😦🤑😞 This article was co-authored by Susan Stocker. Susan Stocker runs and owns Susan’s Green Cleaning, the #1 Green Cleaning Company in Seattle. She is well known in the region for outstanding customer service protocols — winning the 2017 Better Business Torch Award for Ethics & Integrity —and her energetic support of green cleaning practices.
wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 88% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.
This article has been viewed 1,539,189 times.
😦🤑😞 Maybe you don’t have access to a washing machine to do laundry and you need to clean smelly, dirty clothes. Or maybe you have clothes that are hand wash only as they are too delicate for the washing machine. To wash clothes by hand, start by selecting a detergent that will not be too harsh on the clothes. Then, use water and detergent to gently wash the clothes. Finally, dry the clothes properly so they are clean and damage-free.
Part 1Part 1 of 3:Selecting the Right Detergent
- 1Pick a mild detergent for delicate clothes. Mild detergent is fine to use for most clothing items as long as they are not made of delicate fabrics like silk, lace, wool, or fine-knit material. Look for a liquid detergent that is made for delicate clothing. Brands like Woolite or Soak are good options.XResearch source
- In a pinch, a regular detergent like Tide or Gain will work for delicate clothing that’s not made of lace, silk, or wool.
- Baby shampoo or mild liquid soap would also work well.
- 2Try a no-rinse detergent for silk and lace. For clothes made of delicate fabrics like silk and lace, go for a detergent that does not require any rinsing once you have soaked the clothes with it in water. This will make cleaning silk and lace clothing easier, and ensure the clothing is not damaged by too much rinsing.XResearch source
- You can find no-rinse detergents online or in the detergent aisle at your local store. Popular no-rinse detergents include Eucalan and Persil.
- 3Use detergent with lanolin for wool and fine knits. Lanolin is a natural oil produced by sheep to help waterproof their fleece coats. It also makes wool and fine knit garments softer. Use a detergent with lanolin on any wool or fine knit clothing so they stay soft and do not get damaged during washing.XResearch source
- You can find detergent with lanolin online or in the detergent aisle of your local store.
Part 2Part 2 of 3:Hand Washing the Clothes
- 1Wash light and dark clothes separately. Start with the lightest colored items first. Save the darker colored items for last. Wash each item one at a time to avoid bleeding color from one item to another.XResearch source
- If you have a new item of clothing that is dyed or colored, wash it separately in a different tub or basin so the color does not get on other clothing.
- 2Fill two tubs with water. Use wide deep tubs that can fit at least one item of clothing. You can also use your sink as a basin. Fill both tubs ¾ full with water that is 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), or just warm to the touch. Water that is too hot can make clothing dye bleed, and water that is too cold will not remove stains well.XResearch source
- If you are worried about shrinkage, use cold water in both tubs to prevent any shrinking of the clothing with warmer water.
- You can use the same tub of water for clothes that are similar colors, such as only dark clothing or only light clothing.
- 3Add the detergent to one tub. Use one teaspoon (5 grams) of detergent for one item of clothing. Mix the detergent into the water.XResearch source
- 4Wash the clothes in the water. Put the clothes in a tub with the water and the detergent until they are submerged. Then, use your hands to gently move the clothes around in the water so dirt is removed. Make a swishing action with the clothes in the water. Continue doing this for two to three minutes, or until the clothes look clean.
EXPERT TIPSusan Stocker runs and owns Susan’s Green Cleaning, the #1 Green Cleaning Company in Seattle. She is well known in the region for outstanding customer service protocols — winning the 2017 Better Business Torch Award for Ethics & Integrity —and her energetic support of green cleaning practices.
- Do not scrub, twist, or rub the clothes in the water, as this can damage them.
- Do not let the clothes soak in the water for longer than three to four minutes, as this can lead to shrinkage.
😦🤑😞 Susan StockerGreen Cleaning ExpertSusan Stocker
Green Cleaning Expert
😦🤑😞 When you're hand-washing clothes, be careful not to scrub them too hard. If you do, you can damage the fibers, rip the item, or make them look stretched and threadbare. Also, be sure to pay extra attention to areas such as the underarms, and let the garments soak in the water long enough for the detergent to break up any dirt or oil.
- 5Rinse the clothes in the other tub. Once you have washed the clothes well, remove them from the water. Then, carefully place them in the other tub of clean water. Rinse the clothes by pulling them in and out of the water for two to three minutes. This will help to remove any soap still on them.XResearch source
- Check that the clothes look clean, not soapy. If there is still soap on them, dump out the water in the tub and rinse them again with clean water.
- If you are using a no-rinse detergent to clean the clothes, you can skip this step.
Part 3Part 3 of 3:Drying the Clothes
- 1Do not wring out the clothes. Avoid twisting and wringing the clothes to dry them. This can warp the clothes and damage them. Instead, lift the clothes above the water and let excess water drip off it into the tub or basin.XResearch source
- 2Lay the clothes flat to dry. Place the wet clothes on a clean surface, such as a countertop or a table. Reshape the clothes so they lie flat and in their natural shape.XResearch source
- You can also lay the clothes on a drying rack as long as they lay flat and do not hang off of the rack vertically. Hanging the clothes vertically can ruin their shape.
