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If you’re trying to wash clothes without a washer, it can feel super intimidating. But for thousands of years, people did their laundry by hand. In the event you might find yourself in a situation where your washing machine isn’t usable (it breaks down, you’re camping, you’re at a hotel, you’re without electricity, or maybe you’re simply trying to be more eco-friendly) – clean clothes are still an option.

With a little bit of time and effort, you can easily wash clothes in the tub. A few tools and a little bit of muscle can get your clothes clean wherever you are or whatever your situation may be.

Keep reading to see how you can wash clothes in the tub (or any other large bin) with just a few supplies.

Hand washing clothes

Before You Wash Clothes By Hand in the Tub

First, you’ll need to make a few decisions and gather some supplies that will make it easier to wash your clothes by hand.

Decide Where You Will Wash Your Clothes

Start by deciding what you will wash your clothes in. A bathtub is easy for a significant amount of clothes, but a sink or large bucket/bin will work for a few garments or multiple loads.

And if you’re looking for something really portable and compact for washing clothes, look at the Scrubba. We’ve used it camping, at hotels, and on road trips with the SinkSuds. You need to really put your muscles into it to get the detergent out, but it works great!

Best Detergent for Hand Washing Clothes

Next, you need detergent. Depending on how big your load of laundry is and where you’re washing, it’ll help you figure out the best detergent for hand washing clothes. Use the following as a guide:

  • Full Bathtub: When using a bathtub that would hold a full load of laundry like your washing machine would, use approximately the same amount of detergent you would for your washer.
  • Sink or small bucket/bin: If you’re using a smaller area to wash your clothes, you might want to consider these SinkSuds that are good for 2-3 garments. (You can use more than one if you’re using a larger bin or bathtub, too)
  • Camping: If you’re camping or out in the woods where your laundry water is likely to be dumped in nature, opt for a biodegradable detergent.

Hand Washing Clothes Tools

Depending on how soiled the laundry is, you may wish to use a pair of elbow length gloves.

Although not required, you may want to get a washboard as well. This can help you really scrub your clothes clean, but if your clothing isn’t heavily soiled, this isn’t necessary.

Pay attention to the types of clothing your washing. Read the tags carefully so don’t ruin any of your garments.

Washing clothes in a tub

How Do You Wash Clothes in the Bathtub?

Now that you have your supplies, it’s time to manually wash your clothes.

The first thing you need to do to do laundry in the bathtub is to fill your tub with cool water.

If you’re cleaning towels, sheets, or anything else that may be more soiled than other garments – you may need to use warm or hot water. But if your only option is cold water, don’t fret! Cold water and detergent will still get your items clean enough for use.

Next, add the detergent. You’ll need to follow the instructions of the detergent you’re using for the amount of garments that you’re washing.

Add your clothes to the tub or bin you’re using. Be careful to not overfill. Too many clothes will make it too hard to actually clean the clothes. The garments should fit loosely in the tub.

Allow the clothing to soak for a few minutes and then swish them through the sudsy water. Keep swishing until the garments are clean. If they aren’t coming clean, scrub the problem garments or areas.

Next step is to drain the tub. Fill with cool water again and swish the clothing until the soap is removed from the garments. If you feel like the clothes are still holding detergent, repeat (drain, fill, swish) until they are soap free.

Once the detergent is gone, drain the tub a final time. Gently squeeze (do not twist as this can stretch the fabric) each piece of clothing to remove the excess water.

Hand Washing Clothes Hack

Want to shorten the drying time? Set your garment on a clean, dry towel and roll up the towel to reduce more of the excess water. Then dry as usual.

Hang drying socks

How to Dry Clothes Without a Dryer

Now that you’ve washed your clothes without a washer, you might be wondering how you can dry clothes without a dryer. Luckily, this is even easier!

You could use drying rack hangers or a foldable drying rack. A travel clothesline is another great option that can work really well while camping.

If you’re able to utilize one of these options outside, you’ll find your clothes will smell more fresh and dry quicker. The sunlight can also act as a natural dryer and sanitize your garments. This may not be able option where you are or year-round, but all of the drying options for hand washed clothes mentioned above can be used indoors as well.

Hand washing clothes while camping

I hope these tips have helped you learn how to do laundry without a washing machine! And even more so, I hope it saves you some headache on your next trip or the next time your power goes out.

