How to Soften Acrylic Yarn

I wanted to share a neat trick with you guys today. Now, I’m sure that most of you know how acrylic yarn can be great because it’s cheap, it can be purchased in big skeins, the colors are endless, and there is just so much you can do with it.  However, acrylic yarn tends to be stiff, scratchy and it can be hard to use for things like blankets and garments. Although there are several tutorials out there on how to soften acrylic yarn before you start using it, I didn’t find anything to help soften acrylic yarn after I had made the item. So, I tried some things out and I’m here to show you how to soften that yarn and save your project!

How to Soften Acrylic Yarn

What to do:

1. First, knit or crochet your project. I found it easier to soften the yarn after making the item because it took care of blocking at the same time. Also, I didn’t have to worry about pre-treating the yarn before I started, and I could just do it all at the end. The scarf I made here is one of the patterns in my free ebook The Beginner’s Guide to Crochet, btw.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Crochet Free Ebook

2. Next, fill your sink or a bucket with warm water and submerge your item in it. The item will absorb water so add more if you need to in order to keep it submerged. Let it sit for a minute or two.

3. Add two or three pumps of hair conditioner to the water and mix it around to get it bubbly. Any conditioner is fine; I used whatever I happened to be using at the time, which was Pantene Pro-V, but it doesn’t matter. Massage the conditioner into the item like you would with your hair. It’s doing the same job, really, by adding moisture and softness into the strands. Then, let the item soak for another half an hour or so.

4. Rinse the item out with cool water, and gently squeeze any excess water out into the sink. Be gentle and work in sections to get as much water out as you can. Then, using a towel, go over it again. It should just be damp when you’re done.


5. Now you have two options: You can either lay the item out on a towel or a blocking mat and block the item to finish as you normally would, or you can dry it the rest of the way in your dryer. For items that you want to keep a certain shape, like sweaters or gloves, I would recommend blocking them. But for simpler items like this scarf, you can put it in the dryer without worrying about it becoming misshapen.

For the dryer option, throw the item into the dryer for 40 minutes on a low heat setting. You can also use a dryer sheet if you like. If the item isn’t completely dry in 40 minutes, you can dry it a while longer, or let it air dry the rest of the time.

That’s it! Your item should be soft and supple now and move the way you want it to. Although it takes awhile to get it soft like this, a lot of that time is spent letting the item soak or dry, so it doesn’t need much attention from you. This is the best way I’ve found to soften acrylic yarn, and it’s worked great on everything I tried it on. I hope this helps you out. If you liked this post, please share it!

The tasseled scarf I used in this tutorial is one of the 15 patterns in my ebook, so if you like it, be sure to subscribe and download it! The ebook is completely free and it’s full of patterns and tutorials to teach beginners how to crochet. You can also check out the 3-in-1 Infinity Scarf Pattern from the book over in my post from a few weeks ago.

See you all soon!

  • Heather Ingraham

    Thank you , I shared this on my facebook page Nana’s Knits

  • Gail ADAMS

    Wonderful tip for softening yarn and will definitely try this. Love your patterns.

    • Thank you! It’s my tried and true method and the easiest way I’ve found!

  • Haleigh Barnhart

    Would I be able to soak it in my bathtub if I am making an afghan?

    • Yes! I do that for mine too. You can also use a large plastic tub if you need the bathtub free.

  • annie

    I never prep, I use red heart for almost everything. I just wash on cold delicates, then pop in dryer for about 20-30 mins with dryer sheet. It always comes out soft and does not lose shap.

    • I like to prep for projects that I’d like a little softer than a normal wash, but it’s totally about preference!

  • Nicole

    Do you have to redo this every time you wash? Thanks!

    • No, just the first time! You can machine wash as you normally would after.

  • Cat McMorris

    I never use ANY heat at all with my acrylic yarn projects. I always air fluff them until dry in the dryer. I do this even with the sweaters that I buy too. I have found this works best and the sweaters keep their shape better without blocking evetytime.

    • Thanks for the tip, Cat. I only need to block it the first time, but then I machine wash and dry as usual. I haven’t had any problems using heat, but I’ll try to air dry a few items and see if there’s a difference.

  • khairieh

    I used the same method for a sweater I made from rough untreated sheep wool, it worked great. Thanks for letting me know it works on acrylic as well 🙂

    • Oh wow, even works on untreated wool? I’ve never used wool like that before but it’s great to know this will still work! It’s so easy and gentle on the materials.

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  • What a great and interesting idea. I like using the Hobby Lobby I Love this Yarn which is softer than some acrylic yarns I have used but it could still use a little softening. I look forward to trying this. Thanks. Pinned.

    • Thanks! I get I Love This Yarn whenever I can because it is softer and the colors tend to be richer. Sometimes Red Heart has more color options though, so I like knowing that I can get the yarn softer if need be.

  • What a great tip!

    I would love for you to share this with my Facebook Group for crafts, recipes, and tips:

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

    • I hope you find it useful next time you have scratchy yarn that needs saving!

  • Thank you! I love using this kind of yarn when I'm still testing out patterns or trying a new stitch pattern, so it's great to know that I can make something soft with it too!

  • Crochet Hooks

    too neat! love how simple this is. sometimes the more colorful yarn is so rough so this would work great to soften the yarn! thanks for sharing the idea!

  • You'll love it!

  • Jessica Abegg

    I have some Red Heart I will have to try this with!

  • I'll check them out. I saw that they're crochet. I usually stick to knitting. I have a hard time keeping up with crochet. But since you have some beginner projects, maybe I'll give it another try.

  • I am so glad you found it helpful, Gina! If you liked this post so much, I really think you'll like the other posts I put up! Be sure to subscribe for the updates and the free ebook!

  • I love this post!!!!! I had a ton of acrylic yarn and hated using it. It was just so scratchy. I've already pinned this for later. It's something that's so useful to me! I can't thank you enough!! 😀

  • What a great tip! Who'da thought?! 🙂

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!