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How To Wash Clothes By Hand

Hand washing is simple with this guide. Whether you're washing wool, delicates, or just your usual load, these tips will help you get the best results.

Hand washing doesn’t have to be stressful – a few tricks make the process simple and quick. Whether you’re washing wool, delicates, or just taking care of your usual load, this step-by-step guide on how to hand wash clothes is here to help you get the best results with no fuss – and our five essential hand washing tips explain what not to do, so that you can avoid some of the more common laundry mishaps.

Before you Start Hand Washing Clothes

If you have a washing machine, the first thing you need to check is whether you really need to be hand washing clothes at all. Most items of clothing these days can be put in the washing machine, perhaps using the “Hand Wash” cycle, but some do still come with the little hand wash or dry cleaning only labels.

Delicate items of clothing or certain materials such as wool or silk need a bit of extra care when it comes to washing. Always check the labels on your items before putting them in the washing machine – this will ensure none of your favourite clothes are ruined.

Many of us are so accustomed to washing machines these days that the thought of hand washing clothes can seem like a chore. (Find more info in our article on how to use a washing machine). But, even if you don’t have a machine and are washing a full load, it’s simple and easy to do if you follow this guide on how to wash clothes by hand.

How to Hand Wash Clothes

  1. Sort your clothes by colour, separating the darks and lights to be washed in two batches.
  2. Fill a bucket or washing basin with warm water. If you don’t have either, you can use a plugged sink or bathtub.
  3. Rub neat liquid detergent or stain remover into any tough stains – Surf excel Liquid Detergent is ideal for this, as it’s designed to also work as a pre-treatment. Dip a finger into a capful, dab it on, and drop the rest of the cap in the bucket according to the dosing instructions on the label.
  4. Whatever brand you choose, you’ll need to use the right detergent for your fabric to hand wash clothes properly, as some delicate garments will need a gentle product.
  5. Soak each item of clothing in the water for several minutes to ensure they fully absorb the detergent.
  6. Start washing each item. Knead and twist the clothes so they get a thorough wash.
  7. Rinse with warm, clean water. Run each item under the tap and wring out until all the detergent is gone.
  8. Leave the clothes to air.

Key Steps:


  • Be sure to use the correct temperature of water for the fabric. Some materials may need to be washed with cold water.
  • Use the ‘knead and twist’ method to give your clothes a thorough wash. You should take extra care with delicate items and gently swirl the garments in your bucket or basin instead.
  • After hand washing woollen items, they should be re shaped whilst wet and left to dry flat.

5 Essential Hand Washing Clothes Tips: what to avoid

  • Be sure to check the wash care label to see what temperature of water the item needs – some delicates need to be washed in cold water to prevent shrinkage.
  • Avoid permanent staining by acting quickly. Take action and use the how to wash clothes by hand guide to wash clothes as soon as possible to ensure your efforts are successful.
  • Prevent skin irritation and wear rubber gloves when hand washing. This will protect sensitive or damaged skin from wash solutions.
  • Avoid damaging your delicates with a harsh detergent – this can cause them to fade, become discoloured or even shrink. Garments and fabrics like silk, wool, or lace need to be washed with an appropriate detergent. When shopping, follow this essential hand washing tip and pick up a mild, gentle wash detergent specifically for hand washing clothes.
  • Avoid hanging your clothes up to dry. Our how to hand wash clothes steps state you need to let the clothes air; you can do this by laying them out on a clothes rack. This will ensure they do not stretch and will cause less wrinkling during the drying process – that means less ironing!

Top Tip

Hand washing clothes is much, much easier with a good quality detergent, reducing the time you spend scrubbing and making sure any stains are removed quickly. Something like Surf excel Liquid Detergent, or Surf excel Easy Wash, which is a superfine powder designed to dissolve swiftly and clean with the power of 10 hands, is ideal. Check any product’s label, and test on a small, unnoticeable area, to ensure it’s right for your fabric before using.