Type of Yarn
The first issue is the type of yarn. Some yarns are very forgiving and wash well-Acrylic and Cotton yarns fall into this category… Then there are yarns that are a little fussier about how we care for them. Wool is the most common in the un-washable/delicate category, but there is a long list of other great yarns on the market that are delicate and need to be laundered very carefully. Silk, Bamboo, Linen, Rayon and Novelty just to list a few!
How to Remove Smells from Yarn Without Washing
The second issue is how to remove the unwanted scent with or without washing the item. Some items/yarns shrink or slightly changed when washed, so even if they are washable you may need to use a different method to remove the odor. Here are some ideas.
Washable Yarn Odor Removal Methods
Washable Yarn and Hand-made items: Place the item or skein in a lingerie bag or in pair of nylons cut to fit your project. Place the item in your washing machine on delicate using a mild detergent meant for washing delicate clothing. If the odor is stubborn you may add 2 cups of White Vinegar in the washing machine with the detergent (vinegar is a natural odor eliminator). Air dry or place in dryer on low temp if acceptable.
Yarn and Hand-made items that are delicate and/or non-machine washable
Start simple! Air out the item outside… A little sunshine and fresh air may do the trick. If not, place the item in an airtight container with your favorite dryer sheet overnight or longer. Other thoughts were to place a cotton ball with a couple drops of your favorite essential oil in the container or a stick of mint gum (un-used of course). The longer you leave your item in the container, the better results you will have.
Other methods of odor removal include the use of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the item and let it sit for a short time, rinse in cool water and lay flat to dry. With this method you should always test a small section to make sure the item will not be affected negatively.
Here are a few quirky ideas: Place one of the following items in cheese cloth and then in an airtight container with your item…Ground coffee, charcoal, cedar chips or baking soda. These are all natural deodorizers and would be helpful for people who suffer from allergies to scents.
Purchase a Solution
There are also products on the market that are intended to remove odors quite well! These methods should also be tested before using them on the entire item. Most of our local yarn shops carry products just for the purpose of cleaning and deodorizing yarn. Many of these products are made specifically to be hypo-allergenic and gentle on the yarn.
Different odors such as pet urine, mold and chemical scents may be harder to remove. Start simple and work from there. By starting with the gentlest method, your yarn or project will have the best chance of odor removal without harming the fiber.