How To Wash Clothes Without A Washing Machine

Have you ever bothered about how to wash clothes without a washing machine?

Now, imagine a world where the washing machine was not invented. That might look like a horror movie to some folks. But there was a time when the idea of a washing machine was science fiction. 

How To Wash Clothes Without A Washing Machine
Image by M W from Pixabay

We have come a long way now, with huge technological advances that have affected how we do things. Modern technology keeps improving on itself. 

The first generation of washing machines was the classic top loading agitators. Today, high efficiency front loading washing machines are leading the way in a bid to be more energy efficient and consequently eco-friendly. 

But what happens when your high efficiency washing machine breaks down and leaves you hanging? In such a scenario, you will most likely be left to resort to manual laundry techniques. 

Some folks may not be able to relate with this especially in the US. But there are many people outside the US who are accustomed to washing their clothes by hand. 

Hand washing can be a notoriously time-consuming endeavor. However, they are more likely to give you a little more control over how you wash your clothes, and this method can be less harsh on your clothes if done rightly. 

Washing your clothes without a washing machine is eco-friendlier, as you do not require a dryer to dry out your clothes. 

In this article, we will proffer an alternative solution to using the washing machine which could come in handy in the event that your washing machine breaks down when you are in dire need of it. 

Who knows? You could become a fan of hand washing after trying this out. So, let’s dive in. 

Hand Washing Your Clothes

Prepare The Clothes

  • The first thing to do when you embark on a manual hand-wash is to prep your clothes for washing. The idea behind this is to make your clothes as easy to wash as possible. 

Also, bear in mind that the washing process could damage your clothes permanently if not carried out carefully. 

In the process of prepping your clothes, you ensure that the proper washing method is carried out for each clothing item. 

  • In preparing your clothes, separate plain white clothes from colored ones. Recall that even when you use a washing machine, this is a step that must be taken. 
  • Laundry directions on many clothing items will also leave instructions on how the individual clothing item should be washed. Some dark colored clothes will carry the instruction “wash dark colors separately”. 

This also points to the importance of checking your clothes and following the laundry directions. Doing so will increase the lifespan of the clothes. 

  • As a general rule, always wash white clothes with other white clothes only. Never mix them up. If you do you are likely to ruin the whites with colors that come off from darker clothes. 
  • Apart from separating clothes according to colors, you also need to separate clothes based on types. That is, delicate clothes should be washed separately from regular fabrics. Fabrics made with silk, lace, wool or cashmere should be washed separately. 

Delicate clothes have to be washed delicately, otherwise you could ruin them. We’ll look at how to wash delicate cloth items later. 

  • After separating your clothes, give them a good shake or dusting. This is to remove any loose dust, dirt or debris that could be on the clothes. By doing this you directly reduce the amount of washing detergent you would need to apply. 
  • While separating your clothes, look out for clothes with deep stains and separate them too, they will need to be pretreated before general handwashing. 

Soak The Clothes

  • The next step to take is to allow the clothes to soak in soapy water. The idea of soaking in the clothes is also to reduce the amount of force that will be required to wash it. 

Handwashing will be less labor intensive if the clothes are pre-soaked. This is a step that can be skipped if you have little time. However, if your cloth item is quite dirty, it serves you better if you presoak it. For clothes that have been heavily soiled, you should not skip this step. 

  • Soak the clothes in a large plastic bucket or wash tub that has been filled as required with lukewarm water. You only need just the right amount of water to soak clothes. 
  • Make sure the clothes are fully dipped in water. When the clothes are soaked in water, they loosen up allowing some dirt and fatty acids to be dissolved in water. 
  • Allow the clothes to stand in water for a while, but don’t let them stay for too long. Some clothes will be destroyed if they are soaked for too long. 
  • Also, do not put in too many clothes at the same time, so you will find it easy to wash. 

Remove Tough Stains

For clothes that have been heavily stained, you need to get rid of the stains by treating them separately. 

