How to Soften Acrylic Yarn – The Ultimate Guide

One of the most frequent questions that I’ve gotten in the past few weeks from folks is “how do you soften acrylic yarn?”. There are a few different ways that I’ve seen it done so I decided to try all of the ways I’ve heard about softening acrylic yarn – both before and after crocheting your projects and share those results with you here.

I’m going to walk you through each method I used for softening acrylic yarn and then I’ll share with you which one(s) I think gives the best results.

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Many of us have one or two skeins in our stash that are that scratchy acrylic yarn that we bought when we were getting started or had gifted to us that we just don’t want to use. You know the one I’m talking about.

Most people who have asked about softening acrylic yarn skeins have mentioned Red Heart Super Saver yarns so I am using that yarn in all of my experiments.

I have created the same swatch to use in all of our experiments and I have one swatch that I have kept aside as a “control” swatch so that we have something to compare our swatches and yarn to after running our experiments.

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How to Soften Yarn in a Skein:

hands putting a skein of yarn into a lingerie bag to test this method of how to soften acrylic yarn

So this method involves softening the entire skein of yarn BEFORE crocheting with it. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Remove the labels from your yarn.

  2. Fluff up the skein with your fingers

  3. Pop it in a lingerie bag (or pillowcase) and wash it in cold water and fabric softener

  4. Place the bag in the dryer with a dryer sheet

I was nervous about doing this as I know others that have done this exact method and thrown the entire skein of yarn away because it became a tangled mess. But, I did it anyways and instead of using a yarn skein, I caked some yarn up with a yarn winder and then followed the above steps.

Did It Work?: Technically yes, however, my yarn did become a bit unravelled and the effect was minimal. I would be concerned about using a bigger skein and having a tangled disaster at the end.

I’d recommend using one of the below methods to soften your scratchy yarn instead.

How to Soften Crochet Projects Made with Acrylic Yarn (Softening AFTER the project is done):

pink crochet swatches of Red Heart Super Saver Yarn in a flat lay to test all the ways to soften acrylic yarn

How to Soften Acrylic Yarn with Fabric Softener

To soften your yarn using fabric softener follow these steps:

  1. Throw your finished project into the washing machine and add some fabric softener to the machine.

  2. When done, put your project in the dryer.

Did It Work?: Yes, a little bit. This was the least effected swatch in all of the experiments. It was slightly softer but barely enough to notice.

How to Soften Acrylic Yarn with Vinegar:

To soften your yarn using vinegar follow these steps:

  1. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 4 cups of cool water.

  2. Soak your complete project in the vinegar solution for at least 20 minutes.

  3. Remove your project from the solution and rinse it out with cool water. (If your project still smells like vinegar after rinsing, you can add your project to the washing machine.)

  4. Dry your project in the dryer on low.

Did It Work?: Yes. There was no vinegar scent and the yarn was softened a little bit. Not as much as other methods but could absolutely work in a pinch.

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Softening Yarn with Conditioner:

Here is how to soften acrylic yarn using conditioner:

  1. After finishing your project, fill a bowl/basin/sink with warm water.

  2. Submerge your project into the water and let it sit for a few minutes.

  3. Add a couple of squirts or pumps of whatever hair conditioner you have on hand to your project and mix it into the water.

  4. Rub some conditioner into the actual project.

  5. Let the project soak for 30 mins or more (some people leave it overnight!)

  6. Rinse the project out and roll it into a towel and gently remove the excess water by squeezing it.

  7. At this point, you can either block your project or throw it in the dryer (depending on your project i.e. block garments).

Did It Work?: Yes – this swatch was the softest of all of the ones tested. It was a bit messy and was the most involved process of all of the methods I tried.

It’s impractical for large project unless you’re willing to massage conditioner into every inch of that project. Ideal for smaller projects that would be worn next to skin.

Using Steam

using a garment steamer to soften scratchy yarn

This is probably the fastest way to soften acrylic yarn but it does have a slight risk to it. I’ve done this many times with success so here is how I do it:

  1. Lay your project out on a flat surface. I like to pin mine in place and block the project at the same time.

  2. Use a garment steamer on a low to medium setting and steam the entire project until it is damp. Be careful not to touch the garment steamer to the fabric or to use a high setting as you run the risk of melting/ruining your fabric.

  3. Let the fabric air dry and you’re done.

Did It Work?: Yes. This was the second softest swatch and was the quickest/easiest method, in my opinion.

What is the Best Way To Soften Scratchy Acrylic Yarn?

Ultimately, all of the above mentioned methods did work to soften the yarn to varying degrees. The method that produced the softest swatch was the hair conditioner.

This method does have it’s drawbacks – leaving a scent on your project, inpractical for very large projects like blankets – but if you’re worried about wearing a project next to skin, this method is great for small projects like accessories.

My personal favourite method of all of them however, was the steam. It is the quickest, least involved of all the methods that actually softened the yarn. It produced a fabric that had a bit more drape and produced a softness that was second only to the hair conditioner swatch.

Thanks for checking out my ultimate guide to softening acrylic yarn! Have you tried any other methods that I haven’t shared above that have worked for you? Leave them in the comments below to share with our community.

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9 thoughts on “How to Soften Acrylic Yarn – The Ultimate Guide”

  1. I used to soften my projects by blocking, dampening with a light spray and then steaming with my iron (do not touch iron to project) I have now found that taking one step further doubles the softness. Once blocked item is dry, I give it a couple light sprays of water (just enough to create steam} then throw it into dryer on delicate for a few minutes. Takes a bit longer, but results are worth it

    • That’s awesome! I’ll have to give that a try next time. Thanks for sharing Sheri!

  2. Question: if you steam or use hair conditioner multiple times, will the acrylic yarn continue to get softer after each method?

    • I’m not sure as I haven’t attempted doing it multiple times. I think if you steamed too much or too often, you’d risk melting or damaging/breaking down the yarn. I’d be concerned that the hair conditioner would build up over time and stick to the yarn potentially as well making it greasy, rather than softer. I’d probably try combining methods over doing the same one over and over again i.e. doing the hair conditioner, making sure it was thoroughly rinsed out and dried and then steaming it if I really wanted to go that far. If you end up trying the same method multiple times, I’d love to hear what your result is.

  3. Have you tried the Vinegar option, then the hair conditioner option?
    I am wondering if I should do both, or dry it on delicate in the dryer in between

    • Hi Rose,

      I haven’t tried both consecutively like that. If you end up trying both, please let me know how it goes 🙂

  4. Do you find that steak blocking acrylic yarn also reduces pilling?? That is my main concern when I look at my old stash of super saver:/

    • I don’t know that it would reduce pilling. I have made MANY winter accessories for my kids using super saver and haven’t had any major issues with pilling.

  5. I used the conditioner method but substituted downy fabric softener instead of conditioner on an acrylic baby blanket…
    Several capfuls of downy
    Sink full of warm water
    Soak half an hour
    Rinse and spin in washer
    Dry in the dryer
    It turned out wonderfully soft and supple and flows beautifully. Thank you for the ideas.


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