How to Hand-Wash Clothes

Hand-washing items in your wardrobe can preserve quality, target stains and help your most cherished garments last longer.


Photo by: Getty Images; Phornphan Pradittiemphon / EyeEm

Getty Images; Phornphan Pradittiemphon / EyeEm

Your washing machine excels when it comes to “everyday” cleaning, but most people have items in their wardrobe that are best washed on a gentle cycle. Hand-washing is the most gentle of all the settings.

Hand-washing your clothes may seem like an unnecessary chore. You may even be guilty of taking your washable items to the dry cleaner to get laundered for convenience. You might even be reluctant to admit that you’ve run a delicate item through the wash, risking damage, also for convenience (I know I have). But if you’re hesitant about sending delicates through the wash cycle, it’s worth learning how to hand-wash your clothes.

You may want to go the hand-washing route if you need to:

  • Spot-treat stains.
  • Preserve lace, silk and wool fibers.
  • Preserve elastics, such as in bras, undergarments and bathing suits.
  • Protect embellishments.
spot treat fruit juice stains


Handwashing clothes offers a chance to spot-treat stubborn stains, like these from fruit juice.

Photo by: Getty Images; franck metois

Getty Images; franck metois

Handwashing clothes offers a chance to spot-treat stubborn stains, like these from fruit juice.

Ladies, "delicates" aside, consider your everyday bra. While you may consider it to be a hardworking, indestructible staple, its elastic components, underwires and other carefully sewn layers always last longer if washed by hand. At the very least, you must launder them in a mesh bag and remember to line-dry them to preserve their shape and elastics.

That bra, your favorite blouse, other delicates or even your favorite sweatshirt marred by a splash of red sauce can all benefit from hand-washing treatments.

Take control of how your garments are cared for and handled and follow these steps to learn how to better manage your laundry:

Simple Steps to Hand-Washing Clothes

  1. Pretreat stains with a spot-cleaning solution.

    A solid laundry soap bar is a great option for unexpected stains on a garment, as well as the stained collar on a T-shirt.

  2. Fill a sink or bowl with warm water.

  3. Pour in a small amount of liquid laundry soap.

    A delicate formula such as Woolite is best to support a gentle cleaning. Agitate the water and soap to mix.

  4. Submerge your garment(s) and use only your hands to gently wash.

    Then, leave garments in the soapy water to sit for up to 30 minutes.

  5. Drain the dirty water and replace it with clean warm water. Gently rinse your soaked garments.

    You might find it effective to swish the clothes in the water or press them against the sides of the sink or bowl. AVOID WRINGING THE MATERIAL, which can damage it (just like what happens in the washer). Replace the water as needed until the soap is removed.

  6. Dry items thoroughly by allowing the remaining moisture from the rinsed garment to soak into a flat towel.

    One effective way of removing the water is to roll the garment into the towel to squeeze out moisture. Ultimately, you’ll want to focus on drying it flat or hang-drying it on a hanger or clothesline, whichever works best for the garment and its desired shape.


Avoid wringing your clothes during handwashing. Instead, you can rinse clothes by pressing the garments against the sink or bowl you're using.

Photo by: Getty Images; Mara Dinunno / EyeEm

Getty Images; Mara Dinunno / EyeEm

Avoid wringing your clothes during handwashing. Instead, you can rinse clothes by pressing the garments against the sink or bowl you're using.

There are other considerations to keep in mind if you’re treating blood stains or cleaning chocolate stains on clothing. With a little know-how and TLC, you can make your favorite items last longer.

Benefits of Hang-Drying Laundry

But wait, there’s more! If you run garments that are delicate or embellished through a dryer after hand-washing, you might be putting the fibers and elastics at risk for damage just as much as you would by putting them through the washing machine.

Why to avoid using a dryer:

  • Heat can damage bathing suits, shapewear, spandex garments or elastic components. It’s always best to hand-wash these items and then dry them laying flat.

  • Agitation in the dryer is no different than in the washer. Delicates and embellished items that go through the dryer cycle after hand-washing are at risk of being damaged.

And why alternative methods work:

  • Hang-drying can reduce garment shrinking.

  • The sun has natural bleaching capabilities, making it great for sheets, towels and stained baby garments like cloth diapers. Hang-dry your white garments outside on a clothesline to reap the full benefits of a warm, sunny day.

  • Hand-washing a single item uses less water than running a full wash cycle and line-drying clothes also promotes energy efficiency.

Next time you’re debating how to gently clean garments from your wardrobe, try hand-washing and see how it makes a difference.

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