can you wash burlap fabric

Can You Wash Burlap Fabric?

Last Updated on September 28, 2023

Crafters, artisans, and DIY enthusiasts are no strangers to burlap fabric, also known as hessian. Its rustic charm, sturdiness, and versatile application make it a popular choice for various projects, from rustic wedding decor to craft workshops. However, often being woven from jute or hemp vegetable fibers burlap fabric can be a bit tricky, especially when it comes to cleaning. So can you wash burlap without damaging it?

You can wash burlap fabric, but it should be done carefully. Use cold water, a mild detergent, and allow it to air dry to preserve its texture and prevent shrinkage.

Today, we’ll explore how to wash burlap fabric in more detail, providing practical methods to help you keep it clean and appealing for those DIY projects and crafting with burlap.

An example of premium burlap material

Hand Washing Burlap Fabric

Hand washing is a fantastic way to gently clean your burlap fabric, preserving its texture and minimizing the risk of shrinkage. Here’s an extended step-by-step guide:

  1. Fill a large basin or tub with cold water. The basin should be large enough to comfortably accommodate your burlap fabric without crowding, especially if you’re washing larger items like burlap curtains or table runners.
  2. Add a small amount of mild detergent to the water. Choose a detergent that’s gentle on natural fibers to help protect your burlap’s structure and color.
  3. Stir the detergent in the water until it’s well-distributed. The goal here is to ensure a uniform mixture that can evenly clean the fabric.
  4. Submerge your burlap fabric into the soapy water. Make sure the entire fabric is under water. Manipulate it gently to help the soapy water penetrate all its natural fibers.
  5. Let the fabric soak for about 15 to 30 minutes. This soaking process allows the detergent to work its way into the fabric, loosening any dirt, grime, or stains.
  6. Gently agitate the fabric in the water with your hands. Pay special attention to any visibly soiled or stained areas, gently massaging the fabric to dislodge the dirt.
  7. Rinse the fabric thoroughly under cold running water. Continue rinsing until all suds are gone and the water runs clear. This step ensures all detergent is removed, preventing any residue that could make the burlap stiff or cause discoloration.
  8. Remove excess water from the fabric. Don’t wring the burlap as this could distort its shape and texture. Instead, lay the fabric flat on a clean, dry towel and roll it up, pressing gently to help the towel absorb excess water.
  9. Unroll the towel and remove the fabric. Spread it out flat in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight to air dry. Depending on the thickness of the burlap and the ambient conditions, it could take several hours for the fabric to dry completely. Do not rush this process, as drying the fabric too quickly can lead to shrinkage or wrinkling.

Remember, when you’re dealing with burlap, gentle handling is key. Being mindful of the fabric’s natural characteristics and vulnerabilities will ensure it stays beautiful and functional for a long time to come.

Machine Washing Burlap Fabric

While burlap is a sturdy fabric, often used in rustic decor and crafting with burlap, it does require gentle handling during machine washing. Here’s a more detailed guide on how to machine wash your burlap fabric effectively:

  1. Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle. Burlap fabric is made from natural fibers, which can become damaged under rough agitation. Selecting a gentle cycle ensures that your burlap will be cleaned effectively while reducing the risk of damage.
  2. Opt for cold water settings. Hot or warm water can cause burlap fibers to shrink or distort, so it’s essential to use cold water.
  3. Add a small amount of mild detergent. Burlap fabric doesn’t require a heavy-duty detergent. A mild one will sufficiently clean the fabric without compromising its structure.
  4. Avoid adding bleach or fabric softener. These products can damage the natural fibers of burlap and alter its texture. Bleach can also cause color fading.
  5. Place your burlap fabric inside a mesh laundry bag. This extra layer of protection helps to prevent the fabric from snagging or tangling during the wash.
  6. Load the washing machine thoughtfully. If you’re washing multiple items, ensure they are similar in color to the burlap to prevent color bleeding. Avoid washing heavy items like jeans or towels with burlap, as they can cause unnecessary stress to the fabric.
  7. Start the washing machine and let it complete the cycle. Be nearby to promptly remove the fabric once the cycle ends. Leaving it in the machine can lead to wrinkles or mold growth if the fabric stays damp for too long.
  8. Take out the burlap from the machine as soon as the cycle ends. Unfold it and gently shake it out to dislodge any trapped water and to prevent deep wrinkles from setting in.
  9. Avoid using a dryer, as the heat can cause the burlap to shrink or distort. Instead, lay the fabric flat on a clean, dry towel in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. You can also hang it to dry, but ensure it’s fully supported to avoid stretching.
  10. By following these steps, you can machine wash your burlap fabric while still maintaining its unique texture and charm.

