Washing your clothes by hand sounds like a tedious task — something that should've been eradicated from our daily lives when the washing machine was invented. If you don't have a washer and dryer, there's probably a laundromat across town or around the corner from where you are right now.
But hand-washing can be an easier, cheaper way to wash one or two items for folks living alone. Plus, hand-washing is probably the only way, except for dry cleaning, which costs even more money than going to a laundromat, to clean delicate items made from cashmere or wool. It's also a smart option for vintage items, too, because 20-year-old T-shirts aren't nearly as durable as ones fresh off the rack.
So don't write off hand-washing as archaic or too daunting. It's actually really easy. Here's how to do it, the right way.
What You'll Need
- Your dirty clothes
- A bucket, tub or a clean sink with a stopper
- Gentle or hypoallergenic detergent
- Stain remover
- Two towels
How to Hand-Wash Regular Clothes
Step #1: Read the care tag.
Find the care tag on the clothes you're planning to wash. This tag is typically found where the size and brand label are, but it could also be at the hem of a T-shirt or near the interior pocket on a pair of pants. This tag will tell you what temperature water the garment can withstand and whether or not a special detergent should be used. (Hot water is known to shrink things.)It will always dictate how hot or cold the water should be, but if it doesn't explicitly mention detergent, best to stick to a gentle one.
Step #2: Pre-treat serious stains.
If your garment is seriously stained or soaked in red wine, ketchup or oil, try pre-treating these stains before washing the item by hand. You should, however, avoid using stain removers on cashmere, silk or wool items, because alkaline cleaners are typically formulated for cotton or synthetic materials specifically, meaning they could damage more delicate fibers.
If your item is made from cotton or polyester, spray the stain remover on and rub the material together, loosening the stuck-on stain. You can let it sit if you want, but you can also jump right into the next step if the stain isn't too bad.
Step #3: Fill your bucket/tub/sink.
Fill your vessel with warm or cold water depending on what the tag says.
Step #4: Dose out your detergent.
You don't need to use as much as you would for a full load of laundry. As such, stick to a tablespoon or less. You can pour the detergent right into water as your bucket/tub/sink fills. Clearly a pod won't work here, and you shouldn't hand soap either.
Step #5: Get to work.
Swish the garments — you can wash as few as one and as many as your vessel will hold — up, down and around, creating suds as you go. Pretend your hands are the washing machine. There's no official way of doing this, so get creative. Squeeze the clothes; splash a little; dunk them; knead them; then let them soak for at least five minutes. 15-30 minutes is best.
Step #6: Rinse and repeat.
Think about the steps of your wash cycle. What comes last? (Hint: It's rinse.) Drain the vessel, and refill it with cool water. Swish them around again to remove excess soap. Rinse and repeat as many times as needed until the clothes are no longer sudsy and the water runs clear. Leftover detergent can damage clothing, especially as it dries.
Step #7: Gently ring out bulkier items and then let it all air dry.
Supple T-shirts or soft socks shouldn't be squeezed or twisted too hard. Jeans, hoodies and other tougher items can be though. Ring everything out with appropriate pressure. Then, let each item sit on a spread out towel. Once laid flat, it's okay to press down on the flat clothes with another towel to absorb excess moisture. Let everything sit until dry — which could be a few hours or overnight depending on the temperature of the room.
How to Hand-Wash a Sweater (or Other Delicates)
Sweaters can be washed using the same exact instructions as regular clothes. It is, however, vital that you check the care tag before doing so. Sweaters are delicate. They can be ruined more quickly than a cotton T-shirt. No one wants that, right?
The only difference in how you hand-wash a sweater versus plain pants is that you must flip the sweater inside out before submerging it in the water, and you must a wool- or cashmere-safe detergent.