Knowing how to hand wash your family's laundry is a valuable life skill. It is something everyone should know. Whether you are washing by hand because of a disaster, traveling abroad where machine washing is not available, as a lifestyle requirement or choice - it is important to be able to disinfect, as well as clean your clothes. Here are a few tips on how to make washing by hand safer and easier.


First of all you will need a container to wash in. A few small items can be done in the sink but a larger container is much better for larger items. Some people use their bathtub, others a large bucket with a lid. Washing one load of laundry a day keeps the washing manageable and less tiring.

The secret to getting stained clothes clean with less work is soaking them in soapy water. Depending on the staining, they need to be soaked anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours. With a little experience and you can figure out which stains will take a longer soak. If you first use a laundry brush and some soap on stains it will decrease the soak time. One caution - If you are using a heavy detergent like oxy-clean on new, bright colors they may bleed.

Many of the clothes that we think of as dirty are not really. They require only a couple minutes of being sloshed around to remove body odor and dust.

You can make your own laundry detergent by grating a bar of soap like Fels Naptha, Ivory or Zote and mixing it with 1 cup each of Borax and washing soda (not baking soda.)

Consider using a disinfectant in your wash to kill germs. These can be purchased at most grocery stores.

  • liquid chlorine bleach

  • household ammonia

  • pine oil

  • hydrogen peroxide (also a natural bleaching agent so be careful with colors)


You may want to use a rub board to scrub tough stains. Use a glass washboard instead of a galvanized one. They do not rust over time and they clean better. Rub boards cause a little more wear and tear on the fabric but are easier than rubbing the stains between your knuckles. It is easier to use a brush that fits in your grip for scrubbing tough stains.


A toilet plunger purchased for the exclusive use of washing clothes is helpful for the tub or bucket method. To use a bucket, cut a hole in the center of the lid large enough to insert the plunger handle. That way you can agitate vigorously without getting water everywhere. This would be a great time to have children help. They will learn how to care for clothes while serving the family and having fun.

It doesn't take long to wash and rinse a load of clothes once the soak is done. About 10 minutes to finish a large load. Agitate with the plunger for about 5 minutes, wring out, then agitate and rinse. Use two tubs, one for the wash and one for the rinse. Wring out again and hang to dry. It is easier if there are two people to wring out larger items.

Wash and rinse with cold water. Normally several loads are washed in the same water. This saves water and detergent. When the wash water gets dirty you can use the rinse water to wash the next batches of clothes, further saving water.


Rinse twice or use a fabric softener made of white vinegar and baking soda. This will keep the clothes from drying stiff and eliminate odor problems.

Fabric softener:

  • Use a large bowl.

  • Add one cup baking soda (not washing soda.)

  • Pour one cup white vinegar over it.

  • While it is bubbling pour in two cups of cold water and mix.

  • Four drops of essential oil can be added for that extra touch.

  • This can be stored in a sealed container.

  • Be sure and shake well before adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup to your rinse water.

This rinse should help to keep your clothes from getting dingy. If you do have problems with this, rinse with plain vinegar until there are no more soap suds coming out of your clothes. An accumulation of detergent causes the dingy appearance.

This recipe is gentle and has even been known to improve eczema.

Whatever your reasons for washing your laundry by hand just remember; Life is like laundry - loads of Fun. Make it that way.

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