How to Wash Clothes in Your Bathtub

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Knowing how to wash your clothes in a bathtub could turn out to be useful for one reason or another. For example, if you don’t have access to a washing machine, washing your clothes in a bathtub (or a sink) is your second best option. If done right, your clothes are going to be just as clean as if they’ve been in the washer. The bathtub can also be used for washing delicate fabrics that could otherwise get damaged in your washing machine.

If you follow this easy step-by-step process, you’ll be able to get all your garments washed right away. It’s important to also note that different types of fabrics require different treatment, but washing them in a bathtub is one of the gentlest ways to keep them clean.

The easiest 8 steps to wash clothes in the bathtub

With a few basic household items and an easy step-by-step guide, you can wash your clothes in any tub you have access to. Whether you’re at home or somewhere else, this guide will enable you to properly wash your clothes.

#1 Read the garment label and separate your clothes

Some clothes have specific requirements on how to wash them. If they feature the hand wash symbol or the words “dry clean”, you can try washing them by hand. Some garments, however, specify “dry cleaning only”. In that case, you cannot wash it at home. Instead, you’ll have to take it to a professional service for dry cleaning.

There are certain fabrics that require special care, such as silk blouses, wool sweaters, and lingerie. Items like these are best washed by hand. Baby clothes are also delicate and may require hand washing instead of popping them into a washer and dryer.

As you read each garment label, check first to see if they have specific product recommendations for hand washing them. Separate them into piles according to the cloth type and color. Make sure that you don’t wash the whites with the colored fabrics, as there is a chance that your white garments might get stained if your colored clothes start to bleed.

#2 Clean the tub and make sure the plug works

Before you fill your tub or sink with water, clean it first with an all-purpose cleaner. It’s important to make sure that the place where you’re washing your clothes is clean.

That way, you can avoid contaminating your garments or having to do the washing all over again. Make sure to also check and see that the drain plug works so that you don’t have the water leaking out. It’s normal for plugs to break if they haven’t been used for a while, and with a quick check you could save yourself a good amount of time and effort.

#3 Pick the right water temperature

The temperature of the water usually depends on the material of the clothes you’re washing. If the garment label doesn’t specify anything, however, it’s best to use lukewarm water.

Note: The CDC have updated their recommendations for laundry. They suggest washing your garments with the hottest water temperature your clothes can tolerate, in order to maintain the best hygiene standards as possible. Do check the label first though, so you won’t end up ruining your clothes.

#4 Add your laundry detergent

When it comes to choosing the best kind of laundry detergent for washing clothes in a bathtub, it’s best to pick liquid detergent so you won’t have any difficulty dissolving it.

Not sure which detergent to use? Here’s a quick guide on the different types of detergent and what they are best for:

  • Mild detergent – best for most blinds of clothes EXCEPT for silk, lace, wool, or fine-knit material
  • No-rinse detergent – ideal for silk and lace to ensure that the garments are not damaged by too much rinsing
  • Detergent with lanolin – perfect for wool and fine knits so they stay soft and don’t get damaged while being washed

Once you pour in the detergent, mix it into the water well. Preferably with a gloved hand, to avoid direct contact with the detergent.

Pro tip 1: In case you don’t have any liquid detergent on hand, you can opt to use laundry powder or even dishwashing liquid. In both cases, always make sure that the soap has been properly mixed into the water so your clothes will be easy to rinse and don’t end up with soap stains.

Pro tip 2: If you are traveling and have to wash some garments in the hotel room, but you don’t have any laundry detergent with you, you can use the bar soap that the hotels provide. Let the clothes soak for a few minutes and then, with the bar soap, scrub around the really dirty areas.

#5 Add in your clothes and let them soak

Once you’re sure that the soap is properly dissolved in the water, add in your clothes and let it soak for at least 10 minutes (remember: don’t wash the whites together with your colored clothes).

Letting your clothes sit and soak a bit in the water and soap loosens the dirt so that it will be easier to get them clean. If your clothes also have some mild stains, soaking them will help in removing them more easily.

