How To Hand Wash Clothes (EASY Beginner's Guide)

How To Hand Wash Clothes (EASY Beginner's Guide)

Laundry day can be quite a chore, but it doesn't have to be daunting, especially when hand-washing your clothes. If you want to know how to do laundry, hand washing is a useful skill to have. Whether you're dealing with delicate fabrics or simply prefer a more hands-on approach to laundry, we've got you covered.

In this guide, we'll take you through how to hand wash clothes effectively while sprinkling in some expert tips. So, roll up your sleeves, and let's dive deep into the world of hand washing.

How to hand wash clothes

You've come to the right place if you're ready to start hand washing your clothes. Before you get started, you're going to need some advice. Let's take a look at five expert-backed tips:

1. Gather your supplies

Make sure you have all the necessary supplies ready for your hand-washing adventure. Here's what you'll need:

  • A basin or sink: Opt for a clean basin or sink that's spacious enough to accommodate your garments comfortably. Ensure it's free of residual soap or dirt from previous washes.
  • Mild detergent: Choosing the suitable detergent is crucial for hand washing success. Look for a detergent designed for hand washing, or that's gentle on fabrics. Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach. You might want to consider using vinegar in the laundry for more cleaning power. 
  • Water at the appropriate temperature: Different fabrics require different water temperatures. Always check the care labels on your clothing for laundry symbols to determine the ideal water temperature for hand washing. In most cases, lukewarm water works well.
  • A gentle touch: Your hands are your most valuable tools when hand washing clothes. Avoid using rough scrub brushes or abrasive materials that could damage delicate fabrics.
  • Towels for drying: Have a clean towel ready for the drying stage. Ensure it's free from lint or any residues that could transfer to your freshly cleaned clothes.

2. Sort your clothes

Like machine washing, sorting your clothes is essential when hand washing. Luckily, we know how to wash every item in your wardrobe. Separate your garments based on colour, fabric, and level of dirtiness. This ensures that colours won't bleed onto each other and that rougher fabrics won't damage delicate items. When sorting, consider the following categories:

  • Whites and lights
  • Darks
  • Delicates (lace, silk, cashmere, etc.)
  • Heavily soiled items (workout clothes, stained items, etc.)

By sorting your clothes carefully, you'll protect your garments and improve the overall effectiveness of your hand wash. Many overlook this particular step when hand washing their clothes, but it can be a real game-changer.

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3. Pre-treat stains

Getting rid of stains, whether it's butter or chocolate, can be an absolute nightmare. Take a moment to identify any stubborn stains on your clothes. Apply a small amount of mild detergent directly to the stain, focusing on the affected area. Gently rub the fabric together using your fingertips or a soft cloth. Let the detergent sit for a few minutes to work its magic before proceeding with the rest of the wash.

4. Follow this quick process

Now that your clothes are sorted and stains pre-treated, it's time to start hand-washing. Follow these detailed steps:

Step 1: Fill the basin or sink. Fill your basin or sink with water at the appropriate temperature for your washing garments. Always consult the care labels to determine the right temperature. In general, lukewarm water, 30-40°C, is suitable for most fabrics.

Step 2: Add detergent. Add a small amount of mild detergent to the water. The amount of detergent you use should be in proportion to the volume of water and the level of soiling on your clothes. Generally, one to two tablespoons of detergent for a basin of water should suffice. Swish the water gently to ensure the detergent dissolves and creates suds.

Step 3: Submerge your clothes. Gently submerge your clothes into the soapy water, ensuring they are fully saturated. Allow them to soak for a few minutes. During this soaking period, the detergent will break down and loosen dirt, oil, and grime that may be trapped in the fabric fibres.

Step 4: Swish and agitate. Using your hands, swish and agitate the clothes in the water. Pay special attention to stained or soiled areas, and be gentle with delicate fabrics. The key is to create gentle friction between the fabric and the detergent solution to remove dirt.

