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Tips for pre-washing fabric

5 fabric washing tips

Pre-washing fabric is one of those things that everyone knows is important but so many people dread because the fabric comes out of the dryer in a tangled, wrinkled mess. Never fear, it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve found the best tips that I’ve tried and love.

1. Put the fabric in the washing machine before putting it away.

I never put unwashed fabric with washed fabric. First, because I’ll likely forget which is washed and which isn’t. Second, because when I want to start a project I want the fabric to be ready to use!

Fabric Pre-Washing Tip #2!

2. Serge or zig zag stitch the raw edges.

Serge or a zig zag near the edge to help keep edges from fraying. This keeps the fabric from getting tangled and prevents some of those wrinkles that come as a result of the giant ball of fabric that just tumbles and twists around together.

Fabric pre-washing tip #3

3. OR, Serge the raw edges together.

Cheri has a genius little trick she uses (shared on facebook). It’s a great way to keep wrinkles at bay as well. Keep in mind that you will lose about an inch of fabric because you’ll have to cut it apart.

4. Wash according to fabric care needs.

Pay attention when you’re buying fabric! If it says dry clean only, guess what. If you forgot to look at the washing care here’s a great list of how to care for which types of fabrics.

5. Fold as soon as you remove it from the dryer.

Even if you don’t have time to iron it right away, fold it. Give it a good shake, then put the selvedge edges together, then fold in half that way again. Take out your 6″ ruler (or just “wing it”) and fold the fabric evenly. This will keep your fabric near until you’re ready to use!

Bonus: Knit fabric doesn’t fray!

5 great tips for pre-washing fabric


  1. says

    Not only is it important to pre-wash your fabric to prevent shrinkage and color bleeding, but also to remove chemicals that are used to prevent damage (insects) during shipment from over seas. It is best practice to treat your fabric the same way before your project as you will after it is completed. This also applies to dry cleaning.

  2. Sharon says

    My mother-in-law always soaked her quilt fabrics in salt water for a few hours to set the colors before using.

  3. says

    i like the idea of stitching the edges together. i have a stack of new fabric to wash today. i’m going to try that out.

    i also SWEAR by the color catchers for the initial washing. i am amazed every time i pull that sucker out full of stray dye that could have mucked up other colors.

    nice blog. glad i found you!

  4. Jill b says

    I keep a rotary cutter with a pinked edge by my cutting mat so I can quickly pink the edges before I wash. I find this is the best combination for me of low hassle, great results! Quicker than sewing and less waste. I have also tried the trick of clipping the corners, but this did not work for me at all, it came out as bad as if I hadn’t done anything at all!

  5. Ann Grimes says

    I don’t pre wash anymore because my end product is same with just steam ironing and use color catchers. Today’s fabric is much better suited for no pre washing.

  6. camelia de bruin says

    I was wondering, I always pre wash but I never put it in the dryer…not because I know something :) but because I am afraid the it will change the this stupid ?
    Great tips, speccialy the pinked edge rotary, makes totally sense, i serge now the edges .

  7. Christa Brickey says

    Wash all cotton or mostly cotton fabric in cold water – -no detergent — and add a cup of white vinegar to the wash. Let it agitate for a few minutes and shut off the washer. Let it sit for an hour. Add detergent and restart the washer and let it finish the cycle. The vinegar sets the color – and helps prevent it from fading. My mother – who taught sewing – showed me this when I was just learning to sew, and I’ve used it for years. It works! Great for red or dark fabric.

  8. Michelle says

    Want a super easy tip? Clip the fabric corners at 45 degrees before washing and you will not have a tangled mess of fraying threads. It only takes seconds!

  9. Lynnette says

    Thank you so much! I used my pinking scissors to trim the raw edges & it came out the wash perfect.

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