Needlepoint pillows are one of the foundation decor items of the Grandmillennial style. Besides adding texture to a room, they come in a variety of colors and styles.
I like to thrift needlepoint pillows because you don’t have to go through the trouble of doing the work yourself. However, even if a pillow appears clean, it’s best to thoroughly wash any thrifted item.
In this post, I’ve documented how I wash needlepoint pillows from the thrift store.
Before You Wash
Before I do anything else, I remove the pillow cover from the insert. It’s best to wash these separately as they may require different processes to clean them.
I like to start my cleaning process by submerging my pillow cover in water for a couple of hours. Cold water is best to reduce any dye discoloration. Water is a great way to treat any type of linen as it naturally loosens up the treads and makes it easier for a cleaning solution to permeate the fabric.
Once soaked, I start to treat the stains.
How to Spot Clean a Needlepoint Pillow
The way you approach a stain will depend on the type of stain it is.
I’ve written a post on how I wash vintage bedding and much of the information there is applicable here.
Most stains fall under three categories: inorganic, organic (blood, grass, wine), and oil stains. The stain may also be a mix of two (oily-inorganic, oily-organic).
If you don’t know how to identify the type of stain you are dealing with, I’d suggest starting out with a vinegar and baking soda paste and applying it to the stain. Let it sit for some hours and then rinse off. If the stain seems to have lightened, then reapply the paste. Let sit. Rinse. Repeat until the stain is gone.
If the vinegar and baking soda mixture does not work, try hydrogen peroxide and baking soda instead. Again, create a paste, apply it, and let it sit.
Another option you could try is nail polish remover. If the stain you are working with appears to be paint of some kind, use a Q-tip to apply nail polish remover to the area.
Work the liquid into the fabric with the Q-tip AFTER you have confirmed that the polish remover will not discolor the fabric or threads. You can test it on the loose threads located inside the cover.
Now, I will say that I don’t necessarily recommend using a brush across the needlepoint itself. A soft brush likely wouldn’t affect the surface of the threads, but be wary of brushing in every direction. This could potentially affect the surface.
How to Hand Wash a Needlepoint Pillow
If you are particularly worried about damaging your pillow cover while washing, wash it by hand.
When you wash a needlepoint pillow by hand, I recommend using a bucket and your hands. Washing your needlepoint pillow cover against a washing board may be too harsh for the surface, so beware.
When washing with a bucket, fill it about halfway. Add your preferred laundry detergent and mix it in. I use very little, just enough to get some suds going.
Then, you can submerge your pillow cover into the water and detergent mixture. Use your hands to push the pillow cover up and down, while simultaneously squeezing it below the surface.
In doing so, you are agitating the fabric without having to rub the surface. This will help the detergent move between the threads and loosen up dirt and stains.
If your mixture becomes particularly dirty, dump it and replace it with fresh water and detergent. Continue to agitate the pillow cover. Once the water appears to be clean, then you can rinse it out with water.
Do not twist the pillow cover to ring out the water. This may cause unintentional damage.
Instead, gather all four corners towards the center and gently squeeze out the water. Do this repeatedly, making sure to flip the cover over as well.
You will know your pillow cover is clean when the water is no longer dirty or muddy.
How to Wash a Needlepoint Pillow in the Washer
When you wash a needlepoint pillow, you should treat the surface delicately.
Do NOT throw your pillow alongside:
- Clothes with Velcro (also known as hook and loop)
- Clothes with Hook Closures
- Any other items that could potentially pull at the threads
When washing in a machine, I don’t suggest turning needlepoint pillow covers inside out either. This is something I do with delicate pieces of clothing, but in the case of needlepoint pillows, this doesn’t necessarily help.
The inside of a pillow cover often has a wild web of threads. It is not unusual for them to be long, which increases the likelihood that they’ll get stuck somewhere as they spin in the wash.
Therefore, I suggest purchasing a mesh bag to throw your pillow cover in. Keep the pillow cover right side out and then chuck it in the bag. This should keep anything major from destroying its surface.
I wash needlepoint pillows in cold water. Again, this is to avoid any significant color discoloration from dyes.
If you’re especially worried about worsening the condition of your pillow cover, wash it in a gentle cycle. Most machines will slowly spin or tumble your items in this setting. Thus, it is unlikely to damage any worn or delicate fabric or stitches. Again, a mesh bag will help as well.
Otherwise, a normal cycle should be sufficient for a needlepoint pillow cover.
How to Dry Needlepoint Pillows
Most needlepoint is done on a fabric canvas. This fabric canvas tends to be fairly sturdy so you can get away with throwing it in the dryer. Just remember to keep an eye on it.
However, some needlepoint is done on linen fabric. Linen shrinks in the dryer. To avoid any shrinkage or odd distortion of the surface, I recommend air drying the pillow cover.
If the linen fabric was shrunk before it was worked on, then this will obviously not be much of an issue. If you don’t know whether the linen was preshrunk, err on the side of caution and air dry the cover.
And that’s all I have for you. Let me know any other tips you may have below!