Should you hand-wash acrylic knits?

This week we continue to look at Major by Universal Yarn. This 100% acrylic yarn can be washed in cool water and dried at a cool setting, but today I weigh in on whether or not it’s a good idea to wash all acrylics by machine just because it’s safe to do so.

Major is a handsome, chunky acrylic yarn that is machine washable.

I knit a swatch of 25 stitches by about 80 rows. Like with most yarns, in stockinette stitch, Major curled a fair bit at the sides and slightly at the cast on and bind off edges. I soaked it in cold water for 15 minutes, squeezed out the excess and pinned it out to dry for 48 hours. It was dry sooner than that, but I had a couple other things to knit before I could get back to this swatch.

After blocking, it curled a lot less. There was no additional fuzz or bloom on the knitted swatch. The stitches looked a lot more even — the soaking helped the stitches relax and “get comfortable” next to each other.

Washing a swatch of Major by hand and machine – YouTube

Charles Voth talks about a summary of the results of washing Major by Universal Yarn.

My next test was to wash it by machine. I ignored the ball band advice and washed it in a warm wash-warm rinse load and then put it in the dryer with towels at the higher heat setting I usually use. When the swatch came out of the washer, it actually had that squeaky, crunchy feel that I recall from acrylics I knit with 30 years ago. But, when it came out of the dryer, it was soft again. The fuzz of the yarn had released some, and now it had a lovely halo.

The bloom off this swatch of Major is light and the fibers don’t cling to each other.

Halos form when the individual fibers in the yarn “escape” from the fabric because the fibers don’t have a grippy surface. Sheep’s wool fibers have naturally occurring microscopic scales that catch on each other and keep the individual fibers from loosening from the twist. A tightly twisted yarn will also have less of a bloom, but Major is spun lightly to make a soft yarn, so naturally, a few fibers will escape with washing and wearing, adding to its charm.

The bloom matches the colors in the yarn — it isn’t only one color of fiber that causes the halo

If you don’t want acrylic yarn to release its fuzz, avoid the machine wash and dry for the life of the garment or accessory. I happen to love fuzz. It just seems to make everything warmer and cosier. Some knitters I know will wash their acrylic yarns in the washer, but lay them flat to dry. This not only avoids the friction of 30-40 minutes per dryer cycle, in the winter especially, it also minimizes static zap!

The soft drape of this knit fabric is a result of a well-constructed yet soft and squishy yarn.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Knitting with Major by Universal Yarn

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