How to Wash Excess Dye Out of Yarn

...or, I’m really tired of my hands turning blue.

A few months ago, I was spinning some bright blue roving into yarn. The roving, besides from being easy to draft, was pretty and soft but turned my hands and spindle blue. Drafting the singles, blue hands. Plying the singles, blue hands. Skeining the yarn, oh look, blue hands. Thankfully, a bath to set the twist was a perfect time to get rid of all that extra dye. But first, research. To the internet!


My first thought was to try a vinegar bath since I’ve repeatedly heard that adding a little vinegar to the water will set the dye. Numerous blog posts and message boards later, I came to the conclusion that just soaking the yarn in vinegar wouldn’t do a thing. There also has to be heat for the vinegar to do it’s job since the vinegar acts as mordant which lets the dye set on the fiber. I wasn’t willing to cook my yarn which meant the only way to fix the blue problem was to wash the dye away. 

If, like me, you don’t put your yarn on the stove, you’ll need a sink, cool water, and good soap to wash the dye away. Wool wash is the best choice but dish detergent works too. I used a combination of Dawn Ultra and Eucalan.  

1: Fill the sink with enough cool water to let the yarn soak and float. Add soap after the sink is full to prevent suds that you’ll just have to rinse away later.

2: Dunk the yarn in the water. Let it soak for a few minutes and gently swish it around. If the water dramatically changed color, immediately skip to step 3.

During the yarn’s first dunk, the bath turned so blue that I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink through 4” of water.



3: Drain the water and rinse the yarn with as little agitation as possible. Repeat as necessary. 

I had to put my yarn through 5 separate baths and it was still dripping blue water when I hung it up to dry.


Pro Tip: Even if you’re using a soap that doesn’t need to be rinsed, agitate the yarn as little as possible. Wool and other animal fibers can still felt in cool water. All the rinsing and agitation can add up over multiple baths. If the yarn does start to felt but you catch it soon enough, the yarn will still be salvageable and knit-able. 

I accidentally felted my blue handspun but stopped washing the yarn when I noticed the felting. I hung it up even though it was still dripping blue water. When it was dry, I had to pull the skein apart one strand at a time. I lost some yardage to shrinkage but I didn’t have to cut anything. Surprisingly, I like the yarn better felted.

Pro Tip #2:

Be aware that the yarn might lose some of it's color during the repeated baths. Mine went from gym short blue to sky blue.