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Whether it’s a new piece of velvet fabric or a pre-constructed item like a velvet durag, scrunchie, or fun dress, washing velvet properly is extremely important to maintaining fabric integrity.
Not all velvet fabrics are constructed equally, so differentiating the care instructions for each can be tricky.
Thus, let’s talk about how to wash velvet fabric without ruining its beautiful plushness or dulling its color!
Can you wash velvet?
Yes, all velvet can be washed and cleaned.
Whether the velvet needs dry cleaning, hand washing, or machine washing, though, is what’s important to differentiate.
Velvet Characteristics Affecting Care Instructions
1. Velvet Fiber Content and Construction Method
Velvet can be constructed from fibers like expensive, luxurious silk or more durable fibers like polyester or cotton. As such, care instructions are not the same for each type of velvet.
Thus, before starting the washing process, check the clothing tag for specific washing instructions. Or, if purchasing velvet fabric, look at the top side of the bolt or the manufacturer’s website for the suggested care instructions.
Not sure what fiber your velvet is made from? In general, the more expensive the velvet, the more care it needs when washing and drying.
For instance, silk velvets? Take these to the dry cleaners.
Other slightly more durable fabrics like rayon-blend velvet can often tolerate hand or machine washing, but sometimes it’s just not worth it because the velvet pile (fluff or nap) on the velvet may look different afterward.
In contrast, polyester or polyester-blend velvets (like stretch velvet or micro velvet) are usually very forgiving and tolerate machine washing in cold water and tumble drying on low heat. The appearance and feel of the velvet pile are not usually significantly altered afterward, either. (Avoid heat if the stretch fiber added is Lycra, though, as heat can affect its elasticity.)
Also, cotton velvet, while not common, is also incredibly durable and safe to machine wash.
2. Fabric Dye
Depending on the manufacturing process and quality of the fabric, unwashed velvet fabrics can bleed dye.
I made this mistake when washing velvet scrunchies for the first time in a mixed-color load. Everything looked tie-dyed afterward!
Thus, for lower-quality velvet fabrics, test if the color will bleed by cutting a small piece and submerging it in a clear cup of cold water. Wait an hour and check the water’s color. If it’s clear, you don’t need to worry about fabric dye bleeding in your wash.
Do you need to prewash velvet before sewing?
In many cases, do not prewash velvet for sewing, especially if you never plan to wash the final project. If the velvet is dry clean only, all you need to do is steam 1/2″ from the velvet surface to prepare it for stitching.
Now, when sewing velvet for garments to be laundered, consider prewashing the velvet to remove excess dye or preshrink the fabric. Preshrinking fabric is especially important for cotton velvet!
With stretch velvet, I also prefer to prewash. The stretch velvet I purchase has usually been stretched on the fabric bolt. When I wash and dry it, it returns closer to its original size and shape, which is easier to cut and sew.
How to Wash Velvet Fabric : Three Ways
Before washing, clean velvet using a small, hand-held vacuum or brush to remove loose dirt or particles.
And if the garment doesn’t need to be washed but rather just freshened, fill a bathroom tub with hot water or run the shower, place your hung velvet item inside the room, and close the door. The warm steam moisture will revive the pile without laundering. (Add your favorite essential oil for a slight fragrance boost!)
Now, as I mentioned earlier, depending on the provided care instructions or the characteristics of your fabric, there are three main ways to wash velvet fabric: dry cleaning, hand washing, and machine washing.
1. Dry Cleaning Velvet
No idea how to wash the velvet fabric you have and are afraid to mar it? Or, does the tag say “Dry Clean Only?”
The best thing to do is take the velvet to a reputable dry cleaner and rely on their expertise. They’re trained for this, and the cost of dry cleaning is significantly less than the cost of a replacement item!
As an alternative, you can try at-home dry cleaning, but I recommend professional dry cleaning over this option unless you know what you’re doing.
2. Hand Washing and Spot Cleaning
If your velvet does not say dry clean only, you can try hand washing.
Spot Cleaning First
If you only need to clean a small portion of the velvet, use a wet rag with a small drop of a gentle detergent like Woolite to dab out stains.
There are other alternatives for spot cleaning, but I recommend your local dry cleaner over stringent solutions that could make things worse.
To wash velvet fabric by hand, first, turn any garments or projects inside out, if possible.
Then, fill a basin with cold water and gentle detergent. (Follow the directions on the back of your detergent bottle for measurements.)
Next, use your hands to gently move the velvet around the soapy basin until it is thoroughly cleaned.
Then, dump out the soapy water and refill the basin with fresh cool water. Move the velvet around again with your hands until the soap has left the velvet fabric.
If needed, refill the basin with fresh water once more. Continue washing until the water runs clear.
Last, remove the velvet from the water, and avoid twisting, wringing, or scrunching it.
3. Machine Washing Velvet
Feeling a little adventurous and have durable velvet? Experiment with washer and dryer settings!
To play it safe with a large yardage of fabric, cut a small sample swatch first and run it through your washer and dryer. To decrease unraveling or fraying at the edges, serge or use pinking shears first.
For best results, use cold water and a gentle or delicate cycle as a starting point. Also, wash garments inside out to protect the velvet pile and decrease shedding.
For new fabrics, wash only with similar colors to decrease stains on other fabrics from bleeding.
How to Dry Velvet
If you have polyester, cotton, or another durable type of velvet, you can try tumble drying on low heat to help return the velvet to its plush appearance.
In general, though, your safest bet is to hang damp velvet to dry if you don’t know the fiber content.
And, always avoid laying velvet clothing flat to dry, as the side of the garment with the pile facing down may get its pile squished.
If you notice wrinkles, you can steam dried velvet with a garment steamer or iron held at least 1/2″ from the back of the fabric to remove wrinkles. (Learn more about how to iron velvet!)
Using the fluff cycle and no heat on your dryer is one other option.
As you can see, there is no one best way to wash velvet fabric as there are so many different types. Knowing a little more about your fabric can help you determine the exact care instructions.
However, if you’re uncomfortable with the process, always err on the side of caution and bring it to your local dry cleaners!