  • After soaking them, get them out and apply stain removers on the fabric. Allow the stain remover to sit for about 5 minutes depending on the gravity of the stains. 
  • If you do not have a stain remover, you could use regular laundry soap as an alternative. 

Hand Wash The Clothes

  • Remove the water that you used to soak the clothes and replace with regular tap water or lukewarm water. Make sure the water is clean and clear. 
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It is not advisable to use hot or warm water to wash your clothes. This is because warm water can induce color bleeding which will cause the clothes to fade out quickly and stain other clothes in the wash tub. 

  • Based on washing instructions on your laundry detergent of choice, apply the appropriate amount of detergent for the wash tub. 

Some detergents can be very harsh. So, if you have sensitive skin, wear gloves throughout the wash process. 

  • Make sure the detergent is evenly distributed around the clothes, you can agitate the water a little so that it gets sudsy. 
  • To hand wash the clothes, take an item and place between your two hands. Grab a hold of the fabric with both hands. Rub the fabric back and forth against itself quickly using both hands. Continue this hand rubbing movement along the entire fabric. 
  • When washing clothes with tough stains, a good advantage of hand washing is that you can intermittently check the cleaning progress while you wash. This way you can avoid over washing your clothes or under washing them. 
  • If you get easily tired while you wash, you could use a plunger as an agitator to move the clothes around. 
  • Washing really heavy clothes or clothes with really tough stains will require a different approach. If you attempt to wash thick clothes using this hand rubbing technique you will tire out quickly and your hands could start aching. 
  • So, place heavy clothes on a flat surface after soaking them in soapy water. Use a soft brush to gently scrub the clothes to remove dirt. This might take more time, but you won’t have to deal with aching limbs. 

Rinsing The Clothes

  • When you are done washing the clothes, get rid of the water which should now be dirty, having absorbed all the dirt from your clothes. 
  • The next thing you need to do is to rid the clothes of soap. To do this, you need to place the clothes back in the washtub or bucket. Refill the bucket with cool water just above the level of the clothes. 
  • Slowly press the clothes underneath the water and agitate gently with your hands. When the water gets sudsy, take the clothes out and replace the water. Once again press the clothes and agitate gently. 
  • You have to repeat this process until you can no longer see suds, then you know the rinse phase is done. 

Drying The Clothes

  • Wring out the clothes with your hand after rinsing to remove any excess water. The clothes should then be hanged on a clothesline and allowed to air dry. 
  • Leave the clothes until they are dry, then remove immediately. Do not allow the clothes to stay under the sun for long hours as this could cause the clothes to fade. 

A Few Things To Note

  • As mentioned earlier, remember to use detergent sparingly. Too much detergent will increase the number of times you will have to rinse the clothes. This would waste water, so it should be avoided. 
  • As a cleaning agent, you could consider mixing 1 part borax, 1 part washing soda and 1 part finely grated soap. 1-2 tablespoons of this mixture should be sufficient detergent for most laundry loads. 
  • Wring out the clothes before rinsing, this helps to remove a lot of soap solution and reduces rinsing time. 

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Washing Delicate Clothes

Earlier on, we pointed out that delicate fabrics like wool, silk and cashmere will not survive the rigorous hand washing action described earlier. 

These are delicate fabrics and will have to be washed differently if you want then to last long. Let’s look at a few steps to take when washing these more delicate clothes. 

Step 1

  • Get a sizable bowl and put some cool water into it. Generally, you want to avoid using warm or hot water to wash delicate fabrics. Hot water can easily damage the clothes. 

The only exception, that would allow the use of hot water will be for heavily soiled delicate clothes. 

  • In such a case hot water will help to loosen the fabric and easily absorb dirt. Otherwise, hot water is not friendly with delicate materials. Put just enough water to submerge the clothes. 

Step 2

  • Add very little amounts of laundry detergent. For delicate clothes, do not use harsh detergents or bleach. They will destroy the fabric. 
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Use mild soap. Bar soaps and hair shampoo could be used to wash delicate materials. Put just enough soap to make the water sudsy. If the water is too sudsy, you’ll waste time rinsing the clothes. 

