How To Hand Wash Laundry

I was hoping to be able to make my own laundry soap in addition to hand washing some clothes this week, but unfortunately, I was not able to find washing soda. However, I was pleased to find an organic hand washing laundry bar at one of my local health food stores (even they didn’t know where I could find washing soda locally).

So, I settled for just learning how to wash the clothes by hand this week. (Next time I’m in the capital I should be able to find washing soda and play with detergent making.)

On Sunday, I went for a long hike and did some river trekking, after that I had a perfect sized load of clothes in (desperate) need of washing.

In my research this week, I learned that the clothes should not directly be vigorously scrubbed with the bar of soap. (Oops, I definitely did that when I was in the Philippines.) Gentle spot cleaning with the bar is fine, and recommended for areas of the garment that are dirtied faster (bottoms of socks, armpits, etc.). The clothes do not need scrubbing, so much as agitating to get clean. It is important to let the clothes sit and soak during each stage of washing. And finally, white distilled vinegar should not be used till the rinse stage, unless you are afraid of colors bleeding in which case you should soak the clothes in a vinegar/water solution for a few minutes before washing. (Find more info on the many uses of vinegar for clothes washing at the Project Laundry List blog.)

I thoroughly rinsed the clothes to get the mud, etc off of the clothes before beginning the actual washing process. Other than that additional step, I followed the basic directions posted on many websites. The clothes came out looking clean and smelling fresh.

Step1: Wet the clothes with lukewarm water and spot clean any areas that require special attention.

Step 2: Dissolve detergent in lukewarm water. Most bars will list an ideal soap to water ratio. For mine it was 1 tablespoon shaved soap for every 2 gallons of water.

Preparing to wash the clothes.

Preparing to wash the clothes.

Step 3: Put the clothes into the soapy water. Agitate gently for 3-5 minutes, and let sit for an additional 3-5 minutes. A new, unused toilet plunger can be used to agitate the clothes.

Soaking in soapy water.

Soaking in soapy water.

Step 4: Rinse first with clean water. Then again, with 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar added to the second rinse. Agitate the clothes lightly and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Rinse 1-2 more times with fresh water till there is no evidence of soap residue, or a strong vinegar smell. (It’s okay if there is still a slight vinegar smell after rinsing as the smell will fade as the clothes dry.)

Step 5: Gently squeeze water out of the clothes, avoid wringing with delicate items. Then, lay the clothes down (individually) on a towel, roll them up in the towel and squeeze. This will help rid the clothes of excess water without damaging the garments by wringing them out with excessive force.

Wrap the clothes into the towel then squeeze to remove excess water.

Wrap the clothes into the towel then squeeze to remove excess water.

Step 6: Lay flat to dry.

Here are some useful sites for more information on hand washing laundry, and making your own detergent:
Project Laundry List (linked above)
TLC: How Stuff Works
Frugally Sustainable
Mother Nature Network


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