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Delicate Garments or No Available Machine? Here’s How to Hand Wash Your Clothes

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There’s no denying that the invention of the washing machine has made doing laundry a far easier and less intensive chore. All we have to do is throw our clothes inside, add some detergent, press some buttons and collect everything when it’s done. However, a washing machine isn’t always available, and some types of clothing can’t be washed by machine. In these cases, you really do need to know how to hand wash clothes.

Knowing what you need to hand wash clothes and how to do it is definitely a life skill. There will likely be times when a machine isn’t available, such as when you’re on vacation, or the clothes you need to wash can’t go in a machine, like some gym clothes and your delicates. To help you out, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to wash clothes in a tub, sink or any other watertight container. But first, let’s look at the broader reasons you may choose to hand wash your clothes in the first place.


Reasons to Hand Wash Your Clothes

While not having a washing machine available may be the most apparent and impassible reason for hand washing clothes, there are several other good reasons to do so. These include:

  • The Clothing Requires It: Some types of clothing can only be washed via a hand washing method. Trying to wash this type of clothing in a machine may damage the garment itself, the other clothes in the wash or the machine.
  • No Access to Machine Facilities: Washing machine facilities aren’t always available. Whether at home, on vacation or going through unexpected circumstances, if you don’t have an available machine and need to wash clothes, choosing to hand wash them may be your only option.
  • To Increase Clothing Lifespan: Irrespective of the type of material, hand washing extends the lifespan of clothing when compared to machine washing.
  • Environmental Responsibility: Washing machines use a lot of water. Choosing to hand wash clothing instead of using a machine can be seen as an environmentally responsible decision. To further show care for the environment, you can also switch to an eco-friendly laundry detergent.

Of course, there are also several reasons not to hand wash clothes, such as the time it takes, the physical effort required and the space needed to manage many items.

If you find yourself in a position where you need to hand wash clothes in a sink or large container, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to hand washing, and a product selection made up of top-rated products to help the process go smoothly. Furthermore, we’ve included explanatory photos to make the instructions clearer.


How to Hand Wash Clothes

1. Check the Labels

The first thing to do before you consider washing clothes is to check any washing guidance labels. The process may sometimes feel a little bit like deciphering an alien language, but these labels tell you how to (or how not to) clean the piece to prevent any damage.

Common garment restrictions include the temperature of water you can use, whether you can machine wash or dry, whether you can iron the piece and if using bleach is possible. To help you make sense of it all, here’s a comprehensive laundry label guide.

how to hand wash clothes washing labels

2. If Needed, Pretreat Stains

If your clothes have any particularly stubborn stains, like grass, dirt or coffee, it may help to pretreat them. Pre-treaters, like this Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover Spray, can be applied to your clothing minutes, hours or days before you wash them. Work the pretreatment into the fabric as directed to loosen the stain.

how to hand wash clothingadding stain removal liquid to clothing

3. Fill the Sink With Water

Using the information gained from your garment label inspection in Step 1, fill your sink or washing basin with water of an appropriate temperature. (Note: Silk, wool and bright colors are often better washed in cold water.) Then as the water fills the sink, add the recommended amount of detergent to create a sud-filled bath for your clothes.

how to hand wash clothing filling a sink with water and detergent

4. Submerge and Wash the Garments

Fully submerge the clothes in the water, pressing down if required. Once the clothes are entirely filled with sudsy water, gently squeeze and move them to work the water in and out. Pay particular attention to the appearance of any stains, as this can help you figure out how long to hand wash clothes. You may also find that a soft-bristled brush can be beneficial for particularly tough stains. Repeat this process until you’re confident each item has had sufficient exposure to the water and soap. You can also leave the clothes to soak for a period if the laundry detergent you are using advises it.

hand washing clothing in a sink

5. Rinse

Empty the sink of the sud-filled water. Refill the sink with cool, clear water and work it through the clothing similarly to Step 4. The aim is to rinse the garments and remove any potentially irritating or unpleasant cleaning residues left in the fibers. Repeat the process until the water runs clear. Lighter garments, such as swimsuits and gym clothing, can be placed inside a colander and rinsed using a sink faucet or sprayer.

rinsing a shirt in a sink

6. Remove Excess Water

As wringing, twisting and pulling clothes too aggressively can cause damage, the best approach is to avoid it, especially with delicate clothing.

To remove excess water, gently push and squeeze down on each garment against the sink or wash basin. You can also lift them and squeeze them to remove water further. For particularly delicate garments, lay them flat inside an absorbent towel and gently press down or roll the two pieces together. Repeat the process until the clothing is no longer dripping water.

wringing out a shirt in the sink

7. Dry the Garments

Underwear, lingerie and other lightweight clothing can be dried on a drying rack, hanger or a clothesline.

