Maybe you’ve happened upon some really cool, vintage burlap sacks that you want to transform into kitschy pillows. Maybe you bought fresh burlap off a roll at the fabric store with the intent on making a farmhouse décor item. Whatever the reason you have burlap on hand, you will soon discover one thing: it sheds…a lot. And if the burlap is brand new, you will probably discover the loud smell it brings into your house.
How To Properly Wash & Dry Burlap
So what’s the first thing you do when something is stinky? Right – you wash it. I’ve made some burlap washing mistakes in my lifetime. I hope you will learn from these:
You should hand wash burlap, not machine wash it. The same is true if your burlap is printed. I bought some burlap yardage with a camouflage print to use as table coverings at a hunter-themed baby shower. I didn’t want it to smell up the venue, so I tossed it in the washer with a little detergent. If I had known then what I know now, I’d have bought the burlap a week or two before the shower and hung it out to air dry just to remove the smell.
One wash cycle later, not only was my machine full of little burlap fibers, but out came a solid brown piece of burlap. I washed the print right off! What I did not realize is that print on burlap needs to be heat set. Even if you’re working with a printed or stamped burlap bag, don’t take for granted that it’s been heat set. You can heat set your burlap even if you don’t have a heat press. You will need some parchment paper, your iron, and ironing board.
Set the iron for dry heat and let it preheat to reach the hot setting. Tear off a piece of parchment paper the size of your burlap (you may have to move it around if you are working with a big piece of fabric). Place the parchment on top of the burlap and iron it for about 10 to 20 seconds on each print element. That should be enough time and heat to set your printed design.
Once you’ve heat set your printed burlap, let it cool completely then hand wash it if you must. Hang the burlap to let it air dry. This process also helps straighten the fibers that might otherwise be stretched in odd angles and keeps your drier from being attacked by stray fibers.
Laundering Tips For Burlap
- If you decide to wash your burlap in the machine, put it in a laundry bag or a pillowcase and secure the end with a tie or with safety pins. This will keep your machine clean of frays.
- Again, if you wash burlap in your machine, use the most gentle cycle it’s got.
- Don’t use bleach on burlap.
Edging Tips to Help Stop Burlap From Shedding
The best way to stop the burlap shed depends on your intended use for the fabric. In my case, using it for table coverings, I could have trimmed the edges off evenly then run a thin bead of clear silicone glue around all the edges. You can use your fingers to press the silicon into the fibers as you go, which will help keep a natural look. It dries clear but may make the edges look a little shinier than the rest of the burlap.
If you will be sewing your burlap and may want to be able for your craft to be washed, you should finish the edges with an open zigzag stitch. A satin stitch, since the stitches are so close, would only worsen the fray by cutting deeper into the fabric. The zigzag won’t stop your edges from fraying, but it will help control it.
If you will be using your burlap for a wall hanging, maybe stenciling a nice message on it to display in your den or dining room, you have a couple of easy solutions. The first and probably most obvious is to frame the craft. If you use a frame of archival quality, you can preserve your art piece for a long time. Even if you use a cheap poster frame, it will press the edges of the fiber in place to prohibit shedding.
The other option, if you plan to just hang your burlap on the wall unframed, is to use masking tape to keep the edges in place. One-inch masking tape is especially easy to work with. After trimming off the stray edges, apply strips of masking tape all the way around the edges of the fabric. Take time to line up the strays and push them into the tape as you are smoothing it around each edge. The good thing about masking tape is that it blends really well with burlap. It will also help keep your edges crisp if you plan to hang your burlap décor with removable hook and loop products like Command Strips. If you are really worried about shedding, run a bead of silicone glue around the top side of the burlap in addition to the taped back.
If you don’t mind a sheen on your entire piece of burlap wall hanging, you could sponge on a clear glue-based sealer like Mod Podge. For extra protection against shredding, use the product on both the front and back. Be sure to use a sponge applicator instead of a brush, which might actually encourage shedding with brush strokes.
You can opt to give your burlap a finished edge with binding tape that you can either stitch or glue in place. If you take time to miter the corners, your burlap project could look pretty sharp.
Ultimately, it’s important that you know the shed will never really stop, but you can get a grasp on it if you plan ahead.
People tend to like burlap for its rustic appeal. Rustic is not perfect. If you are really bothered by the shedding of burlap, if it stresses you to no end, try a different fabric for your project instead. Consider muslin or linen, which you can get in a variety of light or darker natural colors, or could even tea stain to create a vintage look.