How To Hand-Wash Clothes Step-by-Step

Many have long said the days of washing their clothes by hand. That’s thanks to washers and dryers having a delicate setting on the machines. Having said that, you may notice from time to time that the particular setting doesn’t quite wash the clothes well enough or, worse, tear them apart. Sometimes a job can only be done by hand if you want them to be well-cleaned and still preserved. 

That’s why we have put together the ultimate guide to washing your clothes by hand. Simply throwing them in water is not enough, and some detergents are better avoided! Let’s start learning how to wash clothes by hand! 

    How To Hand-Wash Clothes Step-by-Step

    How To Hand Wash Clothes In Sink

    If you are wondering how to hand wash clothes in the tub it’s pretty much the same process but reserve using your tub for large loads of laundry that you need to do at once. Washing in smaller batches is preferred because you can refresh the water more frequently where, as a tub may not get as much dirt and filth out. After all, they all sit together in the same water. 

    Step 1: Start By Separating Your Clothes Into Categories

    When washing your clothes by hand, it is best to separate them into categories; colors and whites. Washing them in separate batches is important because each category may have slightly different instructions.


    • Sweaters
    • Intimates
    • Pants
    • Shirts
    • Blouses
    • Socks
    • Leggings
    How To Hand-Wash Clothes Step-by-Step

    Step 2: What To Use to Hand Wash Clothes

    There are a few methods that you can use to hand wash your clothes. Let’s go over all your options. 

    1. You can use a normal liquid or powder detergent that you would use in your washing machine. Instead of putting it in the washer, you will simply add it straight to your sink water with your clothes and hand mix. 
    2. If you want to avoid laundry detergents that may have synthetic fragrances and toxins, then you can make your own laundry detergent. This is best for pets and kids. 
    3. If you aren’t keen on either of those options, you can choose a more eco-friendly laundry detergent that is not full of harmful ingredients. Since you are not likely to find this at the store, you may have to order directly with the company or on sites like Amazon. 

    How to Hand Wash Clothes Without Detergent

    Here is a simple recipe for a homemade laundry detergent that works great. 

    What You Need

    • Borax
    • Castile Soap
    • Washing Soda
    • A Grater

    How to Make It

    1. Grate a bar of Castille soap or an organic fragrance-free laundry bar soap so that it can be easily mixed into a powder.
    2. Combine this with one packet of Borax and one packet of washing soda.
    3. For scent, you can add a few drops of rosehip oil or lavender. 
    4. Combine them all together. You only need ½ cup per load! 

    This is just one way to make homemade laundry detergent! There are a few variations you can try! 

    How To Hand-Wash Clothes Step-by-Step

    Step 3: What Is The Proper Way To Hand-Wash Clothes?

    Now it’s time for the actual cleaning of your clothes. Here we will address different types of clothes, so you know exactly what to do. Tip: Hand washing your stuffed animals is not a bad idea either. 

    Let’s start in the sink. Always fill your sink up with slightly less than room temperature water. Warm water can blend stains. Every piece of clothing should have a label with the recommended temperature, and generally speaking, groups of clothing have about the same instructions. When it is down, err on the side of colder than warmer. 

    Clothing Type
    Soak Time
    Water Temp
    30 min.
    Bras and Lingerie
    20 min
    20-30 min
    10 min
    30 min

    How to Hand Wash Underwear

    Underwear can be delicate, yet they need a really good cleaning. Here are the best practices for washing your underwear. 

    1. In this case, you will want to fill your sink with warm water. This will help kill bacteria. Killing bacteria is important so you don’t end up with a UTI. 
    2. Use a generous amount of detergent, no matter which types you have. Ensuring that the underwear absorbs it is key. Mix around the detergent with your hand in the water, making sure it all comes into contact with the underwear. 
    3. Allow your underwear to soak for 30 minutes. If you want to add some hotter water, this can be a good time to do so. 
    4. After 30 minutes, drain the sink and rinse off any remaining suds with lukewarm or colder water now that the bacteria is gone. Be sure to gently rub the underwear fabric against each other to rinse any remaining dirt. 
    5. Ring out the water with your hands and place aside on a dry towel spread evenly. 

    For difficult-to-get-up stains, such as from periods, apply detergent directly onto these areas and leave it to soak. 

    How to Hand Wash Bras and Lingerie

    Bras and lingerie are among the most delicate. Scrubbing can cause tears and depreciation in the materials. The process is a bit different than underwear because underwear can handle a little more aggressive techniques. 

