Handwashing Crocheted Items

By Erin Burger – 9 Comments

Have you ever held the softest, silkiest yarn in your hands and decided not to buy it for your next crocheted project because it wasn’t machine washable? Ever feel like a precious item is ruined because you don’t know how to properly hand wash it?

Never fear, Crochet Spot (and Erin) are here to the rescue!

Here is a step by step guide to gently hand washing your favorite delicate crocheted items.

Step 1: Be prepared. Put thought into what you are washing before buying detergent. Some yarns that are bulkier and sturdier like a DK weight yarn and heavier can handle a regular laundry detergent, in very small amounts. Oversudsing any item can make it fray and fade. Other items (or if you want to play it safe, any item) will fair better if gentle detergents like Dreft or Woolite are used.

Have a large area like a sink, tub or basin clean and ready to be filled. Have detergent ready and if not in a sink or tub with running water, enough clean water ready to properly rinse item. It is recommended to sometimes wear gloves for hand washing items, but I’ve never found the need to.

Step 2: Fill your chosen basin with cold water. Add a small amount of your chosen detergent to the water. There is no way to properly convey the water/detergent ratio other than giving you some examples. I hand wash my daughter’s favorite hand-knitted sweater in my bathroom sink with less then one teaspoon of dreft. I use even less for my favorite crocheted shrug which is made out of a very delicate cotton/silk sock yarn.

Step 3: In handwashing, you’re actually working the water and soap through the fabric in a way that a washing machine can’t: with your hands. In this manner you can be more gentle, more thorough and able to pay more attention to properly washing the item. Mix the soap into the water with your hands or any implement. Place the item in the cold water and begin gently kneading it with your fingers, like you would dough, but much gentler! Usually this is enough to clean and freshen most items. If a item is stained or especially dirty, let it soak for a short time in the soapy water, come back to it and knead it again. Repeat as necessary until the item is clean.

Step 4: I empty and fill the sink again with more cold water and gently knead the item again to get out any excess soap. You could run the item under running water to rinse, just have the water running gently and do not ring or squeeze the item too much.

Step 5: Lay a thick towel out (or a thin towel folded) and lay the item out on the towel. Roll the towel up around the items firmly but not too rough, like rolling a burrito. I will leave the item out to dry in front of a fan or an open register, or if the weather is nice the best option is to hang your item out to dry! If hanging the item outside take care to not to stretch it. Pinning it with clothespins while the item is folded in half, instead of hanging it by the shoulders or edges will usually prevent this from happening.

Have anything to add about hand washing crocheted items? Have any questions? Please comment here!

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  1. Madelein says:

    I’m crocheting a blanket with cream, light blue and navy. The wool are made to fade, so the cream will be a light blue? How must I wash it?

  2. LizzieK8 says:

    Large items are easily washed in a machine. Fill machine with hot water. Add a tablespoon of shampoo and agitate for a second. Add woolen item and push down into water to soak till water is luke warm. Spin water out of item. Don’t agitate, just spin. Remove item. Fill with hot water again and add a tablespoon of hair conditioner. Soak and spin as above. Lay out on several towels patting into shape. Don’t hang as it will stretch out of shape.

    A fan blowing across item will help it dry faster.

  3. Erin says:

    Hi Madelein,

    Hand washing in the technique that I described above is the method I’ve always used so color won’t blend. The colder the water and the gentler you wash the fabric will usually ensure that the colors will not run.

  4. Diana Ross says:

    Can I use worsted yarn to make washcloths and dishtowels? I was told I should only use cotton?? I have tons of yarn and I want to get it used up. Many countries are looking for knitted or crocheted things.
    Diana Ross

    • Rachel says:

      Diana, you can use any yarn you want. The different materials work differently. For example, cotton is very absorbent and won’t melt when exposed to heat compared to acrylic. That is why 100% cotton is normally recommended for kitchen things. So feel free to experiment with them.

  5. John Hablinski says:

    LizzieK8 mentioned using shampoo and conditioner as agents to clean crocheted items. This is something I have heard of before. The logic behind the idea, at least where animal fibers are concerned, is that it is all hair, and what’s good for the goose… but I have heard the same thing works for acrylics especially some of the less expensive acrylics, no brand names here. Has anyone actually used this methodology, and if you have what were the results.

  6. I haven’t tried shampoo and conditioner on that “no-names” rough acrylic yarn, but I think I will. I’ll bet the conditioner will tame the frizz just like it does with hair! Great idea!

  7. natalie gawdiak says:

    I have several badly stained, very delicate, antique crocheted place mats. I don’t crochet myself, so don’t know what the material is, but it is definitely not wool. The mats I assume were once white. Now they are almost a rust color and have some spots.

    I also have a white crocheted tablecloth that has some old tea and coffee stains.

    If multiple washings don’t work, can I use Clorox as a last resort?

    Thanks for any advice. These items were stored away for a long time, and I’d like to revive them.

  8. Janna says:

    I have some soft cloth soiled with oil and food. It is very important to me. Can you help me handle it?

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