Do you really NEED to wash your cross stitch?

When it comes to washing cross stitch you’re either in the “always wash it” camp, or the “do I really NEED to wash it?” camp. Today, we’re going to try and answer that question, and see if washing cross stitch is a requirement or just a good idea.

The case for NEVER washing it

Washing and drying cross stitch is a bit of a pain, however that isn’t the reason people don’t want to do it. Its mostly fear. Fear of threads bleeding, or the piece reshaping. These are founded fears as well; threads do occasionally bleed, and threads of poor quality will bleed a lot more. Aida returns to its original shape when washing, and can sometimes tighten threads (again, mostly those of poor quality). As a result, washing can seem like a crazy thing to do if you’ve just stitched for 100 hours.
The thing is, you’ll find loads of people online who have never washed their cross stitch, and they’ve been doing it for 40 years. I’m yet to see any proof, but I honestly believe them. If your hands are well washed, you come from a smoke and pet free home, and you only work with high-quality materials, there is no reason to suggest your cross stitch is dirty.
Does that mean you shouldn’t wash it though?

The case for ALWAYS washing it

Fingers are dirty. The air is dusty. Accident’s happen. There are loads of reasons why your cross stitch might be dirty, and as a result, washing it removes all of that. Not only that but ironing it afterward will stop the dirt from getting worse.
I personally, always wash my cross stitch. And that is a direct result of two cross stitches I did when I was learning when I didn’t wash them.
The first is a retro trio cross stitch that I have simply never washed. I was worried that the threads might bleed (I’ve since checked, and even cheap threads don’t bleed). As time went on, and the sun took its toll, brown spots appeared. I’ve tried washing these out, but I can’t, these are permanent.

Brown Spots on Cross Stitch
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch

The second horror story, is my second ever cross stitch, my Fire ‘n’ Ice cross stitch. In this one, I made a different mistake; I didn’t clean my hands when stitching. There are now, LOADS of brown spots.
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch

OK, both of these could have been improved had I framed my cross stitch properly, but the marks would come eventually. I’ve since learned my lesson on why you should both wash your hands, and your cross stitch, but even if you do, stains might come afterward.
I’ve tried to remove cross stitch stains before, and I can tell you it is a LOT easier when it has been ironed.

Wash or not wash?

So, I guess the answer is “probably”. Washing your cross stitch will significantly help reduce issues, and will mean its easier to clean in the future. However, if you’re 100% sure your hands were clean, and you aren’t too invested in keeping your cross stitches for the future, you don’t have to wash them.
But from personal experience; I always do.

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Robin P Stalcup

    Thanks for the insight just when I needed it! I would say I am the “never” camp. I always have clean and dry hands when crafting and make sure food and drink are put away. I make things as gifts and usually frame immediately, or as wedding/baby gifts that I know will be washed a lot so I let the recipient worry about it. However, I am working a design on pillowcases with waste canvas that are a wedding gift. I know that my cat’s hair gets in everything I stitch so I was planning to machine wash and dry these before giving. And wouldn’t you know, the newlyweds are now expecting in March. No rest for the wicked.

  2. Emma

    Thanks for this blog, I’ve always been interested in this topic. I did have a question though, if you were to wash and your piece had French knots in it. Would you wash the piece and then do the French knots? My fear is the knots would come out and this would ruin the piece.

    1. LordLibidan

      Ha! I worried about that as well. I thought I was the only one…
      French knots (or colonial knots) are actually incredibly hard to remove once stitched. They are stronger than the aida and cross stitches, so you should have no worries!

  3. Joan Reilly-Bertsch

    What about hand dyed fabrics? I’ve been told to never wash them because the fabric dyes can run on your threads! Also, what about washing projects with silk, metallic, and rayon threads?

    1. LordLibidan

      Anyone that dyes fabrics should be using a bleed remover as part of their process, so if the aida comes from somewhere quality, this shouldn’t be an issue (but always follow the instructions given by the seller). If you’re really unsure, you can get something that will coat the fabric and stop bleeding, but it does effect its feel, so I’ve personally not tried it. Its normally called ‘Retayne’ in the US, ‘Fixitol’ in the UK or ‘Dyefix’ in Australia. These are powerful chemicals though, so be careful.
      In regards to speciality threads, these wear better than most normaly, but the temperature of the water is important. Cotton threads can be washed in up to 95 degrees, but metallics need 30 degrees max (celsius). This is why I always suggest washing in cooler/cold water.

  4. Elaine Cochrane

    Rules for entering embroidery in shows sometimes stipulate that items must be unwashed. I don’t understand the reasons. I’ve only ever entered one item in a show (1st prize); it’s still hanging on the wall waiting for me to get around to disassembling the temporary mount so I can give it the wash it needs and frame it up properly. I don’t want brown spots!

    1. LordLibidan

      Washing can often improve the look of the stitches, so sometimes they ask for them not to be washed, but this is a rare thing to find normally. Although you really should wash it asap. Natural light can stain the oils brown rather quickly…