Hand Washing Clothes: Dos and Don'ts

Tips for Hand-washing Clothes

Let's assume your garment is safe to hand-wash and you're ready to start. Here's how you do it:

  • Use a clean sink: Clean the sink before you start -- simple enough.
  • Check your temperature: Water temperatures should be cool to lukewarm. Steve Boorstein, host of the radio show "The Clothing Doctor," recommended 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) or "just warm to the touch" at RealSimple.com. Hot water is great for stains but can bleed colors.
  • Choose a mild soap: Use a detergent specifically for hand-washing or delicates. These products rinse out more easily , and don't need hot temperatures to break down or be effective. Use the bottle directions to know how much to use.
  • Swish gently: After adding the clothes, keeping like fabrics and colors together, gently swish the clothes around for around two to five minutes. Ninety-eight percent of dirt comes out in the first five minutes of soaking, so you don't need to use rough motions. Remember -- it's the agitation in a washing machine that's rough on the clothes, so go easy. A gentle kneading, similar to baking bread, is as rough as you want to get.
  • Rinse, repeat: Rinsing takes several repetitions, and is typically the hardest part. Drain the sink, refill, rinse the clothes and repeat until all the soap is gone. One recommendation is to add a quarter cup of distilled vinegar to the rinse water as the acid helps dissolve the alkalies in detergents . However, rinse all the vinegar out well so you don't smell like a salad dressing.
  • Dry flat: Squeeze out the water without wringing or twisting. Lay the piece on a towel, then roll up the towel several times, pressing out the water. When finished, lay the item out flat on a drying rack or towel to dry. Avoid using hangers which can stretch out the shape of the garment.

Related Articles


  • Amo, Catherine. "How to Care for Velvet Clothing." Overstock.com. (April 18, 2012). http://www.overstock.com/guides/how-to-care-for-velvet-clothing
  • Bond, Annie B. "Wet Clean Wool, Silk and Rayon." Care2 Make a Difference. April 10, 1999. (April 11, 2012). http://www.care2.com/greenliving/wet-clean-wool-silk-and-rayon.html
  • Dupioni Silk Fabric.net. (April 18, 2012). http://dupionisilkfabric.net/
  • Fabric Direct. "Community Fabric Care." (April 10, 2012). http://www.fabricdirect.com/html/fabric_care_tips.html
  • Garlough, Donna. "How to Wash Drycleanable Clothes." Marthastewart.com (April 9, 2012). http://www.marthastewart.com/270610/how-to-wash-drycleanable-clothes
  • House Cleaning HowTos. "Hand Washing Clothes." (April 9, 2012). http://www.house-cleaning-howtos.com/hand-washing-clothes.html
  • Jarazadeh, Jennifer. "Hand Washing Do's and Don'ts." Real Simple. (April 10, 2012). http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/laundry/hand-washing-dos-donts-10000001016556/index.html
  • Sperber, Kelly. "How to Hand Wash Clothes." The Housing Forum. (April 10, 2012). http://thehousingforum.com/how-to-hand-wash-clothes/
  • The Vinegar Institute. "Uses and Tips." (April 24, 2012). http://www.versatilevinegar.org/usesandtips.html