How To Clean Scarves

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Let’s think about this for a moment: hats, gloves, and scarves are things you wear, not unlike shirts or bras. The latter types of garments you’re likely in the habit of regularly washing. Unfortunately for the cleanliness factor and my anxiety levels, the prior category is often overlooked when it comes to washing.

It’s true, scarves aren’t nestled up in your crevices like a pair of undies would be, but nonetheless, they envelope your neck, which, being skin, is constantly shedding skin cells. Add to that the fact that you’re transferring perfumes, oils, makeup, dribbled morning coffee, et al onto your favorite neck ties and you end up at the realization: those scarves are in need of a good clean!

But then it’s all, “Well, how do I go about doing that? Nobody ever teaches these things? I don’t want to ruin them?”

I got you.

How to clean your scarves! Pin this and do it!

How You Do It

Obviously, refer to the instructions your scarf’s care tag contains, if there is one. Typically, cotton, linen,  acrylic, or other synthetic scarves can be safely cleaned in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. Cashmere is not DIY-friendly (in my experience), and any cashmere scarves should be taken to the dry cleaner. 

Otherwise the general procedure for cleaning hand knit, wool, and silk scarves goes like this: 

– Fill a sink or bucket with lukewarm water.

Various types of materials can handle various water temperatures, and you can easily determine what’s best for your scarf if you know what it’s made of and then take to the Google, but the big thing to know is that none of them bode well with hot water and the cooler the water, the safer you are. So if you’re lazy just use cool water full stop.

– Add a small amount of a gentle soap like baby shampoo.

– Pretend your scarf is fragile as you submerge it in the water. Do not rub or scrub. But do make sure the entire thing has been saturated. 

– Let it rest in there for a couple of minutes (no more than 5).

– Then, either transfer to another container of water or drain the sink and refill.

You can add a few drops of distilled white vinegar to your rinse water to protect fibers and keep colors bright.

– Repeat this until there are no more visible suds.

-At this point, you can very gently squeeze the scarf.

You want to be very careful you aren’t stretching, pulling, or tugging at all.

-Transfer your scarf onto a towel.

Be especially careful when doing this with knitted scarves, as stretching can cause damage. You can sort of support it from underneath as you carry it, as you would a child.

– Lay the scarf in the center of the towel and roll the towel up with the scarf inside.

– Squeeze the towel roll.

Don’t be tempted to wring the towel, either. There’s zero wringing involved in this process. 

-Unroll, and allow the scarf to air dry.

In order to avoid the possibility of stretching and misshaping, lay your scarf flat to dry (atop a 2nd clean, dry towel is a good bet). Silk scarves must be dried out of direct sunlight, and can be ironed when they’re halfway dry. 


I promise it’s far less scary than you’ve always imagined it to be. And if you’re a scarf washing expert, please do leave your most treasured tips in the comments below. 

K, but now you need to go do this, cause you’re kind of gross with those things so bye. 

Image credit: Photography by Louise Lindbäck via Rue

6 thoughts on “How To Clean Scarves

  1. Cheyenne

    I freakin’ love you…just for these helpful tips, No really. Long time listener, first time caller. 😉 You’ve saved my sanity on more than one occasion with all your helpful posts. You’ve got the postess with the mostess award in my book. Didn’t realize how tired I was till I reread this, but really, Annie, I do so love your blog!

    1. Annie Post author

      Oh hey first time caller, you made my whole night with this comment. So happy to hear you’ve been enjoying the blog, and if this is you tired, then fatigue suits you well!

  2. Linda

    Hi I just bought a scarf at a thrift store that still has it’s tag on it. It was $16 but we looked it up online, and it sells for $150 up. I didn’t think it smelled in the store, but now it smells super perfume-y. I can’t handle perfume, and neither can my cousin, who I’d like to give the scarf to. Do you think a vinegar bath will work? Should I try one of the env. correct dry cleaners (and are they really environmentally correct? I can’t handle formaldehyde.)? I know I’m only out $16, but my cousin would flip for this scarf. It’s a Laura Ciccarello if that means anything to anyone. As I said, I had to look it up. It is cool. Thanks!


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