How to Hand Wash Clothes - Step-by-Step Guide


You can get your laundry clean without a machine! We have all the tips you need to learn how to hand wash clothes like a pro.

Hand washing clothes can be a practical alternative to running a full wash load, especially when traveling or living without a laundry machine. Clean clothes may last for a while, but underwear may be gone in a week. You need a fresh pair, but you don’t quite have enough dirty clothes to justify a full load of laundry. This is a great time to do a small hand-washing load! Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to hand wash clothes–we have all the information you need to make sure your clothes get as clean as they would in a washing machine.

Does Washing Clothes by Hand Work?

Absolutely! An item that has been properly hand washed should be just as clean as one washed in a washing machine. Many items, such as those made from delicate or natural materials, are best washed by hand in order to prevent damage. Hand washing clothes may seem like a thing of the past, but it is actually a practical way to clean a few items at a time.

How to Hand Wash Clothes Step By Step

The first thing to do before washing your clothes is to check the care label for any warnings or instructions. While certain materials and items can require specific detergents or washing methods, this is our recommended, tried-and-true way to wash your clothes by hand!

  1. Make sure the items are suitable for hand washing. If the care label does not specify dry clean only, you should be good to go, as you can easily adjust how delicately you wash an item by hand.
  2. Give the sink, bucket or bath a rinse. This is to protect the clothes from any products that may be lingering in the basin.
  3. Fill the basin with cold or warm water. It's important to have the basin already filled with water before washing. Running high pressure water through clothes (rather than placing them in water) can cause the fibers to stretch.
  4. Add a liquid laundry detergent, like our Ultra Concentrated Laundry Detergent, to the water. You can adjust the amount of detergent to the size of the load. 2 pumps should be fine for a very small load, while a larger load may need 3-4 pumps.
  5. Soak the clothes in the basin for a few minutes. Be sure to allow enough room for the clothes to spread and move.
  6. Gently swish the clothes through the water. You should never twist or scrub the fabric, but you may gently scratch or rub the fabric to remove dirt and liberate stains.
  7. Drain the basin and rinse the clothes in clean water.

What Clothes Should You Hand Wash?

  • Underwear and lingerie.
  • Cashmere sweaters.
  • Knit and wool sweaters.
  • Wool socks.
  • Silk garments.
  • Clothes with ornamentation like sparkles, jewelry, pins. Washing these items in a machine may aggravate and remove/damage ornamentation.
  • Shoes. Letting shoes soak in soapy water and gently brushing the inside will help remove scents and stains. Do not machine dry - the high heat will cause the glue to melt that holds the shoe together, causing the sole to fall off.

What Shouldn’t You Hand Wash?

"Dry Clean Only"

Washing instructions like this one are important to note. Some clothes, like a suit, will have a washable polyester outside, but the inside is made of a certain structured material that will not hold up in water or excessive agitation. If the care label says the item is dry clean only, it is best to avoid hand washing (unless you’re willing to risk it).

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about how to hand wash clothes? We’ve got answers.

Not sure what detergent to use for hand washing clothes?

Dropps Ultra Concentrated Laundry Detergent is the best detergent for hand washing clothes. Our unique pre-measured pump allows you to dispense exactly the amount of detergent you need for the size of the load you are washing. It can also be used as a spot cleaner or pretreatment for tough stains. Try our Sensitive Skin Laundry Detergent for natural or delicate fabrics, or Stain & Odor Laundry Detergent for your laundry that needs extra cleaning power.

How long to hand wash clothes?

How long hand washing clothes takes depends on the size of your laundry load. A few items may only take 15 minutes, while a full load of laundry may take an hour. The more items you wash, the longer it will take–but the nice thing about hand washing clothes at home is that it’s easy to multitask while your laundry soaks or is drying!