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How to Wash Clothes Without a Washer

Washing machines can ruin delicate items. For delicate clothing like lingerie and sensitive fabrics, hand washing is the best way to avoid ruining them. Not to mention, hand-washing clothes is one of the cheapest ways when you’re looking at how to wash clothes without a washer.

How to Wash Clothes Without a Washer

Hand-washing clothing can also be a more eco-friendly option for those who worry about the environmental impact of their laundry.

When dealing with dirty clothes, manually washing clothes may leave you wondering how to wash clothes without a washer and if there are other ways to clean them. If this sounds like you, here’s everything you need to know so you can wash your clothes by hand like a pro.


How to Wash Clothes at Home

How to wash clothes without a washer? When washing clothes at home, it’s essential to be mindful of the types of fabrics you have and how they will react during the wash.

In addition, certain types of clothing require different care than others, so make sure you know what kind of laundry you’re dealing with before you clean it.

Can All Clothes Be Washed by Hand?

Generally, all types of clothes that are safe to clean with a washer can be washed by hand. However, it’s still best to examine the type of fabric you’re dealing with, your water temperature, and how much soap you use.

Preparing to Wash Clothes Without a Washer

Maybe you have a power outage and a mounting pile of laundry to deal with. If you’ve never had to wash clothes manually, don’t worry. Learning how to wash clothes without a washer isn’t as daunting as it may seem.

Before you start, make sure you have a place to do your washing and the cleaning tools you need.

Grab a tub of water and set it on a flat surface. Fill the tub with warm water, but don’t go overboard on the heat. Between 90 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit should be fine and will keep your clothes from shrinking.

Soapy Water for Washing Clothes Without a Washer

Next, get some soap. Bar soap works well because you can break off pieces and use them as needed.

Now that you have your tub of water and soap ready, it’s time to get your dirty laundry ready.

At this stage, you’ll want to ensure that everything is easily accessible and you have an area where you’re comfortable washing your clothes and getting the floor wet.

Sort Your Clothes

Before you begin, you’ll want to sort your clothes into piles: white clothes, light colors, dark colors, and bright colors.

We recommend sorting your clothes according to color, especially if they’re prone to staining. For example, you might want to separate your red clothes from blue ones in case they stain each other and turn your entire load purple.

You can soak your colored clothing in cold water with some detergent before washing them (and pre-treating stains on white clothes). However, the best rule to follow when it comes to how to wash clothes without a washer is to use cool water during the wash cycle, especially when washing delicate fabrics like lace or silk.

Whether you’re using liquid detergent or powdered detergent, it’s essential to add it to a basin with warm or cold water to dissolve it properly before adding your clothes.

The right water temperature will help minimize the risk of soap stains on your clothes and help the detergent create enough suds to clean your clothes.

Steps for Washing Clothes Without a Washer

Washing clothes without a washer is an excellent way to save electricity consumption. You can start practicing how to wash clothes without a washer using the sink or bathtub if you live in a condo or wash them in your backyard in a basin. If you’re doing this in your bathroom, be sure it has an extra drain in case of overflow.

One of the most practical tips for how to wash clothes without a washer is to use cold water to reduce your energy consumption. Using cold water usually won’t damage clothes. In fact, it can be great for removing stains and works well for delicates like silk and lace.

How to Wash Clothes Without a Washer Using Detergent
  1. Add detergent – To begin, add some detergent to your clothes. The amount of detergent will vary depending on the size of your load and how dirty it is. (Remember to dilute it in some water first!) Next, fill a basin or bathtub with water.
  2. Add soap – Add soap and start agitating the clothing by hand (or with a washboard). Adding soap will help clean the clothes, remove stains, and soften them.
  3. Rinse – After cleaning with soap, rinse it off with running water. Finally, hang your clothes outside using a clothesline or drying rack where they can dry naturally in the sun.
  4. Air-dry – Your clothes will dry more slowly on a clothesline than in a dryer, but if you don’t have access to either, use the next best thing: an indoor drying rack. Drying racks can be anything from a towel rod to an actual drying rack that’s been specifically designed to dry laundry.

Use a Maid-Rite Washboard for More Efficient Handwashing

Maid-Rite manufactures galvanized washboards — items used for washing clothes before the advent of modern appliances. They make it easier and faster to get a thorough clean if you want to learn how to wash clothes without a washer.

