I wanted to share a neat trick with you guys today. I’m sure everyone has picked up a skein of acrylic yarn that wasn’t exactly soft. You bought it, used it, and hoped the end result would be okay, but then your hard work just felt stiff and scratchy at the end. You put time and effort into it and you really don’t want to start over, so what do you do? How can you soften acrylic yarn?
When I started out, some of my family gave me a lot of Red Heart Super Saver. It was nice enough to use, but I needed a way to soften acrylic yarn. I’d seen people soften it before using it, but that seemed too risky. I didn’t want to throw the whole skein in the wash and get it tangled. And I didn’t want to use the whole thing right away! So I played around and figured out how to soften acrylic yarn after I made my piece.
How to Soften Acrylic Yarn
This is a really easy way to soften acrylic yarn, especially yarn that can be stiff as well as scratchy. I used Red Heart Saver and SC to make the scarf I’m using as an example here. You’ll just need a few things you probably already have around.
- Hair conditioner (any is fine) – or you can use a blocking product like Soak Wash
- a plastic bin or a sink you can stop – I’ve also tried this with a portable washing machine!
- dryer (optional)
- Blocking mats and pins
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.
2. Next, fill your sink or a plastic bin 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 and get the fibers soaked.
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 hour.
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. The fibers are more delicate when wet so don’t twist or wring the piece because that could damage your stitches. Then, using a towel, go over it again. It should just be damp when you’re done.
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 just put it in the dryer without worrying about it becoming misshapen.
Related: All About Blocking Crochet and Knits
If you don’t know how to block things or if your item needs blocking, go ahead and click the image above for a post all about blocking. There’s also a freebie there!
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 to prevent static 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 now and move the way you want it to. Although it takes a while 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 with.
You only need to do this the FIRST time you wash. You can repeat it and try to get softer results, but after a while, it doesn’t do much more. After that, you can just throw it in the wash as you normally would and not worry about it.
Using Higher Quality Yarn
If you really want super soft acrylic yarn, the best thing is to just buy higher-quality yarn. When I wrote this post, I used whatever I had because I needed to use it up. But since then, I’ve found so many yarns I prefer to use over scratchy acrylic. And they aren’t expensive or hard to find at all! You can find them right alongside the Red Heart Super Saver and get better quality for the same prices. I have a big list here of all my favorite yarns and what I like to use them all for if you want to see what I use.
Want to learn more about other types of yarn and fiber content?
While I have my favorite yarns, there’s so much more out there so give them all a try! I spent some time learning about yarn fiber content and I think it really helps to understand the materials you’re working with. Did you know animal-based fibers act differently than synthetic fibers? Or that you can even have yarn made of banana fibers?
I go into detail about yarn content and its different uses and properties in the post below, just click the image to check it out.
Thanks so much for reading!
I hope this makes your crocheting and knitting a little more relaxing since you don’t have to worry about scratchy yarn. I share new patterns and tips every week, so subscribe down below to get new posts, patterns, and tips in your inbox along with access to the resource library! That’s where I keep all my best resources and printables and it’s totally free 🙂
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Saturday 28th of May 2022
I really don't know why you go to so much trouble to soften the RHSS. That's the only yarn I can afford and all I do is put it in my washing machine and wash with regular detergent and downy liquid fabric softener then put it in the dryer to dry. I do this the same way I normally wash and dry my clothes. The acrylic gets soft from the heat of the dryer which slightly melts the fibers. This, in turn, makes the yarn softer. I have always been complimented on how soft the items I have made with acrylic yarn are.
Tuesday 31st of May 2022
Persoanlly, I didn't find the normal wash cycle to soften as much as I wanted and this way helped a bit more for my projects!
Monday 22nd of November 2021
I did amigurumi with acrylic yarn, and now it looks horrible
Can I use this method to make it soft?
Tuesday 30th of November 2021
@Nadia, yes, you can! It should help to get the scratchiness out if you used something like RHSS. But acrylic is actually great for amigurumi and that's exclusively what I use for mine, the trick is really just to use good quality acrylic.
I have all of my favorite yarns, including for amigurumi, here if you'd like some suggestions for great quality, affordable yarns. For plushies, I generally use Yarn Bee Soft Secret though!
Favorite yarns: https://www.theblueelephants.com/2020/05/favorite-yarns.html
Sunday 8th of August 2021
Thanks do much for the info. I too use this yarn. I make throws for our local hospice and can never get them soft enough. I'm really hoping this works. I'll be trying a very lightly scented conditioner myself.
Sunday 1st of August 2021
Hi! I'm pretty new to knitting, and am looking forward to making a sweater. May I know if Red Heart's yarn is suitable? I would appreciate any comment, thank you!
Sunday 1st of August 2021
Hi! That's so exciting, sweaters are fun to make! Red Heart has some good lines, but I would not recommend the Super Saver ones for a sweater. It's too stiff and doesn't have any drape in the finished project. Look for something that feel soft and supple in the ball already, and that will you give a good idea of how it knits up! Or you can check out my post of favorite yarns and give one of those a go!
Saturday 15th of May 2021
Thank you, this has been very helpful.