Step 5: Rinse thoroughly. Empty the soapy water from the basin or sink and refill it with clean water at the same temperature as before. Rinse each garment individually, gently squeezing out the soapy water as you go. Repeat this process until the water runs clear, indicating that all detergent has been removed.

5. Handling delicate items

For especially delicate items, such as lace, silk, or cashmere, consider placing them in a clean pillowcase or mesh laundry bag before washing. This provides an extra layer of protection and prevents snagging or stretching. When agitating delicate items, be even more gentle and cautious. This is particularly important as you don't want to damage the fabric.

Additional advice for hand-washing clothes

Now that you know the basics, let's delve deeper into some expert tips that will elevate your hand-washing skills:

  • Use lukewarm water. Extremely hot or cold water can damage delicate fabrics. Aim for lukewarm water to strike the right balance between effective cleaning and fabric care. If you're unsure about the water temperature, it's always better to err on the side of caution and use cooler water.
  • Be gentle. Avoid excessive wringing or twisting of your clothes, as this can cause stretching or damage to the fabric fibres. Instead, gently press out excess water before moving on to the drying stage.
  • Avoid overcrowding. While you may be tempted to wash as many clothes as possible in one go, overcrowding the basin or sink can make it challenging to clean each garment effectively. Overcrowding can lead to inadequate detergent distribution and uneven cleaning.
  • Dry properly. After washing, gently reshape your garments and lay them flat on a clean towel. Roll up the towel to remove excess moisture, pressing down gently to encourage absorption. This step helps to minimise the drying time and prevents excessive stretching of delicate items. It's one of our favourite laundry tips! For heavier items, like sweaters, you can lay them on a clean, dry towel on a flat surface, reshape them, and let them air dry. Avoid hanging delicate items by their straps or waistbands, which can lead to stretching and distortion.
  • Follow garment care labels. Always check the care labels on your clothes for specific hand-washing instructions. Different fabrics may require other techniques or temperatures. Pay close attention to any additional recommendations, such as avoiding wringing or using a particular type of detergent.

Hand washing clothes doesn't have to be tricky. By following these detailed steps and expert tips, you'll not only prolong the life of your clothes but also ensure they come out clean, fresh, and beautifully maintained. With your appliance freed up, discover these things you didn't know you could clean in the washing machine or learn how to clean your mouldy machine. If yours needs replacing, you might also want to know how to disconnect a washing machine. We're here to help! 

So, the next time you find yourself with a pile of delicates or simply want to give your laundry an extra personal touch, don't hesitate to dive in. You can use the knowledge and techniques you've acquired in this guide. If you have read to this point, you're well on your way to becoming a hand-washing pro.

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Are you looking for some more answers? Here are some of the frequently asked questions about hand-washing clothes.

What is the best thing to hand wash clothes with?

When hand-washing clothes, it's wise to use a gentle detergent. You don't want to use anything with too many chemicals as you want to keep your clothes intact.

What is the best method of hand-washing clothes?

In the above guide, we have outlined the best method for hand-washing clothes. Make sure you sort your laundry in advance and use a gentle soap or detergent. You should always be careful when you are hand-washing your clothes.

Why do my clothes still smell after hand washing?

If your clothes still smell after you have hand-washed them, you may have used the wrong amount of detergent. Too much or insufficient soap could cause your clothing items to smell bad. You may have to take a trial-and-error approach when you wash your clothes by hand and check if you're washing your clothes enough. Find out how often you should wash household linens next. 

How hard is it to do laundry by hand?

Believe it or not, doing your laundry by hand is quite simple. Following the above guide will show that the process could actually save time and energy, depending on what you need to wash.

Are you going to give hand washing a go? Leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Joanne A


Expert in finding beautiful solutions for small and rented spaces. Would happily spend the rest of my life shopping for homewares and watching Disney movies - I only wish I had Cinderella's army of mice to help me clean!

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