Hand washing isn't just for delicate clothes, it's also a great way to save money at the dry cleaner.

By Amanda Lauren
August 20, 2019
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Getty Images

Hand washing clothes isn’t as easy as putting a load of laundry in the washing machine, but it’s the only way to clean delicate items without damaging them. Spill juice on a blouse or accidently drip that delicious marinara sauce on your favorite pair of pants? Hand washing a garment as soon as possible will prevent stains from setting in. It can also be an alternative to dry cleaning, saving you time and money.

Before filling up your sink with soap and water, find the washing instructions on the label, which may be hidden on the side of the garment. If the label says, “dry clean,” as opposed to “dry clean only,” the item can safely be hand washed. It should also give you guidelines including ideal water temperature.

Using the right detergent is also important. Pick a product specifically formulated for hand washing clothes, such as The Laundress Delicate Wash ($19; amazon.com). While you can use a smaller amount of your regular liquid or powdered laundry detergent in a pinch, it’s often hard to figure out the right amount to use. Also, many detergents tend to have chemicals too harsh for delicate fabrics.

As a general rule, it’s best to drain the soapy water before rinsing. Then, run fresh cool water over your clothing until it runs clear and is free of suds.

Drying is the final step of the hand washing process. Move your shower curtain over and hang items on the bar or use a separate tension rod ($17.42; amazon.com). You can also try using a drying rack.  

Read on for more easy tips on how to hand wash clothes.

How to hand wash bras

Turn on the faucet, fill the sink with lukewarm water, and put in the detergent as it fills. When the sink is approximately three-quarters full, place bras of like colors in the soapy water. Swish them around gently as needed. Check that the hooks don’t catch onto any lace or mesh cups or embellishments. 

Soak bras for up to an hour and then rinse.

Finally, place the bras on a towel, and then fold over the other side gently to blot up the excess water. Never squeeze or wring bras. Hang dry.

RELATED: Show Your Bras the TLC They Deserve With These Easy Hand Washing Tips

How to hand wash underwear

Plug the drain and dispense delicate detergent into an empty sink. Put the underwear in and then fill the sink with warm, but not hot water. Let your undies soak for five to 30 minutes (you can make that call). Gently agitate periodically. Rinse with lukewarm water for several minutes.

After you remove your underwear, gently squeeze out the excess water. Then blot with a towel and hang dry.

How to hand wash a shirt

Fill the sink with lukewarm, soapy water and place in the shirt. While you can wash multiple items at once, you probably shouldn’t try for more than three or four, depending on the size of the sink. Gently agitate each garment to loosen any dirt. Let soak for 10 to 30 minutes, then rinse with cool water.

Gently squeeze out excess water without wringing. If a shirt is really wet, roll it carefully inside a towel. Hang dry on a padded hanger ($10 for eight; amazon.com) or velvet hanger ($30 for 50; bedbathandbeyond.com). Never use wire or plastic hangers because they can ruin the shape of your clothes.

How to hand wash a sweater

Before hand washing a sweater, double check that the label says “dry clean” and not “dry clean only.” For synthetic fabrics, such as rayon and polyester, you can wash the garment in warm, but not hot, soapy water. Synthetic fabrics tend to hold odors more than natural fabrics, so a slightly raised temperature may be needed.

Swish the sweater around the sink. Soak for 10 to 60 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water. Gently squeeze out the excess water and roll the sweater inside a towel. You can push the roll down for a few seconds or even leave it there for a few minutes, allowing the water to absorb. Dry sweaters flat for a few hours or overnight on a dry towel. You will probably need to turn the sweater over in the morning. It can take up to 48 hours for a sweater to dry thoroughly depending on how thick it is. Never hand a sweater dry, it can distort and stretch out the shape.

How to hand wash jeans

While you don’t need to hand wash jeans on a regular basis, sometimes an accidental spill or traveling will call for it. Put the jeans in cold, soapy water. If you don’t have a delicate wash on hand, it’s completely fine to use a small amount of your regular detergent. Agitate jeans with your hands and let them soak for approximately half an hour.

Then, drain the water from the sink and fill with fresh water. Soak for another 10 minutes. Drain the sink again and let the water run until clear. Feel free to wring out of your jeans (denim is a pretty durable fabric), and let them drip dry or use your dryer.

RELATED: The Right Way to Wash Your Jeans, So They Don't Fall Apart in the Washer

How to hand wash a hat

Hats, especially baseball caps, can easily become dirty and smelly, so they require a thorough washing. Start by spot cleaning any stains with shampoo or delicate wash, lightly scrubbing with an old toothbrush. Soak the hat in cold water from half an hour up to a few hours, depending on the level of grime. Then rinse with cold water.

How you dry a hat is just as important as how you wash it because it can easily lose its shape. Dry upright, stuffing the inside with a clean towel (a gym or hand towel works well) or a few washcloths crumpled together.

RELATED: How to Wash a Baseball Cap (the Right Way)

How to hand wash wool

Washing wool is a little different than synthetic fabrics. Always use cool water because hot water can cause damage and shrinking. Instead of using a regular delicate wash, you should ideally use a detergent formulated just for wool, such as Alparino Luxury Wool Wash ($17; amazon.com). Squeeze out excess water carefully without wringing and roll the garment in a towel. Then dry flat on a clean towel.

How to hand wash silk

Whether you are trying to wash a silk shirt, pillowcase, or another garment, it’s important to be as careful as possible with this very delicate material. Dyed silk bleeds easily, so keep it limited to washing one or two garments of like colors at the same time.

Turn each item inside out before washing. After placing the item in cold, soapy water, gently agitate each garment. Then let soak for half an hour. You may see dye, especially from newer items, in the sink, but don’t worry, this is normal. Then, rinse with cold water until it runs clear.

RELATED: 8 Things You Should Never Clean in a Washing Machine

Advertisement