Using a Washboard

To use it for laundry, soak clothes in a lukewarm tub with laundry detergent for about 30 minutes. Then, place your washboard in the water, positioning it so it creates a wedge between the floor and the side of your washtub. Begin scrubbing your clothing against the grooves as you soap and rinse.

How to Handwash Delicate Fabrics

Even if you have a washing machine, delicate fabrics get the best care if you handwash them. Fill a small tub with water, add some soap, and rub your clothes against each other to clean them.

Steps for Washing Delicate Fabrics Without a Washer

How to wash clothes without a washer if you’re dealing with delicate fabrics?

  1. Clean the sink – Before washing your delicates in the sink, ensure that the sink is clean and without dishwashing residue.
  2. Fill the sink with water – Fill the sink with water until you can submerge the fabric.
  3. Add detergent – Add detergent as needed. You can choose between powder and liquid detergent.
  4. Soak and swish the garment around – Upon adding detergent, let it sit for a while. You can swish the garment around to ensure that the detergent is dissolved and distributed in the water. This process will also help remove dirt and stains from your clothes.
  5. Drain the sink and rinse the garment – Once you let the garment soak for about 15 minutes, drain the sink and rinse out any soap residue.
  6. Air-dry the garment – After rinsing the sink and draining all the water, hang your garments to dry using a hanger on a hook. If the fabric is very fragile, lay it flat on a clean surface so it can dry.

Alternative Methods for Washing Clothes Without a Washing Machine

If you don’t have a washing machine, there are other options for how to wash clothes without a washer aside from washing clothes by hand.

Here are some options you might want to look into.


Wonderwash is a much smaller appliance for times when you need to figure out how to wash clothes without a washer. Unlike washing machines, it’s hand-powered, portable, more affordable, doesn’t use electricity, and uses less water.

Because of its smaller compartment for washing, it’s ideal for washing small clothing items and delicates.

To use it, just fill your Wonderwash with water, rotate its handle for a few minutes, and drain the water. Depending on how dirty your clothes are, you may need to repeat this step once or twice.


The MobileWasher is another alternative to good old electric-powered washing machines. Its entire mechanism is a manually operated plunger-style tool with rotating spindles that agitate the water and soap in a wash tub. It’s similar to a butter churner, except it’s made for washing clothes.

Fabric Softeners and Handwashing Laundry

Are you a fan of soft fluffy fabrics?

Fabric Softener

Well, you don’t have to omit fabric softeners from your laundry routine just because you’ve decided to learn how to wash clothes without a washer. Just add about two teaspoonfuls of liquid fabric softener for every load of laundry before adding detergent.

Air-drying clothes can leave wrinkles but adding just enough fabric softener will reduce creases.

Stain Removal Without a Washing Machine

How to wash clothes without a washer while removing stains? Here are some easy ways to remove clothes stains without relying on washing machines.

  • For pen stains, pour rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad and gently dab the area until the stain fades.
  • For oil stains, take a teaspoon of cornstarch or talcum to absorb the oil and let it sit for a while. After the starch absorbs the oil, you can start washing the garment.
  • For nosebleeds, use cold water to break up the blood’s compounds and wash away the stain.
  • For wine stains, immediately pour table salt and allow it to soak through the fabric. After a while, wash the stain away.

If all methods fail, try bleach and elbow grease.

Wrapping Up How to Wash Clothes Without a Washer

Don’t have access to a washing machine? As you can see, it’s not the end of the world or clean laundry. Even if you don’t have the patience to manually handwash each item, there are many ways on how to wash clothes without a washer, including tools that are at your disposal.

Just remember the following:

  • The best way to clean your clothes without a washing machine is to wash them with cold water and mild soap.
  • You can use a Maid-Rite WashboardMobileWasher, or a Wonderwash to more efficiently clean your clothes if you don’t have a washer.
  • You can incorporate fabric softener with your detergent before handwashing clothes.
  • Rubbing alcohol, cornstarch, talcum powder, cold water, table salt, and bleach are all great for fighting different types of stains.

Once you master how to wash clothes without a washer, you might actually prefer the thorough and careful cleaning handwashing provides, especially when it comes to your delicate items!

Have you ever considered apartment homesteading? You can learn all about it in our Apartment Homesteading post.