How to Wash Yarn and Which Products to Use?

Yarn is a delicate art medium and it requires special care and maintenance. While, more often than not, yarn artists are more concerned with what project they will create with their yarn supply, it is just as important to be concerned with how the yarn is washed.

If the yarn is washed improperly, it can shrink, felt, or unweave – three outcomes that no yarn artist wants to face.

Why You Should Wash Yarn

yarn

Before we learn how to wash yarn properly, we need to discuss why yarn should be washed in the first place; after all, understanding the reasons why yarn needs to be washed can help determine the way it should be washed. Here are the three main reasons why yarn should be washed:

  • Yarn should be washed when it is dirty. Dirty yarn can include yarn strands that are dusty, covered in mud or some other messy substance, or just stinky.
  • Yarn should be washed to soften it. Some types of yarn, such as wool or acrylic, feel coarse and need a good soak in water and chemicals to make them more enjoyable to touch.
  • Yarn should be washed to block or shape a finished project. Obviously, this type of washing is only done with a crocheted, knit, or woven project that is finished and its shape and stretchiness will benefit from being washed.

Yarn Washing Methods

We have discovered the three main reasons why yarn should be washed and now it is time to talk about the methods for washing yarn. To do this, we will use the yarn washing reasons (dirtiness, softness, and shaping) as our framework to build off of. So, let’s get to learning.

Washing Dirty Yarn

Dirty yarn, whether in a skein or a finished project, can be washed by hand or in a washing machine, so we will cover both methods here.

To wash dirty yarn by hand, you will need the following

  • A clean sink, tub, or container that will hold water
  • Lukewarm water
  • Soap (wool wash detergent, delicate fabric detergent, or shampoo for color-treated hair will work)
  • Clean towel

Drying rack, hanger, or clothesline

To wash dirty yarn by hand, follow these steps

Wind your yarn skeins into a hank to prevent it from getting twisted and frustratingly tangled. This may sound counterintuitive since most yarn artists wind hanks of yarns into skeins or balls, but a hank of yarn is much easier to wash than a skein or ball of yarn. While it is nice to have a yarn swift to work through this step, you really don’t need any fancy equipment, just a chair, and this guide.

Tie the hank of yarn in at least three places so that it doesn’t unwind or get tangled during the washing process. It is a good idea to use a different color of yarn to tie the hank so that it will be easy to untie later. If you need some help figuring out how to tie a hank of yarn, this short video will help.

  • Fill the sink, tub, or container with lukewarm water and the selected type of soap.
  • Gently set the hank (s) of yarn in the water and allow it to soak up the water and submerge.
  • If there are visible spots of dirt, gently scrub those areas with your hands.
  • Allow the hank (s) to soak for around 15 minutes.
  • Remove the hank (s) from the water and squeeze out the excess water (do not twist or pull the hank since that will stretch the fibers).
  • Set the hank (s) in on a clean towel.
  • Carefully roll the towel so that the yarn is rolled inside it and the excess water is squeezed out of the yarn.
  • Unroll the towel.
  • Hang the hank (s) of yarn on a hanger, a clothesline, or a drying rack until dry.

Recommended Product: Soak Wash laundry detergent for handknits

Soak Wash

 

This laundry detergent is designed to be used on delicate items, especially knitwear. It is also capable of cleaning silk and stuffed animals without harmful chemicals or scent.

To wash dirty yarn in a machine, you will need the following

  • Pantyhose or laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent for delicates
  • Washing machine
  • Machine dryer or a place to hang dry the yarn

To wash dirty yarn in a machine, follow these steps

  1. Remove all the labels from the yarn, if any.
  2. Place the yarn skeins in the pantyhose or the laundry bag (no need to unravel the skein).
  3. Tie the end of the pantyhose in a knot or close the laundry bag securely.
  4. Set the washing machine to a gentle or delicate cycle.
  5. Set the washing machine to use warm water.
  6. Run the washing machine.

If you plan to use a machine dryer to dry the yarn, use a delicate setting with no heat. You can also take the yarn out of the pantyhose or laundry bag and hang dry it instead.

Recommended Product: InsideSmarts laundry bag for delicate fabrics

InsideSmarts

 

This is a package of four bags in two different sizes. It is a great way to keep delicate items from getting twisted and ripped while being in a machine washer and dryer. These can also be used to separate and organize laundry items.

Washing Yarn to Soften It

Yarn that is coarse and itchy can be softened by washing it. Whether you are working with yarn this still in a skein or is in a finished project, the following methods will help to soften the scratchiest of fibers.

Fabric Softener

Wash your itchy sweater or yarn skein in a machine with cold water and lots of fabric softener. For good measure, stick the sweater or yarn skein in a cool machine dryer with a dryer sheet.

Hair Conditioner

Itchy yarn handwash in a sink filled with cool water. Use shampoo to clean it, and then, give it a good soak in hair conditioner (about an hour) before rinsing it out.

White Vinegar

Soak the yarn in a solution of white vinegar and water (1TBSP of vinegar for every 4 cups of water). Allow the yarn to soak for at least 20 minutes before machine washing it.

The Blended Method

It may be best to use all three of these methods to get the itch out of the yarn.

Recommended Product: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Fabric Softener

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Fabric Softener

 

This fabric softener is gentle and natural. It is designed to soften your rough fabrics without all the nasty chemicals and smells.

