How to Clean Handwash Only Clothes

If you buy a new piece of clothing and later find it has the awful “hand wash only” label on it, you might be tempted to ignore it and throw it in the washing machine. But the tag is on it for good reason, and you really should do it by hand. How exactly do you wash these delicacies? Should you use soap? How many?

Hand washing delicate fabrics is actually quite easy if you have instructions, like in this video:

  1. Use a clean sink or other large sink filled with warm water.
  2. Add a few drops of a mild detergent such as Woolite ( Texere Silk also recommends Ivory Liquid Soap or Baby Shampoo).
  3. Gently twirl the clothes in the sink or knead them (as if you were kneading bread) for a minute or two, just enough to lather.
  4. For silk, you can add a few drops of conditioner to your hair in the last rinse for extra silkiness.
  5. Rinse thoroughly, then gently squeeze out the water.
  6. Lay on a flat surface to dry.

Of course, unless the garment says “hand wash only,” but is delicate, you can safely wash it in a gentle way , as the washerwoman says:

The machine is equivalent to a hand wash, this cycle uses warm or cold water with little or no spin. This is the shortest and most gentle cleaning cycle. If by default the machine is running with warm water, we recommend canceling this by choosing cold water. (This is what we do here at the Laundress Headquarters with our car.)

When washing “delicate” items, select the “Delicate” mode. Make a caution mistake – for the items in question, we always take a delicate approach by default and then scale up as necessary.

The bottom line is that it’s important to read labels so that you take care of your clothes so that they last as long as possible.

This story was originally published on 9/15/11 and updated on 9/11/19 to provide more complete and up-to-date information.


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