Are you one of those crocheters (or knitters) who avoids making wearables because you’re not quite sure how to clean them? Or, do you just avoid wearing your gorgeous creations because you are afraid to wash them if they get dirty? Believe it or not, caring for your crochet (or knit) projects is much easier than it seems. In this post, I’m sharing my best tips for extending the life of your handmade projects.
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8 Tips for Washing Your Crochet or Knit Wearables
Here are 8 top tips to help you take the best care of your handmade wearables to get the most out of your crochet or knit projects.
1) Start with yarn label care instructions
Most yarns – though not all hand dyed or hand spun yarns – include care instructions on the labels.
These instructions are usually written out, but sometimes they use the international laundry care symbols. You can find a key to those symbols here on the Textile Industry Affairs website. For best results, follow the instructions on the care labels. While you can always wash more conservatively than what the label recommends, be cautious about using hotter water or more agitation than what the label recommends.
2) Use gentle detergents (especially on hand dyed yarn)
Avoid using bleach and harsh detergents on your crochet or knit items. These can fade the dyes and weaken the fabric you’ve created. In the washing machine, I use gentle, natural laundry or baby-safe detergents, like Seventh Generation, or I skip detergents all together and use water and agitation to wash. For hand washing, I use a delicate wash. Some people (including me) prefer to use special yarn washes, like Unicorn Baby.
I recommend avoiding fabric softeners since their impact on yarn can be unpredictable.
3) Choose cold water and gentle cycles in the washer
If you choose to machine wash, rely on short, low agitation, cold water cycles to wash your crochet and knit wearables, even when the yarn label suggests that you can use warmer water or more agitation. I always use the cycle with the shortest wash time and the least agitation (often called “delicate” or “woolens”) when I’m machine washing.
4) Use lingerie bags in the washer
After a few situations where a stitch snagged on something else in the wash and stretched, I started washing all of my crochet and knit wearables in lingerie bags. Lingerie bags help your projects avoid snags and reduce pilling while also making it easy to separate out projects that shouldn’t go into the dryer.
5) Don’t wash with towels or other lint producers
And speaking of pilling, think carefully about any other items you might add into the washing machine with your crochet and knit wearables. My favorite things to wash my crochet and knit projects are jeans and cotton quilts. These don’t tend to pill and they don’t tend to snag on my yarn projects, either.
6) The Sweater Stone is your friend
If you do find that your project ends up pilling, I’ve had great success removing lint and pills with The Sweater Stone. It does take a little effort, but it works!
7) Never wring a wet project
One of the reasons I like to use the washer for my crochet and knit projects is because it drains out enough water to make the projects easy to dry. When you wash by hand, you may find that your projects come out very wet. Your urge will be to wring your projects vigorously to help dry them but don’t! Instead, wrap your project is a towel and press it repeatedly. Keep re-wrapping it and pressing out water until it is relatively dry. By the way, to avoid introducing lint while press drying, I use old towels. You know those thin ones that many people turn into rags? Yep, those are the ones.
8) Tumble dry low or dry flat
Drying can be just as important as washing. When machine drying, tumble dry low and check regularly. You may want to remove your project when it is slightly damp so it doesn’t shrink, scorch, or burn. I also keep the project in the lingerie bag in the dryer.
When hand washing, after you gently press out the water (as described in tip 7), you should dry your projects flat. Hanging crochet or knit projects when they are wet can stretch them. (Even if you want to stretch your project – maybe because you shrunk it while washing! – it’s best to dry it flat pinned to shape on a blocking board rather than by hanging it.)
Many yarns (especially older yarns) recommend dry cleaning. I really avoid dry cleaning (because of the chemicals and the costs). My alternative to dry cleaning is to put a wet white washcloth in the dryer with “dry clean only” items for five minutes. Remove promptly to avoid wrinkling.
By the way, if you worry that your friends and family won’t be able to figure out how to wash your handmade gifts, you can download my printable care labels here.