If you buy a new item of clothing and later discover that it has the dreaded “hand wash only” label on it, you may be tempted to ignore it and pop it in the washer. But the tag is on there for a reason and you really should manually wash the item. How exactly should you wash those delicates? Are you supposed to use soap? How much?
Hand washing delicates is actually pretty straightforward, once you have the instructions, like the ones in this video:
Use a clean sink or other large basin filled with lukewarm water.
Put in a few drops of mild detergent.
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.
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 The Laundress says:
The machine equivalent to handwashing, this cycle uses warm or cold water with low or no spin. It’s the shortest and most gentle cleaning cycle. If the machine defaults to warm water, we recommend you override this by selecting cold water. (That’s what we do here at The Laundress headquarters with our machine.)
Select the Delicate cycle when washing “delicate” items. Err on the side of caution — for items in question, we always default to delicate treatment and then scale up if necessary.
The bottom line is that it’s important to read the labels: this way you give your clothing the care it needs to last as long as possible.
This story was originally published on 9/15/11 and was updated on 9/12/19 to provide more thorough and current information.