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How to Hand Wash Clothes

Whether you're struggling to remove or a stain, or feel unsure how to wash delicate fabric – read our essential guide to hand washing to find out more.


Reading Time: 2 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

A  basket with clothes inside

Care labels on clothes aren’t just there to add an extra chore to your day. By separating hand wash clothing items, such as delicates like silks and woollen fabrics, you’ll ensure your favourite pieces stay in good condition, and look and feel better for longer. Don’t forget to always check the instructions on the label – some delicates may require you to use cold water rather than warm when hand washing your clothes, while ‘dry clean only’ items should always be left to the professionals.

A Guide to Hand Washing Clothes in the Sink:

  • First, divide by color. As with machine-washing, when you hand wash clothes in the sink, you should always separate dark garments from light to prevent the colors from running.

  • Add a detergent that’s suitable for hand washing clothes, such as Surf Blossom Fresh bar. Always check the dosing information and make sure that the detergent has fully dissolved before you add the garments.

  • The best way to hand wash clothes is to let them soak for a few moments first. Without over-crowding the sink, gently knead the garments, paying particular attention to any soiled or stained areas.

  • Once the garments look clean, gently wring them out and rinse them thoroughly in cold water until it runs completely clear.

  • Squeeze out as much water as you can, then hang out to dry as usual. Some hand wash clothing, such as woollens, may need to be reshaped and dried on a flat surface – refer to the garment’s care instructions for information.

  • To save time after rinsing, you can also remove some of the excess water by place hand washing into the washing machine on the lowest setting of the ‘spin only’ cycle. Run the spin for one or two minutes maximum, rather than the full cycle, and do not use this method on clothes that can be easily snagged.

If you are regularly hand washing clothes or have sensitive skin, avoid keeping your hands in the detergent for too long, and remember to protect your skin with gloves.

Person cleaning oil stains from clothes

* Check the care labels and separate garments by color and wash temperature.

  • Use a detergent suitable for hand washing clothes in the sink, such as Surf, and always follow the instructions.

  • Gently knead the clothes in the detergent solution before rinsing thoroughly.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

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Frequently asked questions on handwashing clothes

Can you spin hand wash clothes?

Delicate fabrics like cashmere, silk, or lace can't handle frequent trips to the dryer, and will eventually lose their shape or fray. You can simply wrinkle them before hanging or even try an unorthodox method: a salad spinner. Just as it gets excess water out of your salad without turning it into mash, it will get water out of your clothes with no damage.

Does hand washing clothes save money and water?

Hand washing can look like a lot of hassle but it can be very cost-effective and is a safe method for most gentle fabrics.

Can you ever put hand wash only clothes in the washing machine?

You are likely to find a hand washing label on your clothes if they're made from delicate fabrics, are highly embellished, or are made of expensive materials. Sometimes manufacturers also use this label as a way to safeguard themselves from lawsuits if they haven't tested the garment in the washing machine. If you decide to take the risk, stick to a hand-wash programme and a detergent designed specifically for delicate fabrics.

Originally published