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. 


How to Clean Dye Off Spindles


Dye bleeds. It’ll cover your hands, your clothes, and perfectly innocent yarn. Not even spindles are immune. The pencil roving I started spinning last week has been great to spin except for the fact that it’s been turning my hands and favorite spindle blue. Once the first single was finished, I finally had the chance to take my spindle apart and see how drastic the color change had been.


Blue, very blue. My blue “Smurf” fingers clued me in that the change would be severe but it was still disappointing to see the difference. It’s pretty, I’ll admit that, but the shaft is not the amazing amber color that it was when I first received the spindle as a gift a year ago. I’d rather have the amber back and, if fiber has turned your spindle an unwelcome color, you probably want it looking like its original self too. Plus, I want to get rid of any dye that might rub off on future projects. Here’s how I removed the extra dye.


Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap to the rescue. I keep Dr. Bronner’s around because it’s a gentle, mild soap that can still get the job done. Plus, you can use it for cleaning just about anything.


Wet a paper towel and squeeze out the excess water. Add a few drops of soap and start rubbing the stains. If the dying was recent, you should see a difference right away. Switch to a clean, damp cloth or paper towel to remove the soap. Pat dry.


 The shaft still has a blue tint along with a few blue spots where the dye got into the grain but the spindle is much closer to its original color. Now I just need to find a way to keep the roving from turning the wood blue again. 

Incremental January: Week 3

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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De-cluttering continues. Clothes, books, shoes, and yarn have been sorted and rearranged. There are bags of stuff sitting by the door just waiting to be donated or traded-in. I’ve even cleaned out my car. Still, there’s a lot to do and the work continues.

This week, I’m still going to be focusing on the space around me but I’m also going to work on cleaning up the digital space. This week isn’t just about freeing up space on my hard drive. This week is about getting back my time, cutting out distractions, and saving my attention for the things that really need it. The 10+ emails in my inbox every morning trying to sell me stuff are not worth my time. So, this week I am going to:

  • Edit account settings to reduce the amount of email various sites send me every day.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters that I’m just not excited about anymore.
  • Clean up my RSS feeds. Blogs and comics that don’t hold my attention? Gone. Sites that post more 3-5 times a day? Bye-bye. Etsy shops I’m not fond of anymore? (Yes, Etsy shops have RSS feeds).  Deleted. My wallet is already sighing with relief. 
  • Stop emails from social networks saying that someone has commented/pinned/tagged whatever I’ve posted. It‘s just distracting and hides the important stuff in my inbox. I’m already going to the site whether I get an email or not. 
  • Delete bookmarks to sites that are no longer relevant or dead.
  • Delete blurry and unusable photos. Must make room for the good ones. 
  • Uninstall programs that I will never use and forgot about because I found something better.

Now if I could just stop checking my email or Ravelry or Reddit every time I get bored, I’d have a lot more time on my hands.


Incremental January

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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After taking a break through December and enjoying the holidays, I’m ready to get back to work. There are things to do, butts to kick, and yarn that won’t knit it itself. 2013 has arrived and I’m going to make it a year to remember. In order to do that, I need to start now and make daily, regular process. None of this waiting to the last minute stuff or running around like a headless chicken. 

The Too Long, Didn’t Read Version: Start now. Finish stuff. Be awesome. 

My theme for 2013 was to approach life with bold enthusiasm and there are a few things I need to clear up first to make that easier. Okay, make that a multitude of things. January's Incremental Project is to de-clutter and clean up my own little space in the world. It’s not really a skill - like spinning yarn or sketching - but it will make those things and daily life easier. If everything has a place, I won’t have to wander the house looking for a pair of scissors or spend 10 minutes trying to find my favorite shirt. That whole “Bold Enthusiasm” thing is much easier when I don’t waste my energy trying to find random object x. 

Yesterday, there was cleaning and scrubbing and vacuuming. This week there will be sorting, bagging, and dropping off/trading in all that stuff I don’t have a place for anymore. I might even tackle a closet but I’ll probably put that off until next week. Wish me luck.