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How to Hand Wash Underwear: Step-by-Step Guide

Panties on clothesline.

While a lot of underwear can be machine-washed, hand washing is recommended for most bras and undies. Washing your underwear and bras by hand is often less time-consuming, easier, and helps preserve the integrity of the material, especially with delicate and synthetic fabrics. 

The following sections detail how to hand wash underwear and bras, treat stains, and offer extra tips on properly caring for specific fabrics.  

How to Hand Wash Underwear

Hand washing underwear is more gentle on your clothes than putting them in the washing machine. It also helps preserve elasticity, lace, and other materials found in delicates, making hand washing the best way to care for undies. 

Feel free to hand wash multiple pairs at a time. Just keep similar colors and materials together.

Step 1: Read Care Label

Start by reading the care label on your undies. Depending on the fabric, different detergents and water temperatures will be recommended. 

A regular detergent, powder, or liquid is great for most fabrics, especially natural materials like cotton and hemp. However, delicate textiles like silk and synthetic fabric could react better to a gentle laundry detergent (check on Amazon) for sensitive skin. 

Step 2: Spot Treat Stains 

Before you start washing, spot-treat any stains, particularly in the crotch area. Gently rub and work a fabric stain remover (check on Amazon) into the material. Make sure you don’t scrub too hard, as it can easily damage delicate fabrics.  

Step 3: Fill a Bucket or Sink with Water and Detergent

Next, fill a clean sink or a bucket with warm water and a small amount of detergent. When washing silk and brightly-colored underwear, use cold water to preserve integrity. Regardless of the material, avoid using hot water because it can remove color and lead to shrinking.  

While you fill the sink or bucket, swirl the water and detergent mixture into a soapy bath. When using powder detergent, ensure that it is completely dissolved. 

Step 4: Add Underwear to Water and Soak

Now it’s finally time to put your undergarments in the soapy water. Then, gently squeeze the undies, forcing the sudsy water to pass through the material several times. Once you’re satisfied, leave them to soak in the sink or bucket for as long as 30 minutes.

Step 5: Rinse Clean with Lukewarm Water  

After you let the underwear soak for the appropriate amount of time, thoroughly rinse them using lukewarm water. To do this, you have two options. First, you can refill your bucket or sink with fresh, clean water, immerse the underwear, and squeeze them several times until they are rinsed clean. 

Or, if your sink has a spray nozzle, you can also put them in a colander of some sort and spray them with fresh water until thoroughly rinsed. 

Step 6: Remove As Much Excess Water as Possible 

After rinsing the undies, gently squeeze the material and remove as much excess water as you can. Take care not to wring or overstretch the fabric, as it can easily cause damage, particularly with delicate items. Follow this up by blotting them with a clean towel and reshaping the structure. 

Step 7: Lay Undies Flat or Hang Up to Air Dry 

To finish up, hang your underwear up or lay them flat on a towel to air dry. While you can easily hang most undies, if you lay them flat, it can help delicate fabrics retain their proper shape. Whichever method you choose, just make sure to flip them over after a while so the other side gets a chance to dry too. 

How to Easily Hand Wash Bras  

Hand washing is strongly recommended for most bras and delicate lingerie. One reason is that underwires can warp and quickly poke through the fabric if they are put in the washing machine. In addition, when you hand wash bras, they manage to keep their form for considerably longer. 

Step 1: Read the Care Label

To begin, read the tag on your bra for some easy tips. Washing instructions and recommended water temperatures will differ slightly based on the materials and fabrics used to create the bra. For example, delicate and synthetic fabrics typically respond well to a gentle laundry detergent and cooler water. 

Step 2: Pre-Treat Stains  

Before you officially start washing, pretreat any stains, if needed. Spread a fabric stain remover (check on Amazon) on any dingy areas and gently rub it in. Avoid scrubbing too hard, as it can easily harm delicate materials like silk, lace, or satin.  

