Sunday 21 September 2014

Travel Gadget Review 1: Scrubba Washbag

Being the first of an occasional series in which I review gadgets and devices of use to the traveller...

I was provided with a complimentary Scrubba before I went on my recent big trip to Europe and the USA, in order to test it out in real travelling conditions.

This bag is the recent invention of an Australian guy, who wanted an easy way to wash clothing on a trip up Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa (read more about its origin here).

The bag is made of a tough plastic. The innovative bit, however, is the flexible plastic washboard which is incorporated into its interior. By rubbing immersed clothing against the washboard section, the traveller is borrowing a technique used for millennia before the invention of the washing machine.

Or so the theory goes. How does it stack up in reality?

For this test, undertaken in the bathroom of our hotel room at the Ibis London Blackfriars, I was assisted by the lovely Narrelle Harris. For the record, this was the very first time we'd tried out the bag.

Here's a pair of socks I prepared earlier - by wearing them:

As you can see, the instructions are printed on the side of the bag, and therefore can't be lost:

First step - fill the Scrubba with hot water to the marked line for a small load, then add a suitable cleaning agent (in this case, shower gel):

Then the top of the bag was folded down a number of times, and clipped shut:

Next the air inside the bag was released, by opening the valve you can see near the top, and pressing down on the bag:

This was the one part of the procedure we had real difficulty with. For whatever reason the valve was very hard to squeeze open, especially with one hand busy holding the bag in place. Perhaps it might loosen after repeated uses.

In any case, with the valve so tricky, we found it easier to reopen the bag, squeeze out as much air as possibly through the main opening, then reseal it.

Then it was time for the main event: the washing. After a minute of trial and error pushing the socks around inside the bag, I realised the best procedure was to grip the clothing through the bag, and move it up and down with determination along the internal washboard section:

The result? Quite a lot of satisfyingly dirty water (though I suspect some of that is dye):

The next step was to repeat the procedure with clean water, to give the socks a rinse:

And voila: a pair of clean socks!

I hung them out to dry, and the next day they were indeed soft and clean. I assume they weren't as thoroughly washed as they would have been in a machine, but they were certainly wearable.

So there you have it - the Scrubba. A handy piece of kit which has now found a permanent place in my backpack.

It's not a substitute for a machine wash, I think, more a supplementary method for doing some light laundry while on the road. Handy if you're nowhere near a laundrette/laundromat and you don't fancy paying the outrageous laundry fees of the average hotel (and who does?).

The Scrubba washbag costs US$54.95, buy via Australians can buy it for AU$64.95 with free shipping via

Disclosure: I was provided with the Scrubba washbag for review purposes.

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