Heavier clothing, like heavy sweaters, denim and knitted garments, should be laid flat to dry. This prevents unnecessary stretching or sagging. This process can be accelerated by placing a dry towel underneath, flipping the garment when the top is dry and drying the clothing in a particularly airy place.

drying a shirt on a towel


What to Use to Handwash Clothes

Below, you’ll find a selection of products to make the hand washing process easier. From pretreatments and stain removers to a drying rack, having these items in your cleaning arsenal ensures you’ll have everything you need when it comes time to learn how to hand wash clothes.

1. Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover Spray


If you’re looking for an effective way to pretreat stains, try this Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover Spray. With positive ratings and reviews from almost 100% of Amazon users, you can be confident it will help remove tough stains from your fabrics. When applied to the site, the spray clings, penetrates and lifts the stain. It works on everything from food and grass to dirt and blood, and it can even be applied up to a week before washing without worry. Additionally, this popular spray is suitable for use in all water temperatures.

how to hand wash clothes shout triple acting laundry stain remover

Buy: Shout Triple-Acting Laundry Stain Remover Spray $12.00


2. The Laundress Stain Brush


The Laundress Stain Brush offers a bit of extra help when it comes to removing stains from your clothing. It sports a petite wooden handle that is comfortable in hand and a head filled with soft, densely-packed bristles, which work to remove stains. This combination makes the brush capable of delivering just the right amount of agitation to deal with all kinds of stains, from wine and coffee to sunscreen and salad dressing. Furthermore, the brush comes with more than 5,000 five-star ratings, giving you added confidence in your purchase.

how to hand wash clothes the laundress stain brush

Buy: The Laundress Stain Brush $11.50


3. Woolite Delicates Hypoallergenic Liquid Detergent


This Woolite Delicates Hypoallergenic Liquid Laundry Detergent is a tried-and-tested answer to hand washing clothes. The hypoallergenic formula is safe for use when hand washing and in normal washing machines. It’s gentle on hands, skin and all kinds of clothing, as it contains no bleach, phosphates or enzymes. This means using this detergent doesn’t result in fading, shrinking or stretching. Plus, this product will keep your clothes looking like new, even after multiple washes.

how to hand wash clothes woolite delicates liquid

Buy: Woolite Delicates Hypoallergenic Liquid Detergent $14.99


4. FOREVER NEW Granular Detergent Powder


The FOREVER NEW Granular Detergent Powder is another impressively reviewed detergent option. It is backed by over 3,500 five-star ratings from Amazon users and is available in either an unscented or original scented option. The detergent has a hypoallergenic formula made from several organic and biodegradable ingredients. It’s also gentle on skin, has been dermatologically tested and won’t leave a residue on your clothing after use.

forever new granular detergent powder

Buy: FOREVER NEW Granular Detergent Powder $20.00


5. Qimh Colander Collapsible Colander Strainer


If you want an easy way to pass water through your clothes and drain them simultaneously, this Qimh Colander Collapsible Colander Strainer could help you out. The expandable arms make it easy to place the strainer over any kitchen sink or container. It’s made from durable rubber and plastic, which is environmentally friendly and BPA free. Furthermore, the strainer is dishwasher safe and can hold up to six quarts of laundry.

qimh colander collapsible strainer

Buy: Qimh Colander Collapsible Colander Strainer $14.99


6. SAMMART Collapsible Tub


If you want to hand wash your clothes in a remote place, such as in the backyard or at a campsite, this SAMMART Collapsible Tub is a handy addition to your laundry setup. With a 9.45-liter capacity, the tub gives you plenty of space to wash your clothes, while its collapsible design ensures it’s easy to store and transport when not in use. This lightweight washing tub is made from a combination of thermoplastic elastomers and polypropylene, both BPA-free. Furthermore, the design includes a built-in hole on the rim for easy hanging and a non-slip bottom to keep it in place during washing.

sammart gallon collapsible tub

Buy: SAMMART Collapsible Tub $14.96 (orig. $15.96) 6% OFF


7. Amazon Basics Folding Laundry Rack


If your clothes can’t be dried in a dryer, you will want a reliable drying rack. This Amazon Basics Folding Laundry Rack comes backed by more than 35,000 five-star ratings from Amazon users and sports a collapsible design, which makes it especially easy to transport and store. The rack sits 41.8 inches tall when erected and provides 11 individual bars to hang your garments. Plus, it’s made from a tough and durable alloy steel and comes in a choice of white or silver.

amazon basics folding laundry rack

Buy: Amazon Basics Folding Laundry Rack $36.89


How to Remove Every Type of Stain From Your Clothing and Save Your Favorite Shirt

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