Hand-knitted items are true treasures. Whether a family heirloom, a special gift or the fruits of your own labor, every knit, purl and seed stitch deserve TLC (that means tender loving cleaning). Freshen up that cherished blanket, scarf or sweater without worries with these helpful tips on washing knitted items.

How to Wash Hand-knitted Items

If you’re wondering how to wash hand-knitted items, first consider the yarn type. There are four main types of yarn:

  1. Protein Yarns: Protein fiber yarns are those made from the hair of animals—for example wool, alpaca or cashmere. Avoid machine washing or drying these yarns as agitation can cause felting and drying will surely lead to shrinkage. Instead, opt for hand wash and air dry.
  2. Plant Yarns: Plant fiber yarns are those that come from plant-based materials such as cotton or linen. These are generally safe to machine wash and tumble dry (although it is always recommended to check the yarn label first).
  3. Synthetic Yarns: Synthetic fiber yarns are constructed from manmade materials like polyester or acrylic. These fibers generally don’t shrink and are safe to wash and dry (though we suggest consulting the label first).
  4. Yarn Blends: Many yarns are made up of a blend of fibers in order to achieve desirable characteristics like softness, warmth and durability. Because the blend of fibers can vary, it is best to refer to the label prior to washing knitted items made from synthetic yarn.

Wash. Reshape. Dry. Repeat.

Whether you’re looking for tips on how to wash a hand-knitted blanket without snagging it or ways to keep your sweater from losing its shape post-wash, these tips will help keep your knitted items in tip top shape.


Machine Wash

If your label calls for machine wash, it is best to opt for the gentle cycle. Avoid too much agitation and stretching by placing the item to be laundered in a mesh laundry bag. For best results, wash items separately to avoid snags, using cold water and a gentle detergent. Immediately remove the laundered item once the cycle is complete.


When hand washing knitted items, choose a detergent made for the fiber you’re laundering. For instance, detergent made with additives such as lanolin can help clean and preserve protein fibers like wool. Fill a sink or other basin with cool water, add the appropriate amount of detergent for your wash size, submerge the item and gently agitate with your hands. Rinse in cold water being sure to get all the suds out. Never wring or twist the water out of knits as this can cause the item to become misshapen.


When in doubt, always allow knitted items to air dry. Lay your item on a large, dry bath towel and roll it up while gently pressing out excess moisture—remember not to wring or twist—then reshape (more on this later). Never hang a knit item as it will become stretched and misshapen. Rather lay flat to dry. Larger items like blankets can be loosely placed on a drying rack as long as you regularly shift it around to help it keep from stretching. Although some yarns can be tumble dried, we recommend proceeding with caution. Dry handmade items separately to avoid snags and always choose the delicate setting. 

If you’re washing something for the first time, you may want to do what’s called blocking to help the item keep its shape. To block, lay the damp item flat, reshape and pin in place (using a blocking board or other hard surface). 

With these tips for washing knitted items, you can freshen up your handmade sweaters, scarves and blankets so you can enjoy them again and again.