How to Wash Clothes in the Bathtub

How to Wash Clothes in the Bathtub

Cleaning clothes in a bathtub may seem a little archaic when we’ve got super-powerful washing machines that can work through our loads for us.

Nonetheless, this practice is still trending! And there are several reasons why…

  • Some materials should only be washed by hand, and the bathtub is a good place to do this.
  • Some garments are too big to go in a washing machine, so they have to be cleaned in a bath.
  • Cleaning laundry in a tub means that it’s not subjected to the harsh cleaning process that a washing machine puts materials through, thus protecting its lifespan!
  • It sometimes makes sense to clean clothes in a bathtub if you’ve only got lightly soiled items or a handful of garments to clean.
  • It’s also the only option sometimes! For example, if you’re travelling or your washing machine has broken.

Whatever your reason is for cleaning your clothes in a bath, if you’ve never actually tried to wash clothes in a bathtub before, the idea can be a little daunting! The mess alone puts some people off!

So, how do you wash clothes in a bathtub the correct way? Read on to find out.

wash clothes in the bathtub

Cleaning Clothes in a Bathtub

Cleaning clothes in a bathtub isn’t for the faint-hearted because there’s a lot of physical work involved. It also takes a lot more time to carry out, and the drying process can be draining.

That being said, with the right process and techniques in place, you can make the task a lot easier and less time-consuming!

Follow the step-by-step guide below.

You’ll need:

  • Cleaning products to clean the tub (preferably bleach-free)
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Stain treatment (if applicable)
  • Detergent (suitable for the material)
  • Washboard (if applicable)
  • Several neutral-coloured towels


handwashing clothes

Follow the steps below to clean your laundry in a bathtub:

  1. Clean your bathtub out before sticking your clothes inside it. Remove your bottles of shampoo, soaps, cloths, bath mat and any other objects from around the surface. You don’t want to contaminate your clothes! Try to use bleach-free cleaning products, just in case they get onto and ruin your clothes.
  2. Rinse the tub out to make sure you’ve cleaned away all the soapy residue.
  3. Sort your clothes by colour – white clothes, dark clothes, and colourful clothes. It’s worth cleaning all of the same-coloured clothes together because then you won’t have to empty and refill the water all the time. It also prevents colour transfers!
  4. Sort your clothes out by material – try and keep all of the same materials together.
  5. Keep your piles of clothes small and manageable (three/four t-shirts or two pairs of jeans)! You don’t want to be cleaning ten pairs of jeans at once – this would be silly and a lot of work.
  6. Check clothes tags and adhere to the advice on them – some items have to be washed on their own. If this is the case, pop the item to one side and clean it at the end.
  7. Pre-treat any stains with an appropriate stain remover – check what stain you’ve got and choose a cleaning agent that won’t damage the fabric.
  8. Fill the tub up with water that’s the right temperature for the material you’re cleaning (make sure you’ve put the plug in!).
  9. Add half your regular dose of detergent to the water, see our picks of the best detergents to handwash clothes. It’s better to use a liquid or powder form when cleaning clothes in a bathtub. Don’t go overboard with the detergent because it’ll be difficult to remove it from your clothes later on.
  10. Slosh the water around to mix the detergent in.
  11. Pop a few items into the water.
  12. Make sure each garment is submerged in water.
  13. Leave the clothes to rest in the soapy water for at least 15-20 minutes (can be increased if clothes are heavily soiled).
  14. Lift and dunk one item of clothing in and out of the water – do this multiple times to agitate the item around in the soapy mixture (repeat for the rest of the clothes). Some people step all over their clothes when they’re in the water to agitate them. Personally, I would avoid doing this as there’s a risk of you slipping.
  15. Rub each piece of fabric between your fingers to dislodge any grime from it. You can also invest in a washboard to help you with this task. Just put the board in the tub, and then rub one item of clothing at a time against it to remove the dirt.
  16. Repeat Step 14.
  17. Make sure you clean all the clothes in the bathtub by following the steps above.
  18. When you’re done, drain the dirty water out of the bathtub.
  19. Squeeze one item of clothing at a time to remove the soapy liquid from it (repeat for the other items).
  20. Refill the bathtub with clean, cool water.
  21. Agitate the clothes in the water again to remove excess soap from them.
  22. Dunk an item of clothing in and out of the water to dislodge the suds from it (repeat for your other items).
  23. Drain and add fresh water to the tub throughout this process, so you continue to remove the soap from the clothes.
  24. When you’re done rinsing the clothes, remove the excess liquid from the laundry by squeezing each item gently, but don’t wring the clothes out.
  25. Lay a neutral-coloured towel on a flat surface and lay a single garment flat out on top of it.
  26. Roll the garment up inside the towel.
  27. Press down on the towel to extract liquid from the material.
  28. Proceed to the next phase: drying the clothes. Dry your clothes by hanging them up on a washing line, using a tumble dryer, or by using a heated airer, for example.

See our guide on how to hand wash clothes for some more tips.