How to Pre Wash Fabric Without Fraying? (Pre-washing Tips)

Are you new to the art of sewing?

Do you find yourself wondering how to pre-wash fabric without fraying it?

Well, if your answer to the above question is yes, then this blog post is tailormade for you.

Here’s what this article covers in detail.

Importance of Pre-Washing Fabric

Pre-washing fabric is important because it can help prevent shrinkage and stitching problems.

Fabrics like linen can shrink when washed, so pre-washing is a good way to avoid that.

Ironing the fabric before you use it can also help prevent shrinkage.

Here are some common reasons why Pre-washing fabric is important.

Prevents Shrinking

Pre-washing helps to prevent the fabric from shrinking.

This is especially important for natural fibers like linen and cotton which are more prone to shrinkage.

Shrinking can cause your finished project to be smaller than expected and can cause problems with fit.

It can also make it difficult to sew straight seams.

So, pre-washing is a good way to avoid all of those potential issues.

Removes Chemicals

Fabrics are often treated with chemicals during the manufacturing process.

These chemicals can be harmful to your skin, so it’s important to remove them before using the fabric.

Pre-washing will remove any remaining chemicals and make the fabric safer to use.

Helps Prevent Stitching Problems

If you’re planning on sewing with the fabric, pre-washing can help prevent stitching problems.

Sometimes fabrics can be warped or distorted after pre-washing, which can make it difficult to sew straight seams.

So pre-washing can help avoid those issues.

Gives you an idea of the color quality

Pre-washing also allows you to see if the color of the fabric will run or bleed.

This is especially important if you’re using a light-colored fabric.

You don’t want your finished project to be ruined by color bleeding, so pre-washing is a good way to avoid that.

Makes the fabric predictable

Prewashing helps to make the fabric more predictable.

You’ll know how the fabric will behave after pre-washing, so you can plan accordingly.

For example, you’ll know if the fabric shrinks after pre-washing, so you can adjust your pattern accordingly.

Should You Wash the Fabric Before Sewing?

Prewashing fabric before sewing is always a good idea, especially if you plan to wash the garment after you’ve made it.

The main reasons to prewash are to remove any finishes the fabric may have, to check for colorfastness, and to preshrink the fabric so it doesn’t shrink later when you wash the garment.

Cotton fabrics have the tendency to shrink by 5% or even more and fabrics created from natural fibers may experience shrinkage of up to 10% and beyond.

Therefore, if you sew a garment without washing the fabric first and then wash it afterward, the finished product may not fit properly.

You should prewash in the same manner that you plan to wash the finished garment i.e. usually in cold water and finally dry it in the same way as well.

So, If you’re going to be washing the finished product frequently, like a shirt or pair of pants, then pre-washing is a good idea.

This will help prevent shrinkage and other problems down the road.

However, if you’re only going to wash the finished product occasionally, pre-washing might not be necessary.

For example, if you’re making a quilt that you don’t plan on washing very often, pre-washing might not be necessary.

It really depends on your individual project and how you plan on using it.

Steps involved in Pre-Washing

In order to pre-wash fabric properly, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps.

Swatch Test

Before pre-washing your fabric, it’s always a good idea to do a swatch test.

This will help you determine how the fabric will react after pre-washing.

To do a swatch test, cut a small piece of fabric from your project and wash it in the same manner that you plan to pre-wash the rest of the fabric.

Then, dry the swatch and check for any shrinkage, color bleeding, or other problems.

If everything looks good, then you can proceed with pre-washing the rest of your fabric.

When pre-washing fabric, it’s important to use cold water.

Hot water can cause the fabric to shrink, so you’ll want to avoid that.

You can pre-wash fabric by hand or in the washing machine.

If you’re pre-washing a large amount of fabric, it’s probably best to use the washing machine.

However, if you’re only pre-washing a small amount of fabric, pre-washing by hand might be the best option.

Get the Fraying Edges Fixed

If you notice any fraying edges on your fabric, it’s a good idea to get them fixed before pre-washing.

