Keeping Things Clean While Travelling


When you really start to think about it, travelling is crusty.

I always feel I need to say this so that you understand: I am not a germophobe and I do not have OCD.  But I am aware of clean and dirty areas, and I can tell you that planes are really dirty places.  I have a similar feeling toward hotel rooms, and I filmed a video when I was in Miami actually of how to tell if your hotel room is clean or dirty.  The comments in that video come from hotel housekeepers who essentially agree with my evaluation of the dirty rooms.  And it was a 4 star hotel.

So, if you want to retain a certain standard of cleanliness, I’ve decided you need to take it in to your own hands.  But who wants to schlep a whole cleaning caddy around with them when traveling?  Most certainly not me.  So what I’ve done is assembled a few travel essentials for keeping things clean, smelling good, organized and stain-free during your travels without too much money or effort on your part.

Le Tips

Keep your shoes shiny

If you can’t get your hands on a traveling shoe shine kit or don’t want to carry one around, pick up a few packets of white vinegar (your hotel restaurant may even have vinegar you can use) and use that to clean, condition and shine your leather shoes.  Rub the vinegar in with a washcloth from your hotel washroom.

Packing shoes

To keep dirty shoes from mucking up your clothing, wrap shoes in a plastic shopping bag and lay flat on top of clothing, or use a shower cap to store the shoes in and then lay flat on top of your clothing.

Packing toiletries

I place all of mine in zippered plastic bags.  That way, in case something explodes or breaks, it’s all contained.  I’d rather that than a fancy traveling cosmetics and toiletries bag getting gross in transit.  I pack a few extra bags in the event there is an ‘explosion’.  This one is pretty obvious but it works so well and is worth mentioning.

Mini laundry detergent packets

If you want to pack light but have a few days of travel planned, consider picking up a few packets of laundry detergent.  I found a Tide 3 pack suited for sinks at Wal Mart in their travel toiletries bins.  It was very inexpensive and a great idea, since there’s always a reason something needs to be laundered while traveling.

On that note, I want to take a moment and recognize hotel bar soap.  Hotel bar soap is miraculous stuff.  Recently, my niece got a huge oil spill on her favorite pair of pants while we were away on a girls weekend.  I told her the pants were goners, but my sister-in-law disagreed and touted the awesomeness of hotel bar soap.  It got every lick of oil off those pants, I’d never seen anything like it before.  They took that bar of soap home.  Don’t underestimate the powers of hotel bar soap.

Stain remover pen

Yes it’s nerdy, but if you travel around with one of these, you’ll be able to catch, remove pre-treat stains that you may not be able to tackle for a while.  They are worth it.  Stick it in your purse, you’ll be glad you were able to catch that ketchup or red wine stain when you did.

Alcohol wipes

I prefer these to Wet Wipes, because they contain a disinfectant, don’t smell like fake lemon and I can use one of these before eating on a plane or eating at a food cart while out and about.  I also find them easier to carry around than a small bottle of hand sanitizer and believe it or not, I’d rather smell rubbing alcohol than hand sanitizer.  They were super cheap too. I found them in the first aid section at Wal Mart.

These can also be used if you encounter something you don’t like in your hotel room, i.e. a dirty remote control.  They are great for quick, disposable cleaning wipes.

Dryer sheets

Place a dryer sheet somewhere in your suitcase (i.e. a mesh zippered pouch) and your clothing will smell nice throughout your travels.  If you are combining shoes and clean clothes, you’re bound to have some smell activities going on that are unpleasant.

As well, if you are going somewhere which has a mosquito or bee issue, keep a sheet in your back pocket.  The bugs can’t stand the smell and it will keep them away!

Dirty laundry

I use the hotel’s laundry bag (you know, the one they give you to place your laundry in for them to wash for only $20 per load or something like that) and store my dirty items in there.  That way, at the end of the trip I can easily drop that bag into my laundry sorter when I arrive home.  It makes unpacking easier.

Baby powder

If you are heading to a beachy locale, consider packing a small container of baby powder along with you.  When you are done at the beach, sprinkle it all over your body and your beach gear, stand on a non-sandy area and shake all of the sand off.  The talcum powder dries your skin and instantly separates the sand from your body and your gear.  That way, you won’t be dragging sand as a souvenir home with you!

Drinking Straws

Simple and easy!  Take a drinking stray and feel your necklace chain through it.  That way, your necklaces won’t become tangled during your travels.

I hope that makes for an easier, cleaner traveling experience for you!

