How To Hand Wash Clothes Without Detergent

How To Hand Wash Clothes Without Detergent

Is it possible to washing a clothes without detergent? Actually, it is one of the oldest techniques used in washing clothes. It predates modern machines and is still the only solution in most developing nations.

Even in the most sophisticated cities, hand washing is a fancied technique, especially when dealing with wool sweaters, delicate lingerie, and silk blouses. However, hand washing presents various challenges ranging from time to chemical exposure.

It is advisable to learn how to wash clothes without detergent. This will protect you from any harsh chemicals and also preserves the original colors and patterns.

While it seems difficult especially when washing children clothes that may be covered in all sorts of dirt and grime, hand washing can be made simpler with some basic tricks. Here is a brief step-by-step guide on how to hand wash clothes without detergent.

Step 1 – Start by reading all labels

Most clothing products come with specific recommendations including how you should handle them when washing.

The label may include instructions on what kind of detergent you can use, in the process of washing, drying and ironing among others. Simply turn the cloth inside out and look for any markers and labels. If there is none, use another similar cloth with a label for comparison.

Step 2 – Soak the clothes in water

Fill in a tub with lukewarm water or use the recommendations on care label. Since you are not going to use a detergent, you need a unique washing liquid like liquid soap or shampoo.

Most soap products contain various pollutants found in detergents, but they lack surfactants, which is basically the main difference between the two.

Once you have filled the tub with water, add the shampoo based on the number of clothes you want to wash. You can increase the amount if you have more. Soak the clothes in the tub and let it stay for at least 5 minutes. Simply submerge them in the soapy water.

Step 3 – Hand washing

This is the most critical step in learning about the washing procedure of your clothes without detergent. Hand washing requires gentle movements to swish and throw the clothes around from side to side.

One common misconception about hand washing is that it requires twisting, turning and scrubbing for the cloth to become clean. This could not be further from the truth as twisting, turning or scrubbing will only stretch and damage the fabric.

Continued hand washing using these techniques will eventually cause your clothes to lose color and original form.

To start hand washing, gently swish the cloth inside the soapy water and lightly rub one side against the other. Do not stretch the fabric past its limit or use a scrub of any kind.

Silk clothing should be handled with more gentleness as they are very delicate. Focus on the areas that have more dirt such as the collar and wrist area of long sleeve shirts, and waist section of pants, shorts, and drawers.

Step 4 – Rinsing

Rinsing is an important part of washing any cloth whether you are using a detergent or not. When rinsing hand-washed clothes, drain all the sudsy water you used when washing.

Fill the tub with fresh rinsing water then push the swing the clothes up and down the water. Do this until all the soap is gone. You can sniff on the cloth to ensure it is not scented. If you are not sure, drain the water and fill in the fresh rinse water. Repeat the process until your clothes are clean and fresh from any soap.

If after rinsing you note some dirt spots still remaining, repeat the washing process from step one. However, pay more attention to the dirt spot rather than the entire piece of cloth to avoid damaging the fabric with too much swishing and rubbing.

Step 5 – Drying/Airing

To properly dry your hand washed clothes, squeeze gently on the cloth (one at a time). Avoid twisting as this will stretch and damage the fabric. You should check the label to note the airing instructions provided.

If there is none, simply lay the cloth in a clean towel and fold it inside. Squeeze until the towel gets saturated and wet. Remove and air dry for a couple of minutes.

The dos and don’ts of hand washing

The above steps make hand washing seem like a very effortless process which does not require any special tricks.

However, you can easily damage your clothes and depreciate their value if you do not follow each step cautiously. When hand washing, it is normal to get the urge to swish and rub with a lot more pressure or use rough motions.

There are other techniques that are also popular, but only cause more damage than good. Here is a list of the things you should do and those to avoid when hand washing without detergent:

  • Before you start hand washing, clean the sink - Don’t use a dirty sink.
  • Make sure the water temperature is not more than 85º Fahrenheit - Don’t use hot water as it will definitely damage your clothes.
  • Don’t use dish-washing liquid on your laundry.
  • Don’t soak clothes overnight – it only weakens the fabric and may result in tarnishing or fading.
  • Avoid rough motions especially with silk and cotton clothes.
  • Avoid mixing clothes in one sink; rather, keep like clothes together.
  • Never wring or twist your clothes when rinsing.
  • Repeat the rinsing process until all soap is gone. You can add distilled vinegar to dissolve some of the alkalines for better results.
  • Don’t use hangers on fabrics that stretch.
  • Wipe off stains as soon as they appear to reduce the effort required when washing.
  • You can wear a protective glove when hand washing to avoid any soap or shampoo reactions on the skin.
  • Use gentle kneading and swishing.


Hand washing is a preservation technique that can help you maintain the color and quality of your clothes for a long time. It is gentle and does not involve any rough processes like scrubbing.

It is also easy to accomplish although the process can be time-consuming if you have a large volume of laundry to wash. The above mentioned steps and tips will help you quickly finish any delicate laundry that requires hand washing. Make sure the soap or shampoo chosen does not contain surfactants or other harsh ingredients.

  • Updated 6 months ago
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