Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tips and Tricks Tuesday #10 - The Burlap Debate


Welcome to the tenth Tips & Tricks Tuesday linky party here at the Brambleberry Cottage.

Let's take a peek at a couple of the great links from last week.

Andrea @ Willow Wisp Cottage shared her tips for "prettying up" and organizing a laundry room.  

I'd say that's the perfect way to transform the mundane to the marvelous!

It's that time of year again!  And those of us who choose to steer clear of the ghoulish decor of the season can still enjoy the fun festivities of fall with handmade treasures from Barbara Jean @ Treasures from the Heart.

And now it's time for another Brambleberry Cottage tip.

We all know the popularity of decorating and crafting with burlap today.  But, are you aware of the heated debate over whether this inexpensive decorating wonder is washable or not?

Some say, "Go for it!"  But most say, "No way!"

Not one to go by mere hearsay, I thought I would put it to the test.

When I purchased my burlap, it had a rather unpleasant, strong chemical odor.  Since the project I want to use it for involves my dining table, I knew I had to give washing a try.

I filled the washer with warm water, added my detergent–ECOS, a 100% natural brand–and baking soda and let the machine agitate on the gentle cycle for a minute or two.

Then I stopped the machine and added the whole three-yard piece of burlap and turned the washer back on.

Exactly as had been predicted by the numerous articles I had read, the burlap frayed and left quite a bit of lint in my washer.

As you can see from this close-up, the burlap itself was covered in lint, as well.  My first thought was that I had just ruined a perfectly good piece of burlap and had created quite a mess for myself in the process.

Nope, that's not pet fur you see on top of my washer.  That's the frayed ends I cut off–on the left–and the lint I pulled off the piece by hand.

I forgot to snap a shot of the inside of the washer, but take my word for it, it was not a pretty picture.

I'm not one to give up easily, so I decided to throw th piece in the dryer on medium heat and see how much more of a mess I could make whether I could salvage anything.

While the burlap was drying, I was using the Shop Vac to vacuum out my washer.  UGH!!!

I had read that drying it in a dryer would cause a lot of wrinkles.  Yep.  That part was accurate, too.

This is what it looked like when I took it out of the dryer and hung it up to get a better look.

This angle gives you the perspective of the wrinkles when it was on a flat surface.

And yes, the lint filter of my dryer was loaded!

Though the articles I read indicated that it was next to impossible to get the wrinkles out I figured I had nothing–but my piece of burlap–to loose by trying.

This is what it looks like now, after ironing it with my iron set for steam ironing on the highest possible setting.

Is it as perfectly smooth as when it was first purchased?  No.  Does it smell like chemicals–as it did when I first purchased it?  No.  Is it softer and more pliable?  Yes.

So, is burlap washable?  Well, mine was.  Is it worth the mess?  Only you can decide that one.

I would not have been happy with that horrible chemical odor in my home.  And while I didn't care for the mess that was generated to wash it, I'm glad I did.


  1. I have found that if I buy "jute" burlap, there is none of that chemical smell (bought mine at JoAnn's) I've washed burlap many a time and though it leaves a fair amount of residue in the dryer, I'm happy with the result and it has worked great for all my projects!
    amy of four corners design

  2. I went to a fabric store to buy 7 yards of burlap for a project. The guy was very chatty and told me that OSHA required them to pull the threads before they cut the fabric because burlap was loaded with chemicals. He said it was sprayed with kerosene and a worker once got a piece of thread in her eye and it blinded her. He was complaining because he said that the fabric that cost the least was the most labor intensive to handle due to the OSHA regulations.

    I told him that it was very popular in home decorating. He said that he knew and he couldn't believe woman were using it. Needless to say, I decided against the burlap after that scary conversation.

    When I got home I did a Google search and could find nothing about a woman becoming blind from it.

    Since then I've been afraid to use it much. I had wondered about laundering it, but I don't think I'd want to go to that much trouble.

  3. What if you washed it the OLD fashioned way... in a tub with a plunger (or feet)? There wouldn't be the twisting type aggatation and I think that is what messes up fabrics.

  4. Thank you so much for featuring my laundry room!! I was very excited to see this when I came home from a very very long day at work =)

  5. hey girl
    good job just throwin' that baby in and tryin' it out.
    I did the same thing. My lint filter on the dryer had to be cleaned out 3 times!!! BUT! Guess what? It makes great nest fluff!! (you can share that tip if you'd like) =)

    Thank you so much for featuring my crow's nest pumpkin on your blog. I just love doing them, and like you, not into the more ghoulish stuff. Have some with fall leaves, vintage jewelry, and old keys and watches coming soon.
    Would love to join in on your parties, but right now an injured back has me limited on my comp. time. Just had to come by and say thanks, and blessings.

    barbara jean

    PS thanks for signing up to follow too.

  6. I was brave myself a couple of week ago and washed some burlap. While I did have a lint trap FULL after drying, I did NOT have quite as much fray and only a tiny bit of stuff in the washer. However, I do have a front loader and used the gentle cycle. All that lint??? Used it to stuff a pin cushion....

  7. That was brave of you to throw the whole amount of burlap in the washer! I'm glad you ended up with a product you are happy with!

  8. Thanks for performing this little experiment for us. I have always wondered and now I know!

  9. I would put it on to soak with the baking soda in a tub, and then wash it by hand because it wasn't dirty. You only wanted to get rid of the smell.

  10. Did it shrink? I made some slipcovers and they are too big. Now I'm afraid to wash/dry them.

  11. I also have washed burlap. For Jacki, burlap does shrink. I have a post on my blog about washing it buy hand. I wash mine to get a nice texture.


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