So, I was on a flight coming home from Miami…

I was standing in line, waiting to use the lavatory and the head flight attendant asked if she could quickly run in before me to wash her hands. It was no skin off my back of course. While we were waiting for a young man to finish up his very lengthy business dealings in the lavatory, we struck up a conversation. She told me she was starving and hadn’t eaten in quite a few hours. She picked up a salad at the Miami airport (it looked much lovelier than the plane food), and really wanted to dig in, but just couldn’t do so until she thoroughly washed her hands. Sitting beside her was a bottle of hand sanitizer, and she told me that even that didn’t make her feel her hands were clean enough. Without me prompting her, she continued to tell me just how dirty the planes were, and I was silently rubbing my hands together, I knew this was going to be good. According to this head flight attendant, the fleet in this very popular airline were cleaned thoroughly once every 5 years. Holy crap. Did I just hear that? She told me that the points of contact, door handles, pulls for stowaway bins, arm rests, window coverings, etc. are only thoroughly cleaned once every five years. Flight attendants touch a lot of things, including your bags, your food and your garbage with little time to squeeze in a hand washing. I couldn’t get in to more details with her because finally we heard the flush and knew it was time to shuffle, but I was really shocked by that news. Planes carry tons of people day in and day out, and they only get quickly touched up between flights. Think about it, your plane has not been sanitized in anticipation of your arrival. At best, it’s been vacuumed, garbage has been collected and seat pockets emptied (and barf bags replaced LOL).

What are your travel cleaning tips and tricks? What do you swear by?

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Melissa Maker is the host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube, editor-at-large of, and founder of Clean My Space (a well-known Toronto-based cleaning service). She's been knee-deep in the cleaning game since 2006. Follow Melissa: @MelissaMaker on Instagram, SnapChat & Twitter!


  1. Put your shoes in plastic shower caps before packing them. You can get about six for a dollar, or take them them from the hotel!

  2. Produce bags are the perfect size for shoes and shoes can be completely wrapped on them. Shower caps won’t completely cover them. The soles of shoes are filthy

    I use zip lock baggies for everything in my suitcase. I write the names of all my travel items on them such as bras, underpants, socks, hose, hair glaze/gels/sprays, combs/brushes, lotion, perfume – virtually everything. (1) I keep them in my suitcase and they serve as a list-I just have to fill the bags (2) if security goes through my case, they aren’t touching my items (3) it keeps things from getting all mixed up in my luggage (4) at my destination, I can just put them in a drawer and not worry about what was in the drawer before I arrived

    Wet wipes are wonderful for removing spots /spills from clothing-even lipstick.

    I carry Clorox wipes & wipe down commode seats, faucets, sinks, door handles, drawer knobs, furniture tops, lamp switches and ALWAYS the REMOTE & anything & everything I might touch. If traveling by car I carry Cloroc Cleanup and spray the shower. NEVER use the bathtub!

  3. Have you come across Paper Shower body wipes? They are great for traveling or a freshen up after the gym. They combine a super sized wet wipe ( low alcohol content so you don’t dry your skin out) and a dry towel to leave you feeling both clean and dry. You can buy then via the website

  4. As a flight attendant, I can say that was 100% true, if not worse. We usually hire out our cleaning, and as they are all on a time schedule, (they normally don’t even like to show up until we have started boarding!) they usually just pick up large items and restock the bathrooms. So on a plane, my number one suggestion is to bring those alcohol wipes!!! Use a tissue from the lavatory to open/close the door, please wipe off your tray table before you use it for anything (I’ve seen multiple babies being changed on them… YES WE DO HAVE CHANGING TABLES IN THE LAVATORIES!) and by all means… PLEASE KEEP YOUR SHOES AND THE SHOES OF YOUR CHILDREN ON WHEN WALKING AROUND THE PLANE!

    Hotel tips? Always check quickly for bedbugs, only use cups that are sealed with plastic (the others sometimes only get rinsed out), and if you don’t bring your own ziploc for the remote use the bag in the ice bin to cover it before you use it.. that is the #1 place for germs in a hotel room and it never is touched with cleaning solution.

    Have a great day, and hope this doesn’t freak anyone else out 🙂

    • Thanks Sara for the warning!
      I’m not phobic but since I have been using wipes and hand sanitizer in the plane and after bus trips I have fewer colds (less than one per year). Also, it is recommended that you never drink non-bottled water on the plane as the tanks are not cleaned regularly either.

  5. I use most of these tips, especially the hotel laundry bag and laundry soap. But for that I usually purchase the box of soap at the front desk for $1 and use half of the box. I find that you don’t have to use the entire box and you can seal it back up (I bring binder clips) and then put it in a ziplock.

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