How To Wash Embroidered Clothes

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Do you have hand or machine-embroidered clothing that needs a good wash? With two young kids, I always do. 

So can you even wash embroidered clothes without damaging the design or causing threads to bleed? Why yes, you can!

Here’s how to wash embroidered clothes so your garments continue to look their best.

how to care for embroidered clothes

Hand vs. Machine Wash

To make this decision, you need to know two things about your embroidered clothes: the fabric type and the thread type.

So, when do you skip the washer and wash pieces by hand?

1. First, check the manufacturer’s label before washing commercially embroidered tops or other clothing. Follow those directions for the best results. If it says hand wash, there’s a reason!

2. If you added embroidery to apparel that is not washer safe, the final product is not machine washable either. 

3. Next, check the care instructions for your embroidery floss or embroidery threads. 

Certain thread types are not amenable to high heat or hot water.

Cotton threads are more likely to shrink than rayon or polyester, causing puckering of designs. Metallic and some rayon threads are also less likely to respond well to high heat.

4. Other threads bleed and lose their color at high temps or with certain detergents. Keep an eye on the colorfastness of your threads, and rinse accidentally dyed clothing immediately.

One of the main reasons I switched to polyester machine embroidery thread from rayon is bleeding from bright red or pink threads is the worst!

Machine Embroidered vs. Hand Embroidered Clothes

hand embroidered shirt

The type of embroidered item also makes a difference in care instructions. 

For instance, machine embroidered clothes can usually be treated like unembroidered clothing. Thus, you can wash them in the washing machine in cold water and tumble dry on low heat. 

However, hand-embroidered clothing is more delicate and fares better with handwashing and air drying.

Hand washing takes into account that hand embroidery threads are not secured as well on the back and can unravel when agitated during a wash cycle. While a way to secure thread ends is to add Tender Touch or another fusible backing, taking special care during the cleaning process works just as well. 

Of course, dry cleaning is always an option if you trust your local dry cleaner! Dry cleaning eliminates the possibility of machine embroidery design puckering after washing and decreases the likelihood of color changes from thread bleeding. 

How to Hand Wash Embroidered Clothes

hand wash embroidery

When in doubt, hand washing is the safest way to wash embroidered projects, especially hand-embroidered clothes. Here’s how to hand wash. 

Step 1: Create Your Water Basin

Fill a sink or small basin with cold water, and add a small amount of gentle soap like Woolite.

Step 2: Soak the Clothes

Drop in the clothes, and allow them to soak in the soapy water bath while you use your hands to move the garment around. 

If needed, switch out old water for clean water on very dirty items. 

If your notice your embroidery thread is bleeding and color appears in your water, do not let the item sit there unattended. (This could accidentally dye your fabric!) Instead, keep rinsing and replacing the water until it runs clean.

Step 3: Rinse

Dump the basin and rinse the embroidered item with more cool water to remove residual soap. 

Rinsing is also vital to remove any residual water-soluble stabilizer. If Fabri-Solvy or another type of stabilizer liquifies, it changed water into a stiffening agent, causing a change in the feel of embroidered tops and pants. 

Step 4: Air Dry

Roll items in a towel to get excess water out. (Never wring.)

Then, hang to dry (or your favorite air-dry method) to avoid shrinking, puckering, or distortion of your embroidery design. 

How to Wash Embroidered Clothing in the Washing Machine

how to wash embroidered clothing

I wash almost all of my machine embroidered garments in the washing machine, and they almost always come out looking great. 

Step 1: Use a Gentle Wash Cycle with Cold Water

Choose the delicate or gentle cycle on your washer and opt for cold water. As mentioned earlier, cold water decreases the likelihood of colors running and clothes shrinking.

Add a mild detergent, using the amount listed on the container. I prefer Free & Clear detergents. 

Avoid using chlorine bleach, as this will take the beautiful colors out of your embroidery floss or threads! If necessary, use a non-chlorine cleaner that says it’s color-safe. I prefer Clorox 2 Free and Clear for Colors

If you think your items may bleed, consider an extra rinse cycle. (And don’t wash your item with any other clothes you love!)

And lastly, if you are washing free-standing lace or other items where embroidery needs to keep soft, consider adding fabric conditioner or softener during the rinse cycle. (My favorite is Downy Ultra Plus Free & Gentle.)

Step 2: Tumble Dry Low-Medium Heat

As soon as your clothes are done in the washer, remove them immediately.

If your threads and garment are approved for a dryer, tumble dry on low heat. Drying too often, though, can cause threads to degrade faster as they “fuzz up” a little more during each dry cycle. 

Low heat also decreases fabric (and sometimes thread) shrinkage, especially if the clothes were not prewashed and preshrunk. 

If you are hesitant to dry the item or used delicate threads, simply remove your embroidered clothes from the washer and air dry.  

Removing Stains From Embroidered Clothing

If the stain is on the outside of the fabric, blot it with a cloth and chlorine-free, bleach-free spot remover like Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. Follow the specific directions on the back of your spot remover for the best results. 

Do not aggressively or directly rub embroidery with stains on it, though, or you risk damaging the delicate threads!

Ironing Out The Wrinkles

After washing, press embroidered areas following these steps for ironing embroidery. When in doubt, press from the reverse side with a medium-heat iron, and use a pressing cloth. 


And that’s how to wash embroidered clothes in a washing machine or by hand to keep them looking great wash after wash!

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