How to Clean and Care for Crochet Blankets and Clothing

A baby crochet blanket

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Crochet blankets, sweaters, hats, and scarves are homemade treasures that showcase someone’s time, skill, and artistic talent. Whether you’ve received one as a gift or made them yourself, taking proper care of your crochet pieces can help them last for many years.

Many crochet blankets do not need to be laundered frequently—usually, once a season is sufficient—unless you have animals or messy family members. Crochet clothing may not need to be washed after every wearing, especially if it's a garment like a sweater or a poncho that's worn over another shirt. If you wear a crochet piece frequently, you may need to clean it several times a season. If the item is machine crocheted, follow the instructions on the care label.

How to Wash Crochet Blankets and Clothing
Detergent Mild
Water Temperature Cold
Cycle Type Hand-wash (preferred) or machine wash delicate
Dryer Cycle Type Air dry (preferred) or low heat
Special Instructions Wash alone
Iron Settings Do not iron

Project Metrics

Regardless of the fiber content, Hand-washing is the gentlest way to clean your crochet piece and is preferred to using a washer. Choose a mild detergent (appropriate for the yarn fiber content) and use cold water. If you must use a washing machine, a front load washer without a center agitator is less likely to stretch your garment or blanket.

Work Time: One hour

Total Time: 24 hours

Skill Level: Intermediate

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Mild detergent
  • Towels

Tools

  • Washbasin, bathtub, or bucket

Common Yarn Fibers

The type of yarn used to make your crochet garment will determine its care. If you’ve done the work yourself, refer to the yarn’s label for care instructions. If you received the crochet item as a gift or purchased it at a craft fair, ask the crafter or seller.

  • Regular wool must be washed by hand in cold water, or it will felt and shrink. Choose a detergent formula developed for wool or mild baby shampoo. Specialty detergents containing lanolin are available, such as Eucalan. Lanolin is natural oil produced by sheep and helps preserve wool fibers and increases the water-resistance of wool.
  • Superwash wool can be hand or machine washed on the gentle cycle in cold water.
  • Cotton, linen, and ramie yarn can be washed in the washing machine on a gentle cycle using either cold or warm water.
  • Acrylic and other synthetic yarns can be washed and dried with your regular laundry as they do not shrink. 
  • Unknown fiber content items should be hand-washed in cold water and dried flat.

Instructions

  1. Wash

    Fill a washing vessel with cold water and add the detergent. Mix well so the detergent is evenly distributed. Gently swish the crochet item in the solution—do not wring or scrub.

  2. Rinse

    Drain the soapy liquid and add fresh, cold water for rinsing. Repeat this process until the water is clear and free of suds.

  3. Soak up Remaining Water

    Slowly lift your garment out and gently squeeze it over the basin to remove excess water. If you're washing something large like a blanket, you can use a sheet as a sling to remove it from the tub. Once most of the dripping has ceased, support the item from underneath and transfer it to a dry towel (or several towels). Roll it up in the towel, firmly pressing (not wringing) as you go to absorb the liquid.

  4. Lay Flat to Dry

    Transfer to another dry bath towel on a flat surface that's large enough to hold your clothing. Card tables are the perfect size for air-drying sweaters, and they typically have a protective top. Always safeguard wood surfaces with a vinyl tablecloth under the towel.

    For substantial pieces like a blanket, spread some heavy plastic over the floor or bed to protect the surface and then place dry towels over the plastic. Stretch out the piece to begin the drying process. You'll probably need to replace the towels after several hours. Turn the crochet item periodically to allow for even drying. If the blanket is machine washable, it can usually be dried in an automatic dryer on low heat.

  5. Reshape

    Form and adjust the piece until it returns to its original shape—avoid tugging or pulling.

    Sweater Shaping Tips

    For sweaters, gently push the ribbing together at the neckline, wrists, and waist. Next, fasten all buttons, fold the collar, and lay the arms flat to dry.

  6. Dry

Allow the item to dry for 24 hours. If it's still damp, flip the piece over onto a new towel, shape once again, and let it rest for another 24 hours.

Determining Fiber Content

To determine if your shawl is made of a natural or synthetic fiber requires removing a bit of yarn for testing. You'll need to cut a piece of fringe or a strand from another less-prominent area. 

Carefully light the yarn with a match or flame. If it smells like burning hair and turns to ash, it's a natural fiber. If while burning it has a chemical smell and melts, that's a sign that it's synthetic. Make sure to run the yarn under running water after burning.

If you'd like to try an alternate test, cut a piece of yarn, unravel the ends, and then rub them together with a drop of water. If they stick together and become felt, the yarn is wool. If they don't stay together, the yarn is synthetic.

Treating Stains on Crochet Clothing and Blankets

Most stains can be removed by treating the area with a dab of heavy-duty detergent. Work the detergent into the yarn with your fingers and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before washing. Consult a stain removal chart for specific instructions on removing rust and more difficult to clean stains.

Brighten Yellowed White Items

White cotton and acrylic yarns that have yellowed can be brightened by soaking in an oxygen-based bleach solution. Unfortunately, oxygen-bleach will not whiten wool fibers.

Starching Crochet or Lace Doilies and Linens

Some crochet linens and pieces call for starching or stiffening the items so that they will hold a particular shape. There are many recipes for “stiffeners” including some using glue, sugar, flour, and shellac.

Starching helps items hold their form but it's not permanent—you must repeat the process each time you wash the item. Here are two recommended methods using laundry starch.

  • Spray starch: Lightly spray the crochet piece on both sides.
  • Liquid starch: Dilute the liquid starch with water unless you want the crochet piece to be extra stiff. Dip the item into the starch, covering it completely, then gently squeeze out excess water without twisting.

Finish the process by placing another piece of cotton material on top of your doily and press on the wrong side using a warm iron, gently pulling it into the desired final shape. You can also choose to spray, shape, and pin your item to a chunk of Styrofoam, cardboard or an ironing board using rust-proof pins.

Storing Crochet Items

Fold garments and blankets and stow them in breathable cotton bags or storage bins. Never hang crochet clothing—the weight will stretch out the garment very quickly.

Repairs

Crochet items can be challenging to repair. Small holes can be tightened by hand-stitching with matching yarn or threads. However, if the break is significant, there may be nothing you can do other than to purchase a replacement or unravel the project and crochet again.