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to wash or not to wash?

FabFashion | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Hello Y’all!
I am new to this forum and already enjoying it. Although I don’t have too much time to read all the threads. LOL!
I posted this in another area before I realized there was this fabric section…
I collect vintage and enw fabrics. My question is: do you or do you not wash vintage and new fabrics before sewing? do you do this with cotton based fabrics only?
I am kind of new to sewing, but have sewn before. I don’t rememebr pre-washing but someone commented to me recently that it was necessary for all fabrics. I am a bit confused with this comment. what is your take on this?
thank you!


  1. Ceeayche | | #1

    With the disclaimer, I am by no means a textile expert:  I typically wash all of my washable fabric before I sew it to remove any chemicals left in the manufacturing process and to allow it preshrink etc. before I spend hours sewing it. Even if it's vintage washables even cup towels, etc. before I use them--albeit more gently. My goal there, is to dispense with any dust, mold, larvae that may have become embedded in the cloth while it was stored in the attic and at the store. Sometimes it is through this process that I discover areas of weakness that I may not have noticed had I used the pressed and sized original.

    Dry cleanable fabrics I run through the dryer at a minimum to remove dust, larvae, musty smells, etc. A side benefit is that it often loosens wrinkles.  If it's really been around for a long time, or has a moldy smell I pay to have it dry cleaned.  This ain't cheap, but it is worth it in the long run since I'm allergic to mold.  This also exposes areas of weakness-- which I consider a blessing, rather than discovering them after the garment is finished.

    1. MaryinColorado | | #2

      Great advice!  I concur, wholeheartedly as another who is allergic to molds.  Another reason why I love having a serger to quickly serge the cut edges of fabric before washing to prevent ravelling.  Now if I could just get the faeries to do the ironing for me! 

      1. Ceeayche | | #3

        those durn faeries are never around when you need them.  My "boo" is better at the ironing board than I am!

        1. MaryinColorado | | #4

          "Boo"  who?   Sorry, couldn't resist the opening!  tee hee

          knock knock

          who's there? 


          Boo who?

          Why are you crying?

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #5

            ha ha ha, ROTFL
            have not heard that one in Years! tee hee hee *giggle*
            thanks for the laugh! Cathy

          2. MaryinColorado | | #6

            anytime!  tee hee tee hee

            an oldie but goodie, huh?

  2. gailete | | #7

    I have a very good reason for prewashing old fabrics prior to making them. I hit a yard sale last summer where a sewer had died. The family was selling off her fabric for $1 a Bag! I found some large pieces of pinwale corduroy that I thought would be great for some skirts plus bunches of other goodies. I washed them. The very large blue and smaller piece of red pieces came through wonderfully and are now preshrunk also although I haven't sewn them up yet. The gray piece that I really wanted to use (as it would have coordinated with stuff in my closet) turned to literal shreds! It had been a 3 yard piece and I couldn't believe the mess. I don't think there was a single square foot piece of fabric when it came out of the washer. Became rags for hubby in his shop. The advice here is up until about a 2 years ago, I rarely prewashed anything, so I would have sewn that fabric up only to have it fall apart on the first washing, unless it fell apart on the first wearing--OOPS!

    If fabric is washable it is a good idea to prewash unless you know it is going into something decorative, but for wearables--Wash!


  3. marymary | | #8

    A "Color Catcher" is a good thing to throw into the washer with your fabrics.  It will keep the dye from bleeding from one fabric to another, at least, most of the time.  I did have one fabric that bled so much that the Color Catcher could not absorb it all and it did affect another fabric.  But, this only happened once in several years and lots of loads of fabric.

    1. Cityoflostsouls | | #13

      What is a "color catcher" ??

      1. marymary | | #14

        It looks like a dryer sheet, but you put it in the wash.  Color Catcher is the brand name for Shout's product.  On the front of the box:  "Absorbs and traps loose dyes to keep colors vibrant".  They come 24 to a box.  It also says, "Dye-trapping, in-wash cloths".

        There is also a product that looks like a wash cloth that you can use over and over until it gets "full".  I have used that one effectively, also, but can't remember the name of it.

        1. Cityoflostsouls | | #15

          Thank you Mary I'll look for Color Catcher.

        2. Sancin | | #16

          A plain white facecloth or towel works well, no need to buy something special. I bought a package of bar towel (like hand towels) and think they will last forever. I bleach them out every now and then.

  4. User avater
    brighteyestish | | #9

    I am a quilter and a seamstress and I do not wash all fabrics before use. If I buy fabric at a yard sale or pickup free fabric from someone, I will spritz the back side with FaBreeze Allergy and pop into dryer. Except silks. I steam shrink most fabrics. I used to work in a dry cleaners and we did it free for our customers. I do wash some fabric before  making garments, then it is a handwash in the washing machine. Some I dry in the dryer and some I hang to dry then pop in the dryer for a minute. Older fabrics need special care.


    brighteyestish in Vancouver, WA

    1. FabFashion | | #10

      thank you all for your answers. I made a dress and didn't wash the fabric. however, I just washed a couple of fabrics (one cotton an dth eother cotton blend) and they did fine. the thing to remark is that I hand wash them. I will not put them through the washer unless i want to shrink them. anyway, I don't think i will wash everything I have. I am still not sure about the lining fabric. do you wash your lining before using it?

      1. User avater
        brighteyestish | | #11

        No I dont wash lining fabric before. I might check it for bleeding. Then I put a small piece in a bowl with hot water to see if it bleeds. After you have hand washed fabric the only place it might shrink after that is the dryer. Even knits want to shrink up in the dryer. So all my nicer stuff I handwash in the machine, hang to dry inside and then dryer for a min.

        I am glad my info helped


  5. woodruff | | #12

    I wash pretty much machine wash and dry all my fabrics as soon as they get into the house. This includes silks, to avoid the problem of water-spotting. It doesn't include stuff that I'm sure I'll only be dry cleaning, like most wools (although I do wash some of them).

    My reasons for this are partly environmental, because it's still rather difficult to find "green" dry-cleaners, but also it's that I'm a sensitive to some of the products used on fabrics during manufacturing, and I figure that if I'm sneezing from just handling it in the store, probably it's not good to inhale while sewing. In addition, I usually prefer the "hand" of fabrics after being washed and dried, especially linen. Silks, I find, do not generally lose much luster or crispness, certainly not as much as one might think.

    I also always wash vintage fabrics--more gently to be sure, but they still get washed and sometimes Oxi-Cleaned to get out stains.

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