How to Care for Embroidered Clothes

Embroidered clothes, whether done by hand or machine, features elaborate stitches made by applying thread on a base fabric which can be cotton, wool, linen, silk or a synthetic. The threads can be wool, cotton, metallic, silk or acrylic. As with any embellished piece, care must be taken to preserve the work and time that has been invested.

Before you do anything with embroidered clothes, you should check the embroidery fibres for colorfastness to prevent dyes from running. Testing is simple, if there are large blocks of colour wet a piece of white cloth with cold water and gently rub it over each different thread colour in your garment or accessory. If there are smaller areas, use a cotton swab. If there is any colour transfer to the white cloth or swab, do not wash your garment or item at all because washing will result in discoloration and fading. If there is no colour transfer and the base fabric is washable, you can hand wash or wash in a machine using the gentle cycle embroidered items following the care label guidelines.

If your embroidered outfit or accessory is just looking dull, the first step in cleaning should be vacuuming. Cover the end of your vacuum hose with a piece of nylon stocking or light mesh. Starting on the front of the piece, vacuum slowly by keeping the nozzle just above the piece. If the embroidered item is a pillow with an insert, turn the embroidery cover inside out and repeat the process on the backside of the piece. This may be enough to brighten the item and give it the look you need. If the garment or accessory is still dirty or has strong odors, you will need to clean it. If the piece is vintage or has great monetary or sentimental value, consider consulting with a professional textile conservator. Your local art museum should be able to recommend one.

When hand washing embroidered clothes

  • First pre-treat visible stains following the specific recommendations for the type of stain. Allow the stain remover to work for at least ten minutes before hand washing. To hand wash embroidered clothes, fill a deep, laundry sink with cold water. It is best to use cool or tepid water to prevent dye bleeding.
  • Be certain that the sink is very clean and has no residue from cleaning agents that could cause damage to the piece. Use a gentle liquid detergent that will disperse in the water and leave less residue on the fabric.
  • Place your garment in the water, being certain that the entire piece gets wet.
  • Gently move the garment around in the water. Do not twist or wring the fabric. Allow the piece to remain in the water for about ten minutes.
  • Next, drain the wash water and fill the sink again with fresh water. Repeat draining and refilling the sink until the water and piece are soap free – clear water and no suds.

Drying and Pressing Embroidered Clothes

  • After hand washing embroidered pieces, gently squeeze out the excess water. Roll the piece in a towel and squeeze gently to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Place the garment on a dry towel and allow to dry flat.
  • If your garment or item needs pressing, always iron on the wrong side. To prevent flattening the shape and design, put a thick, soft terry towel – preferably white to avoid color transfer – on the ironing board under the garment.
  • If you must, for some reason, iron on the right side of the embroidery; always use a pressing cloth between the iron and the embroidery. This will prevent tearing of threads, possible melting of threads and creating a shine on the fabric.