How to Hand Wash Clothes in 5 Steps

Washing clothes by hand can seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple once you know the basic steps. Handwashing clothes allows you to gently clean delicate fabrics, save money on laundry costs, and reduce your environmental impact. With just 5 easy steps, you can learn how to hand wash clothes effectively.

Gather Your Supplies

Before getting started, you’ll need to collect the proper handwashing equipment:

  • Basin or sink – You’ll need a basin, sink, or tub large enough to hold the clothing items. The container should be clean.
  • Mild detergent – Look for a gentle, eco-friendly liquid laundry detergent made for handwashing. Avoid regular machine washing detergents as they can be too harsh.
  • Washboard (optional) – A washboard can help scrub dirt and stains out. However, it is not a necessity for handwashing.
  • Clothesline and clothespins – After washing, you’ll need a way to hang and air dry the clothes. An indoor or outdoor clothesline works well.
  • Soft bristle brush (optional) – For stubborn stains, a soft bristle brush can assist in gently scrubbing them out.
  • Timer – You’ll want to time certain steps when handwashing. Any timer or stopwatch will work.
  • Stain treatment stick (optional) – To pretreat any stained areas, a laundry stain treatment stick can be helpful. Look for plant-based ones.
  • Protective gloves (optional) – Rubber gloves can protect your hands and nails from the washing process.

Once you gather all your handwashing supplies in one spot, you’ll be ready to tackle the laundry!

Sort the Clothes

Go through the clothing items you intend to hand wash and do some prep work:

  • Check care labels – Confirm which items should be hand washed only. Examine fabric content too. Delicates like silk, wool, and specialty fabrics normally require handwashing.
  • Separate colors – Sort clothes into darks, lights, and medium colors to prevent dye transfer in the wash water. Reds and blues especially have tendencies to bleed.
  • Treat stains – Inspect for any stains and use a stain stick to pretreat them according to package directions. This will make stains easier to remove in the wash.
  • Turn clothes inside out – Flip any clothes with designs, embellishments, or screen prints inside out. This prevents the decorations from getting damaged.
  • Close zippers and hooks – Doing up zippers, buttons, and hooks prevents snagging during washing. Check pockets too.

Take your time during the sorting process to set yourself up for handwashing success!

Fill the Basin

Once your laundry is prepped, it’s time to fill up the basin, sink, or tub you’re using:

  • Plug drain and fill with warm water – Stopper the drain then turn on the hot and cold faucets until the water reaches a lukewarm temperature. You want it to feel warm, not hot, on your skin.
  • Add a small amount of detergent – Squirt a small amount of handwashing detergent into the wash water, around 1/8 of the bottle cap. Swish the water around to dissolve and disperse it.
  • Don’t overfill basin – Leave some empty space at the top since the clothes will displace water when added. Filling up too high can cause messy overflow.

The ideal temperature for handwashing is 100-110°F. If you don’t have a thermometer to check, aim for pleasantly warm. Avoid using straight hot water as it can fade dyes.

Wash the Clothes

Now it’s time for the handwashing! Follow these steps:

  • Submerge one item at a time – Place each clothing item individually into the wash water. Let it fully saturate and sink below the surface.
  • Allow to soak for 2-3 minutes – After fully wetting, let the garment soak for a few minutes so the detergent can start working on stains.
  • Gently scrub – Rub and lightly scrub areas of the garment with stains or heavy soil. Use a washboard or brush for deeper scrubbing.
  • Drain and rinse – Once done washing, drain the dirty water and refill the basin with clean cool/lukewarm rinse water.
  • Rinse thoroughly – Lift and lower each item in the rinse water to flush out all soap. Rinse until water runs clear.

Repeat the washing process for each clothing item, draining and refilling wash and rinse water as needed. Change the water frequently to keep it clean.

Wring Out Excess Water

After washing and rinsing, remove excess water from the clothes:

  • Drain all rinse water – Eliminate all the water in the basin so there’s no moisture left.
  • Gently wring – Twist each piece of clothing to wring out excess moisture. Take care when wringing delicates.
  • Roll in a towel – For super delicate pieces, wrap in a towel and gently press to absorb moisture instead of wringing.
  • Shake vigorously – Give a firm shaking motion to release any clinging droplets. Or you can snap garments.

Removing excess moisture prevents clothes from dripping wet on the clothesline. It also cuts down on drying time.

Hang to Dry

The final step is hang drying your hand washed clothes:

  • Clip on clothesline – Use clothespins to securely attach items to an outdoor or indoor clothesline. Hang clothes evenly spaced.
  • Lay flat to dry – If no clothesline is available, lay garments flat on a drying rack or layer of towels. Smooth out wrinkles.
  • Dry delicate items flat – Place delicates like lingerie or sweaters flat rather than hanging them. This prevents stretch.
  • Allow to air dry fully – Leave clothes until completely dry, flipping partway through drying. Avoid direct sunlight to prevent fading.
  • Check for stiffness – If clothes feel stiff and rough when dry, place in the dryer on air fluff mode for 5-10 minutes to soften.

