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How to hand wash clothes: Our top tips to keep your wardrobe looking its best

woman lifting up white garment from wash basin while smiling on a blue background

Keep your more delicate items fresh and undamaged by following these smart tips and tricks on washing them by hand

Our clothes are far more than what we wear. They can be an expression of identity, a way to show respect at social functions or even a way to impress on a first date. One thing’s for sure – it’s important our clothes look good as they say a lot about us. Not looking after them means you risk not looking your best and it could burn a hole in your pocket (not a great look either) as you repeatedly replace items that are becoming damaged.

Some washing machines now have a hand washing option, however many models fall short when it comes to cleaning delicate and precious fabrics. Washing clothes by hand is one of the best ways to ensure your clothes remain intact while looking their best, and could help prevent an expensive trip to the dry cleaners.

In this easy how-to, we break down everything you need to know about hand washing your clothes, including a simple step-by-step guide that will have your wardrobe (including those more delicate items) looking perfect in no time.

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Do I have to hand wash my clothes?

Our washing machines are capable of keeping our clothes clean, however they can often be too powerful for certain materials and will damage them. All you have to do is check the care label on the inside of your clothes. If the label says the washing machine is okay, go to town. But “hand wash only” and “dry clean only” mean exactly that, and aren’t just recommendations.

basket full of folded clean clothes with clothes drying on washing line in garden background

Luckily, some washing machines do have a hand wash option which should do the trick and can be found in the model’s settings or by taking a look at the user manual.

What items of clothing need hand washing?

Most of the time, delicate items made from silk, wool, cashmere or lace can’t be put in the washing machine. However, some “flimsy-looking” items may surprise you, so we always advise checking the care label on your clothes to make sure.

What type of detergent should I use?

This all depends on the kind of clothes you’re trying to wash and personal preference. There are some material-specific detergents, but in general it is best to opt for one that’s mild and easily dissolved in water, to avoid excess residue on your clothes after washing. For some guidance, you check out our best laundry detergents.

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Before you start

Here are the things we recommend doing before starting to hand wash your clothes:

  • Make sure your sink or wash basin is clean to avoid any stains or residue getting on your clothes while you’re trying to wash them.
  • Get any stains out of your clothes beforehand by using a dedicated stain remover, gently work the remover in and then allow the clothes to soak for up to half an hour.
  • Separate your clothes based on colour, washing lights and darks separately.
  • Carry out a bleed test on more delicate items by putting a drop of water in a hidden space and blotting with a paper towel. If some dye comes off, the garment may not be safe to hand wash.

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How to hand wash clothes

1. Fill up your sink or chosen wash basin with room temperature water, and then mix in your chosen laundry detergent.
2. Submerge your clothes in the solution and then leave them to soak for around half an hour, ensuring they’re fully covered.
3. Swish your clothes around in the solution to clean thoroughly, at the same time avoiding any scrubbing or twisting as this could cause stretching. It’s normal to see some discoloration in the water and you shouldn’t experience any colour loss as a result.
4. You can then drain the water and refill with cooler water for rinsing the clothes off. Do this a couple of times until the water comes out clear.
5. Drain the final batch of water and press your clothes to the edge of the sink to get rid of any excess water, once again avoiding wringing or squeezing.
6. Lay your clothes out on a clean towel, before putting them on a drying rack, being sure to follow any specific drying instructions on the care label.

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