Spot Cleaning Burlap Fabric

Spot cleaning is an excellent method to employ when dealing with localized stains or dirt on your burlap fabric items, like burlap curtains or pillow covers. It allows you to target specific areas without having to clean the entire fabric. Let’s delve into the process with more detail:

  1. Create a solution of cold water and mild detergent in a small bowl. The solution should be mild enough not to damage the fabric but strong enough to tackle the stain. A good ratio to use is one teaspoon of detergent for every cup of water.
  2. Dip a clean, white cloth into the soapy mixture. It’s advisable to use a white cloth to avoid color transfer from the cloth to the fabric.
  3. Wring out the cloth to remove excess water. You want the cloth to be damp, not soaking wet. Excess water can spread the stain or make the burlap overly wet, which can lead to shrinkage or distortion when it dries.
  4. Gently dab the stained area with the damp cloth. The goal is to lift the stain out of the fabric, so avoid rubbing or scrubbing, as this can embed the stain deeper into the natural fibers or damage the burlap.
  5. Work from the outside of the stain towards the center. This technique prevents the stain from spreading further into the clean areas of the fabric.
  6. Once the stain is lifted, rinse the spot with another clean, damp cloth to remove any leftover soapy residue. Again, dab the area gently and avoid rubbing.
  7. After cleaning and rinsing, it’s essential to remove as much moisture as possible. Blot the area with a dry towel to absorb any remaining water.
  8. Let the fabric air dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Ensure the cleaned spot is thoroughly dry before storing or using the fabric to prevent mildew growth.
  9. If the stain persists, you might have to repeat the process. For stubborn stains, consider seeking professional cleaning assistance to prevent further damage to the fabric.
  10. Spot cleaning, when done correctly, can greatly extend the life of your burlap fabric items, helping them maintain their beauty and functionality.


Can you dry clean burlap fabric?

Burlap fabric can be dry-cleaned using chemical solvents instead of water to avoid shrinkage. However, not all dry cleaners may handle burlap fabric due to its natural fibers, so consult with them beforehand.

Will burlap fabric shrink when washed?

Burlap fabric can shrink when washed, particularly if exposed to warm or hot water. Shrinkage can also occur if the fabric is dried using heat, such as in a tumble dryer. The shrinkage occurs due to the natural fibers of the burlap tightening when exposed to heat. To minimize shrinkage, it’s best to wash burlap fabric in cold water and allow it to air dry.

Can you iron burlap fabric after washing?

Ironing burlap fabric is possible, but it should be done with care to avoid damaging the fabric. Burlap can scorch under high heat, so always set your iron to a low setting. It’s recommended to use a press cloth between the iron and the burlap fabric. The press cloth helps to evenly distribute the heat and protects the fabric from direct contact with the iron, minimizing the risk of scorching.

Should you wash burlap fabric before using it for a project?

It’s often a good idea to wash burlap fabric before using it for a project, especially if it’s a crafting with burlap or DIY project. Washing can help to remove any dirt, dust, or residues that may have accumulated on the fabric during manufacturing or storage. Furthermore, because burlap is prone to shrinkage when washed, pre-washing can help to ensure that your final project maintains its intended size and shape. However, remember to account for possible shrinkage when you’re planning your project.

How often should you wash burlap fabric?

The frequency with which you should wash burlap fabric largely depends on its use. For items like table runners or decorative pieces that don’t see heavy use, cleaning once or twice a year should be sufficient. For more heavily used items like curtains or upholstery, you may want to clean the fabric more frequently. Always check for stains or soiling regularly and spot clean as needed.

Can you bleach burlap fabric?

While it may seem like a good way to brighten or sanitize your burlap fabric, it’s generally not recommended to use bleach. Bleach can significantly weaken the natural fibers of the burlap, leading to fraying or tearing. Additionally, it can cause uneven discoloration or even break down the fabric over time. If your burlap fabric needs to be brightened or deep-cleaned, it’s better to use a gentle, bleach-free detergent and cold water.

How do you remove stains from burlap fabric?

To clean a stain on burlap, you can spot clean it. First, prepare a mix of cold water and mild soap. Dampen a white cloth with this mix and pat the stain gently. Don’t rub to avoid pushing the stain deeper. Rinse the area with another wet cloth and pat dry. Let it air dry. If the stain remains, repeat or get help from a professional cleaner.

Will washing burlap fabric affect its texture or appearance?

Burlap is made from jute fibers, hemp fibers or maybe some other fiber such as sisal. All of which can react to water and detergent. Washing burlap fabric can change its texture and appearance. It may become softer, but there’s a risk of shrinkage and color fading if not washed properly. To minimize these effects, use cold water, gentle detergent, and air dry the fabric.

Final Thoughts

This guide has addressed several methods for cleaning burlap fabric: gentle hand washing, convenient machine washing, and targeted spot cleaning. We’ve highlighted that burlap can be dry cleaned, tends to shrink with heat, can be carefully ironed, and is often best pre-washed before project use.

Our FAQs also emphasized that the washing frequency depends on burlap’s usage and bleach should be avoided. Instead, spot cleaning should be used for stain removal. Although washing may slightly change burlap’s texture and appearance, using cold water, gentle detergent, and air drying can minimize these changes. These insights can help extend the life and maintain the charm of your burlap items.