We've all done it: pulled that favourite bra, silky top or fluffy jumper out of the washing machine to see that it's lost all its shape and structure or shrunk down to the size of something only a teddy bear could wear.


To avoid this happening, be careful about what you put in the washing machine and seriously consider whether it'd be a better idea to hand-wash it instead. It might be slightly more time-consuming but, with our easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide, you'll soon fine it's quicker than you think.

As well as saving your clothes from being ruined, hand-washing can also cut down your electric bill. If you only have a couple of items that needs washing, is it really worth the electric cost – especially when energy prices are rocketing?

Here, with the help of laundry expert Lisa Williams, Executive Housekeeper at York's 5-star hotel The Grand, is our guide to hand-washing your clothes successfully...

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Step-by-step guide to hand-washing clothes effectively

You will need:

  • Laundry detergent (specific one for delicates)
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Stain remover
  • Colander (optional)
  • Absorbent towel
  • Drying rack
  • Dehumidifier (optional)

Total time: 1 day (depending on drying method)

Step 1: Sorting by Color

If you're washing more than 1 item, separate them by colour. You'll need to start washing with the lightest coloured items first, and wash 1 garment at a time to avoid colours bleeding and staining other garments.

white and coloured laundry separated

Step 2: Checking Care Labels and Choosing Detergent

Check the care label on your garment very carefully. This will help you choose the right kind of laundry detergent. Also, if you're hand-washing something that can also be machine washed, it'll give you an idea of the optimal temperature for the water.

Care label on jumper

Step 3: Selecting the Right Detergent

Select a detergent that works with the garment you're washing. "Always pick a mild detergent for hand-washing," says our expert Lisa. "Try a no-rinse detergent for silk and lace, and, for wool, use a detergent with lanolin in it."

Our hand-washing detergent recommendations include:

If you have sensitive skin, you should consider wearing rubber gloves – even if you're using a mild detergent.

laundry detergent

Step 4: Treating Stains

Check your garment for stains.

  • If you find some small stains, use a stain remover stick or pen, such as Tide's To Go Stain Remover Pen by Tide to remove them.
  • If you find bigger stains, pre-treat the fabric with a stain remover gel or add some of the gel to the warm water and detergent you'll be washing your garment in (see Step 5).
stain removal

Step 5: Hand-Washing Process

Fill up your sink or a tub with warm water, remembering to tweak the temperature depending on your garment's care label, and add your detergent. Then place the garment into the water and fully immerse it to get clean. Gently move the item around in the water to ensure every bit of it gets washed.

"Use a gentle swishing motion with your hands," says our expert Lisa, "agitating the fabric in the water for a minute or two. Never wring, twist or scrub the fabric."

Once you're sure it's clean, rinse off the garment in cold water to get all the detergent out of it. A clever and surprisingly effective way to do this is to use a colander: place your clothes in the colander and cover them with water – this works especially well for underwear and smaller garments.

hand washing immersing

Step 6: Drying the Garment

Now you need to get your garment dry. Do NOT wring it out, as this may damage it. Instead, gently squeeze it, then remove the remaining excess water by laying it flat onto an absorbent towel. To speed up this process, you could also roll the garment up in the towel.

Once it's no longer dripping, lay the garment out flat or use a drying rack such as this Vielda Spring 3-Tier one. Or take a look at our guide to How to dry clothes indoors for more ideas. If you need your garment dried really quickly, a dehumidifier may help.

Buy everything you need to hand-wash clothes

Which garments should be hand-washed?

"Some unique fabrics require special care, including delicate lingerie, wool sweaters and silk blouses," says expert hotel housekeeper Lisa Williams.

However, it's always a good idea to check the care label of every garment, as some clothes that you would think can be machine-washed may actually need hand-washing instead.

Why should you hand-wash clothes?

"Hand washing clothes increases a garment's life span," says Lisa. "It's much gentler than using a washing machine, so it helps to preserve fibres and detail work on your garments. It also saves water: washing machines use 20 gallons of water per load and hand-washing uses considerably less."

About our expert

Lisa Williams has been Executive Housekeeper at luxury 5* hotel, The Grand, York for over a year. With over 6 years' experience in the housekeeping industry at other luxury hotels, Lisa has won many awards. Most notably, she was shortlisted for a Catey award 2019 and asked onto the Europe Advisory Board 2019.

About the author

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents, ranging from best sleep aids to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development.

Pics: Getty Images




Picture of Chloe Brightwell
Chloe BrightwellDigital Reviews Writer and Coordinator

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.