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How To Wash (Most) Anything In A Bucket

Model on runway

Caring for ‘hand wash only’ items doesn’t have to be scary. Many of these items can be dry cleaned, but if the item isn’t very dirty and just needs to be freshened up, you can easily hand clean these items at home. All you need is clean water, two buckets, laundry detergent, and some time!

Test first
Always test delicate items before you attempt to clean them. Test beads, sequins, colors, and anything else that may be damaged when you clean the whole garment. If there is a problem, STOP, this item cannot be safely cleaned at home.

Wash Bucket
Fill the wash bucket with water about two thirds full. If the tag on the clothing item you are cleaning indicates what temperature to clean in, use that, otherwise use lukewarm water. After the water is in the bucket, add just a few drops of soap. You don’t need very much soap at all; you won’t be able to rinse out the soap later if you use too much.

Rinse Bucket
Just fill the rinse bucket about two thirds full of water (same temperature as the wash bucket).

How To Wash
After testing for colorfastness, put the item to be cleaned in the wash bucket. Gently knead the garment to work the soapy water in. If the garment was visibly dirty, let it soak for 10-20 minutes, knead again and then move on to the next step.

Do Not Wring
You can gently squeeze the water out in a top to bottom manner, but do not wring the garment as it may damage or change the shape of your garment. Once you have gently worked as much water as you can out, put the garment in the rinse bucket. Gently knead the garment to work the soap out, then remove and gently work the water out again.

How to dry
The safest drying option, after gently squeezing as much water as you can out, is hang drying. If your garment is still dripping wet, lay it on a towel first so you don’t change the shape of the garment due to the weight of the water. If the care label says it’s safe to machine dry, go ahead and do that after the garment is no longer dripping wet.

Professional Cleaning

Janet Davis Facility


If you still don’t feel comfortable hand washing your favorite blouse or other special item, a professional dry cleaners will know how to safely clean these items.

Photo Credit: chwynyn

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