Fraying edges can cause the fabric to fray even more after pre-washing, so it’s best to fix them before washing the fabric.

You can use a seam sealant or fray preventer to stop the fraying.

Once you’ve applied the seam sealant or fray preventer, let the fabric dry completely before pre-washing.

This will help ensure that the fabric doesn’t fray even more during pre-washing.

Alternatively, you can baste stitch and hem the raw edges.


Before you begin the wash process it’s important to read the care label first.

Not all fabrics are made the same and may require a different wash process depending on the type of fabric.

So, there are 2 ways to wash your fabric.

Let’s take a quick look at both processes in detail.

How to Handwash fabric before sewing?

Fill a basin or sink with cool water and add a small amount of iodized salt if your fabric is prone to release color.

Once you have added the salt, Gently swirl the fabric around in the water until it’s thoroughly soaked.

Let the fabric soak for about 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, drain the basin or sink and refill it with clean water.

Gently swirl the fabric around in the clean water to rinse away the residues.

Once the fabric is rinsed, gently squeeze out any excess water.

Do not wring or twist the fabric aggressively as this can cause it to shrink or fray.

Note: As a best practice you can even add a color catcher if the fabric has white pattern prints.

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How to Machine Wash Fabric Before Sewing?

Start by setting your washing machine to the delicate cycle and use cool water.

Next, Add a small amount of mild detergent to the washing machine (Optional).

Once the washing machine is filled with water, add your fabric.

Now, let the washing machine do its thing.

Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the fabric from the washing machine and let it air dry.

Do not put the fabric in the dryer as this can cause it to shrink.

Since this is a new fabric, you may not need any detergent as the idea is not to clean, instead, we want to pre-wash it so that the fabric is stable post-wash.

It is also a good idea to pre-wash fabric if you plan on using it for a quilt or other project that will require repeated washings.

This is because pre-washing will help to set the fabric’s colors and help to prevent further shrinkage.

Lastly, if you’re going to be dyeing the fabric, you may opt to pre-wash.

Also Read: How to Wash Ruggable Rugs?

How to Dry the Fabric Before Sewing?

After pre-washing, you’ll need to dry your fabric.

You can either air dry your fabric or put it in the dryer on a low heat setting depending on the type of fabric you’re using.

If you’re air drying your fabric, hang it up or lay it flat to dry.

Do not wring or twist the fabric once you are done washing.

Once your fabric is dry, it’s ready to be used in your sewing projects.

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Should Detergent be Used When Prewashing Fabric?

No, you don’t need to use detergent when prewashing a new fabric that you want to use for a quilt or other project.

Prewashing is simply done to get a little bit of predictability into how the fabric will behave once it is laundered.

If you are prewashing because you plan on dyeing the fabric, then you can add a small amount of mild detergent to the washing machine. This will help to set the colors and prevent them from bleeding after prewashing.

How to Preshrink fabric without washing?

There are mainly 2 ways to pre-shrink the fabric.

One is by using cold water wash and the other is by using steam.

Washing in cold water is fairly simple and we have already covered that part above.

Let’s take a quick look at the steps to preshrink using steam.

Start by prepping your iron and steamer.

Fill the steamer with water and turn it on so that it can heat up.

Once the steamer is ready, hold the iron over the fabric and steam for a few seconds.

You should see the fabric start to pre-shrink.

Once you are done steaming, remove the fabric and let it air dry.

Do not put the fabric in the dryer as this can cause it to shrink further.

Note: You must ensure that while you steam, the iron should not touch the clothes, instead you need to hover the iron over the fabric while it releases steam.

What type of Fabrics Should Be Pre-Shrunk?

Pre-shrinking is the process of washing a garment in order to achieve maximum shrinkage before the garment is worn.

This is especially important for linen, as linen tends to shrink when washed.

Pre-shrinking also helps to set the weave of the fabric, thereby making it less likely to shrink when ironed.

With that said, Dry clean only fabrics should never be pre-shrunk, as they may suffer from further shrinkage during the dry cleaning process.

