Ditch The Washing Machine: How To Hand Wash Clothes

Hand washing clothes

What’s the best way to take care of your clothes? Hand washing! And really, it’s not that difficult, we promise. Here’s an easy play-by-play guide for how to hand wash clothes.

Hand washing your clothes is one way you can make them last (almost) forever. As laundry piles up, it might seem daunting, but making a habit out of it—like brushing your teeth or cooking for yourself— shows the same reflection of care for our clothes. Plus, consumer care accounts for the largest usage of energy in the entire lifecycle of a garment. So by hand washing, can save a ton on your energy and water use by cutting out the washer and dryer.

I use my bathtub for larger loads, but your bathroom sink or a bucket is great for smaller loads. Here’s how to hand wash clothes at home:

1. Separate clothes, just like you would while doing laundry, into whites and colors. Even if you know they won’t bleed, we are out for special attention right? Because you have complete control, I usually go a step further to separate out what is really dirty (aka my fiance’s work clothes) and what might have only a simple stain or smell like body odor.

2. As you are separating color and dirt-level, spray stain remover like Bac-Out Stain Eliminator or Attitude Stain Remover. These are non-toxic and organic!

3. Next make sure your sink or tub is clean. Try one of these 9 great eco cleaners for your home. Fill the space with lukewarm or cool water. As the washing space is filling up, pour in the required amount of hand washing or gentle laundry soap. Ecos, Greener Living Laundry Liquid, and Green Shield are great options, or try making your own.

4. Add garments, one at a time, giving thorough attention to each. Dip and lift the item several times so it’s evenly covered with the soapy water. Gentle rub any stain areas between your hands until the stain is removed. Add more soap if necessary.  Repeat this with each item.

5. Once each piece has received specialized, loving hand-washing attention, you can swish around all the garments together one more time.

6. Next, drain the sink (or tub), allowing dirty water to drain out.

7. Turn on the cold water, fill up the basin part-way, and thoroughly rinse each garment until all the soap is gone (you may have to do a second rinsing to get all the soap out, and remember, soap carries the dirt with it, so getting it all out of fabric is important.

8. Next, carefully wring-dry and set aside. If you are dealing with a very delicate piece, or a knit item, you should like it flat on a clean towel, then roll the towel around the item, then press down gently; water will be squeezed into the towel, but garment’s shape will be held.

9. Success! You’ve hand washed your clothes. Hang them up to dry outside on a clothes line, on a foldable drying rack, or get creative around your house (hang off backs of chairs or on a hangar in an airy spot). For very delicate items, lay to dry on a clean towel, and flip every few hours.


 Photo Credit: Luminitsa

Want more great laundry tips? See also:

Dry Clean Only? An Eco Expert Tells Us Why It’s Safe To Ignore Labels

5 Top Eco-Friendly Cleaning Recipes

 Top 10 Chemical-Free Cleaning Tips


Juliette Donatelli

Working in the field of sustainability for over seven years, Juliette is passionate about its intersection within the fashion industry. Juliette began studying ecological conservation, and led consumer awareness campaigns around the world from water usage in southern California, riparian restoration in South Africa, food distribution in Paris and bison habitat in the Great Plains. She has launched her passion--consumerism and sustainability--into a place where it hits home--fashion. Juliette is the founder and editor-in-chief of spadesandsilk.com, Director of Sustainability at Manufacture NY, and loves to read, dance, swim and enjoy the occasional glass of champagne.