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Best detergents for hand washing clothes to shop in the UK

Jan 06, 2024

Because clothes can be delicate, too

he benefits of hand-washing your clothes are undeniable.

Every time we throw our clothes in the washing machine, we’re putting them directly in harm’s way. They’re at risk of becoming lacerated as they’re spun around at a speed that’s much too high, shrinking due to a temperature that’s too warm and often becoming misshapen and ill-fitting. You never really know how your poor garments are going to look once they exit the wheel of doom - and don’t even get me started on the tumble dryer...

In fact, some clothes actually need to be handwashed - silks, woolens and delicates, we’re looking at you. If you subject these fabrics to the harsh conditions of the machine, you’re sure to end up with a piece that’s the perfect size for a four-year-old - trust me, I’ve been there.

Leave these washing-related woes in the past and embark on your hand-washing journey, instead. Not only will it extend the life of your wardrobe, but it’s quicker and easier than you think, too. Like a washing machine, there are the two simple steps, washing and rinsing, all of which can be done from the kitchen sink.

All you’ll need is one of our carefully selected hand-wash detergents below. There are plenty of specialists in the field which offer a range of detergents that are fabric specific, from The Lab Co to Attire Care - just make sure you bag the correct formula for best results.

So, we caught up with Frej Lewenhaupt, the CEO and co-founder of garment care brand Steamery, to get some insight when it comes to cleansing your clothes. Keep scrolling for her top tips - and for our favourite detergents available to buy now.

Fill your wash basin with lukewarm water mixed with an appropriate amount of detergent, depending on how many items you are washing. Soak your garments and gently work the water and detergent through the textile fibers with your hands. Let it rest for 15 minutes and repeat this process again. Finish by draining the water and rinsing with cold water until there is no detergent residue left.

In general, liquid detergents are better suited for hand washing since they dissolve more easily than powdered detergents. With liquid detergent, it’s also easier to pre-treat stained areas or target particular parts of your garments while washing. To help your clothes maintain their vibrancy, choose a detergent that is designed specifically for the colour and material of your laundry.

Any item that you define as a delicate item (clothes that are particularly dear to you) will last longer if hand washed. However, the easiest way to decide if your clothes should be hand washed is to look at the care label. Delicate fabrics like silk, cashmere, and merino wool – especially fine knits – are all materials that will particularly benefit from being hand washed.

Machine washing is a harsh clothing care process. It is not only the fact that clothes are soaked in water and dried that is damaging to your clothes, it’s the rigorous movements, twisting, and shaking that occurs in the washing machine that will manipulate fibers and seams, which may result in damage. Hand washing and steaming are two gentle alternatives when it comes to refreshing your clothes.

A great benefit of hand washing is that you can adjust your method depending on how dirty or stained your clothes are. For example, you can focus on only the stained area if the rest of the garment does not need to be washed at all. As with machine washing, you can also pre-treat your stains with stain remover and let that sit for a few minutes before hand washing with a detergent.

Be very careful with items where dry cleaning is the only stated cleaning option. In some cases, these fabrics may be damaged by water. Many garments with a ‘dry clean only’ symbol can actually be hand washed, which makes this very confusing. This symbol is sometimes only included as a precaution by the fashion brand or fabric mill to ensure they take no responsibility if you harm the garment. Test a discreet area of the garment to see how the fabric reacts to water and proceed with caution, or bit the bullet and take it to your nearest environmentally friendly dry cleaner.

See the best detergents for hand washing below

Any regular gym goers will be familiar with the necessity to wash activewear on the daily - and, if you don’t do it correctly, smells can linger on the clothes post-wash. Well, not with Steamery’s Odor Control detergent.

Thanks to zinc salt, a biological ingredient included in the formula, the tiny molecules that give off the pungent aroma are made bigger, so they’re easier to wash out. You’re left with sportswear that smells of citrus and cedar instead.

Each of The Lab Co’s detergents have been formulated specifically for the fabric fibre in question, whether it’s freshening up smelly activewear or treating a delicate silk - and the latter is exactly what this one’s intended for.

Thanks to the geranium leaf and vanilla scent, all of your silks, wools, synthetics and delicate blends will be emanating with herbaceous, woody goodness in no time.

A brand dedicated to helping people look after their favourite things, Attirecare creates a range of organic products across shoe, garment and furniture care.

Not only does this detergent contain natural antibacterial properties for a formula that’s both kind to skin and tough against stains, but its sandalwood base will act as an eau de parfum for your clothes - and who doesn’t want that? Santal 33, but make it detergent.

A detergent that delivers good bang for your buck, Ecover’s 750ml delicate wash is a bargain for just £5. A cleaning brand dedicated to sustainable practices, from plant based ingredients to recycled plastic containers, it’s a green choice that boasts greater eco-conscious credentials than many other mainstream detergent brands.

A detergent that regularly sells out, Clothes Doctor’s basil and mandarin leaf formula is a clear favourite - and you’ll soon see why. From the fresh, green aroma to its effective stain-fighting credentials, it’s sure to satisfy all of your handwashing needs.

Inspired by his grandfather, a chimney sweep who meticulously took care of his clothes, Tangent Garment Care founder David Samuelsson started the brand to inspire the younger generation to extend the life of their wardrobes - simply by looking after them like his grandad.

All of the products are vegan, organic and self-produced in its own factory - and this yuzu scented detergent follows suit.

Skincare specialist Dr. Barbara Sturm’s detergent is designed with sensitive skin in mind. Enriched with aloe vera, purslane and panthenol, and free from nasties, it will support the skin’s health from the moment you get dressed in the morning.

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