#6 Swirl the laundry and agitate clothes against each other

After your clothes have soaked for at least 10 minutes, now is the time to swirl around the laundry to help remove the dirt further. Using gentle movements, swish your clothes through the sudsy water. In some cases, where the dirt is particularly stubborn in an item of clothing, you can agitate the fabric against each other by scrubbing them against each other for a little bit. Make sure you don’t do it too much to avoid damaging the fabric.

Some people also recommend entering the tub and stomping on laundry. It’s best, however, to make sure that the laundry detergent is safe for your skin. Stomp on one area until it is thoroughly flattened, then move it around with your feet and stomp again. Continue this for about 10 minutes.

Pro tip: If an article of clothing is particularly soiled, you might have to further wash those items separately and use a brush to scrub them or a plunger to squish and “stomp” on them.

#7 Rinse

When you’re sure that your clothes are clean enough and that the dirt has been thoroughly removed, now is the time to rinse them.

Start by pulling the drain plug and letting all the water out of the tub. Once all the water has been drained, you can either put in the plug again and refill the tub or rinse the clothes directly under the faucet.

Don’t stop rinsing until you are sure that you have removed all the soap from the garments. It’s important to remove the detergent completely from your clothes to minimize the risk of skin irritation. According to Instructables you could also stomp your clothes while rinsing them, but we don’t recommend doing so unless you’re just using regular dish soap.

#8 Wring or squeeze the clothes and dry immediately

When the water and the clothes you’re washing are no longer soapy and sudsy, now is the time to wring the clothes one at a time and put them into a clean bucket. Wringing your clothes keeps you from having to hang out very wet garments and could significantly reduce the drying time.

We don’t recommend wringing/twisting any delicate fabrics though, as it could ruin your clothes. Only wring clothes made of durable fabrics, such as cotton or similar.

For delicate fabrics, we recommend giving the clothes a squeeze instead of twisting them. By squeezing them, you can still remove plenty of excess water and shorten the drying time.

It’s important to hang your clothes immediately on a drying rack after washing them because they will start to smell if you leave them all wet in a bucket. In some cases, they might even become moldy and you’ll have to wash them all over again.

Things that could be useful

Before you start washing your clothes in a bathtub, we recommend that you get a few things:

  • Laundry detergent (preferably a mild detergent, but a soap bar even regular dish soap could work as well)
  • Rubber gloves (preferably arm’s length gloves)
  • Scrub brush (for extra dirty clothes)
  • Dryer rack

How to wash delicate fabrics in the tub

Not all fabrics were created equal. Some require a bit more love and care and some special laundry detergent and special washing techniques. Here’s a quick guide to hand washing the following delicates in a tub:

  • Silk – use no-rinse detergent in a tub of lukewarm or cold water. After you rinse it, absorb the excess water with a towel. Do not rub or agitate or even wring your garment.
  • Wool – use wool detergent or any detergent with lanolin. Turn your garments inside-out and submerge them for a few minutes. Do not rub the fabric or wring, but instead press or squeeze out as much water as you can. Roll the wool in a dry towel to remove extra moisture and don’t hang dry so that the garment won’t stretch. Lay down flat on a fresh towel or mesh rack in a spot that doesn’t have direct sunlight. Adjust and turn over the garment to make sure that it is evenly stretched and evenly dried on all sides.
  • Chenille – add some delicate detergent to a tub filled with cool water. Put in the garments and agitate the water with your hands so that the garment is evenly soaped. Soak for a few minutes and then rinse until the item is no longer soapy. Do not wring, but press instead before hanging the item out to dry.
  • Chiffon – use a gentle detergent and make sure to rub very gently after soaking for a few minutes. Do not wring the garments when you are done, but press and roll in a towel before laying the garment flat to dry.
  • Lace – hand wash lace with cold water and massage the soapy water evenly into the fabric. Let it soak for a few minutes before rinsing it well and pressing out excess water. Lay it flat on its natural shape to dry.
  • Velvet – before you wash, turn the item inside-out so that you’re handling the flat side. Use a small amount of delicate liquid detergent and mix with cool water. Press the soapy water through and then rinse thoroughly. You can hang it up or lay it flat to dry.

When it comes to washing delicate garments, you should avoid twisting, wringing, pulling, and even stomping on them when you are washing them. If you are too rough or if you accidentally stretch or rub the fabric too much, it can damage the shape of your garments, the weave of the fabric, or can even result in rips and tears.