Step 3

  • The cloth items should be washed one after the other. Gently press each cloth item down till they are submerged. Allow the cloth item to stay underwater only for a few minutes. 
  • While underwater, gently move the cloth item back and forth and squeeze lightly as you do. 
  • For elastic and silk materials, allow the fabric to stay under water for a very short time to retain the strength of the fabric and ensure that they last long. 

Step 4

  • Once you are done washing, the next line of action is to rinse the clothes. Replace the water in the bucket with some clean and cool water. 
  • Dip each cloth item inside the water and squeeze gently. Remove the cloth and replace the water. Dip and rinse again. 
  • Keep repeating this process until the water is no longer sudsy. Do not wring out delicate fabric, you could destroy it. 
  • To get rid of soap before you start to rinse delicate fabric, carefully roll it into a ball and squeeze gently. 

Step 5

Before we explain how to dry delicate fabrics, there is something that needs to be pointed out. Clothes like wool and cashmere change shape and size whenever they absorb water. 

Therefore, before you dip these clothes in water and start to wash, take the measurements of each cloth item. 

For instance, for wool sweaters, measure the neckline, shoulders, base and sleeve lengths. Note down the measurements. 

You could make sketches with the measurements recorded to aid your recollection. These measurements will be required when you dry out these fabrics. 

  • To dry out the clothes, place a large white towel on a table or flat surface that is safe when wet. 
  • Arrange each cloth item on the towel. Place the wool or cashmere cloth items on the towel. 
  • Readjust the items according to the original measurements of the items taken before you started washing. 
  • Once adjusted, tilt up the towel while the delicate clothes are still on it. This will get rid of excess water from the clothes. 
  • Ensure the towel is not close to any heat source as this could damage the fabric. Unroll the fabric afterwards and allow the cloth items to dry on it. 

It is important that a white towel is used and not a colored towel. A colored towel might permanently stain wet wool or cashmere pieces. 

If the clothes do not get dry within a few hours, you can flip them over on the white towel. Otherwise, you could transfer them to another dry white towel. 

Step 6

  • The best way to dry your delicate silk, wool and cashmere clothing is to air-dry them. Put the clothes on a clothesline and allow them to dry. 
  • Do not apply heat to dry out delicate clothes. So, avoid using hair dryers or heater surfaces to dry delicate clothes. Otherwise they could become warped and permanently out of shape. 

How To Wash Jeans

One of the most difficult types of clothes to wash by hand is jeans. They are so tough, that thinking about washing them could give you a headache. 

Tossing your pairs of jeans in a washing machine would have been the easier thing to do, no stress. However, your washing machine is bad and you’ve given your pair of jeans a lot of wears. No need to freak out, there’s a stress-free way to do it and we will show it to you. 

Step 1

  • Run some lukewarm water in a bathtub or a kitchen sink, whichever you prefer. Once again, hot water won’t do you any favours with jeans unless they are heavily soiled. But if you want your jeans to last long, use lukewarm to cold water. 
  • Fill the tub just enough for your pair of jeans to be fully immersed in water. 
  • Oh, don’t forget to brush down your jeans before you start to wash them. Do this to get rid of loose dirt, so that washing will be easier and shorter.

Step 2

Add the right amount of washing soap. Use a mild soap to wash your pair of jeans. Harsh soap might cause the color of the jeans to bleed. This will reduce the lifespan of the jeans. 

Step 3

  • Place the jeans in the wash tub and submerge it under water. Ensure the whole of the jeans is submerged. 
  • With your hand, agitate the jeans for a little while. Afterwards, allow the pair of jeans to stand in the water for about 30 minutes. This will allow the soap to act on the jeans to absorb any dirt all over the pair of jeans. 
  • By the time the washing action is complete, the water should have turned yellowish or brown. You might choose to allow the jeans to stand in the soapy water for longer, depending on how dirty your pair of jeans is. 
  • Once the washing is done, take the jeans out and drain out the wash tub or sink.

