The Best Tips for Washing Clothes by Hand

The Best Tips for Washing Clothes by Hand

Cleaning and Choosing the Basin

It is important that you clean whatever basin you are using before you start to wash clothes.  It doesn’t matter if you are using a bathtub, sink, bucket or large drum.  Make sure that it is free from grime, gunk or any type of residue that can get transferred to your clothing as you wash.  You also want to choose the appropriate basin for the job.  While using the bathtub can give you a lot of room to work with, it will also take a lot of water, use up a lot of detergent and require you to hunch over or kneel for a prolonged amount of time.

As a general rule, try to use a small basin so that you can conserve resources.  You also can only wash one item of clothing or fabric at a time, so it is pretty unnecessary to need a lot of water.  However, you can use larger basins to soak clothing before starting to do laundry and transfer them into the smaller one when its time to wash.

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Check the Label

The next step is to quickly check the label on the fabric you are washing.  This will ensure that you are using the correct water temperature and taking any special steps that may be necessary to prevent the fabric from damage.  You also want to make sure that you test the water/detergent mixture on new, colored items in order to minimize the amount of runoff from dyes.  This is also applicable to the soaking process.  The last thing that you need is for all of your laundry to get stained from one item that was not rinsed or washed separately earlier.

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Adding the Detergent

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There are different opinions out there with respect to when to add the detergent.  Some people like to dilute detergent powder in the water before adding clothes in order to prevent the accumulation of gunk and slime that may be difficult to scrub off while you wash.  On the other hand, the same powder can provide a little bit of abrasion that can help to eat away at stubborn stains or splotches of dirt and grime.

In any case, use detergent that best suits your needs.  Keep in mind that if you are using lye in homemade recipes or products that are caustic, you should wear gloves to reduce the risk of irritating, chafing or burning your hands and arms.

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Pre-soaking laundry is one of the most effective ways to loosen stains or dirt from fabric.  However, you may need to use a brush or something similar to one of those old fashioned laundry grates to remove stubborn impurities.  One thing that you want to be careful about is that if you rub fabric together vigorously in order to get stains loose, you run the risk of damaging the material.  Use common sense and choose a method that is most appropriate.

As far as general washing goes, all you really need to do is to gently work the item with your hands while it is in the laundry basin.  Think about the washing machine.  It basically soaks the laundry while gently agitating the water in order to allow the detergent to do most of the work.  Follow similar principles while doing laundry by hand.

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You need to make sure that you give the laundry items a good rinse before removing excess water and drying.  This will help to remove dirty water and excess detergent from the fabric.  Detergent that remains can irritate the skin and potentially damage or discolor the fabric.  Wearing clothes that have not been properly rinsed can cause them to feel slimy or rough while wearing them as well.

You can either dump the basin and replace with fresh water or do a rinse in another basin.  Keep in mind that you will need to change the water after each rinse to ensure that there is no detergent left over, otherwise you will just be transferring it from one piece of fabric to another.

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The last step before drying is to wring out the excess water just as the spin cycle does in a washing machine.  Just consider the fragility of the fabric you are washing so that you wring it in a manner that won’t cause it to stretch or become damaged.  Read the label for proper care instructions, but use common sense when in doubt.

Another neat little trick is to place the fabric, after wringing, on top of a dry towel.  Fold the towel over, or place another on top, and press down.  Think of how you squeeze bacon grease between two paper towels after cooking.  The same principle applies here.  This will help to remove a lot of excess water and speed up the drying process.

Finally, consider water conservation as you are doing laundry, because it will take a lot of water to wash clothes whether you do it by hand or with a machine.  This is particularly true when rinsing.  Only you can decide how to minimize waste, but it is important to think about conservation before, during and after you wash clothes, especially if you are living with a limited or regimented water budget in a SHFT situation.

Once the clothes have been rinsed, dry them on a clothesline or rack and place in a sunny area.  Remove when dry so the fabric doesn’t get baked by the sun.  This can cause the fabric to fade, crack, tear or deform.

Doing laundry by hand isn’t a complicated process, and following these steps can help to get this chore done with minimal difficulty.  Try it for yourself and fine-tune it according to your particular needs.  Finally, keep in mind that you don’t need to wash clothes every day.  Wait until they need to be washed in order to avoid making extra work for yourself, wasting water or causing fabric to wear out or fade prematurely.


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