Helpful Items for Hand Washing Clothes

SinkSuds Travel Laundry Detergent Liquid Soap + Odor Eliminator for All Fabrics Including Delicates, (TSA Compliant), 8 Sink-Packets (0.25 fl oz each)
  • WASHING FACE MASK: No more waiting for a full load of laundry to wash your fabric masks. Quickly, safely, and easily wash face masks right from the convenience of your sink, bathtub, or while camping and traveling
  • PREMEASURED + EASY TO USE: Simply add 1 packet to wash 2-3 garments in a sink, or 3-4 packets for a resort sized stacking washer. Can also be used in sinks, bathtubs, collapsible basins, or washing machines
  • ALL FABRIC TYPES: SinkSuds is safe enough for all water temperatures and fabrics and will not shrink, stretch, or fade clothing; it’s even gentle enough for use with delicates or baby clothing!
  • TSA COMPLIANT: Meets the 3-1-1 TSA guidelines for carry-ons, and easily fits in your backpack, gym bag, duffel, purse or diaper bag. Perfect for vacation, business trips, cruises, backpacking adventures, international or domestic travel, or any extended hotel stay, etc.
  • INCLUDES: 8 - 0.25 fl oz sink packets of SinkSuds; phosphate free and biodegradable
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Laundry Detergent, Cruelty Free and Biodegradable Formula, Bluebell Scent, 64 oz
  • Concentrated detergent formula is effective yet gentle on clothes
  • Contains plant-derived cleaning ingredients with dirt and stain-fighting enzymes
  • 64 loads of laundry per bottle
  • Biodegradable, HE laundry detergent for use in high efficiency and conventional washing machines
  • Humble bluebell scented laundry soap with bursts of blue-violet and delicate floral fragrances
Scrubba Portable Wash Bag – Hand Washing Machine for Hotel and Travel – Light and Small Eco-Friendly Camping Laundry Bag for Washing Clothes Anywhere
  • A GADGET THAT PAYS FOR ITSELF: Whether you travel regularly and like to pack light or just want to save on hefty hotel fees for washing a pair of socks or underpants, the Scrubba Wash Bag will save you its value in just a few trips.
  • A CONVENIENCE THAT CAN'T BE BOUGHT: Scrubba's flexible textured scrubbing washboard allows for washing-machine like results in just minutes, without hurting your hands, and in the comfort of your hotel room, cruise cabin or tent.
  • PACK LESS, ENJOY MORE: No need to turn your pants or panties inside out or double up on your hiking clothes. This laundry bag for travel has all you need for a machine quality wash in just minutes and it only weighs 145 grams!
  • TESTED AND LOVED BY 100,000+ travelers around the globe since 2012 who already enjoy all the perks of the only pocket-size washing machine in the world. It doesn't require any coins or electricity and can also be used as a dry bag!
  • TRY THE SCRUBBA WASH BAG RISK-FREE FOR 30 DAYS, and if you don't enjoy excellent washing results, pack lighter or save on launderette costs, let us know to get a full refund.
HAWATOUR Portable Travel Elastic Clothesline Adjustable Clothesline with 12pcs Clothespins for Outdoor and Indoor Use (Blue)
  • Those who understand the trouble of drying clothes when in travel or cost of using a gas or electric dryer when cleaning clothes know the paybacks of using a clothesline. The clothesline is made of stainless steel material that makes it strong, durable and rust retardant. It is ideal for home, indoor and outdoor use. It is a recommended clothesline for regular travelers, campers, and hikers that love spending much of their time outdoors.
  • What makes it unique is the black clips that restrain the 12 pieces of clothespins from sliding. Therefore, clothes won't glide to the center. Again, the clips can be moved smoothly from left to right and vice versa by press and hold the little button on the top of the clips. Those who prefer the freshness of line dried linen can rely on this clothesline. It can be used in hot, humid, wet and dry environments.
  • Used to hang different types of clothes such as towels, cloth diapers, underwear, socks as well as bathing suits. Those that love traveling, camping, swimming, fishing, boat riding etc. can use it between the trees or in their canopy to attach wet towels and trunks. Moreover, it is capable of retracting, hence, can save a lot of space when not in use. It can be stored with ease as it takes the least space in a traveler's backpack.
  • Hawatour Portable Travel Clothesline also comes with steel hooks at both ends that can be attached anywhere: hotel, bathroom, laundry, RV, boat, balcony or even attached on trees. The user can have an instant drying space anywhere and whenever they need. Additionally, clothes dry naturally, smell fresh and retain their original properties thus increasing their lifespan
  • It's elastic and can be stretched to any length up to 10 feet

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