- 3Flip the clothes over to dry completely. Wait two to four hours for the clothes to dry on one side. Then, flip the clothes over so the other side can dry. Let the clothes dry overnight and check that both sides are dry in the morning.
Community Q&A Did you know you can get answers researched by wikiHow Staff?Unlock staff-researched answers by supporting wikiHow
- QuestionCan you use regular laundry detergent for hand washing?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerIt is not a good idea to use regular laundry detergent for hand washing on a regular basis. If it’s an emergency, you can use it, preferably on clothes that would normally be machine washable. Wool, silk, cashmere, and any other item that normally needs hand washing should normally be washed in a gentle soap mix or hand washing mix because the enzymes in normal detergent are too strong for such materials. Also consider the effect the machine detergent might have on your hands, as it can be quite drying. In most cases, you’d be better off choosing a mild dish-washing liquid over machine detergent when hand washing clothes.
- QuestionHow do I hand wash a white cotton shirt?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerWhite clothes fare best when washed together, away from dark clothes, to avoid transfer of colors. So, if you have clothes to hand wash of different colors, separate the whites. Use water as hot as you can stand to put your hands in, as it’s usual to wash cotton in hot water but don’t make it so hot you scald yourself! Add hand washing detergent and if there are any stains, focus on treating and scrubbing those as well as washing the shirt. For more help with washing white clothes specifically, see How to Wash White Clothes.
- QuestionCan you use body wash for hand washing clothes?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerIt is possible to use body wash for hand washing clothes and can be especially handy when you’re traveling or you’ve run out of hand-washing detergent. Be careful to avoid any body wash that might transfer dark colors (test a small unseen part first if you’re unsure) and avoid any with additives like glitter, as these will stick to your clothes. Treat body wash as an emergency alternative rather than regular hand-washing detergent though, as it lacks the brighteners in detergent and isn’t made specifically for clothes washing. Finally, never put body wash in a washing machine, as the suds it will create will damage the machine.
- QuestionCan I wash silk with a bar of handwashing soap?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerYou can wash silk with a bar of hand-washing soap, provided you use a mild soap. It may prove to be more expensive than using laundry soap or hand-washing detergent but if you’re not likely to be washing that many items, it’s okay. Follow the usual rules for washing silk, like not using hot water or wringing it dry, and you should find it works just fine. For help with washing silk, see How to Wash Silk Garments.
- QuestionCan I use dish soap to wash clothes by hand?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff Answer
- QuestionCan you use shampoo to wash your clothes?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerFor emergencies, you can use shampoo to hand wash clothes. Choose a mild one though, preferably baby shampoo. Avoid any shampoos that might transfer color to your clothes (such as tinting shampoos), if you’re unsure, then check an inconspicuous spot on a light item first. Combination shampoo-conditioner and conditioner are not suitable to hand wash clothes. And never put shampoo into a washing machine; the high level of suds that will form might damage the washing machine.
- QuestionShould I only wash my bras by hand?wikiHow Staff EditorStaff AnswerThis depends on how delicate the bras are. Bras have become a lot more resilient in recent years, with many made from spandex, Lycra and other synthetics, as well as stronger stitching and less frills on everyday bras, which means they can handle machine washing much better. However, delicate bras with lots of lace, etc., and any bras that have a label stating "hand wash only," should be washed by hand only. For help with either hand washing or machine washing bras, see How to Wash a Bra.
- QuestionI hand-washed my clothes because my washing machine is messed up. So after I hand wash them, can I put them in the dryer instead of laying them flat?Community AnswerYes. It makes no difference how they were washed, you can dry them just the same. It's just suggested to lay items flat if you were hand-washing because the garment's cleaning instructions recommended it.
- QuestionIs the "hand wash" cycle on a washing machine the same as washing by hand? I have a newer model (around 2012) LG front load washer.Community AnswerNo, the hand washing cycle on a washing machine is not appropriate for most hand wash only items of clothing. Try washing delicate clothing by hand, rather than risk using the hand wash setting on your machine.
- QuestionCan I use a washing machine to wash my underwear?Community AnswerProbably, but it depends on what material they are made from, check the tags, there should be instructions for care.
Things You’ll Need
- Mild detergent or no-rinse detergent
- Two large tubs or basins
- Clean surface for drying the clothes
About This Article
To wash clothes by hand, start by separating your lights and darks like you would if you were machine washing them. Next, fill a sink or tub with warm water and pour in some laundry detergent. Then, submerge your light clothes in the water and swish them around with your hands. After a few minutes, take your clothes out and rinse them under a faucet or in a different container filled with clean water. When you're done washing your lights, repeat the process with your darks. Finally, lay your clothes on a flat, clean surface to air dry. If you want to learn which detergent you should use based on the type of clothes you're watching, keep reading the article!
Reader Success Stories
- "I just wanted to confirm what I knew was right. What I didn't know is if you wrap it in a towel to dry, not to wring it? I always twist it as tight as possible to get it to dry quicker. Did not know it is not good for the fabric to stay healthy. Thank you."..." more