Step 4

  • The next step is to rinse the jeans. Place the pair of jeans back into the wash tub or sink. 
  • Once again fill the tub with fresh cool water, just above the jeans, so that the entire pair of jeans is submerged underwater. 
  • Allow the jeans to sit in for about 5 minutes. The water should be clearer than it was when you had soapy water. 
  • Get the jeans out. 
  • If the water gets sudsy, refill the tub with water and rinse again until the water no longer has suds. 

Step 5

  • Hang the pair of jeans properly in a safe place and let it drip dry. 
  • Do not put your pair of jeans in a dryer. This could mess up the creases of your jeans or even stain the dryer
  • The best option is to allow it to drop dry. This could take 6-12 hours, so you have to be patient. 
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Treating Hard Water

Washing clothes with hard water is a total waste. Never do it. Hard water will hardly create any form of lather when you add soap. This means that it is near impossible to wash with such water. 

If you observe mineral residue (usually white) on your pipes, your sinks and even your dishes after they have been heavily used, it is most likely caused by hard water. 

If you have such water at home, you could try to soften the water by adding a spoonful of powdered borax. This is quite effective. A less effective alternative is to use baking soda. 

Other Hand Washing Tips

We have been able to explain in detail how you can wash your laundry without a washing machine. We have also shown how to hand wash delicate fabrics and tough fabrics like jeans. 

There are still a few hand washing tips to bear in mind, especially if you might just decide to start towing the eco-friendlier path of hand washing your clothes. Here are a few:

  • Watch the amount of water you use. Some folks have the habit of always filling up whatever containers they use to wash. This is a waste of water and energy. 

Once the water is enough to cover the laundry you intend to wash, that’s all the water you need. So, save energy; use less water. 

  • Do not dry out clothes excessively. Leaving your clothes out in the sun to dry for long hours could ruin them. Excess sun drying could leave your clothes out of shape. 

So, always keep an eye on your clothes. Once they are no longer damp, get them in. In fact, as much as you can, allow your clothes to drip dry. 

Many folks can’t wait long enough for their clothes to drip dry, but you’ll be protecting the fabric when you do. 

  • If your clothes are extremely soiled allow them to soak for longer periods. For instance, if your pair of jeans have been terribly soiled, following the instructions given in this article to wash jeans might leave you highly frustrated. 

You’ll be better off allowing the clothes to soak for hours. If possible, allow them to soak overnight. However, note that this is for heavily soiled clothes. Doing this for regular clothes will damage it in the long run. 

  • When you wring out large clothes such as bed sheets and heavy blankets, you will require an extra pair of hands. It is next to impossible to attempt to wring out a blanket all by yourself. 

It should also be mentioned at this point, that you need to be careful when wringing out regular clothes, so that you do not damage them. 

Apply just enough twisting force to get excess water out. The objective is to get rid of ‘excess’ water, and not all the water.

  • If you intend to use powdered detergents, first put the detergent in a cup of warm water before introducing it into the wash tub. Some powdered detergents do not dissolve well in cool water. 
How To Wash Clothes Without A Washing Machine
Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

It can be very annoying to find undissolved powdered detergent sticking to your clothes after washing. By first placing the detergent in warm water and mixing well, you ensure the detergent properly dissolves in water when washing. 

  • When you use stain removers, it is more effective to also scrub the stained area with a brush. This is especially for very tough stains. For lighter stains, just allowing the stain remover to stand in for a few minutes, might do the trick. 

However, tougher stains might require some abrasive action. A simple toothbrush will also do a good job. Ensure the brush you use is soft so that you don’t destroy the fabric with a hard brush. 

  • If you do not have a clothesline, or drying outside is not an option, you could hang your clothes to drip dry in areas within the home. You could use doors, showers, curtain rods as improvised hanging spots. 

Your best bet, however, is to get yourself a foldable drying rack. This would save you space and make drying easier. 

So there you have it. It’s not all doom and gloom if the washing machine disappoints you. If you follow the detailed guides, we have given you, you’ll be just fine. 

On the other hand, you could just order a new washing machine.

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