Fabrics made from natural fibers such as cotton and wool are more likely to shrink than synthetic fibers, so it is important to take this into account when choosing which fabrics to pre-shrink.

Tailors can usually advise on which woven fabrics will benefit from pre-shrinking, and knit fabrics generally do not need to be pre-shrunk.

Do Knit Fabrics Shrink?

This is a difficult question to answer definitively because it depends on the specific fabric and how it is woven.

Some knit fabrics may shrink slightly when washed, while others may not shrink at all.

It is always best to pre-wash your fabric before beginning a project, especially if you are unsure about how it will react to water.

If you are concerned that your fabric may shrink, you can always test a small piece of it first.

Simply wet the fabric and then dry it to see if there is any change in size or shape.

If the fabric edges start to curl or the fabric becomes significantly smaller, then it is likely that the whole piece will shrink when washed.

What to Do When You Forget to Prewash Fabric?

If you forgot to prewash your fabric, there is no need to worry.

Just stitch it up and wash it as usual.

Having said that, as a golden rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to prewash your fabric before sewing.

Also Read: How to Wash Squishmallows? (Step-by-Step)

Tips for Pre-washing Fabric without Fraying

If you’re like me, you probably hate to see fabric fray.

Especially when I know it’s an easy fix.

Here are my quick tips for pre-washing the fabric without fraying.

Zigzag Stich

Sew the fabric’s raw edges with a zigzag stitch.

You can simply use pinking shears to achieve the zig-zag pattern.

This will help to prevent the fabric from fraying in the wash.

Use a Laundry Bag

If you’re pre-washing delicate fabrics, put them in a laundry bag before washing.

Using a Laundry bag protects the fabric from harsh agitation and if your fabric is already frayed a bit, using them will prevent them from getting worse.

Wash on Gentle Cycle

Wash the fabric on a gentle cycle.

This will help to prevent the fabric from getting damaged during the wash cycle.

Use a mild detergent

Wash the fabric with a mild detergent.

Since you just want the garment to be pre-washed for making it more predictable post-wash, you don’t need a detergent.

Furthermore, since you don’t know the behavior of the fabric post-wash, it’s best to avoid detergent for time being.

Line dry the fabric after washing

Drying the fabric in the dryer can cause the fabric to shrink.

So, it’s always best to line dry the fabric after pre-washing.

Avoid Fabric Softeners

Consider using avoiding fabric softeners while pre-washing since this can alter the fusible interfacings.

Make Small Diagonal Clips

If your fabric is still fraying, make small diagonal clips along the raw edges of the fabric.

Small Diagonal Clips help to remove the loose threads and prevent the fabric from fraying further.

Use Fray Check

You can also use a fray checker to prevent the fabric from fraying.

Fray check is a clear liquid that you can apply to the fabric’s raw edges.

It will help to seal the fabric and prevent it from fraying.

Final Thoughts

Not all fabrics are made the same.

Some synthetic fabrics may not require a pre-wash while other cotton fabrics may need to be pre-washed.

I would highly recommend going through the care label first before deciding to pre-wash.

Finally, don’t be intimidated by the thought of prewashing and preshrinking fabrics, after a few attempts, you’ll surely learn that these are simply precautionary steps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions related to prewashing and pre-shrinking of fabrics that may be helpful.

Why does fabric say do not prewash?

This is usually due to the pre-treatment process that the fabric has gone through before it reaches the consumer. Prewashing or pre-shrinking can remove this pre-treatment and make the fabric less effective.

Why should the fabric be pre-shrunk?

Preshrinking is important because it can prevent the fabric from later shrinking unexpectedly, which can ruin a garment or project. Furthermore, it makes the fabric more predictable to work with.

Can You Preshrink Fabric With An Iron?

Yes, you may use a steam iron to pre-shrink most fabrics.

To do this, set your iron to the fabric’s appropriate heat setting and hold the steam button down as you iron the entire surface of the fabric. Be sure to check the care label first, as some fabrics should not be pre-shrunk with an iron. Lastly, do not stick the iron on the fabric, instead, hold it slightly above the fabric.

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Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at)