7 Ways to Wash Clothes in the Bathtub

Sometimes machine washing is not convenient. In those instances, washing the clothes in a bathtub is a suitable alternative.

Although labor-intensive, hand washing is a gentler form of washing that is better for your clothes. However, you should pay close attention to your water usage or use more water than if you were machine washing.

7 Steps to Follow When Washing Clothes in a Bathtub

  1. Clean the Bathtub

You might not realize how dirty your bathtub is until there are visible stains or discolorations, but soap residue left from previous baths can turn into grime that lives in bathtubs.

This residue will stain any cloth you wash in the dirty bathtub. Clean the bathtub thoroughly before you start washing the clothes.


  • Remove everything from the bathtub and its surrounding areas.
  • Fill a bucket with hot water and splash it around the bathtub.
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda all over the bathtub, especially inside the drain.
  • After 20 minutes, pour white vinegar down the drain and leave it for 30 minutes.
  • Afterward, flush the drain with hot water.
  • Pour bathtub cleaner or dishwashing liquid into a separate bucket of hot water.
  • Use a brush or sponge to scrub every crevice of the bathtub.
  • Rinse the bathtub with hot water.

After cleaning the tube, check if the drain plug is functioning, and then you can use it to hand wash clothes.

  • Check the Clothes Care Label
Care Label

The clothes care label contains crucial instructions on how to wash each cloth. Usually, your clothes have a “hand wash only” or “dry clean only” instruction. Machine washing the clothes with these instructions can damage them.

Some fabrics are delicate and cannot handle long soak times, others can’t cope with the stress of squeezing, and some clothes can damage when exposed to certain temperatures.

The care label will give recommendations about these various clothes concerns.

Separate the clothes into various batches according to the color, fabric type, and care label wash instructions to avoid damage and color bleeding. You will wash these load batches one by one to prevent overcrowding in the bathtub.

  • Choose the Correct Wash Settings
Wash Settings

Selecting the correct water temperature is vital when washing clothes but especially when handwashing in a bathtub. Some fabrics like wool can only handle cold water, while others like cotton and gym wear can handle hot water.

Using the wrong water temperature can damage the affected clothes, but if you are not sure of the correct water temperature, stick to cold water as it hardly has any adverse effects on the clothes.

Another thing to note before you start washing is the kind of detergent you should use during the process. Choose a non-sudsing laundry detergent to reduce rinse time. Use liquid detergent because it quickly dissolves in the water, whereas powdered detergent will take time to dissolve.

Read the direction label on the detergent to know the correct amount to use because too much of it will not rinse out, leaving behind residue that will dirty the clothes and the bathtub.

If you use any other laundry additive, ensure it is suitable for the clothes and the detergent.

  • Pre-Wash the Clothes

After ensuring the bathtub is clean, plug the drain and fill the tub with the correct water temperature, preferably cold water.

You can use a sizable bowl or bucket if you have a small load or don’t want to use the bathtub directly. Put the bowl or bucket inside the bathtub and continue as directed.

Pour in the recommended amount of laundry detergent stated on the bottle.

A washer has the mechanism to agitate the water and detergent so the soap suds can form and start working on the clothes. However, with handwashing, you will have to do that yourself.

Put your hand in the water and shake it till the suds form and the detergent dissolves.

Submerge the first laundry batch into the bathtub or bucket, ensuring the clothes are under the water, and let them soak. Soaking allows the detergent and water to penetrate the clothes and loosen the dirt and stains for better wash results.

The soaking time depends on how dirty they are, the type of clothes, and the instructions on the detergent bottle.

  • Wash the Clothes

After 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your soaking time, you can either drain the water and wash with fresh water or use the same water to wash the clothes. If the water is dirty after soaking the clothes, change the water.

You can wear protective goals because of lengthened exposure to water and detergent, but this step is optional.

Check for stains on the clothes and gently scrub them out with a soft brush or your hands.

Swish the clothes in the water with your hands to wash the clothes, and later agitate them for a more effective process. Some people might choose to beat the clothes against themselves or the bathtub’s edge.

When washing heavy clothing like towels or a blanket, you should step into the bathtub and use your legs to agitate the clothes without applying too much force.

Be careful not to exert too much pressure on the clothes to avoid damaging the fabric or designs. If necessary, drain the water and wash for the second time instead of straining the clothes.

Put the individual clothes in a bucket nearby to separate them from the unwashed ones and give you better visibility of the work area.

  • Rinse the Clothes

When satisfied with the washing, remove the plug to drain the water and refill the bathtub or bucket with cold water.

Pour fabric softener during this phase – if your clothes allow this product. White vinegar is an alternative to fabric softener; it will give you the same softening and brightening results without leaving behind residue.

Agitate the clothes continuously, but do not wring, to remove all the soap suds. If you prefer, rinse under running water.

Remove all the detergent residue because any amount left behind on the clothes can cause build-up, which eventually stains or damage the clothes.

Rinse the clothes repeatedly to ensure there are no more soap suds. Squeeze a part of the clothes and check your hands to see if there are soap suds, no matter how little; if there are, continue rinsing.

Sniff the clothes if you are unsure of the detergent level; you will know when the clothes smell of fresh water.

Squeeze the clothes gently to remove the excess water.

  • Dry the Clothes

After a satisfactory washing session, gently wring the clothes to remove the water. However, do not wring delicate fabrics but gently press or squeeze the clothes.

When you want to remove the water, get a towel and place a wet cloth on top. Roll and squeeze the towel, allowing it to absorb excess water from the wet cloth. After the towel treatment, the clothes will be damp.

When it’s time to air-dry your clothes, you should find a suitable location that won’t cause water spillage. Since hand washing does not have a spinning phase, you should hang the clothes over the tub or outside because water will leak.

Tie a clothesline over the bathtub or place a drying rack inside. Hang your clothes there, so the water will spill into the tub and not on the floor.

You can also dry your clothes on a clothesline outside.

Check the care label to see if your clothes can cope with direct sunlight and adjust your drying accordingly.

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