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How to Hand Wash Clothes

Three Parts:Preparing Your Garment for WashingWashing the Clothes by HandDrying Hand-Washed Clothes

Knowing how to properly hand wash your delicate clothes can extend the life of your garments and save you money on dry-cleaning bills. Hand-washing is also a necessity if you don't have access to a washing machine, such as during travel. Always check the garment's care label before starting. Remember that delicate items are usually less soiled than heavier-duty ones, and require a minimum of handling during the washing process.

Part 1
Preparing Your Garment for Washing

  1. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 1
    Check the garment's care label. Care labels are usually located inside the garment, behind the neck or along a side seam. These have instructions for washing, drying, and ironing your item, including:[1]
    • Washing recommendations (dry clean only, hand wash only, machine wash on delicate, etc.)
    • Temperature recommendations for water
    • Detergent recommendations
    • Drying instructions
    • Ironing instructions
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    Test colorfastness. It's important to know whether a garment's color is going to bleed; if it is, you should wash it separately from other items, or with items of a similar color only. To test this, dab the garment in an inconspicuous area with the corner of a white, damp cloth. If color comes off on the white cloth, then the item is not colorfast.[2]
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    Sketch the shape of fine knits. Some items lose their shape when wet, and it's important to reshape them before they dry. For a precise reference, lay the garment out on a large piece of butcher paper and use a pencil to trace its outline. After washing, you'll put the item back on this paper and reshape it according to the outline (see Part 3, Step 2).[3]
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    Separate lights and darks. If you are washing multiple items in a sink or tub of soapy water, start with the light items (it's okay to wash several together at the same time) and gradually work your way to the dark items. Any garment that is not colorfast should be washed and rinsed separately.[4]

Part 2
Washing the Clothes by Hand

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    Select your detergent or soap. If the garment labels specify a certain type of detergent, use that. If nothing is specified, use a mild detergent or liquid dish soap.[5]
    • For delicate woolens, you can use a mild hair conditioner instead of detergent.
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    Fill your sink or tub with water. The temperature of the water depends on the care label instructions. If they do not specify, use the following guidelines:
    • If you are washing regular machine-wash clothes, use water that is just warm to the touch (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit or 29 degrees Celsius). Warmer water is better for removing stains, but if it's too hot, the colors tend to run.
    • Delicates often require cool or lukewarm water.[6]
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    Add about 1 teaspoon of detergent or soap to the water and mix it around. Let the detergent dissolve into the water before adding the clothes.[7]
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    Gently lower the garment(s) into the soapy water. For delicate clothes, you can allow them to submerge into the water themselves. The less you touch and agitate them, the better.
    • Machine-wash clothes can stand a bit more handling, so feel free to plunge these into the water.
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    Soak the clothes in the water for two to five minutes. There's no need to oversoak: 98 percent of dirt comes out within the first five minutes of hand-washing. Plus, the longer a delicate garment stays submerged, the more likely it is to lose color, or change shape or size. For only lightly-soiled garments, two to three minutes of a soapy soak is adequate.[8]
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    Knead or swish the item(s) in the water as they soak. With hand-wash clothes, the key is to do this very gently. Never twist, wring, scrub or rub these items: this can damage the fabric.
    • If you're washing non-delicates (i.e., whose care labels do not specify hand washing only), you can be a little more aggressive here, scrubbing the fabric against itself to work out dirtier spots.[9]
    • If you're doing a few light-colored items and then darks, start with the lights. Once they've soaked, remove them from the soapy water and repeat Steps 4-6 with the dark items. You'll also need to rinse them separately.
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    Drain all the water from your sink and refill with clean water. You may want to move delicates aside so as not to be directly under the flow of water – even this amount of agitation can be damaging. Articles like cashmere sweaters should be removed completely after draining and re-submerged once the sink or tub is full again.
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    Swish the articles of clothing in the water to remove soap. Again, be gentle with delicates, or a little more vigorous with tougher items. If you're not sure if all the soap is out, sniff the garment to detect any soapy scent.
    • If you wish to add fabric softener to your hand wash, pour 2 teaspoons into the rinse water. Do not pour it directly on the fabric. This is an optional step, however. Check the care label in advance to make sure fabric softener is recommended.[10]
    • Repeat the draining and rinsing process as needed. If you didn't use too much detergent, it shouldn't take more than one or two rinses to wash out the soap.

Part 3
Drying Hand-Washed Clothes

  1. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 13
    Gently squeeze excess water from the garment. Be very careful here; do not twist or ring the garment, as this can stretch the material. If you are washing very delicate items like cashmere sweaters or bathing suits, you may want to skip this step altogether.
  2. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 13
    Reshape the garment. Lay it on the butcher-paper outline (see Part 1, Step 3) and gently manipulate the item into its original shape.
    • If you prefer, you can let the garment dry on the paper, turning it once during the process. Otherwise, continue with the next steps.[11]
  3. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 14
    Lay out a dry, white bath towel. Ideally, this towel should be laundered multiple times so that no lint remains.
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    Lay the item onto the towel. Pat the garment into shape. Or, if you're transferring it from the butcher paper, lay the towel on top of the butcher paper, then slowly turn the whole thing over so that the butcher paper is on top. Remove the butcher paper and make sure the shape has been retained.
  5. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 17
    Roll the item up into the towel and press gently. The garment should be fully encased in the rolled towel.
    • If the towel becomes completely saturated, unroll it and repeat the shaping and rolling process with another clean, dry towel.[12]
  6. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 18
    Follow drying instructions per the care label. If there are no instructions, a safe method is to shape the garment on a clean, dry towel and let it dry on a flat, moisture-resistant surface. Turn the garment over occasionally, and change the towel if it becomes too damp.
    • Sweater dryers are excellent for this as well: they are a large, flat, mesh surface that allows the item to dry flat.
    • If an item does not need to be dried flat, you can hang it on a drying rack. This works for things like lingerie.[13]
    • If you have access to a dryer and the care label recommends machine drying, follow the label's instructions for dryer settings. Note that delicates are not meant to be machine-dried.
  7. Image titled Hand Wash Clothes Step 17
    Press the item gently with an iron if the care label permits. Be sure to check the instructions on the label first, and follow the temperature settings carefully. If there is no care label, test on an inconspicuous area with the iron at a low setting.[14]

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Categories: Laundry