How to wash hand embroidery - embroidery samplers drying
Embroidery tips,  Tools and materials

How to wash hand embroidery

After long hours of work, your hand embroidered piece is finished. Congrats! Now you want to display it or wear it, right?

It is always recommended to wash and iron the embroidered piece of art or clothing before wearing it. But do you know why? Also, do you know how to clean your embroidery the right way? For example, can you machine wash your embroidery, use bleach or dryer? Besides that, how to clean embroidery that is framed and can not be dipped into the water?

Let’s answer all these questions about washing and cleaning hand embroidery and hand-embroidered clothes!

First, let’s see why you should wash your hand embroidery?
  1. To remove marking lines. I have a separate blog article on ”How to remove tracing marks from fabric”.
  2. To remove hand oils that you leave on the fabric while working. If you don’t remove these, they tend to become yellow stains with time.
  3. To remove any dust or stains from the fabric. The material might get dirty during the embroidery process or while wearing an embroidered item.
Now, let’s see how to wash hand embroidery

The general recommendation is to wash hand embroidery by hand. Use cold water and mild detergent. Flat dry the embroidered piece.

Step by step process should look like this:

  1. If it’s the first wash, first of all, check for color bleeding. I use a cotton swab to do that. I wet it under the running water and gently rub it over every color used in the embroidery. You should pay more attention to bright colors like red or blue as they tend to bleed the most. If the colors are stable, it is safe to wash. Read more about preventing color bleeding HERE.
  2. Fill the sink or a bowl with lukewarm water and add a drop of mild detergent.
  3. Place your embroidered piece in the water and stir time after time.
  4. Check for any stains left and if all the marking signs are gone.
  5. Pour out the water with soap and add clean lukewarm water. Rinse. Change the water again.
  6. After several rinses, fill the bowl with fresh water for the last rinse and add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Rinse the embroidery. Vinegar locks the color and prevents it from bleeding. Also, it gives extra shine to the floss.
  7. Dry embroidery. Place your embroidered piece between two clean towels, roll them, and gently squeeze to remove most of the water. Lay the embroidery face up on a clean towel or drying rack, lay flat, and let it air dry until it is just damp.
  8. Iron your embroidery to get the best look of your embroidered piece. Place your work face down on soft fabric or towel and press with a medium-hot iron. Please do not iron sequins or beads as they may change the shape or color with the heat.
 What to avoid when washing and cleaning hand embroidered pieces:
  • Do not use hot water. It may cause floss bleeding, shrinking of the floss or the fabric.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals as they may damage the threads, fabric or impact the colors.
  • The bleach may discolor the fabric and threads. Do not use it.
  • No squeezing, pulling, folding, or wringing the cloth.
  • Hand embroidered clothes, and other textiles should not be tumble dried. 
  • No for washing for silk or wool embroidery. These should be dry cleaned.
Hand embroidered jeans hanging to dry
Hand embroidery on a t-shirt work in progress
In the end, some real talk

Every craft blog, or care instructions of any embroidery floss, will tell you that you can’t wash hand embroidery in a washing machine. 

If it is a decorative piece, wall hanging, pillowcase, a banner, or so, you will wash it once or twice a year, and you should definitely do that by hand. Follow the instructions above, and you’ll be fine!

But what if it is an embroidered tea towel, t-shirt, denim piece, linen, or cotton garment that you wear or use and wash frequently?

In this case, you should answer some questions and then – make a decision.

  • Am I ok that the embroidery may get less shiny and maybe dull with time?
  • Will I be able to fix it if some stitches start running after washing?
  • Does this piece have sentimental or financial value?

If you embroidered your clothes to wear them and you can fix the embroidery in case it starts running, go ahead and wash it in a washing machine!

On the other hand, if you inherited a hand-embroidered piece of great value (or bought it for big money) – don’t risk and wash it by hand or even dry clean it.

In case you decide to machine wash your hand embroidery, follow these guidelines:
  • Turn the embroidered piece inside out before washing
  • Use mild detergent
  • Choose a gentle washing cycle (wool or handwash options)
  • Wash it at a low temperature
  • Do not tumble dry

 I wash most of my hand embroideries by hand, using the method described above. 

Also, I have some hand-embroidered clothes, like t-shirts or jeans, that I wear frequently and wash in a washing machine with the rest of the laundry. Of course, the floss colors are not as bright and shiny as they were, but I’m happy to wear these clothes. And not as delighted to wash them by hand 🙂

Additional advice

Recently I’ve got some questions on how to clean hand embroidered wall hangings and hoop art (embroidered pictures framed in a hoop).

My answer would be – it depends. But, first, answer these questions:

  • Can you take embroidery out of the hoop or frame and wash it?
  • Is this wall hanging just dusty, or it has stains and dirt on it?
Then, choose one of the washing or cleaning options below:
  • If you can take your piece of textile art out from the frame and wash it – great. Do it, following the advice from the first chapter. This is the most straightforward way with the best result.
  • If the embroidery can not be taken out of the frame – clean it with a vacuum cleaner. Do not touch the embroidered surface with a vacuum cleaner tube. Instead, keep it 1 cm away from the piece or cover the embroidery with a screen material (mesh fabric, tule, or old stockings). 
  • If the piece is still not clean enough – sprinkle it with baking soda and repeat vacuum cleaning. Dirt will be attached to soda particles and will come out from the embroidery when you vacuum it. Note – do not leave the baking soda to sit it. It has bleaching properties and might discolor the embroidery. 
  • One more option – wet cleaning of the embroidery in a frame. Prepare a solution of mild detergent and warm water (proportions – as indicated in the detergent instructions). First – check if the embroidery is bleeding the color. Use the instructions from the first step of washing instructions for that. If not – you can proceed with cleaning. Damp the embroidery with prepared liquid using a clean sponge. Let it stay for ten minutes, then – use a clean towel to absorb water with detergent. The towel will absorb the detergent and the dirt. To rinse – spray the embroidery with a mix of warm water and white vinegar (1:1). Then again, sponge it with a clean towel. Finally, you need to dry the embroidery fast because it can still bleed the color if it dries too slow. Use a hairdryer with a low temperature for this.
  • Suppose the embroidery is bleeding color or is framed with paper or cardboard pieces and can not get wet. In that case, you can always take it to the professional dry-cleaner. This option may be rather expensive, but some embroideries are really worth it!
What is your next embroidery project going to be?

If you are looking for a new embroidery project, check out my embroidery patterns in a SHOP or on ETSY.

You might like these patterns:

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