How to Clean Your Clothes If You Don’t Have a Washing Machine & Dryer

How to Clean Your Clothes If You Don’t Have a Washing Machine & Dryer

Living in a small space presents its own unique challenges.

You have to think about how much stuff you need, how you’re going to store everything, and even how you use each individual room. If you don’t have space for a washing machine, doing your laundry can turn into a day-long trek to the laundromat or building laundry room, fighting over space for the washers and dryers.

Free yourself of hauling your dirty laundry, soap, and stain remover forever with this easy process for cleaning your clothes without a washer and dryer:

Separate Your Clothes

Just as if you were going to dump things into a washing machine, you need to separate your laundry out into types of clothing. You’re not going to hand-launder towels the same as you launder your work clothes, for example.

The bonus of hand-washing your clothes is that you don’t have to worry about an individual load of clothing being too small to bother using your washing machine.

At the most basic, separate your clothing into whites, colored clothing, and delicates. You can separate items farther if you’d prefer.

Note: For delicate items such as wool, lace, and silk, read the item’s care label and follow the directions regarding water temperature, detergent types and amounts, and drying method.

Treat Stains

If you’re laundering clothes that have any stains, be sure to treat the stains prior to washing the clothing.

It’s usually better if you try to treat a stain as soon after it happens as possible, but if you forgot or if the stain needs a second treatment, follow this guide for treating your stain to give you the best opportunity to get rid of it.

Consider an Agitator

A lot of the cleaning power of a washing machine comes from the agitator, which is that plastic center piece in older-model washing machines or the simple act of clothes moving vigorously against one another.

If you’re hand-washing your clothes in your sink or bathtub, you won’t have the luxury of this agitation, decreasing your results.

You can purchase manual agitators online, or create your own by cutting a few holes in the rubber of a new plunger.

Put Clothes in a Clean Container

Depending on your individual setup, consider using a large, clean bucket or a freshly scrubbed sink or bathtub.

The lower the amount of clothing you have in the container for an individual load, the easier it will be to clean the clothing. This may mean washing multiple loads of the same type of clothing if you have a lot, or bring in a second clean container to store wet items while you wash the rest of the load.

Fill the Container with Lukewarm Water

Fill your container until the water level is 1 to 2 inches above the level of the clothing.

For most types of clothing, lukewarm or room temperature water will work just fine and reduces the chance of damaging your clothing. Unless you’re laundering sturdy clothing that is heavily soiled, avoid using hot water.

Add Detergent

If you’re washing your items in a bucket or sink, you’ll only need 1-2 teaspoons of detergent. For larger, bathtub-sized loads, use 4 tablespoons or follow the package instructions.

For those with sensitive skin, consider wearing rubber gloves to prevent rashes or itching from coming into contact with the detergent.

Let Your Items Soak

Now, you need to give your detergent time to work. This means allowing the soapy water to sit on your clothes for at least 20 minutes.

For heavily soiled or stained items, leave them soaking for up to an hour.

Agitate Your Clothing

Using either your hands or an agitator tool, gently move your clothing around in the water. As you move the clothing around, press it against the bottom or sides of the container until you see suds.

Continue agitating your clothing for about two minutes, or until you feel the items are clean.

However, do your best to not scrub or twist the clothing, as you risk stretching or damaging the items.

If you’re laundering delicate clothes, use your hands to move and squeeze the clothing during the agitation phase instead of using an agitator to protect the items.


Now that you’ve washed the clothes with soap, it’s time to rinse them.

Empty all the soapy water from the container, and fill it with cool, fresh water. Continue moving the clothing around as you did during the agitation stage, pressing them gently to remove the soap suds.

After a few minutes, drain the water and repeat the process a couple more times. You’ll know you’re finished when there are no visible soap suds when the clothing is moved or pressed.

Wring & Dry

Gently twist each article of clothing to remove excess water. For delicate items, lay out a clean towel, then put the clothing on top. Roll the clothing item up in the towel and gently press down to squeeze out the water.

Once your clothing is no longer dripping wet, hang each piece on a drying rack, clothesline, banister, or even on the backs of chairs. Be sure to evenly spread the clothing out without overlapping any pieces, and hang items outdoors if possible.

Be aware that your clothing will drip a little during the drying process, so place tarps or towels underneath if you’re worried about getting your floors wet.

You can speed up the drying process by making sure you’re putting things in a well-ventilated area with a fan or outdoors in the sun.

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