Do Soaking Clothes Clean Them? (Tips)

I was talking to my friend the other day, and she was telling me how she soaks all her clothes before she washes them. I was like, ‘What? That’s weird. Why would you do that?’

But she swears by it and says her clothes come out way cleaner. So I decided to look into it and see if there’s any science to support her claim.

Do Soaking Clothes Clean Them
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Does soaking clothes clean them better?

First of all, what does soaking clothes in water do? Water is a solvent that can break down dirt, grime, and stains on the fabric. That’s why when you spill something on your shirt, you’re supposed to run it under cold water.

It’s also why dry cleaning works the way it does.

Soaking your clothes in water gives the solvent more time to work magic and break down all the gunk on your clothes. That means when you finally wash them, they’ll come out much cleaner than if you had just tossed them in the machine without soaking them first.

So there you have it! The next you do laundry, try soaking your clothes before washing them.

You might be surprised at how much cleaner they come out!

And if you’re looking for an extra boost of cleanliness, add a cup of vinegar to your soak. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that will help eliminate any bacteria on your clothing.

Benefits of Soaking Clothes
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What is Soaking?

Soaking involves submerging the cloth in water for an extended time, allowing the water or detergent to penetrate the fabric and loosen dirt, oils, and sweat from the fibers. 

It also helps soften the fabric, making removing stubborn stains easier and making the clothing look more attractive. 

It is an effective way of washing clothes, allowing detergent to work its magic and break down even the most stubborn stains. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced laundry-doer, it is a great way to get your clothes looking their best.


Not only does it help get rid of dirt, oils, and sweat, but it can also loosen stubborn stains and make them easier to remove. 

The process can help soften them, making them more comfortable to wear.

Soaking can be more gentle on delicate fabrics than other cleaning methods and is less likely to damage the fabric.

How to Soak Clothes for Maximum Effectiveness

Hot water removes tough stains and dirt but can also cause specific colors to fade. 

If you have colors prone to fading, you may want to use lukewarm water instead. Ensure you always use enough water to cover the clothing and use the correct amount of detergent for the load size.

Soaking Stubborn Stains
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Soaking Stubborn Stains

To get the best results, use a detergent designed to tackle tough stains. For example, some detergents are specially formulated to tackle grease stains or dried-on food stains. 

If you don’t have a specialized detergent, you can create your solution by mixing baking soda and hot water.

Types of Detergent to Use When Soaking
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Types of Detergent to Use

When it comes to cleaning clothes, detergents are your best friend. They come in various forms and are designed to work differently, depending on the fabric you’re dealing with.

Detergent Powder

The detergent powder is made of a combination of active ingredients, which helps break down and remove stubborn dirt and grime. 

It’s usually more effective than liquid detergents because it can irrigate dirt and clay, making it ideal for cleaning heavily soiled garments. 

When using detergent powder, you’ll want to dissolve it in hot water. This will help ensure that the powder is evenly distributed throughout the water, allowing it to work its magic on your clothes.

Liquid Detergents

Liquid detergents are specifically designed to break down oils and other stains. They are also more concentrated than traditional detergents, meaning they will be more effective in removing tough stains. 

When using liquid detergent, it is important to follow the instructions on the label. Generally, you will want to fill up your sink or bucket with warm water and then add the liquid detergent according to the instructions. 

Once the solution is complete, submerge your clothes and let them soak for 30 minutes before washing them. 

It’s important to note that liquid detergents are not suitable for delicate fabrics, so check the fabric care label before using them.

Soap Bars and Nuts

They are natural, biodegradable, and can be found in many health stores. 

Soap nuts, or soap berries, are the dried outer shells of the soapberry tree. When agitated in water, the soap berries release saponin, a natural cleaner that “works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water and lifting dirt and stains away from fabrics.” 

Just add a handful of crushed shells into a washing tub and the items you need to wash. Run hot water and let it soak for up to an hour before running it through your machine.

