Can Embroidery Thread Get Wet? What You Need to Know


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Embroidery thread is used for a lot of things we wear on a daily basis, from clothing to bracelets. Whether we get caught in a rainstorm, jump in a pool, or just need to run the washing machine, our embroidery thread is bound to get wet on a regular basis. But, is this ok? Can embroidery thread get wet?

Embroidery thread can get wet. The biggest issue to worry about is having the colors bleed from your thread when you wet them, especially with your red colored threads. To prevent this, choose threads that are colorfast and consider soaking them in hot water and vinegar before using them. 

We’re going to talk about ways to prep your embroidery threads so that they’re ready for any water that comes their way. 

We’ll also talk about buying the right types of threads that will best withstand water so that you have a headstart in protecting your embroidery threads and avoiding any disasters.

To get started though, we first need to talk about the frequency of washing your embroidery threads and what can happen to them over time.

Handle Your Embroidery Threads with Care and Avoid Getting Them Wet Frequently

Embroidery threads can get wet, but frequent exposure to water can be rough on them. You may notice fading or wear and tear of your threads if you’re constantly washing them and submerging them in water. Handle your embroidery projects with care and limit washing them as much as possible.

We all know that washing takes a toll on fabric. Sadly, that favorite shirt that we’ve washed over and over again will suddenly start to look a little haggard after a few years.

Embroidery thread is fragile and should be handled delicately in order to increase its lifespan. 

Hand wash your embroidered items so that you can handle them with more care than your trusty washing machine does. Using a washing machine and a dryer can also cause your embroidery projects to shrink, which clearly isn’t great.

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Even if you aren’t washing your embroidery constantly, simply getting it wet all of the time can take a toll on it. 

Yes, I’m thinking about friendship bracelets!

I’m a big fan of summer camp. I mean, HUGE fan. I went to sleepaway camp every summer as a kid and was a counselor throughout college. Naturally, I made a LOT of friendship bracelets.

Daily showers, jumping in the lake, swimming in the pool, random summer rain storms – those bracelets were wet all of the time.

Aside from the gross annoyance of having 15+ wet bracelets on my wrist, it took a toll on my bracelets. After a full summer, they were old and tired.

friendship bracelets with embroidery thread

Every year, I’d commemorate the end of the summer by cutting off my friendship bracelets and waiting for the next summer when I could make new ones. 

If my summer camp friendship bracelets taught me anything, it’s that embroidery thread needs to be carefully taken care of in order to last a lifetime. 

Even though there aren’t very many issues with getting embroidery thread wet, you may notice an increase in wear and tear if you’re constantly subjecting your threads to water. So, it’s best to limit the amount of times you’re washing your embroidery threads and getting them wet.

Ok, so let’s talk about two ways to increase the chances that your embroidery thread will best withstand water.

Make Sure You’re Using Colorfast Embroidery Thread

Colorfast embroidery threads are less prone to bleeding and fading than embroidery threads that are not colorfast. Make sure you buy threads from a manufacturer that produces colorfast embroidery threads for the best results when exposing your embroidery threads to water.

Colorfastness is a term that refers to dyed fabrics and textiles that maintain their coloring after washing (source).

If you buy an embroidery thread that claims to be 100% colorfast, this means that you shouldn’t see any bleeding or fading of the color when you wash it.

Of course, mistakes can happen and nothing is perfect. That said, finding a brand of colorfast thread that you like can ease your worries and issues when getting your embroidery threads wet.

Red embroidery thread is especially prone to bleed

Even if you have colorfast thread, take extra care with your red threads in case any of the colors run when you wash them. 

red embroidery thread with hoop and project

If you’re worried about bleeding and running colors, there are some steps you can take. Not only will this show you how much your threads will bleed, it will also help prevent future bleeding. 

Again, 100% colorfast threads shouldn’t bleed at all, but this process is a good reassurance and way to ensure that your threads are as prepared as possible.

There aren’t a lot of ways to make your embroidery thread colorfast yourself, so it’s important to buy embroidery thread that holds up to the colorfast test we’ll talk about next.

Soak Your Embroidery Threads Before Using Them

Soaking your embroidery threads in cool water and vinegar for a few minutes can show you how much your threads are prone to bleeding. Avoid using hot water, as this can reactivate your dyes and cause bleeding that may not have happened had you used cool water.

If you’re worried about your embroidery threads, especially your red threads, soaking them before using them can show you how prone your threads are to bleeding.

Here’s what you need to do.

Mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 8 ounces of cold water. Let your thread soak for a few minutes in the solution. Remove it from the water and rinse it thoroughly. Towel it dry and allow it to fully dry before you use it (source).

It’s really important to NOT use hot water. 

Hot water can reactivate your dyes and cause more bleeding than would have happened otherwise (source).

Aside from soaking your threads, it’s also important to avoid hot water when washing your embroidery projects. Use cool water whenever possible to reduce the chances of colors bleeding from your threads. 

Pre-washing your embroidery threads will show you how colorfast your embroidery threads already are. If you don’t end up with any color in the bowl of water, hooray!

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If you end up with colored water, you can decide if you want to continue to use the thread for your project or not.

If you ended up with dye in your water, you’ll want to be extremely careful when you wash the embroidery projects you make with it. Depending on your project and how much dye was released into your water, you may decide to ditch the thread altogether.

That’s why pre-washing can be so important.

It’s ok to get your embroidery threads wet! Just keep in mind that embroidery thread is delicate and, like everything that’s delicate, it’s important to handle it with care and wash it as infrequently as possible.

Diana Fitts

Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana's latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.

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