How to Wash Yarn

How to Wash Yarn (Explained)

How to wash yarn?

Before washing yarn, it’s essential to know its fiber content.

Yarn can be made from synthetic fibers, natural fibers, or a blend of both.

Each type requires specific care to maintain its quality and longevity.

Key Summary – How to Wash Yarn


  • Wash as needed, not routinely. Focus on spot cleaning first.
  • Always check the yarn label for specific care instructions.

By Project Type:

  • Clothing: Wash after several wears, depending on usage.
  • Blankets and throws: Wash once a season or as needed.
  • Decorative items: Wash rarely, if ever. Spot clean if needed.

By Yarn Type:

  • Natural fibers: Often require less washing, can be aired out and spot cleaned. Hand-wash delicate fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers: Generally machine washable, check the label.

Additional Tips:

  • Use gentle detergent and cold water.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and bleach.
  • Lay flat to dry, especially for delicate items.
  • Blocking can help restore shape after washing.

Preparing Yarn for Washing

Identifying the Fiber Content

Check the yarn label for care instructions. Labels provide crucial information, such as whether the yarn is machine washable or should be hand washed.

If the label is missing, conduct a burn test on a small piece of yarn to identify the fiber.

Natural fibers tend to burn, while synthetic fibers melt.

Skeining the Yarn

If washing yarn not yet knitted or crocheted, wind it into a loose skein.

This prevents tangling.

Use a yarn swift or chairs to create the skein and tie it loosely in several places to keep it secure.

Washing Yarn

Hand Washing

For most natural fibers and delicate yarns, hand washing is safest.

Fill a basin with lukewarm water and add a drop of mild detergent or a specific wool wash.

Submerge the yarn skein, gently squeezing to ensure the water penetrates the fibers.

Avoid rubbing or twisting, which can cause felting.

Machine Washing

If the yarn label indicates machine washability, use a gentle cycle and tepid water.

Placing the yarn in a mesh laundry bag can prevent tangling and damage.

Choose a mild detergent and avoid fabric softeners, which can coat the fibers and reduce their natural qualities.


Carefully rinse the yarn in water of the same temperature to avoid shock, which can lead to felting or shrinking.

Repeat rinsing until the water runs clear and no soap remains.

Drying Yarn

After washing, gently squeeze out excess water.

Do not wring or twist the yarn, as this can distort the fibers.

Roll the yarn in a towel and press to remove more water.

Lay the skein flat to dry on a clean towel, reshaping it as needed.

Avoid direct sunlight and heat sources, which can cause shrinking or fading.


Once dry, store the yarn in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Moth-proof containers or bags can protect natural fibers from pests.

Ensure the yarn is completely dry before storage to prevent mold and mildew.

Q&A – How to Wash Yarn

How do I determine the fiber content of my yarn?

To determine the fiber content of your yarn, start by checking the yarn label, which usually lists the fiber type and care instructions.

If the label is missing, you can perform a burn test. Safely burn a small piece of yarn: wool and other natural fibers will smell like burning hair and turn to ash, while synthetic fibers will melt and smell like burning plastic.

This test helps you identify the general category of fiber, though it may not provide specific details.

Can I wash different types of yarn together?

It’s generally not recommended to wash different types of yarn together.

Different fibers can react differently to water temperature and detergents, and mixing them could lead to uneven shrinkage, felting, or color bleeding.

Wash similar fibers together and always separate light and dark colors to avoid dye transfer.

What kind of detergent should I use for washing yarn?

Use a mild, gentle detergent or a specific wool wash that’s designed for delicate fibers.

Avoid detergents with enzymes or bleach, as these can damage yarn, especially natural fibers. For wool and other animal fibers, consider using a detergent with lanolin to replenish the yarn’s natural oils.

How can I prevent my yarn from tangling while washing?

To prevent tangling, wind the yarn into a loose skein before washing and secure it in several places with ties made from the same yarn or a smooth, contrasting yarn. This keeps the strands in order and prevents them from becoming entangled. Washing the yarn in a mesh laundry bag can also help keep skeins intact, especially when machine washing.

Is it safe to use hot water when washing yarn?

Using hot water on yarn can cause shrinkage, felting, and color bleeding, especially with natural fibers like wool. Always use lukewarm or cold water for both washing and rinsing, matching the water temperature closely to avoid shocking the fibers, which can also lead to felting.

How long should I soak yarn when hand washing?

Soak yarn for about 15-30 minutes when hand washing. This allows the water and detergent to penetrate the fibers without causing the yarn to become too waterlogged or start felting. Avoid soaking for too long, as this can stress the fibers and potentially lead to damage.

Can I dry yarn in a dryer?

It’s best to avoid drying yarn in a dryer, especially if it’s made of natural fibers, as the heat and tumbling action can cause shrinkage, felting, and damage. Always air dry yarn by laying it flat on a towel, reshaping it as needed to its original dimensions. If you must use a dryer, use the lowest heat setting and place the yarn in a mesh bag, but be aware that this still carries risks.

How do I dry yarn without stretching it out?

To dry yarn without stretching it, gently squeeze out excess water without wringing or twisting. Roll the skein in a towel and press to absorb more water. Lay the yarn flat on a dry towel, away from direct heat and sunlight, and gently reshape it to its original dimensions. Avoid hanging the yarn to dry, as the weight of the water can stretch the fibers.

What is the best way to store yarn after washing?

After washing and completely drying yarn, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can fade colors and degrade fibers.

How often should I wash yarn used in knitting or crochet projects?

You actually don’t wash yarn itself very often, unless it’s gotten dusty or soiled before you use it. The washing frequency depends on the finished project and the type of yarn used. Here’s a breakdown:

General rule:

  • Wash as needed, not routinely. Most projects don’t need frequent washing, especially if made with natural fibers like wool.
  • Focus on spot cleaning spills and stains first, if possible.
  • Always check the yarn label for specific care instructions, as different fibers have different needs.

By project type:

  • Clothing:
    • Wash after several wears, depending on usage and layering.
    • Consider airing out between washes if not heavily soiled.
  • Blankets and throws:
    • Wash once a season or as needed, based on usage and messiness.
  • Decorative items:
    • Wash rarely, if ever. Spot clean if needed.

By yarn type:

  • Natural fibers (wool, alpaca, etc.):
    • Naturally odor-resistant and stain-resistant, often requiring less washing.
    • Can be aired out and spot cleaned frequently.
    • Hand-washing recommended for delicate fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers (acrylic, nylon, etc.):
    • Generally machine washable, but check the label.
    • May pill or fade with frequent washing.

Additional tips:

  • Use a gentle detergent and cold water for washing.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals and bleach.
  • Lay flat to dry, especially for delicate items.
  • Blocking can help restore shape after washing.


Proper care extends the life and beauty of yarn. By understanding the specific needs of different fiber types, crafters can ensure their projects remain vibrant and durable over time.

Always refer to the yarn label for the best care instructions and test wash a small swatch if unsure of the outcome.

This approach to yarn care, focused on the specifics of washing and handling different types of yarn, avoids generic advice, ensuring each step adds valuable and actionable information for the reader.

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