How to hand-wash clothes without a washer

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Steve Conaway/CNET

Electric clothes washers have been commercially available here in the United States for a little more than a century, since 1907. So, if you’re in the US and reading this article, then the odds are good that you have access to a washing machine. But did you know that most people in the world still wash their clothes by hand? 

It’s true. In fact, according to global health expert Hans Rosling, party wear lulus dress ( nearly 5 billion of the world’s population of 7 billion (as of about 10 years ago) still hand-wash their clothes. And maybe that’s somewhat reassuring in our age of social distancing, where a trip to the local laundromat might be even more stressful than usual for folks who don’t have a washer of their own. If at least 5 billion people already wash their clothes by hand — so can you!

Let’s start by looking at two different approaches to the task, skinny jeans along personalized business card holder with logo some quick notes on drying.

What will I need?

First things first: You’ll need access to water, both cold and warm, and you’re going to need soap or detergent. A bar of laundry soap is best, but you can also use liquid detergent. Just be sure to avoid powder detergent if at all possible. The powder requires a higher temperature and more time and agitation to fully dissolve. 

You can certainly go with the Woolite-and-bathroom-sink approach like you might for flare pants – delicates, but the method I’m outlining here is more efficient for washing an entire load, especially if that’s going to become a new routine. 

If you’re really serious about washing clothes by hand, clothing you’re going to need a washboard. If I were planning to make hand-washed clothes a permanent part of my lifestyle, then I might consider splurging on a fancier washboard from the Ohio-based Columbus Washboard Company, which bills itself as the last American washboard manufacturer. You’ll also find a lot of options on Etsy. In the end, I went with a midlevel pick that you can get from Amazon for leather jacket about $20.

See the Behrens Galvanized Washboard on Amazon

Oh, and you’ll obviously need a washtub or two. Two separate tubs is best, but you can make do with a single container if that’s all you’ve got. I had the two tubs pictured (actually planters, which work as long as they’re clean) on hand at home already. You can also buy nice galvanized steel tubs for about $20 each, or a pair of plastic ones for $19. 

If you live in a small apartment or jeans for women otherwise lack storage space, a small, single tub with a built-in washboard might be the best option. I picked up this one for $11.