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How to Hand Wash Clothes

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


  • Step 1: Wash the sink Wash the sink so your clothes won't pick up new stains in your basin.
  • 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.
  • TIP: Sweaters should always be washed in cold water to prevent shrinking.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Step 6: Rinse thoroughly Rinse thoroughly. Don't leave any soap behind, which can weaken the garment's fibers.
  • 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.
  • TIP: If you have access to an outdoor clothesline, hang your garments outside to air dry.
  • 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.
  • FACT: A British inventor created a washing machine that uses just one cup of water per load.

You Will Need

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

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