Step 3: Fill a Sink or Bucket with Water and Mix in Detergent 

While the stain remover is working, fill a sink or bucket with lukewarm water or cool water based on what the tag specifies. Add a gentle laundry detergent while the water is running. Mix the water and detergent until it is completely dissolved.  

Step 4: Submerge Bra and Let Soak

Submerge the bra in the sink or bucket. Gently work the soapy water into your bra’s seams and then leave it to soak for 15 minutes. 

Step 5: Rinse Thoroughly with Fresh Cool Water 

Remove the bra from the water and rinse with cold water. You can put the bra in a colander and spray or refill the sink with fresh water, submerge, and squeeze several times.  

Step 6: Remove Excess Water and Reshape 

When rinsed clean, gently squeeze the bra with a dry towel to remove as much excess water as possible. To avoid damage, take care not to wring or stretch out the material. Then, reshape it to its original formation.  

Step 7: Dry Flat on a Towel

To finish, lay the bra flat on a dry towel and leave it to air dry. Placing it on a towel helps to absorb excess moisture and also assists in shape retention while drying. When the top is dry, flip it over to finish drying. 

How to Hand Wash Period Underwear and Remove Blood Stains

Typically, blood stains can be removed with an enzyme stain remover (check on Amazon), especially if the stain is still fresh. Start by rinsing the stain with cold water, not hot water, as it can set protein in the fibers, making it trickier to remove. Next, spread the stain remover where needed and let it soak for up to 30 minutes. Then, rinse the mark with cold water and wash it like normal. 

How to Remove Poo Stains on Underwear

Baking soda and white vinegar are excellent tools for removing poop stains found on underwear. Make a baking soda paste with a small amount of water and leave it to sit on the stain for up to an hour. Then rinse it off with cool water. You can also try soaking undies made from durable fabrics in a white vinegar solution with cold water.  

How to Remove Odor in Underwear

Even when they don’t stain, synthetic fabrics tend to develop lingering smells from sweat and urine more than natural fabrics. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and is safe for delicates like undies. 

To remove odor from underwear, sprinkle baking soda on the material and let it sit for up to an hour before rinsing it off. For more durable undies, soaking in white vinegar can also remove tough odors. 

How to Hand Wash Delicate Underwear 

Underwear and other delicates made from silk and satin may require dry cleaning, so double-check the label before hand washing. 

However, if the tag says dry clean, not dry clean only, you can potentially skip the dry cleaner. Place a drop or two of water on a hidden spot. If it doesn’t cause a water spot or release color, you can hand wash using a gentle detergent and cold water. 

How to Hand Wash Lace Underwear

To hand wash underwear that contains lace, fill up a bucket or clean sink with cool water, not hot water, and a gentle detergent. Submerge the lace underwear and leave them to soak in the mixture for as long as 30 minutes. To finish, rinse with cold water and lay down flat to dry.  

Can I Hand Wash My Underwear with Hand Soap?

If you don’t have any detergent, delicate clothing, including undies, can be hand washed with a bit of hand soap. Soak undergarments in soapy water for 15 to 30 minutes, rinse, and leave out to air dry.  

What Soap Can You Use to Hand-Wash Your Underwear?

While laundry detergent is typically the preferred option, you can clean underwear, bras, and other clothing by hand using a gentle shampoo, body wash, or even a diluted stain remover. Avoid dish soaps, as they can extract color.    

Is Hand-Washing Your Underwear Better?

Hand washing clothes can be somewhat tedious. However, hand washing bras and undies is much gentler than putting them in the washing machine. As a result, you’ll get to use and keep them for much longer.  

How Do You Wash Underwear with Just Water?

If you’re in a bind, you can hand wash clothes, including undies, using only water. However, don’t expect the same results you get from using detergent. Soak the underwear in warm water for about 30 minutes, rinse clean, and lay flat to air dry.


Emily Alexander