Tips for washing cross stitch projects

Washing cross stitch projects before framing is the perfect finishing touch for all your hard work.

However careful you have been to wash your hands before picking up your embroidery, the natural oils in your skin can cause the fabric to discolor over time. It is advisable not to use any hand lotions before a stitching session, for similar reasons.

I am sure I don't need to say this, but if you nibble treats while stitching any food residue remaining on your hands could stain your work.

Washing your work will also help to remove any stubborn creases or hoop marks, which could otherwise mar your beautiful stitchery.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep your cross stitch pieces looking their best.

When NOT to wash cross stitch

Keep in mind that there are certain projects that you should avoid washing...

  1. These include work where you used silk or handpainted threads as the colors could run and ruin your masterpiece! (more on this below).
  2. Similarly, some beads or embellishments should not be washed, so add them post-washing if possible.
  3. If your cross stitch was done using wool on canvas you would not want to immerse the piece in water either.

Is your embroidery thread colourfast?

Be mindful of colorfastness when using coloured threads.

Certain chemicals used to "set" colours are now prohibited due to environmental issues, making some colours prone to running – especially red threads.

Saying that, I've never experienced dye-run disasters in my work - knock on wood! With quality threads and fabric, the risk of accidental colour bleeding is low.

What do you need for washing cross stitch?

  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild soap such as Fairy Liquid (UK) or Orvus (USA)
  • Two bowls
  • Soft fluffy towels

My method of washing cross stitch

  1. Fill one bowl with cold water, the other with lukewarm. Not hot!
  2. Submerge your project in the cold water and let it soak. Meanwhile, add a small amount of soap to the second bowl and create a bubbly lather with your hand.
  3. Transfer the wet cloth to the bowl of soapy water. Avoid scrubbing, as this can damage your delicate work and unravel any unsecured thread ends. Instead, simply "sluice" the fabric up and down a few times, firmly agitating it in the water to ensure a thorough clean.
  4. If the work is visibly dirty, you can leave it in the bowl to soak for up to an hour. Just give it a swirl every now and then.
  5. Remove stubborn marks with my secret weapon: an old badger hair shaving brush. Gently work the soap suds into the mark and sluice the work up and down for a spotless finish.
  6. Rinse your piece under a running tap (faucet) three to four times, until all the soapy suds have been washed away.
  7. Gently squeeze the work, then lay it face down on a thick, fluffy white towel. Roll it up like a jelly roll, and the fun begins!

Drying your cross stitched project

Lay the rolled-up towel on the floor and take off your shoes and socks. Then stamp on the towel until it becomes damp underfoot as the water in the fabric is absorbed into the towelling. I call this my happy dance as I am celebrating the completion of my project.

Place a clean, dry towel onto your ironing board or heatproof working surface.

Unwrap the stitched piece and lay it, face down, onto the dry towel. Gently ease into shape.

Taking a warm iron, press the work from the back, to help it to dry. Do not use steam and make sure to keep the iron moving at all times. You don't want to scorch your work!

When the piece is smooth leave it laying flat to air dry thoroughly.


Now you know the method I use, you can try it yourself when you finish your next piece of embroidery.

I think you will agree that it is not difficult and it is definitely better than throwing you work into the back of a cupboard where it will never see the light of day again.

If you are going to frame your work, then you may find my page on stretching the fabric before framing helpful.

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