How to Wash Clothes: Machine and Hand Washing

Use these instructions and tips to wash clothes of every kind correctly, and safely.

How to Wash Clothes


Sort your laundry into groups so that white, colored, and dark clothes are washed separately. Check the care labels before beginning to make sure there are no special care requirements. Use the right water temperature and cycle settings to wash your clothes. Choose the cold water and delicate cycle settings if you do not know which presets to use. Use the appropriate laundry detergent, and do not over-pour. Once finished, air dry your clothes by hanging or laying flat on a drying rack.

This is  How to Wash Clothes: Machine and Hand Washing.

If you took a look at the settings on the washing machine and realized that you don’t know how to wash clothes, you’ve come to the right place. Wether you are washing joggers made from a cotton polyester blend, or a hoodie made from 100% cotton, we can help you to properly wash your clothes. 

It is of critical importance that you check your garment’s care label before attempting to wash. The care label may have special instructions or requirements about what water temperature to use in the washing machine, or which setting to use in the dryer.

Example: Do Not Tumble Dry.

It is also important to sort your laundry so that you are washing clothes of similar color and fabric, together. Mixing clothing types in the wash can lead to fading, color bleeding, and the decline of your garment’s overall quality. 

Wash white clothes all together.

Wash dark clothes all together.

Wash colored clothes all together.

If you find this to be overwhelming, then take your dirty laundry to the dry cleaners. Using professionals will make sure your clothes are not damaged while being cleaned. Learn more about how much dry cleaning costs and how long dry cleaning takes.

Continue reading to learn how to wash clothes in the washing machine, as well as by hand. 

How to Wash Clothes

Knowing how to properly wash clothes is critical because if you do not use the right methods, you could end up damaging your clothes (ex. Hot water will shrink your clothes,) or not cleaning them well enough! Nobody wants to wear dirty, smelly, or damaged clothes!

Use the step-by-step instruction below on how to wash clothes in the washing machine, as well as how to wash clothes by hand, to care for your precious wardrobe properly. 

If your looking to wash a specific piece of your wardrobe, let our guides help you.

1. How to Wash Clothes in the Washing Machine

Use the instructions below to wash clothes in the washing machine

  1. Sort your laundry into different groups based on the color and fabric of the garment. White, colored, and dark garments should be sorted into their own groups, as should garments made from different fabrics such as denim, cotton, linen, or polyester (can you shrink polyester.)
  2. Review the garment’s care label to make sure that you are administering the correct type of care. Using the wrong water temperature, washing method, or detergent, can have adverse effects on your clothes, so be sure to always check the care label for special instructions first. 
  3. Use the right water temperature. Fabrics made from cotton and wool for example, should be washed in cold water. Washing these fabrics in hot water will lead to shrinkage. Hot water can be good for brightening white and light colors, however you should be considerate of the type of fabric the garment is made from as some materials react poorly to heat. Washing clothes with cold water is always the safest option. 
  4. Adjust the load size and make sure the washing machine is not overloaded. 
  5. Use the correct type of wash cycle (how long does a washer take?). White clothing is best washed using the normal cycle setting, while items such as knitted clothes, lingerie, linen, and dress shirts, should be washed on the delicate cycle. Refer to your clothing’s care label to find out which setting to use, and use the delicate setting if you aren’t sure and want to choose the safe option. 
  6. Add laundry detergent to the washing machine. Use the correct amount of detergent and do not over-pour. Find the correct type of detergent to use, based on the type of clothing you want to wash. There are different types of detergent for whites clothes, dark clothes, delicate clothes, and more. 
  7. Once finished, dry your clothes appropriately. The safest way to dry clothes is to air dry. Do this by either hanging (line dry) or laying flat to dry on an indoor dryer rack. Some garments may be able to go in the dryer. If you would like to machine dry your clothes, then be sure to use tumble dry low to avoid shrinkage or damage. If you would like to shrink your clothes then use the tumble dry high setting, which uses a high level of heat to dry your clothes (how hot does a dryer get.)

Make sure you know how to use a dryer properly & understand how long a dryer takes. Once the clothes are dry fold, roll or hang your clothes to put them away properly and wrinkle free.

2. How to Wash Clothes by Hand

Hand wash clothes by carefully follow the step-by-step instructions below. 

  1. Sort the laundry into different groups depending on the color and fabric type of the garment. Be sure to wash garments together with other similar clothing to avoid color bleeding and fading. 
  2. Review each garment’s care label to ensure that you are administering the right type of care. 
  3. Pretreat stains on the garment before placing it into the water. Use a liquid laundry detergent or a water based cleaning solution such as white vinegar or lemon juice mixed with water to remove the stains. 
  4. Fill a container, basin, sink, or bathtub with cold to lukewarm water. 
  5. Add laundry detergent to the water. Check the detergent’s instructions to find out how much to add, and make sure to use the correct detergent based on the color and fabric type of your garment. 
  6. Allow the garment to soak for 5 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness and degree of dirtiness. Soaking your clothes helps to remove dirt, stains, and scents from the fabric. 
  7. Use your hands to wash and agitate the clothes in the water. Do this for 5 to 15 minutes or until the clothing has been adequately cleansed. 
  8. Rinse the clothes under cold water until the soap has been completely removed and the water runs clear. 
  9. Remove excess water from the garment by wringing or rolling the garment in a soft, absorbent towel. Lay your garment evenly on a soft towel, and gently roll it up (sushi roll style) and then apply pressure to the roll to remove water. Do not air dry or machine dry a soaking wet garment. 
  10. Dry the clothes appropriately. Air dry by hanging or laying flat (dry flat) on a drying rack, or machine dry using tumble dry low, or another setting as stated by the item’s care label. 

How to Wash Clothes FAQ

Review the care instructions on your garment’s care label to find the proper method for washing. The safest way to wash clothes is to hand wash with a gentle detergent in cold to lukewarm water and then to air dry on a drying rack. 

Use the washing machine and use the cold water and delicate wash settings. Air dry the clothes once finished or use the tumble dry low setting in the dryer. 

  1. Sort the clothes and wash similar items together.
  2. Review the garment’s care label.
  3. Adjust the settings on the washing machine.
  4. Dry the clothes appropriately. 
Written and reviewed by:
Tall Paul
Tall Paul
I am 6'7 (203cm) / 235lb (106 kg) model and ex-athlete. Since I was a teen I had trouble finding clothes. I was too tall for off the rack and was too lean for Big & Tall.

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