Machine washing and drying burlap is not quite as simple as washing most other fabrics such as cotton, but it is possible. There is a little more to it with various expected or unexpected results. As I am starting another burlap project, I decided to give the machine washer/ dryer method a try despite my earlier argument not to on how to dye burlap. Being cooped up inside for winter, the idea of hand-washing all this burlap seemed daunting, so the curiosity got the best of me, and I did a search and found very useful tips from Ella Claire and Southern Abbey which gave me the assurance I needed to try the machine method. I recommending reading them both, as there is plenty of helpful burlap washing advice.
Before I go any further, please note that the hand washing is probably still the most recommended method, and you can find these steps at on E-How.
When you purchase burlap from the fabric store, it typically comes to you very stiff, unwrinkled and pungent smelling. You may be doing a project such as stretching it over a canvas to make artwork where washing and/or drying aren’t necessarily required, thus you need go no further.
It was a bundle of tangled and mangled burlap pieces that led me to believe that I had ruined it all. The ends had unraveled a lot and had wrapped themselves around each other. I wasn’t about to give up just yet; but I did take note that I had pre-cut my pieces, and washed several pieces at once. This may have made matters worse. Washing one larger piece would probably have worked somewhat better, with less unraveling.
I grabbed a pair of scissors and started cutting and untangling the burlap ends that had come unraveled and tangled. It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought, if you don’t count the cost of the waste.
Next, I tried several drying methods:
I put one piece in the machine dryer on medium heat until dry.
I draped some of the pieces over a drying rack.
I put another piece in the machine dryer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, and then removed and ironed dry the rest of the way
The fully machine dried piece was the softest, with the least amount of large wrinkles and stiffness, but had done some shrinking (left).
The hung dry piece had the largest amount of wrinkles and still had some stiffness (center).
The partially machine dried and then ironed piece had the least amount of wrinkles and shrinkage but still had some of the stiffness (right).
Overall the pungent smell had diminished but was not fully gone.
NOTE of warning: I’ve seen comments on the web about the dangers of putting burlap in the dryer, but I have googled ” burlap dangers in the dryer” every which way I can, and I can’t find any warnings on the subject, other than comments made on a few sites. If you know of any dangers or have knowledge to share, please leave a comment, I welcome it.
In addition there were loose-strand bunches stuck to the fabric, both before and after drying. If hanging dry, these can be shaken and brushed off later. If machine drying, a lot of the loose-strand bunches will come off, but not all. Bushing and shaking may still be required.
Another bundle of tangles, but not quite as bad the 2nd time around, overall less waste.
All of the pieces were even softer.
There were less bunches of lint, although it still had the singular stray strands a-plenty.
The fabric texture had a slight poof-y kind of wrinkle, rather than large, unmanageable wrinkles.
The smell, though still there, was even less.
I still had to take it all outside and shake of the lint bunches that were remaining.
The burlap ends had all taken on a soft fringy look. I kinda liked it!!
After washing and drying two times, I ironed the pieces with quite good results. I used a spray bottle with distilled water and put my setting on linen. Iron settings can vary. I tested mine at the lowest heat first and move up to the linen setting from there. (Left piece has been ironed/ right piece has not been ironed)
- Don’t pre-cut pieces; wash and several yards at a time; cut pieces afterward
- Keep a pair of scissors handy for cutting frayed and unraveled ends
- Use half the amount of soap when washing
- Consider other additives, such as bleach or vinegar, or fabric softener
- Don’t add fabric softener if you plan to paint or dye fabric afterwards
- Wash and/or dry as many as 3-5 times to obtain the softest fabric results with the least amount of smell.
- Results may vary between front load machines and top load machines
- Consider using a laundry mat, rather than your own machines
- Clean out your washer with a damp cloth afterwards
- Clean out all of your machine dryer lint traps and ducts afterwards
- Consider hand washing and hang drying if you are in any way uncomfortable with the machine method
- Consider serging or stitching the edges before washing (you can find details from Pam in the comments below)
- If you want to wash coffee bean or potato sacks, try this method
- All results may vary
- Expect the unexpected
- READ COMMENTS BELOW for additional tips on sewing or stitching the fabric before washing, washing colored burlap and waterproofing burlap.
Machine washing and drying burlap is possible. There are certainly arguments against it; so this method is not for everyone, but I did find it convenient, a time saver and I will be doing it again.
Thank you for stopping by ~ Amy