Review: Scrubba Wash Bag

Whether we’re traveling around the globe or backpacking for a week, we usually plan to wash our clothes during the trip so that we can carry fewer things. But, more often than not, we find ourselves washing clothes in rivers or sinks rather than actual laundry facilities. Washing clothes in a stream or small sink isn’t always easy or convenient, so we appreciate any device that makes it easier to get our clothes clean.Scrubba1

For several weeks we’ve had pretty good success using the Scrubba wash bag, which serves as a portable washing machine. The Scrubba resembles the type of dry bag you would use for paddling, but it has a built-in plastic plate with nubbins that acts as a washboard. To clean clothes, you just fill a portion of the Scrubba bag with water, add detergent, seal the roll-top closure, purge some air through a valve, and scrape your clothes across the board for about three minutes. You then empty the soapy water and repeat the process with non-soapy water.

Overall, the system worked well when we cleaned a couple of pieces, but it was less effective in washing larger loads of clothes that were pretty sweaty and dirty.

What We Liked About the Scrubba

It works well on small loads

The company claims that the Scrubba works as well as a 30-minute cycle on a regular washing machine if you agitate clothes in the bag for 3 minutes. While we can’t scientifically verify this claim, we can confirm that the detergent, agitation and contact with the washboard effectively clean a couple of items at the same time.

For our tests, we washed various combinations of synthetic shirts, pants, underwear and sports bras we had worn while traveling, hiking or doing vigorous cardio and strength training workouts. We used the bag to wash smaller loads with just a couple of items, and also cleaned slightly larger loads with about four items. For each wash we used a small amount of concentrated liquid soap. With small loads, we used three Nalgene bottles of water (96 ounces), and for large loads we added five Nalgene bottles (160 ounces).

We got the best results when we cleaned a couple of things, such as a pair of synthetic shorts and a synthetic shirt. After we dried the clothes, they didn’t retain any bad odors, and most dirt stains disappeared.Scrubba2

When we did larger loads (shorts, sports bra, underwear, shirt), the Scrubba wasn’t as effective. While some items came out clean, others were still smelly in certain areas, like shirt armpits. If you have a lot of clothes in the bag, and don’t happen to scrub a problem area directly on the washboard, it might not get completely clean. To shift items and place them next to the washboard, you pretty much have to open the bag and rearrange things, which can be inconvenient and messy. For best results, take a bit more time, and wash just a couple of tings at a time. Despite the Scrubba’s limitations, it’s a useful tool for travel, and we’re going to keep it handy.

It’s easy to use

The process of using the Scrubba couldn’t be simpler. Plus, the product packaging and the bag itself include small illustrations that take you through the steps. We liked that the bag has lines on the exterior to show you how much water to use for small and large loads. Also, there is a clear panel on the bag, so you can see where clothes are if you want to shift them and make sure everything is hitting the scrubbing board.

It makes washing clothes more convenient

First of all, the Scrubba will save you a bit of money, since you wont’ be paying for your laundry to be cleaned. Also, the Scrubba is really handy when you’re staying in a hostel, and you don’t want to wash your clothes in a shared bathroom, or a tiny sink in your room. Plus, if you’re in the backcountry, you can comfortably wash your clothes anywhere, even in your tent, and you don’t’ have to squat on a rock down by the river.

It can double as a normal dry bag

Another advantage of the Scrubba is that it can double as a normal dry bag for gear, so it’s not like you’re hauling around a piece of equipment —and extra weight—that serves only one purpose.

It’s relatively lightweight and compact

The Scrubba weighs less than 6 ounces, so it’s pretty lightweight for a dry bag and won’t add much to your overall load. Plus, the washboard is flexible and not stiff, so you can fold the bag down to a triangle that’s about 7 inches at the widest point and about 1 inch thick.

Traveler’s Notebook

Retail price: $64.95

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