rub [transitive, intransitive] to press two surfaces against each other and move them backwards and forwards; to be pressed together and move in this way

rub something She rubbed her hands in delight.

In some cultures, people traditionally greet each other by rubbing noses.

rub something together She rubbed her hands together in effort to warm them.

He made a fire by rubbing sticks together.

rub together It sounded like two pieces of wood rubbing together.

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Some people wash clothes by hand as shown in the picture.

Can we say "I rub clothes with washing powder to wash them"?

  • 2
    We certainly rub the clothes, but it's usual to dissolve the powder in the water first, so I would say rub them in the suds/soapy water. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:33
  • 2
    Saying "I rub clothes with washing powder" sounds like you put dry washing powder (without water) directly onto the clothes and rub the powder into the fabric. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 15:52

2 Answers 2


It doesn’t sound very idiomatic to me.

It would depend on the exact movement, but when I’m doing this myself, I would usually wring the clothes in the suds rather than rub them together. In rubbing the clothes together I’d perhaps worry about damaging them.

Of course, if you are actually rubbing the clothes together, then “rub” would work.

However, at least in the U.K., this processing is often referred to more generally as “hand-washing”. E.g.:

I hand-washed the clothes.

If you google something like “how to hand-wash clothes”, you’ll probably get a good idea of what kind of language is used in terms of describing the exact steps/process.


The verb you are looking for is scrub. "I used some detergent and scrubbed them by hand."

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