Washing Machine Stop Working? Here’s How to Wash Clothes in a Bathtub

Having a broken washing machine can be incredibly frustrating. Not being able to simply throw in a load of laundry and press start leaves you wondering – how am I going to get these clothes clean? Fortunately, even without a functioning washing machine, you can still wash your clothes. It just takes a bit more time and effort. Here’s how to wash clothes in a bathtub when your washing machine stops working.

Gather Your Supplies

Before starting to wash clothes in the bathtub, you’ll need to gather a few necessary supplies:

  • Laundry detergent – Liquid detergent works best for handwashing clothes.
  • A washboard or scrub brush – This helps agitate the clothing to get it clean.
  • A clothesline and clothespins – For drying the clean clothes once you’re done washing.
  • A large basin or bucket – For soaking heavily soiled items before washing.
  • Rubber gloves – To protect your hands.
  • Vinegar – For softening and deodorizing.
  • Baking soda – Helps boost cleaning power.

Sort and Soak the Clothes

Go through the pile of dirty clothes and separate lights from darks so the colors don’t bleed. Also separate delicate items that need gentler washing.

Fill the tub with warm water. For heavily soiled clothes, let them soak first in a bucket of water with a 1⁄2 cup of vinegar added. This helps loosen dirt and odors.

Wash Each Item Individually

Working with one piece at a time, submerge the garment in the soapy tub water and swish it around. Scrub spots and stains using a washboard or scrub brush. The manual scrubbing action will mimic that of a washing machine.

When washing delicates, be extra gentle. Let the soapy water do most of the work loosening dirt rather than vigorously scrubbing.

Rinse Thoroughly

Once a piece of clothing is washed, rinse it thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap residue. You may need to fill and drain the tub a few times until the rinse water runs clear.

Repeat Wash Cycles as Needed

For heavily soiled loads, you may need to wash each piece twice – washing, rinsing, and washing again – to get clothes really clean. Make sure to thoroughly wring out each item before washing again.

Add Vinegar to the Final Rinse

For soft, static-free clothes, add 1⁄2 cup vinegar to the final rinse water. The vinegar naturally softens fibers and neutralizes odors.

Wring Out Excess Water

Before hanging clothes to dry, be sure to wring them out thoroughly to remove as much water as possible. This will allow them to dry faster.

Hang Dry the Clothes

Hang washed items on a clothesline or drying rack. Allow plenty of air circulation so they’ll dry completely. For extra softness, clip socks and underwear on the line inside out.

Tackle Stains and Disinfect When Needed

For stained or smelly clothes, add borax, lemon juice, or baking soda to the wash water as natural bleaches and deodorizers. For disinfecting, add 1⁄2 cup bleach to the wash cycle.

Be Gentle with Delicates

When hand washing delicates, use cooler water and a gentler detergent. Don’t wring out silk, spandex or lace – roll in a towel to absorb moisture instead. Then lay flat to dry.

Use a Gadget like Scrubba Wash Bag

Products like the Scrubba Wash Bag speed up handwashing in a tub. Just add water, detergent and clothes, then scrub the bag for 3 minutes. The internal washboard does the hard work for you!

Washing clothes in the bathtub takes more physical effort than just using a machine. But with the right supplies and techniques, you can get clothes clean until you’re able to repair or replace your broken washing machine. With a little elbow grease, you’ll avoid piling up dirty clothes around the house.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washing Clothes in a Bathtub

How do you hand wash clothes without a bathtub?

If you don’t have a bathtub, you can hand wash clothes in a large bucket or basin. Fill with warm water and detergent, then immerse clothes to wash them. Use a washboard or plunger to agitate the clothing as needed.

What can I use if I don’t have laundry detergent?

You can make your own laundry soap by grating a bar of soap into warm water. Or use a very small amount of dish soap – about 1-2 tsp per gallon of water. Baking soda and borax also work well for hand washing.

How do you clean a bathtub after hand washing clothes?

After washing clothes in the bathtub, rinse away any visible suds with clean water. Then spray tub surfaces with a non-abrasive cleaner and wipe down. Fill tub with warm water and 1 cup bleach to disinfect. Let soak for 15 minutes before rinsing.

Should you wash clothes in hot or cold water by hand?

Warm water is ideal for hand washing most clothes. Hot water can fade colors, while cold water prevents dirt and oils from lifting out. For heavy stains or grease, use very hot water. For delicates, use cooler water.

Can you put clothes directly in the washer after hand washing?

It’s best to thoroughly wring out any items washed by hand before transferring them to the washing machine. This prevents excess water from being added to the washer tub.

How do you get ring around the collar out when hand washing?

Pre-treat shirt collars by rubbing with a paste of baking soda and water before washing. Or try soaking the garment in vinegar water first. When hand washing, scrub collars and cuffs with an old toothbrush to help remove buildup.

What do you do if clothes smell after hand washing?

If clothes have an odor after hand washing, try adding 1⁄2 cup of baking soda or white vinegar to the rinse cycle. These natural deodorizers help remove smells. Air drying clothes in sunlight also helps sanitize and freshen them.


When you find yourself facing a non-functional washing machine, don’t despair. With a little time and elbow grease, you can absolutely wash clothes by hand in the bathtub. Fill with warm sudsy water, let heavily soiled items soak first, then scrub each piece clean. Rinse thoroughly, wring out all excess moisture, and hang items to dry. Follow these steps and you’ll get through this laundry crisis. Stay positive – you’ve got this!