Washing Yarn to Block It

This method is used only for yarn that has been transformed into a finished project. Many crocheted and knit items will need to be blocked once the actual weaving process is finished. Blocking simply gives the entwined fibers a stable shape so the finished product will look the way it should.

There are three types of blocking: spray blocking, wet blocking, and steam blocking. We will only be discussing wet blocking here because it coincides with learning how to wash yarn.

To wash and wet block yarn, you will need the following

  • A clean sink, tub, or container that will hold water
  • Lukewarm water
  • Soap (wool wash detergent, delicate fabric detergent, or conditioner)
  • Clean towel
  • Yarn blocking board
  • Blocking combs and needles

To wash and block yarn, follow these steps

  1. Fill the sink, tub, or container with lukewarm water and the selected type of soap.
  2. Gently set the yarn art in the water and allow it to soak up the water and submerge.
  3. Allow the yarn art to soak for around 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the yarn art from the water and squeeze out the excess water (do not twist or pull the hank since that will stretch the fibers).
  5. Set the yarn art on a clean towel.
  6. Carefully roll the towel so that the yarn is rolled inside it and the excess water is squeezed out of the yarn.
  7. Unroll the towel.
  8. Place the yarn art on a blocking board so that it is flat.
  9. Pin the edges of the yarn art to the blocking board.
  10. Allow it to dry completely before removing it.

Recommended Products: LAMZD Knit Blockers & Pin Kit

LAMZD Knit Blockers & Pin Kit

This is a set of pins and combs that can be used to block any type of knitted, crocheted, or woven project.

KnitIQ Blocking Mats

KnitIQ Blocking Mats

This is a set of mats that can be interlinked to expand its size for use when blocking larger projects. Since it is made of foam, it is very easy to pin projects onto it.

FAQs

Question: What Can Yarn Be Made From?

Answer: Yarn is made up of multiple strands of long fibrous materials. What those fibers are made from is very diverse and the different types of fibers can affect the outcome of the final project. Yarn can be made from any of the following materials:
• Animal Fur or Hair Fibers
This group of fibers includes but is not limited to sheep wool, lambswool, alpaca fiber, angora goat fiber (mohair), angora rabbit fiber, camel fiber, cashmere goat fiber, llama fiber, and silk. Yarn made from animal fiber is usually very delicate and should be hand washed and hung to dry.
• Plant Yarn Fibers
This group of fibers includes but is not limited to agave fiber (sisal), bamboo fiber, cotton fiber, flax fiber (linen), hemp fiber, and jute fiber. Yarn made from plant fibers can range in strength and durability and this will affect how they should be washed.
Fibers such as hemp or jute are typically strong enough to handle machine washings, while softer fibers such as bamboo or cotton should be hand washed or at least washed in a gentle cycle, and then, laid flat to dry.
• Synthetic Yarn Fibers
The most popular fibers found in this group are acrylic fiber, nylon fiber, rayon fiber, and polyester fiber. These types of fiber are more durable and more likely to retain their shape when washed and dried.
While they are not known to be eco-friendly or biodegradable, they can be used in many different types of projects and will last a long time.
If you are interested in learning which type of yarn fiber will work best for your upcoming project, read this article for more information.

Question: What Is Yarn Blooming?

Answer: Yarn Blooming is when yarn gets puffy or looks fuller after being washed and / or dried. The heat and the water used in washing can cause the crimp of the yarn fiber to straighten and the yarn strand becomes longer. This typically happens in finely crimped wool fiber yarns such as merino wool.
The best way to deal with yarn blooming is to wash and dry yarn before using it in a project. It is also a good idea to block finished projects to set the strands before the item is worn or used.

Question: Can Yarn be Purchased Online?

Answer: Yes, absolutely. Of course, it will depend on whether or not you feel comfortable buying a skein of yarn that you haven’t touched or seen in person.
But if you don’t have any reservations about purchasing yarn this way, there are plenty of wonderful online yarn shops.  This article covers a lot of information on how to find the best online yarn shops and how to shop for yarn online.

Question: What is Worsted Weight Yarn?

Answer: Worsted Weight yarn is a midrange weight yarn that weighs more than sports weight yarn or baby weight yarn but less than chunky or bulky yarn.
It can be differentiated from other yarn weights by reading the paper label. Worsted Weight yarn labels typically use the word ‘medium’ or the number ‘4’ to help yarn artists determine the yarn weight they are purchasing.
This weight of yarn is extremely popular due to its midrange weight, which makes it versatile and easy to use in nearly any type of project. It can be used to knit cardigans and sweaters, crochet blankets, or weave a  scarf.

Question: Can Yarn Scraps be Reused or Recycled?

Answer: Most yarn artists will eventually face bundles of small balls of yarn that seem purposeless. The scraps are just too small to complete a project. When you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic and don’t throw the small yarn scraps away; instead, try one of these fun projects.
Scrap Yarn Pompoms
Stuffing for Amigurumi
Scrap Yarn Knit Afghan
Scrap Yarn Weaving
Scrap Yarn Crochet Pouf

The End of a Good Yarn

Beauty, artistry, and heart are all words that can define yarn art. It is a beautiful craft that will enthrall all who look at it. It is artistry because an artist is enabled to imagine and create an original artwork.

It invokes the heart when it inspires and encourages the creative mind. No piece of dirt can keep a yarn artist from their passion and their endeavors.

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