That completes the full handwashing process from start to finish! With the right techniques, you can keep clothes looking bright, clean, and cared for.

FAQs About Handwashing Clothes

Still have some lingering questions about tackling laundry by hand? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How long does handwashing clothes take?

It takes about 30-45 minutes of active washing time to thoroughly handwash a load of laundry. However, there’s additional inactive time needed for soaking, rinsing, and air drying. So the full process can take a few hours from start to finished drying.

What temperature should water be for handwashing?

Aim for lukewarm water between 100-110°F for washing clothes by hand. Water that is too hot can cause fading, shrinkage, and dye bleed. But it needs to be warm to help dissolve and activate laundry detergent.

How much detergent do you use to handwash clothes?

Only a small amount of detergent is needed since handwashing utilizes less water. Use about 1/8 of the cap of a bottle of liquid laundry detergent per basin of wash water. Adjust up or down based on suds level and soil.

Can you handwash clothes with dish soap?

It’s best to avoid dish soap when handwashing laundry. Dish detergents contain degreasing agents too harsh for most fabrics. Specialty handwash detergents have gentler cleansing ingredients designed for clothes.

What fabrics should not be handwashed?

Heavy outerwear fabrics like denim jeans, canvas, and corduroy don’t always respond well to handwashing. The vigorous motion needed often results in shrinkage. Unless the care tag specifies handwash, these items do better in the machine.

How do you dry handwashed clothes without a clothesline?

If no outdoor clothesline is available, use an indoor drying rack instead. Lay clothes flat, smoothing out any wrinkles. Place a fan nearby to help accelerate drying time. Rotate clothes periodically.

Tips for Easy Handwashing

Handwashing pro? Here are some additional pointers to master laundry and make the chore swift and easy:

  • Pre-treat any stains and problem areas first before washing to loosen and lift them.
  • Soak heavily soiled clothes beforehand or use a stain removal paste. This loosens dirt.
  • Wash similar colors together to prevent dye transfer issues in the water.
  • Change the wash and rinse water frequently to keep it clean during the process.
  • Don’t wring delicates like sweaters. Wrap in a towel and press to absorb moisture instead.
  • Add a splash of white vinegar to the rinse water. It acts as a fabric softener and neutralizes detergent.
  • Hang clothes to dry inside out. This minimizes fading from the sun.
  • Check clothes halfway through drying and flip or rotate for even air drying.
  • Use mesh bags for tiny items like socks and delicates to make handwashing easier.
  • Softened clothes by tossing in the dryer for 5-10 minutes on air fluff after hang drying.

Handwashing extends the life of your clothes while saving electricity and water. With these simple steps for how to hand wash clothes properly, you can keep your delicate fabrics looking their best.

Why Handwash Clothes? The Benefits

Beyond keeping clothes clean, handwashing offers a variety of helpful benefits:

Cleaner Clothes

The gentle scrubbing action of handwashing penetrates fibers better to lift away body oil, dirt, and grime that machines can miss. It fully deep cleans every inch of fabric.

Stain Removal

Handwashing allows you to spot treat stains and scrub them out by hand with precision. It does a superior job lifting stubborn marks and spills compared to the wash machine.

Fabric Protection

Since handwashing is gentler than machines, it better preserves fabrics and prevents excess wear. It helps clothes maintain their shape, size, and color brightness.

Delicate Garment Care

Many delicate fabrics like silk, wool, lingerie, and specialty fabrics require handwashing to avoid damage from the agitation of machines. It keeps them looking like new.

Allergen Removal

The extra rinsing of handwashing ensures all traces of detergent residue gets flushed out. This helps remove allergens from fabric for sensitive skin.

Water Savings

Handwashing utilizes significantly less water compared to high-volume machine washing. It provides an eco-friendly way to lower your water usage and bills.

Energy Savings

By eliminating the need for electric washers and dryers, handwashing lowers electricity usage and can reduce power costs each month.


With no equipment needed besides a basin and clothesline, handwashing is extremely economical. It provides free laundry capabilities for those without machines.


Washing clothes by hand offers a flexible, portable option when traveling or in remote locations without power. The simple supplies can go anywhere!

Peace of Mind

For delicate, expensive, or cherished clothing, handwashing offers a stress-free washing method. You can ensure care while avoiding machine damage.

Hassle-free, budget-friendly, and better for your clothes – handwashing has clear advantages over machine washing! Give this traditional laundry technique a try.


Hopefully this guide has taken the mystery out of how to hand wash clothes properly. By following the 5 key steps, you can now easily wash laundry by hand and care for delicate fabrics.

Remember to use lukewarm water, a small amount of mild detergent, gently scrub, thoroughly rinse, wring excess moisture, and air dry flat. Taking it slow and steady is the key for success.

Handwashing may take a bit more time and effort than throwing clothes in the machine, but the benefits are undeniable. Your clothes will thank you! Learn to appreciate the simplicity of this traditional laundry method.

For more handy laundry tips and household advice, check out our other articles. And happy hand washing!