How to Hand Wash Clothes from Start to Finish!


Let’s not beat around the bush; washing clothes by hand is a tedious affair. The step-by-step process involved is rather time-consuming, and requires a lot more energy than putting a load in the washer and pushing a button! However, if you’re looking to conserve water and energy in the hope of cutting down your water and electricity bills, hand washing clothes is a great idea. 

Apart from controlling the amount of water used, washing clothes by hand allows you to spot clean stains or pay more attention to dirtier areas for a thorough clean. Unlike a washing machine where your clothes are out of sight, when hand washing items, you can inspect stains and the overall cleanliness of clothes every step of the way.

Now, before you learn about the process of washing clothes by hand, make sure that you have everything on the list below to wash and dry clothes from start to finish.

What You’ll Need:

      • 2 Large basins/tubs + 1 for pre-soaking (if needed)
      • Laundry detergent (liquid or bar soap) + stain remover
      • Washboard
      • Hand wringer or rolling pin
      • Oxygen bleach (optional)
      • Clothesline or rack (both preferable options)

How to Wash Clothes by Hand

First things first; gather up the items you’ll need and set up your washing area. If you have the right space and access to water (via a tap or hose), it is ideal to hand wash clothes outdoors as there will be a lot of dripping and splashing which can create a bit of a mess indoors. Alternatively, you can wash your clothes by hand in a bathroom so that you don’t have to worry about spilling water everywhere. Once you’ve got your washing area set up, you’re ready to begin the step-by-step process below!

Sort Clothes > Fill up Basins 

The first rule of doing laundry is to separate whites from colours; secondly, heavily soiled items will need to be pre-soaked to avoid transferring excess dirt onto other clothes. With these two things taken care of, proceed to fill up the basins; one with hot water (for washing), and the other with regular water (for rinsing). If you have dirty items that need to be soaked, do this in a separate basin filled with warm water and a bit of laundry detergent.

Avoid powdered detergent as it does not dissolve very easily and can leave traces of powder on your clothes if not rinsed out thoroughly. Alternatively, oxygen bleach is a suitable substitute to brighten up dull and dirty fabrics, particularly whites.

Dump Clothes in Wash Basin > Soap Washboard

With your clothes separated, do one load at a time by dumping the items in your wash basin filled with hot water. The washboard should be standing diagonally in the basin before you put your clothes in so that you don’t end up placing the washboard on top of any items. 

If you’re using bar soap, scrub it over the washboard panel to get it nice and soapy. As an alternatively, pour a small amount of liquid laundry detergent over the washboard and spread it around with your fingers. You might want to wear a pair of rubber gloves when cleaning clothes by hand as some laundry detergents can cause skin irritation when exposed to them for too long.

NOTE: Pay attention to clothes washing instructions or laundry symbols on tags to ensure that you are using the right water temperature for each item.

Spot Clean Stains > Scrub > Dump in Rinse Water

While some stains on clothes may require pre-treatment and/or other methods to remove them, a common dirt stain can be cleaned up by simply applying a small amount of detergent over it, and scrubbing the stain against the washboard. All it takes is 30 seconds of scrubbing to effectively remove dirt and sweat stains from your clothes using a washboard. 

After you’ve scrubbed an item, dunk it in the water (in the wash basin) to rinse it out. Squeeze the item while it is submerged to remove as much soap as possible before dumping it in the rinse water basin. When you’ve come to the end of scrubbing one load of laundry (and all your clothes are in the rinse basin), move them around in the water to remove any soap residue before you take the items out of the water. Bear in mind that this process may not be enough to thoroughly rinse out clothing if extra detergent is used. In this case, you will have to empty out and refill the rinse water basin so that your clothes get a second rinse. 

NOTE: For clothing items with prints, buttons or other embellishments, turn them inside out before scrubbing to avoid damage.

Wring Clothes > Hang to Dry

The last two steps when washing your clothes by hand are rather tricky, mainly because there are various ways of wringing and drying clothes. Furthermore, there is a right and a wrong way of doing both tasks. If done incorrectly, you run the risk of your clothes losing shape for good! With that said, here are some of the best and safest ways to wring and dry clothes by hand:


    1. A hand wringer is one of the most convenient ways of removing excess water from washed clothes. The contraption consists of two rollers and a rotating handle to be used manually. These hand wringers can remove up to 90% of water.
    2. If investing in a wringer is out of your budget, believe it or not, an inexpensive mop with an in-built wringer is the next best thing! Again, there are different types of products like this, some of which come with a lever or foot pedal that controls the spin of the wringer.
    3. The last (cost-free) option we suggest is using a rolling pin. Simply place the clothing item flat down on a towel and roll over the item to squeeze out water.


    1. The most common way to dry clothes is by hanging them from a clothesline with pegs to hold them up. The pegs are usually clipped at the bottom of the garment to hang it upside down so that no peg marks are left in the middle of the clothing item if it were to be draped over the line (halfway) and then clipped.
    2. To avoid pegs altogether, damp clothes can be draped over a clean surface such as a clothes rack or front porch railing.
    3. If you need a particular washed clothing item to dry as soon as possible (to wear or pack), and you don’t have access to a dryer to tumble dry it, a hairdryer will suffice! Lay the item flat down on a towel and use the dryer on both sides for a few minutes to dry it.

For anyone living off-the-grid, or in times of unforeseen power outages caused by natural disasters, the skill and know-how to wash clothes by hand is something you will be extremely thankful for! What’s more, hand-washing clothes is a good workout for your arms/shoulders, and helps to burn over 100 calories!

Karen Saunders

Content Manager at Simply Maid
Karen Saunders is a full-time Content Manager at Simply Maid. Her 8+ years of writing experience spans the fields of copywriting, sales copy, blogging, editing and paraphrasing. Some of her areas of expertise include house cleaning, health and fitness, lifestyle topics, home décor and interior designing, travel tips, dog-related articles, and product descriptions and reviews.
Karen Saunders


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