How to Wash Clothes by Hand

Washing clothes by hand is a little extra work, but it's a well-worth it laundry chore. Here's how to properly wash clothes by hand, which will give extra life to those special items in your clothes closet.


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Most washing machines offer a delicate or hand-wash setting, but there are times when the best results will come from hand-washing certain types of clothing. Always check the care label for directions. If the label says "dry-clean only," avoid washing it at home. If the label says "dry-clean," you may want to try hand-washing. Before you wash the garment, check a small inconspicuous area first to make sure the fabric is colorfast.

Items such as delicate lingerie, wool sweaters, and silk blouses may retain their color and shape best when washed by hand. Silk garments should not be hand-washed if they are brightly colored, patterned, or darkly colored, as the dyes may bleed.

How to Wash Clothing by Hand

Step 1

Read the garment label for specific product recommendations. Then choose the appropriate detergent. If no care label exists, choose a mild detergent or dishwashing liquid.

Step 2

Fill a small tub or sink with water at the temperature recommended on the care label. If no care label exists, choose cool to lukewarm water.  Add about a teaspoon of detergent. You may need more detergent if you are hand-washing a large item or multiple items.

Step 3

Submerge the garment in the soapy water and soak. Use gentle movements to swish the item through the sudsy water. Avoid scrubbing or twisting actions that can stretch or damage the fabric. Gently swish the garment through the sudsy water until the item is clean.

Step 4

Drain the sink or tub, and refill it with cool rinse water. Push the garment up and down in the water until all soap is removed. If you're unsure, sniff the garment to make sure it is no longer scented. Repeat the process with clean water if necessary.

How to Dry Hand-Washed Clothing

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Step 1

Gently squeeze the excess water from the garment. Do not twist or wring the item as it may stretch the fibers and ruin the fabric.

Step 2

On a flat surface, lay out a clean, dry white bath towel that has been laundered several times to remove lint. Lay the just-washed garment on the towel, patting it into shape. Roll up the towel, encasing the garment in the towel. Gently press on the rolled-up towel to encourage water absorption. Repeat with another clean, dry towel if the first one becomes saturated.

Step 3

Follow the garment's label directions for reshaping and drying. If no care label exists, lay the washed garment on a clean, dry white towel spread over a flat surface that is moisture-resistant. Flip the garment over periodically, and replace the damp towel with a dry one as needed. Air-dry delicate lingerie on a drying rack. If the dry garment is wrinkled, check the care label for appropriate ironing temperature, and if necessary, press the garment gently to finish. If no care label exists, test in an inconspicuous area before pressing.


BONUS: Stain Removal: What Not to Do

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