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How to hand-wash clothes – to keep your delicates in tip-top condition

 How to hand wash clothes pink laundry room
How to hand wash clothes pink laundry room

When laundry day rolls around, it can be tempting to chuck everything into the washer… a delicate or hand-wash setting should do the job, right? However, there are some items you need to treat with a little TLC if you want to keep them looking (and feeling) lovely. Whether it’s a favorite cashmere jumper, a pricey silk blouse, or lacy delicates, knowing how to hand-wash clothes the right way, is the only way to ensure the best results.

Knowing what – and when – to hand-wash is more useful than you might think when it comes to how to do laundry. Even if you don’t own much in the way of ‘delicate’ clothing, it's handy to master; for smaller loads, when traveling, for heavily stained garments, or as an alternative to costly laundromat trips.

It’s also a lot easier than you might think, too. We’ve put together a simple step-by-step guide, along with top tips and advice from experts in the laundry world, to ensure you get the job done properly. You – and your clothes – can thank us later.

How to handwash clothes – a step by step guide

Before doing anything, read your clothing labels. If the laundry symbol is a hand in the water, that means it’s safe or handwashing. However, be aware that if there’s a cross over the twisted symbol, you shouldn’t wring the item at any point.

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It can also be useful to familiarize yourself with the types of items that usually do better with hand-washing; any items that feature embellishments, such as lace, beading, or crochet for example. You might want to make hand-washing undergarments and sweaters a habit as well; the fabrics tend to be delicate anyway, and even if they’re not, they’ll retain their shape better.

When washing by hand, a lot of the same laundry rules apply. You’ll need to know how to sort clothes for laundry and be clear on the mistakes to avoid when washing whites, too. Group items by type and by washing instructions beforehand to speed up the process.

hand wash laundry label
hand wash laundry label

1. Pre-treat stains

‘Go through each item and check for stains. If any are found, use a spot-treating solution or make your own using white vinegar and water. Soak a towel in the solution and gently apply to the affected area until it begins to solve – around 10-15 minutes,' says Matt Connelly, CEO of dry cleaning and laundry network, I Hate Ironing.

2. Fill the sink

laundry room butlers sink with shelves and ironing board
laundry room butlers sink with shelves and ironing board

Whether you’re using a kitchen or bathroom (we’d recommend the former, as they tend to be a bit roomier), start off by giving it a good clean. Fill it with warm water (unless the washing instructions state otherwise) and pour in your laundry detergent.

'Add a small amount designed specifically for the type of item you’re washing – a little goes a long way. Avoid using hot water, bleach, or fabric softeners, as these can cause damage to the fibers,' says Sebastian von Marttens, founder of Andes Alpaca.

‘This soap stick, at Meliora, comes in solid form, so it’s ideal for going after the dirtiest bits of clothing and is small enough to take on any journey – there’s no liquid either, so it’s carry-on friendly,' says Kate Jakubas, founder of Meliora Cleaning Products.

3. Swish items – gently

Submerge items into the water and gently swish until they’re saturated. While it’s ok to wash more than one item at a time (as long as they’re similar colors), don’t overcrowd the sink. Sebastian recommends using a gentle hand; ‘try not to rub, twist or wring items if you can, as this can damage the fibers,' he explains.

4. Leave to soak

Leave the items to soak in the water for about 15 minutes or so, a little longer if they’re particularly stained.

5. Rinse and repeat if necessary

washing whites by hand
washing whites by hand