Do You Need to Wash Fabric Before Sewing?

The question, “Do you need to wash fabric before sewing?” is one which both novice and seasoned sewers have asked. The answer is not as clear-cut as one may assume; it all depends on a variety of factors.

Wash Fabric Before Sewing Why?

  • Shrinkage: Few fabrics—especially natural fibers, including cotton, linen, and wool—will shrink when washed for the first time. Flowing fabric before you sew will result in shrinking the fabric to a desired size, preventing surprise shrinking after the garment has been sewn.
  • Color Fastness: Washing fabric before stitching allows the removal of extra dyes and chemicals from the manufacturing process, which leads to the reduction of the risk of color bleeding or fading during further washings. This is especially crucial for the brightly colored or dark fabrics which may dyed onto lighter ones.
  • Texture and Hand: Washing fabric also affects its texture and hand. Some fabrics will become soft or drapey after washing, and others may become more textured, or shrinkage may lead to a tighter weave. Prewashing enables you to measure up these changes and, as a result, use sewing mechanisms willingly to match.
  • Allergens and Chemicals: Prewashing the fabric eliminates any allergens or irritants that can be present, such as dust, pollen, and residue chemicals from the manufacturing process. In such a case, such people are likely to benefit most.

At What Point Should You Wash Fabric Before Sewing?

Typically, you should prewash fabric if it is made of natural fibers like cotton, linen, or wool before you sew. This type of material shrinks more than artificial fabrics such as polyester and nylon.

Nevertheless, exceptions exist. For example, you don’t have to prewash clothes for a craft project you won’t be washing regularly (or ever). Also, if you are using a fabric that is hard to clean, like silk or velvet, then you may not want to do the prewashing step.

What Should You Do Before Sewing Fabric?

When washing fabric before sewing, always make sure that you follow what the care instructions indicate on the fabric’s label. When the label isn‘t available, use a gentle cycle and cold water to avoid excessive shrinkage and color bleeding. After washing, you can tumble dry the fabric on low, or you can hang it up to air dry.

Once clean and dry, iron the fabric to remove wrinkles, if any. This will make the fabric more workable and will assuredly result in a more professional-looking finished piece.


So, you have to wash the fabric before sewing? Usually, the answer is yes. Washing the fabric prior to use can help reduce shrinkage, get rid of dirt and chemicals, and allow the material to be handled much more quickly. However, thinking of the type of fabric and the nature of your sewing project comes firsthand before deciding whether to pre-wash the fabric or not.

Recall that sewing is a craft that needs patience and attentiveness. Spending the time to prepare your fabric before you start correctly sewing is what makes the project go from only good to great.

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