How To Wash Clothes


It’s not hard to believe that many men do not know how to wash clothes. Consider the rom-com Failure to Launch starring a pre-Oscar Matthew McConaughey and a post-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker: He is a grown man still living with his parents, while she is the professional woman who has been tasked to make him realize that it’s not okay for your mom to wash your undies if you are 30-something. (Move out of the house, Matty.)

That came out in 2006 and look at us now, in the year of our Lord Savior (the Internet) 2020. According to CBS News, “more Millenials are living at home at any other point this century,” leaning on mom and dad for financial support and, maybe, in particular, mom for cleaning stuff.

It’s a new decade, and we still need SJP to create an emotional bond with us so that we can detach ourselves from our childhood homes and finally learn how to do things ourselves. 

A grown man asks Esquire: “How do I wash my dirty clothes? Can I just buy new ones?” 

1| How to Hand Wash Clothes: A Man Skill

First, do not buy new clothes because Mother Earth is crying.

Now, learn. What if you don’t want to shell out precious tourist money for the laundry service of a hotel? What if you need to wash your most capable white shirt for an important appointment tomorrow? 

We look to the foremost expert on cleaning—moms!—and they say it is simple.


Actual conversation:

Esquire: “Mom! How do you wash clothes?”

Mom: “Google it.”

She is funny. But really, all you need are four things: a basin or a sink, detergent, water, and the best tools ever, your hands. Fill the vessel with enough water to submerge your dirty shirt and add a conservative dusting of soap powder. Throw in the garment and swish it around the bubbly water. And then wash it, as in rub the fabric together to lift away stains. Concentrate on problem spots. Do this gently.

When done, remove dirty water from the basin and rinse soapy clothes with fresh water. Repeat this process until the garment is no longer sudsy.

Dry. Though it is tempting, wringing is not advised as it can damage your garment. Instead, roll the wet clothing in a fluffy towel to soak up the liquid and then leave flat or hang to fully dry.

2| How to Navigate the Machine Washing: Also A Man Skill

Don’t be intimidated by this unfamiliar machine. Says the New York Times, all you need to know are these:

For cycle length, choose the shortest time possible (this will depend on how dirty your clothes are). For cycle speed, pick the middle setting, which is permanent press. For water temperature, cold is safest. 

Employing a short cycle and using cold water prolong the life of your garment, while the middle speed setting works for most clothing types (not bulky and not delicate). 

3| How to Deal With (Pit) Stains

This is the space where we just want to tell you to stop sweating so much. Maybe a trip to the dermatologist for a strategically placed injection of Botox (it stops sweating) is in order. Barring that, do these: 

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The most basic step is to soak your garment in soapy water for 30 minutes before washing. For tougher stains, in particular, sweat stains, turn to specialized solutions. Reader’s Digest rounds up a host of these (meat tenderizer! aspirin!), including the following fixes from the kitchen.

Mix four tablespoons of salt with one liter of water and dab that stain away. This also works with four tablespoons of baking soda and 1/4 cup of hot water. Rub the paste into the stain and wash. For hardier sweat spots, leave it there for two hours before washing. 

The easiest fix on the list is rubbing vinegar into the stain before washing, but our favorite has to be applying a mixture of vodka and warm water on the problem spot. Cheers to that. 

4| What to Do When Tired

Okay, we said you need to know how to do it yourself, but what if you are exhausted from a day of smiling at work?

For times like these (which is every day), there is no shame in calling an angel, the laundry angel. She picks up your clothes from your house, disappears with the lot, and then returns them all nice and clean... in exchange for coin.

Alternatively, you can haul your dirty pile to a clothes cleaner. Our favorite is Jeeves of Belgravia, the luxury dry cleaning service that carries the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales. We use this for our most expensive threads like our bespoke suit or that embarrassingly expensive shirt, which we bought because we want to be happy, so don’t look at us that way.


It bears mentioning that this costs a bigger bag of coins. As well, despite its premium price and expertise, there are stains that it may not be able to bust. But hey, at least mom will not do the washing.

5| What to Do When Messy 

Got this friend who is a murderer of white T-shirts. He can never get through the day without staining one, and yet he wears them always. Once, at breakfast, he dipped the sleeves of his shirt into a cup coffee. Yup.

Point is, be mindful of your surroundings. A cup of coffee, a pen, a wall, an overactive child can be hazardous to clean clothing. If you know you are a dirt magnet, avoid these or maybe wear black always. Or bring a Tide to Go, the stain-removing pen, everywhere. 

To end this litany about how to wash clothes, we return to SJP, who says, in a pivotal moment in the movie: “I promise you, when this is over, Trip is going to be an independent, self-sufficient adult." It is our hope that you will be a self-sufficient person, who knows what to do with dirty clothes, too.

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Clifford Olanday
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