You may not remember when a “washboard” was an appliance as opposed to a description of someone’s abs, but there are still benefits of hand washing clothes—even today. While it’s hard to deny the convenience and time-savings of modern washers and dryers for efficient housekeeping, there are good reasons to opt for hand-washing clothes.
Hand-washing clothes can be better for the environment—from the energy and water savings to using natural detergents, hand-washing simply has less of an environmental impact. Washing clothes by hand also saves wear and tear on your clothes, especially delicate fabrics.
Whether you hand-wash and line-dry your clothes in addition to using your washer and dryer, or you’re ready to make enjoying the benefits of hand washing clothes a regular thing, there are plenty of reasons to go “old school.”
The Biggest Benefits of Hand Washing Clothes:
Help the Environment and Save Money
Machine-washing laundry uses large amounts of water and energy—from heating the water to operating your washer. Add in the energy used with the dryer, and it’s easy to see how energy and water usage can quickly add up. That’s energy that is often non-renewable and energy you’re paying for with every load.
According to Energy Star, the average household does almost 400 loads of laundry every year, consuming almost 14,000 gallons of water with a washing machine. Your dryer is the other half of the equation. An electric dryer is second only to your fridge for consuming energy. Using your washer and dryer exclusively, you can count on spending about $400 per year (not counting detergents, softeners and dryer sheets).
Whether you hand-wash clothes more often or commit to using your washer and dryer more efficiently, you can reduce your carbon footprint, save energy costs and keep your wardrobe looking newer longer.
Other Benefits of Hand Washing Clothes
You already know that hand-washing laundry can save money and help the environment, but there are plenty of other benefits of hand washing clothes. When you hand-wash your laundry and dry it on a clothesline, you can enjoy these benefits too:
- Hand-washing laundry and hanging it out to dry gives your body a good workout
- You get the health benefits of being outside and breathing fresh air
- Your clothes can come out cleaner when you hand-wash, from a greater focus on stains and spots to the natural whitening power of the sun
- Hand-washing doesn’t use as much laundry detergent or water as machine washing
- You can eliminate much of the laundry detergent residue with hand-washing
- You’ll need to iron less often by hanging your clothes to dry immediately after washing
- Your laundry will benefit from the natural sanitizing from solar rays and it will smell fresh and clean without dryer sheets
Here’s How to Get Started Hand-Washing Clothes
While there are many benefits of hand washing clothes opposed to machine washing, many of us may not be ready to give up the convenience and speed of our laundry appliances completely. After all, quilts, blankets, jeans, towels and similar laundry items can be hard to handle with hand-washing. But most other laundry can be hand-washed without adding too much work to your house cleaning chores.
Here’s how you can get started hand-washing clothes either as a supplement to machine-washing and drying or as a replacement:
Supplies for Hand-Washing Clothes
- Rubber gloves to protect your hands from detergent and keep them from getting water-logged
- Three 5-gallon buckets, a tub or sink
- An agitator—you can use a new plunger with holes cut out or opt for a hand agitator designed specifically for hand-washing laundry
- Eco-Friendly laundry detergent—if you’re pouring your wash water outside, you need biodegradable cleaners
- Distilled white vinegar to use when rinsing as a natural fabric softener
- A water source
- A clothesline—a portable clothesline can give you outdoor and indoor flexibility
- A wringer—you can always wring and twist by hand but a wringer gets out more water and is easier on your hands
- A washboard—great for stubborn stains and easier on your hands
Choose Your Hand Washing Location
There are three suitable places you can wash clothes by hand—a sink, bathtub or those five-gallon buckets. The size of your sink will limit which types of clothing and how large of a load you can hand wash, but a sink is great for delicate fabrics, undergarments and other small items like baby clothes and dish towels. Before you wash laundry in your sink, give the sink a good cleaning.
For tackling regular-sized loads of laundry and large items like sheets and comforters, you should use your tub or the 5-gallon buckets.
- Hand washing laundry in your tub
Start with a clean bathtub and stop up the drain. Pour in about 4 tablespoons of eco-friendly detergent. Put clothes in the tub, lay each piece out flat and spread them evenly. Fill the tub with water until it’s about an inch above the clothes. You can use cold water for most of your laundry.
Pre-soak clothes for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how dirty your laundry is and how big of a load you’re washing. Agitate your laundry for about 2 minutes. Empty the tub, wring your clothes and fill the tub while rinsing clothes under the faucet. Let the laundry soak for five minutes and agitate again for about 2 minutes.
Drain the tub, wring out the clothes and fill again with cold water. Add 4 cups of distilled white vinegar, agitate for 2 minutes, wring out the clothes and hang them to dry. If there is any detergent residue, you may have to rinse again before line-drying your laundry.
- Hand washing laundry in 5-gallon containers
Fill three 5-gallon containers halfway. One will be for washing and the other two for rinsing. If you’re hand-washing clothes inside, cut a small hole in the center of the wash bucket lid for the agitator.
For the wash bucket, add 1/2 tablespoon biodegradable or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Agitate thoroughly and load your laundry into the container. Agitate for about 2 minutes. Wring out the clothes and load them into the first rinse bucket. Let them soak for 5 minutes and agitate for about a minute.
Wring out the clothes and load them into the second rinse bucket with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. Agitate for about a minute, wring out the laundry and hang it to dry. If there is a residue or a strong vinegar odor, rinse twice.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Hand Washing Your Laundry
To get all the benefits of hand washing clothes, you’re going to need some practice. As you get more familiar with hand-washing, the process will take less and less time. To get you started, here are some hand-washing and line-drying tips to save you time and give you cleaner laundry.
- Heavy fabrics, like those in jeans and towels, absorb a lot of water and detergent. Wring these items out thoroughly to minimize drying time and to prevent them from being too stiff.
- Open up and shake clothing after wringing before you rinse to minimize wrinkles.
- Unless your laundry is very dirty, you can use your bucket hand-washing set up for two to three loads.
- Shake clothes out before hanging and hang them spread out so that they keep their shape.
- Hang jeans, dress shirts, and socks by the bottom hems for quicker drying.
- Leave sufficient space between pieces of laundry hanging outside for increased airflow.
- Hang white clothing in direct sunlight when you can to help remove stains and kill germs naturally.
There are some great benefits of hand washing clothes, from saving your hard-earned money and doing your part for the environment to giving your laundry a healthier, more natural cleaning. Whether you hand-wash your laundry regularly or only once in a while, you just might come to enjoy the process more than you imagined.