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How to hand wash clothes at home in no time

Hand washing is a great way to care for delicate garments which could be damaged in the machine.


Persons hands washing a white clothing item

Have you ever wondered how to wash clothes without a washing machine? Hand washing clothes is one of the most effective ways to care for delicate garments. Fabrics such as silk, satin, mohair, wool, and embroidered or structured garments all require some extra TLC, and often benefit from a good old-fashioned hand wash.

Hand washing doesn’t have to whisk you back through the ages. In fact, knowing how to wash clothes by hand quickly and effectively is a useful skill in modern households, and is much more time efficient than shopping for replacement items which have shrunk or been damaged in the machine.

This article explains the steps in washing clothes by hand, the modern way. No washboards or smashes to see here!

When you’re washing clothes by hand, there are two things to remember: read the care label to prevent accidental damage, and use an appropriate detergent – we like Sunlight hand washing powder and gentle laundry bar soaps.

Hand wash checklist – what you will need

Hand washing might seem like a chore but actually once you know how to wash clothes without a washing machine, it’s simple. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • A basin, sink, or tub

  • Hand wash detergent like Sunlight hand washing powder

  • A ready supply of cool to warm water

  • Towels and flat surfaces for drying

Next up, how to hand wash underwear and other delicate garments.

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How to hand wash your clothes and delicate garments

In a hurry? Life moves fast, so if you need to know how to wash clothes by hand quickly, follow our speedy steps in washing clothes by hand:

  1. Check the care label. Many ‘hand wash only’ clothes require cold water, while others are cleaned more effectively at warm or lukewarm temperatures. ‘Dry clean only’ items may be damaged by water, so it’s best to get them professionally cleaned.

  2. Fill a basin, sink or tub with water with cool water. Hot water could damage, fade or shrink hand wash only garments, so cool (or tepid at most) is best.

  3. Add an appropriate amount of specialist hand washing detergent and make sure it is thoroughly dissolved – you may have to use your hand to stir so make sure you’re wearing adequate protection.

  4. Add the clothes to the water, one at a time. Leave to soak for up to an hour.

  5. Wash the clothes, paying particular attention to any stained or marked areas. Rub the fabric gently against itself and lightly agitate in the water.

  6. If you wish, add a small amount of fabric conditioner to a tub of clean water and leave clothes to soak for twenty minutes. Try Sunlight’s Gentle Fabric Conditioner, and make sure to follow the directions on the label.

  7. Rinse each item of clothing thoroughly in fresh water to remove any traces of detergent.

  8. Dry delicate items (particularly those made from wool and silk) flat on a towel to avoid distortion.

If you’re short on time, you might be thinking – how to hand wash underwear in the washing machine? Some washing machines have a hand wash setting, but if you’re washing delicate underwear with other clothes, put them in a mesh bag to protect them from zips, buckles and general agitation.

Hand washing is gentle on clothes but can be tough on skin – so remember to wash, dry and apply cream to your hands after hand washing your laundry. 

  • Consult the care label to check whether garments are hand wash only, and what temperature they should be washed at.

  • Use a specialist hand washing detergent. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended amount to use per wash.

  • Dry delicates naturally – ideally they should be dried flat.

Originally published