Can Yarn Get Wet? (3 Types of Yarn Examined)

If you’re a creator of yarn, or you’re looking to use yarn in your next project, you might wonder if yarn can get wet. 

Yes, yarn can get wet. Just getting wet won’t damage the yarn. But, depending on what type of yarn you’re using, you may, or may not, want your yarn to get wet.

In this article, we’ll dive into the three main types of yarn and discuss how each fiber is affected by water. Let’s jump right in!

Table of Contents

Can Yarn Get Wet?

Usually, yes yarn can get wet without issue. However, different types of yarn react differently to water.

The issues normally come when the yarn is drying or during the washing process.

Let’s start with wool yarn.


Can yarn get wet

Wool yarn is what most people think of when they think of cozy knit sweaters. Wool comes from various breeds of adorable little sheep. This type of yarn is extremely versatile, ranging from soft and lofty to scratchy and stiff. It’s also sweat-wicking and keeps you warm even if it does get wet. 

If you want to learn some more about the cool properties wool has when it’s wet, check this out.

However, wool can also be fragile. This fragility is due to something called felting. Felting is what happens when you accidentally throw that sweater in the dryer and it comes out four sizes too small. In other words, it shrinks. 

Felting happens when the wool gets agitated and heated while it’s wet. As you can imagine, that means you should be careful getting wool yarns wet. 

All is not lost! There are a couple of different ways to prevent your wool from felting. One is to use superwash wools, and the other is to make sure you’re washing your wool correctly. 

Nowadays, most of the wool sold in big-name yarn stores is something called superwash merino wool. This wool has been treated with a chemical that can prevent wool from felting in the washing machine. 

It’s a good alternative if you’re worried about felting your project but it’s not a perfect solution. Over time and over washes, this chemical treatment can wear off the wool which means it may felt or partially felt during the life of your project. Just keep that in mind when using superwash wool yarns. 

The last thing to keep in mind is that wool yarn can get moldy. This means that if you get wool yarn wet you need to let it dry or else it could grow some mold.

The best way to get wool yarn to dry quickly is to get a bath towel and roll your skein of yarn up in the towel, pressing down to get the towel to absorb the water. Then just hang the skein up to dry, doorknobs and clothes hangers work great for this!

Now let’s move on to our next type of yarn.

Acrylic (Synthetic Fibers)

Acrylic is a synthetic fiber, meaning it’s made in a factory instead of grown naturally, which is becoming more and more common. Acrylic is a cheap wool alternative. It can be similar in softness to wool but without the fear of felting.

However, acrylic doesn’t insulate well when it’s wet and when it’s wet it can feel squeaky. You know, that feeling that you get when you rub things together and they just feel wrong? That’s the feeling you get from acrylic when it’s wet. 

All that being said, acrylic can be considerably cheaper at the store and can be a good alternative to wool in some projects.

There are also numerous other synthetic fibers that are used in making yarn that have similar properties to acrylic. These include viscose, nylon, and polyester. These other synthetic fibers vary from acrylic but their properties are similar. You won’t usually find a yarn that is made up entirely of these synthetics but they are used frequently in blends of fibers.

Cotton (Cellulose/Plant Fibers)

Can yarn get wet

Cotton yarns are known for their softness but also durability. It is a yarn used frequently for kitchen towels but is also used for summer garments because of its breathability. 

Cotton doesn’t run the risk of felting when wet like wool can, but it can be very heavy while wet. It’s also not sweat-wicking like wool garments can be. I think we’ve all had that experience of wearing a 100% cotton shirt in the middle of the summer, it will always show your sweaty spots.

There are numerous other plant fibers that have similar properties to cotton because they all come from other plants. These fibers are bamboo, flax, and hemp. It’s rare to find a yarn that is made up entirely of these fibers, but they are frequently found blended with wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers. 

How to Wash Wool Yarn

Now that we’ve talked about each type of yarn, let’s take a moment to talk about how to wash wool yarn safely.

If you want to wash your yarn but you’re afraid of it felting it, you’ll want to wash it carefully to avoid felting. Here’s a quick guide on how to wash your wool yarns without felting them. 

First, you’ll want to fill either a sink or a tub with hot water. Don’t fill the tub with the yarn inside, this could cause it to felt. 

Once your sink is full of water, add your soap. You can use some wool-specific soap or just plain old dawn dish soap. 

Now, add your wool yarn to the hot water. When you add your yarn, it’s very important that you don’t agitate it. Simply drop the yarn right into the water, and then gently press it down to the bottom of the sink. 

When you press it down make sure you’re going straight down. Don’t swish it side to side or agitate it in any way! This can cause your wool to felt. 

Once your yarn is completely soaked, let it sit in soapy water for 5-10 minutes.

After it’s soaked, take your yarn out of the water and squeeze the water out. While you’re doing this do not ring it out. That twisting motion can create friction and felt your wool. I fold the skein of yarn in half and then just work my way down, gently squeezing along the way.

Now that your yarn has been washed, time to rinse. To rinse the wool, just repeat the above steps but without the soap. You may have to rinse it twice to get all the suds out. 

Once your yarn has been thoroughly rinsed, you just hang it up to dry. I usually drape it over a clothes drying rack or put it on a clothes hanger. 

Taadaa! You’ve successfully washed your first skein of yarn without shrinking it.

If my brief overview doesn’t cut it for you, here’s a great youtube video that’ll show you how it’s done.


We just covered a lot of information! So let’s recap. 

All yarns can get wet. Just getting wet won’t damage the yarn. But, each type of yarn has different properties while wet.

Wool is a great option if you’re looking for something that will still keep you warm while it’s wet. Remember, though, wool will felt if it gets the deadly combo of moisture, heat, and agitation. 

Acrylic and synthetic fibers is a cheap wool alternative that doesn’t felt. But, if you make a wearable garment out of it and it gets wet, it has an uncomfortable squeaky feel to it. If you don’t believe me, get some acrylic yarn, get it wet, and squish it in your hand.

Last but not least, cotton is a great breathable yarn that’s good for light summer garments. It won’t felt when wet, but it will get and remain pretty heavy while wet. 

And there you have it! Hopefully, you learned something new. Now get out there and make something awesome!

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