Washing yarn isn't something that most knitters have to deal regularly, but you might want to do it if you've recycled yarn from an old project or a thrift store sweater and want to straighten it out before you work with it.
This method can also be helpful if you've gotten some yarn that smells a little musty or smoky, though it may take several washings to get rid of a very embedded smell.
Time Required: One hour, plus drying time
- Hanks of yarn
- Sink, bucket, or bathtub
- Wool wash, dish soap, or shampoo
- Large bath towel
- Hangers or another means for drying the hanks
- Begin filling your sink with cool to lukewarm water. Some people recommend warm to hot water, and you may need that if your yarn is dirty, but it's best to use cooler water, especially with animal fibers that may felt under too much heat or agitation. Add a good bit of wool wash, shampoo, or liquid dish detergent to the sink (about 1 tablespoon for a small batch of yarn). You can also do this in a bucket, or even the bathtub if you have a lot of yarn to process.
- Once the sink is full, add the hanks, one at a time, gently pushing them down so the water and soap can permeate the fibers. Be careful not to agitate.
In a normal sink, you can probably wash three or four hanks at a time. You don't want to overcrowd the sink but allow the fibers to float free.
- Allow the hanks to soak for about an hour. If you're in a big hurry and are just washing hanks to straighten out the yarn, you can probably get away with a half-hour soak. If your yarn has more serious problems, you can leave it as long as overnight.
- Drain the water from the sink or tub and rinse the hanks one at a time to remove all soap residue. Press or squeeze the yarn gently to remove as much water as you can, but again don't agitate the fibers.
- Place the hanks in the center of a large bath towel and roll the towel up around the hanks, pressing as you go to remove more water.
- Hang the hanks to dry on hangers over the bathtub (as shown) or on a coat rack or drying rack. The hanging action helps the yarn dry straight. You can also weigh down the end of the yarn if necessary with a binder clip or even by slipping a bottle of water or a can of vegetables into the bottom loop of the hank as it dries.
- Make sure your yarn is tied securely in a few places before you start washing it.
- Don't agitate the fibers once they're in the water; your yarn could felt or you could get the hanks tangled.