    1. Fill your sink up with cold water. Hot water can melt the materials and a lot of lingerie has metal or plastic wiring in bras that can be affected by hot water. This can ruin the shape of lingerie. 
    2. Using the right detergent that won’t add stains is important to mix in here. Opt for a color-free detergent if possible. Never use bleach. 
    3. Gently hand wash, move the water around, and allow for the lingerie to soak for 20 minutes. 
    4. Do not reem out the same as what you would for underwear. This can also stretch and ruin the shape. Gentle pat dry lingerie with towels to absorb the water before letting it air dry. 
    How To Hand-Wash Clothes Step-by-Step

    How to Hand Wash Tights

    Our leggings are our end all be all. We wear them for working out, and we wear them for our day-to-day activities. Nothing is worse than when the material gets ruined in the wash. We want them to keep their elasticity, so this is what you can do to hand wash them. The same goes for mesh tights. 

    1. Fill your sink up with cold water and a good amount of laundry detergent. A generous amount is encouraged because this type of clothing gets a lot of use. 
    2. You never want to scrub your tights or leggings. It’s important to use gentle hand swishing with the detergent and the water to get dirt and debris out. 
    3. Drain the water and repeat steps 1 and 2 for an extra clean feel. 
    4. Do not ream or try to squeeze the water out when you are done. Simply let clean water rinse away the suds and then set them on an absorbent towel. After a few hours of drying out, set them on a clothing line to speed up the process. 

    How to Hand Wash a Sweater

    Sweaters that are made from cashmere or gentler fabrics need some tender love and care that a washing machine simply can’t give them. Here is what to do. 

    1. Fill your sink with cool water. Add a small amount of detergent. It’s important in this case not to overload the water with detergent because our sweaters likely aren’t getting too dirty, and you don’t want them to absorb too much of the detergent. 
    2. Allow the sweater to soak in the cool water for just 10 to 15 minutes. This is ample time. 
    3. Using cool water, rinse the sweater as you drain the water out. It’s important not to let your sweater get caught near the drain, as this could cause snags. 
    4. You can gently squeeze out some of the water and let it air dry for the best results. 

    How to Hand Wash Delicate Shirts

    Blouses and work shirts belong in the hand wash section despite a lot of people throwing them into the wash. This is because they lose their color shape when tossed around too much. 

    1. Using room-temperature water is fine. This will help kill bacteria because it is likely during the hotter work months that clothes get a bit more sweaty. 
    2. Use a generous amount of detergent to help clean the shirts thoroughly. 
    3. These materials can withstand a bit more scrubbing than your underwear because they are stronger materials. 
    4. Let the sink drain, rinse, and squeeze out the excess water before hanging it up to dry. When you don’t squeeze out the water, in this case, you can cause wrinkles. 

    Delicate shirts can be a lot like washing jackets. The materials matter. Washing a leather jacket by hand and washing a suede jacket by hand requires different processes. 

    How To Hand-Wash Clothes Step-by-Step

      Frequently Asked Questions

      The process of hand washing your clothes yourself is not complicated but some questions are worth looking at. These questions and answers can help you avoid making costly mistakes. Here is what you need to know. 

      Does hand washing clothes get them clean?

      Absolutely! A lot of times, hand washing is better than using the washing machine itself if you do it properly. Some washing machines end up not cleaning the clothes that much at all. When you do it by hand, you are making sure the job gets done, and you don’t run the risk of ruining them. 

      Of course, if you just soak your clothes in water with no cleaning solution and don’t take the time to mix them, then you have a different problem on your hands. 

      Do you hand wash clothes in hot or cold water?

      More times than not is better to use cold water than hot water because the materials can allow for it to shrink. However, in situations where there are a lot of bacteria that need to be killed, hot water is the way to go. 

      These are your things like underwear and everyday shirts that can handle the temperatures. Your manufacturer’s label, however, should specify the temperature needed to wash the clothes. 

      How long should you hand wash clothes?

      Most clothes will take 30-45 minutes to wash by hand. Most of this is done through soaking. Having said that, the difference is that you can not wash everything together like you would in a washing machine. So a particular group of clothing may take 30-45 minutes, but then you have to wait and do the next group. This can add up over time, which is why you need to set aside time for it when you are handwashing your clothes. 

      How to dry hand-washed clothing

      The best way to hand dry your clothes is to gently blot them at first when they come out of the sink. They grab a clothing line and hang them up. If there is sunshine and a light breeze, even better. This will get the job done quickly. Plus it’s better for the environment.