How To Deal With ‘Hand Wash Only’ Clothes

How To Deal With ‘Hand Wash Only’ Clothes

The “hand wash only” label on clothes is as annoying as the “dry clean only”, maybe even more so. How exactly should you wash those delicate silk or wool items? How much soap do you need? Can’t you just stick it in the washing machine?

Hand washing delicates is actually pretty straightforward, once you have the instructions:

  • Use a clean sink or other large basin filled with lukewarm water.
  • Put in a few drops of mild detergent such as Woolite (Textere Silk also recommends Ivory Liquid soap or baby shampoo).
  • Gently swirl the clothing in the sink or knead it (like you’re kneading bread) for a minute or two just enough that they get soaped up.
  • For silks you could add a few drops of hair conditioner to the final rinse to add extra silkiness.
  • Rinse thoroughly then gently squeeze out the water.
  • Lay flat to dry.

Here’s a (somewhat bizarre) video demonstrating how to hand wash clothes, just in case you want some more visual information.

Of course, if the clothing doesn’t say “hand wash only” specifically, but is delicate, you can safely wash it in the gentle cycle, as Woolite says:

Use the gentle cycle when washing better garments. It’s often as gentle and effective as hand washing while the agitation of a regular washing cycle may be damaging. What goes in the gentle Cycle? Your favourite washable silk blouse, cotton knit (unconstructed) dress, spandex bike shorts – all the clothes you don’t want to take a chance on. What doesn’t go in the gentle cycle? Ordinary detergents, which may work great on grass-stained jeans but may be too harsh on your finer clothes.

Crash Course is a twice-weekly series of guides to life skills everyone should know but you may have been afraid to ask.


    • I love this!

      I’ve never paid attention to hand wash only. Once or twice I’ve put things in a pillowcase before putting them in the washing machine (does that work or is it just something my mother told me to do?) but I’m WAY too lazy to handwash 🙂

  • I always ignore “hand wash only” instructions. I’ve had one or two accidents when I didn’t bother to separate colours, but none just from machine washing.

  • Laundry bags are my life – they solve all these problems.
    They’re also great for clothes that have hooks, because if you seperate them from non-hooking clothes, you don’t get anything torn while washing.

  • For those of you thinking of ignoring ‘hand-wash only’ items – please don’t ever put hand-knitted wool (unless you know for sure that it’s made from Superwash wool), alpaca or any other animal fibre in the wash: it will end up shrunken, thickened and inflexible through the process of felting (even if you put it inside a pillowcase or laundry bag).

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