How To Clean Cross Stitch

This post will go through some easy ways to clean cross stitch. Whether you’ve just finished a project that has some marks on it from your hands or you have a vintage piece that needs to be spruced up, these tips are sure to help you get your cross stitch looking almost brand new!

How To Wash Cross Stitch Before Framing

Washing needlecraft projects is a bit different than washing things like clothes. The stitches are delicate and it’s of course important to preserve the vibrancy of the colors in the design. Using harsh chemicals, washing in a laundry machine, or being too rough while washing it can ruin a cross stitch piece.

Here are several different solutions and chemicals that are gentle yet effective for cleaning cross stitch.


OxiClean is a cleaning agent that is color safe and great to use for heavy stains, including oils.

Mild Soap

Mixing some mild soap, such as castile or Dawn dish soap, into a few cups of water is an easy way to remove stains and it’s gentle on fabrics.

What constitutes a mild soap?

A mild soap is one that is gentler and has a lower pH (less basic) than other soaps.

What about using laundry detergent?

Mild soap is ideal to use as opposed to laundry detergent because it will completely wash out. Laundry detergent can be harder to rinse out, especially by hand! According to this article, laundry detergent can also leave more residue on fabrics.


Vinegar is something most people have on hand, and “As a stain remover, vinegar is effective at treating low-pH stains like coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine, and beer” according to an article from Better Homes and Gardens.

All of these different solutions should be used with water and the cross stitch project should be washed by hand. Laundry machines are too rough for needlework and could loosen the stitches or even destroy delicate fabric.

Note: You should always check that the fabric and thread that was used for the cross stitch are colorfast. If they are not, they may more easily bleed and fade. Always spot test or test a sample of the fabric and thread with the cleaning solution before proceeding.

Washing Cross Stitch

Remove the cross stitch from it’s hoop or display frame.

After you have done a spot test, mix 1tbsp of the solution together in a bowl with 2 cups of cold or room temperature water. Avoid using warm or hot water, which could encourage the colors in the fabric and thread to bleed.

You can gently rub the stain with your hands. Avoid scouring the area which could cause the fabric and stitches to pill.

Soak for 1-2 hours, checking the stain periodically. Older stains may need a longer time to soak, so adjust accordingly!

Once you’ve allowed the project to soak, remove it and pat dry with a towel until the fabric is mostly dry.

Place the cross stitch right side down on a dry towel. (This lessens the chances of disturbing the stitches from the front.)

Iron the fabric while it is still damp. You’ll want to set the iron temperature to the correct setting for the fabric you used, usually linen or cotton. It never hurts to turn it a bit lower to ensure you don’t scorch the fabric!

Once the fabric is pressed and completely dry, you’re ready to frame it!

Testing Out Different Cleaning Methods

You don’t just have to take my word for it! Using a square of white cotton Aida cloth with black, red, and yellow DMC floss, I tested out each solution and the results are shown below with pen, coffee, and oil stains. (Why not go with the toughest stains to get out?)

Each solution included 2 cups of water and 1tbsp of the testing solution.

The sample fabric was placed in a bowl of it’s own solution. I gently rubbed the stained fabric in between my fingers in an attempt to loosen up the stains and then let each sample soak for 2 hours.

After the 2 hours was up, I thoroughly rinsed each sample under cold running water, patted each one dry, and pressed them with an iron.

The Results


In order to thoroughly dissolve the Oxiclean, I mixed 1 tbsp in hot water and then added the mixture to cold water.

The oil and coffee stain was completely removed. There was a slight pen mark on the actual stitching, but otherwise the color stayed vibrant, there was no color bleeding, and overall the fabric looked pretty good.

Vinegar + Dish Soap

Mix 1tbsp with an additional 1 tbsp of mild soap (in this case I used Dawn dish soap) and 2 cups of cold water.

The oil and coffee stain was completely removed for this one too. The pen mark was ever so slightly visible on the fabric and in the stitching, but everything stayed vibrant without any color bleeding.

Dish Soap

The results for the this one were very similar to the dish soap solution. The oil and coffee stain was completely removed. The pen mark was ever so slightly visible on the fabric and in the stitching, but everything stayed vibrant without any color bleeding.


Overall, I think all 3 of these methods worked pretty well. The oxiclean did a better job of removing the pen from the white Aida fabric, but all 3 looked vibrant and relatively clean after they were soaked, rinsed, and dried.

How To Clean Old Cross Stitch

If you have an old cross stitch that has collected some dust and dirt, here’s how you can clean it.

If the cross stitch is in a frame, the safest thing to do is to leave it in the frame and spot clean the fabric.

Remove Visible Debris and Dust

The easiest way to remove physical debris and dust is with a lint roller or masking tape. Avoid using super strong tape that could pull out or disturb the stitches.

You can also use a vacuum cleaner nozzle covered with panty hose if the tape or lint roller doesn’t get everything.

Spot Cleaning

If there are visible stains or marks after you remove the physical debris, you can attempt to spot clean the project. Test out one of the cleaning solutions mentioned above on the cross stitches in a small, discreet area to see how the piece fares.

Using a damp cloth and a mild soap or detergent, attempt to dab and remove the stain.

Avoid saturating the project with water when you are spot cleaning. Using too much water can trap moisture in if it is backed and framed. If it’s in an embroidery hoop, you’ll also want to keep the water away from the wood and metal hardware. Sometimes the hardware rusts, which can bleed onto the fabric when wet.

Washing – The Last Resort

As mentioned previously, some threads and fabrics are not colorfast. If you aren’t sure what kind of thread and fabric was used to create the needlework, it’s best to avoid soaking or washing it.

However, if you are able to remove the cross stitch from it’s frame and you’re willing to take the risk, you can refer to the first section to wash and clean it.

Should You Always Wash Cross Stitch?

Some people wash their cross stitch, others don’t! It’s all personal preference. Some people find that the oils of their hands can rub off on the fabric as they are handling it and stitching. This can cause stains on the fabric and thread. Don’t worry though: these marks can easily be removed with washing.

It’s not required to wash your projects, but if you have some visible stains or marks from handling the project, you’ll most likely want to wash your cross stitch when you’re done making it.

Tips For Washing

  • Test the cleaning solution you plan to use with a sample piece of fabric and thread before using it on the finished piece.
  • Avoid washing cross stitch with warm or hot water.
  • Don’t wring out the fabric to dry it; place in between two clean towels and pat dry.
  • Never use bleach on cross stitch projects.
  • Try to avoid taking old cross stitch out of frames and hoops unless it’s absolutely necessary for cleaning.

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