avoid the scratchy crunch of hung-dry clothing.
The kinds of clothes you bring will make a big difference; choose yours wisely.
Polyester—Dries the fastest and isn’t too scratchy after a hand wash and air dry. You can typically go longer without washing some polyester materials because smells don’t cling to them easily.
Cotton—Can be functional if it’s thin enough, but it’s not the best option because it takes much longer to dry.
Wool—Can take a while to dry, especially if it’s thick. But some wool blends dry faster than cotton.
Specialty fabrics—Tend to be lightweight and thin (especially with clothes made for hiking), and therefore dry faster.
Denim—Is hard to wash and takes a long time to dry. Don’t bring jeans if you plan to hand wash and air-dry them.
Also remember to pack light. Unless you have a reason to bring more, two or three sets of clothes should be sufficient. The more clothes you have, the more tempted you’ll be to put off washing them. So bring simple clothes that can be mixed and matched to create different looks.
When you stay in a hostel, you don’t usually have a room to yourself, and the bed might be the only furniture available to hang clothes on. Bring a string and think of ways to attach it to the door, walls, or windows to maximize the space you do have. Hooks, rubber bands, and paperclips work well.
Specialized travel clotheslines made of braided rubber are also available. If you use regular string, bring something like clothespins or magnets to attach the clothes to the line.
Articles of clothing will dry faster if they are hanging than if they are touching something, so consider hanging clothes versus laying them on a surface or draping them over a line.
When possible, hang your clothes outside. This typically makes clothes dry faster and smell better than when you dry them indoors.
Hang shirts from the bottom hem so they don’t bunch in the middle or at the shoulders.
Look for a drying room in your hostel to hang your clothes in—the air is hot and dry, good conditions for fast drying.
To speed up the drying process, lay your wet clothing flat on a clean, dry towel after you have removed as much excess water as possible. Roll up the towel with the clothing inside it. Sit on, step on, and otherwise apply pressure to the rolled-up towel. This will take a lot of the moisture out of your clothes.
If your clothes aren’t dry when you want to leave the hostel, consider wearing them for the day. They’ll likely be uncomfortable at first, but they will dry eventually. You can also hang the damp clothes on the outside of your backpack to dry as you sightsee. Or pack them in a plastic bag and pull them out to dry as soon as you get to your next destination. Isolating the wet clothes from the other items in your backpack will help prevent any mildew from growing on the damp clothes or your other belongings.
The surest way to keep your clothes safe is to stay with them as they dry. Read a book or chat with another traveler as you wait.
Avoid bringing fancy, expensive clothes that someone might want to steal.
Bringing fewer pieces of clothing may also make you less of a target.
For more drying tricks, ask other travelers at the hostel what they do. Then you’ll learn some more neat tricks while you make new friends.