How to actually hand-wash your clothes like a pro

Sophie Charlotte Thompson
·3-min read

From Cosmopolitan

We’ve all been tasked with hand-washing clothes at some point - whether it’s thanks to a broken washing machine, an abrupt spill, or a delicate piece of clothing. And it’s not until that point that you generally realise you have *no* idea what you’re doing.

But, hand-washing your clothes does have its benefits. For one, it’s a lot gentler on clothes than a washing machine, giving your clothes a longer lifespan, or avoiding any fluffing or other damages. It’s also more eco-friendly, as you’re using considerably less water, and there’s no electricity involved. It’ll save you some money along the way too!

Thankfully, it’s also pretty hard to get it wrong. But there are a few things you’ll want to think about when you go to hand-wash clothes.

Things to consider

  • Look at the care tag in your clothes for water temperature guidance. Also check for any other special washing instructions, such as “dry clean only” - which isn’t usually suitable for sink-washing. If it just says “dry clean” however, you should be fine.

  • The type of detergent you use should be based on the fabric of what you’re washing. Most regular detergents are usually ok to use, however, more delicate fabrics such as wool or silk, may require something less harsh, such as washing-up liquid.

  • You can still treat stains when hand-washing. Rather than scrubbing that red wine stain out (we’ve all been there), gently massage it between your fingers using the stain remover, before rinsing with water.

Scroll down for the full instructions, including materials and in-depth guides for each step…

What you'll need

  • Clothes (obviously!)

  • Access to warm water

  • A tub or bowl you don’t mind putting chemicals in

  • Laundry detergent

  • A light brush or sponge to treat stains

  • A towel

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images


  1. Fill the tub with warm water (or, if your label says otherwise, follow as appropriate!), and dissolve laundry detergent in it.

  2. Put each item of clothing into the tub individually, and press down firmly to immerse in the water, and swish it around to pick up the detergent. Don’t worry if it looks like dye is leaking from your clothes or the water changing - it’s just a reaction and won’t notice any loss of colour when you take it back out again.

  3. Once you’re satisfied that you’ve got them nice and clean, and removed any dirt or marks, empty your tub of water and re-fill it with cold water. If you’re washing something more delicate or vintage clothes, use a colander instead.

  4. Rinse your item of clothing in the water, and then squeeze it out. You’ll want to repeat this about three times, just to make sure you’ve got out any nasties.

  5. When you’re ready to begin drying, squeeze as much water out as possible without gripping too tightly (you don’t want to cause any damage), and then lay your clothes flat on a towel and pat dry as much as possible.

  6. Once the water is soaked up, take a fresh towel, and lay your clothes back on top of it flat, and leave to air dry to prevent any wrinkling and speed up the drying process.

Easy! Now, why not check out some of the top-rated hand-washing essentials for clothes to help you get started?

Follow Sophie on Instagram.

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