Homemade Solutions

This usually consists of a combination of borax and detergent, which can be mixed in different quantities depending on the cleaning required. Some people also add baking soda to their homemade solution, which can help neutralize odors and remove any sticky-on residue. 

It is vital to ensure that the detergent is dissolved correctly in the water before adding any clothing, as this will ensure that the cleaning agent is evenly distributed. After soaking the clothes for a few hours, it is then possible to rinse them off and leave them to air dry.

Tips for Soaking Laundry
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To ensure you get the best results, there are a few tips that you should keep in mind. 

  • Make sure to use a gentle detergent and warm water, as this will help to break down the dirt and grime without damaging the fabric. 
  • If you are dealing with a particularly tough stain, you may need to use a mild scrub brush to help get rid of it. 
  • Leave your clothes to soak for at least 30 minutes or longer if needed. This will help ensure that your clothes are thoroughly cleaned before they are put in the washing machine.


Some alternatives can be used if soaking clothes is not the best for your laundry.

Stain remover

Many stain removers are designed to help break down stains, making them easier to remove. 

You can find stain removers online at most grocery and home improvement stores. Just read the directions on the product carefully before using it, as some may require specific application techniques or may not be suitable for certain fabrics. 

After applying the stain remover, let it sit for a few minutes before laundering your clothes as usual.

Washing Machine

A washing machine is an excellent alternative if you lack time or resources. 

Washing machines use agitation and water to loosen dirt and detergent to help break down the stain-causing molecules. For example, a delicate fabric like silk may benefit from a mild liquid detergent, while a heavy-duty fabric like denim might require a more potent powder detergent. 

You should also adjust the water temperature to match the fabric type and soil level. Hot water removes grease and oil-based stains, while cold water removes protein-based stains.

Steam Cleaner

Steam cleaners are easy to use and can be used to clean even the most stubborn of stains. 

Steamers use jets of soothing steam to clean clothes and remove dirt, grime, and odors. The steam also helps to soften fabrics and make them look brand new. 

Furthermore, steamers are great for removing wrinkles and giving clothes a crisp, professional look. 

Steamers are often more gentle on fabrics than traditional washing machines, so they are the perfect option for delicate fabrics such as silk or cashmere.

Dry Cleaner

Dry cleaners use special solvents, rather than water and detergent, to clean clothes more effectively. This is especially useful for delicate materials such as silk because the heat of the dry-cleaning process can damage the fabric. 

Dry cleaners can access special stain-removing agents working on even the toughest stains. A dry cleaner is usually the safest option if you’re unsure whether your garment should be washed in water.

What is the best way to soak clothes?
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What is the best way to soak clothes?

The best way is by mixing cold water and vinegar. This will help to remove any stains or dirt from the fabric.

What should you avoid doing when soaking clothes?

You should avoid using hot water.

How long should you soak clothes?

You should do it for at least 30 minutes to achieve the desired results. You may need to do it for longer if there are stubborn stains or smells.

What is the best way to dry soaked clothes?

The best way is by air drying them outdoors. If impossible, place them in a dryer in a low-heat setting.

Related Topics

Soaking Clothes In Vinegar

It’s an effective method for removing dirt and odors, whitening whites, and brightening colors.

Reasons Why

  • Vinegar is acidic, making it perfect for breaking down grease, stubborn stains, and dirt.
  • It can help remove odors from fabrics – making it ideal for smelly gym wear or work uniforms. It’s also a natural disinfectant and can kill germs on cloth.
  • It helps keep colors vibrantly colored and helps whites stay brighter for extended periods.

How To Soak Your Clothes in Vinegar

  • Before soaking your clothes in vinegar, you should always read the care label on the garment first. Most materials can withstand being soaked in 1 cup of white distilled vinegar with 4 cups of cold water (only use this ratio if pre-soaking).
  • Place the items into the mixture for 30 minutes or until any stains or build-up are gone, then rinse as normal using cold water. Avoid using hot water as this can cause shrinkage or fade some fabrics.
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