Hand Washing Is Rocket Science…Not
Take a look in your wardrobe. I’m sure that you can find some items that really need to be washed by hand. You could possibly send them off to be dry cleaned, but this inevitably involves chemicals that you don’t want to be in contact with more than you have to. The green cleaning option is to wash it yourself by hand.
You may be a little dubious about washing something by hand. Will that woollen or silken item really be able to handle it? Well, what do you think they did to clean clothes in the old days before dry cleaning was invented? Maids and other domestic cleaners washed everything by hand, no matter what it was made of: wool, linen, leather, silk or cotton. You can do it, too. It’s not hard.
The Cleaning Method
First of all, get yourself a sink or bucket of warm water. Water that’s about “blood heat” is about right, as this is gentle on any sort of fabric. Next, get some soap. It’s best if you can make a soap gel, as this is best for hand washing delicate fabrics. Soap gel is easy to make: simply grab a bar of soap and chop it up (or save those little slivers of soap you always have to pick up when you clean bathrooms while doing your usual household cleaning chores). Put the bits into a bowl and pour a couple of cups of boiling water over them. Stir like mad, then go off and leave it to cool down. When you come back, it will have formed a gel. If there are any lumps of soap that haven’t melted, ignore them.
Leftover soap gel can be used for a wide range of domestic cleaning chores – it’s great for washing floors without using harsh ammonia-based cleaning chemicals.
Put the thing you want to wash into the bucket of water with the soap gel or your soap. Gently swish the water about so the water turns cloudy and soapy. Then grab the item and squish it to and fro in the water. Don’t be too hard on it – you need to be gentle so you don’t hurt the delicate fabric. The combination of gentle motion and warm soapy water will get most ordinary dirt out of most fabrics.
Then comes the rinsing. Tip all the soapy water out of the bucket (or throw it over your roses to deter aphids – one of those green cleaning tips you’ll hear quite frequently). Gently squeeze as much water as you can out of the thing you’re washing without wringing it. Then put fresh water in the bucket and stir the item in.
You’ll need to give the item a second rinse, especially if it’s something that you wear next to the skin. You might like to add a natural fabric softener to the final rinse – a splash of ordinary white vinegar helps get rid of the last bits of soap. Essential oil, especially lavender oil, also makes a lovely addition to the final rinse.
Delicate items will need to be dried flat in the open air rather than using a dryer. If the weather’s ghastly, then put the item near a radiator, but not too close to it so the heat doesn’t damage the fabric.