How to Hand Wash Clothes

Heed these cleaning tips and keep your clothes in tip-top shape.


Up next in Stains & Laundry (80 videos)

No matter what you spilled on your clothes or furnishings, we can tell you how to get it out.


You Will Need

  • A clean sink
  • The right water temperature
  • A mild detergent
  • Clean towels
  • Hangers
  • An outdoor clothesline


  1. Step 1

    Wash the sink

    Wash the sink so your clothes won't pick up new stains in your basin.

  2. Step 2

    Use the right temperature

    Follow the label's water temperature instructions. Dipping a blouse whose label says "wash in cold water" into sink full of scalding suds will weaken the garment's fibers, and giving a warm-water garment an ice bath will leave it feeling like cardboard. If in doubt, use lukewarm water.

  3. Sweaters should always be washed in cold water to prevent shrinking.

  4. Step 3

    Separate by color

    Wash whites and colors separately. If you are washing a colored garment for the first time, wash it alone to see if the dye bleeds.

  5. Step 4

    Use a mild detergent

    Use a teaspoon of detergent made especially for delicates. A mild shampoo or dishwashing detergent would work, too. Just don't use your regular laundry detergent, which requires more agitation to break it down than your arms can provide.

  6. Step 5

    Swish clothes in the suds

    Gently swish the clothes in the sudsy water for a minute or two. If the garment has a stain, add a smidgen of detergent to the spot and gently rub it in with your fingers.

  7. Step 6

    Rinse thoroughly

    Rinse thoroughly. Don't leave any soap behind, which can weaken the garment's fibers.

  8. Step 7

    Remove excess water

    Remove excess water by rolling the item in a towel. Never wring or twist clothing, which can distort it. Hang silks and polyesters to dry; reshape knits and lay them flat on a fresh towel.

  9. If you have access to an outdoor clothesline, hang your garments outside to air dry.

  10. Step 8

    Consider the gentle cycle

    In a time crunch? "Hand wash" your clothes in a washing machine by putting them through the delicate cycle, which is shorter and slower than a normal wash. Remove the items after a minute or two in the spin cycle.

  11. A British inventor created a washing machine that uses just one cup of water per load.