I have a love/hate relationship with Red Heart Super Saver (RHSS) yarn. On the one hand, it's cheap, which fits oh so nicely into my teeny tiny budget, and there are tons of color options. On the other hand...it's kinda terrible. I know, I know. I've probably just enraged the RHSS fan club. But it usually turns out so scratchy and I hate the way it feels in my hands when I'm working with it. It just doesn't seem worth the price tag.
But then the RHSS inevitably ends up in my stash one way or another (it was on sale...it was a moment of weakness!), and I find myself musing over what on earth I'm going to do with it. As always, the internet saves the day: make whatever you want and then soften it!
There are tons of yarn lovers out there using sneaky methods to soften up RHSS. The most popular suggestions revolve around 3 methods: machine washing, vinegar soaks, and shampooing and conditioning. Given my scientific background, I decided to set up an experiment to see what really works. It's not quite up to scientific rigor (n=1, after all), but I think it works just fine for my needs.
In order to test out different variables, I crocheted some small squares that I could experiment on. Each square has the same number of stitches (all hdc), and is made usng the same hook. All of the RHSS comes from the exact same skein. I chose a RHSS that was moderately scratchy to begin with, since they can vary depending on the color (the variegated is probably the worst). I also chose this particular skein of RHSS because I wanted to see if the treatments would have any effects on the bright color.
Here's the low-down on each square:
A: This square acts as my negative control, which means that I didn't do anything to it. It's just RHSS with no washes. This allows me to compare and see if the treatments make any difference on the feel of the squares.
B: Machine wash and dry only. This helps me separate the effects of the washing machine from the effects of the other yarn treatments. The square was washed in cold water with regular laundry detergent and then tumble dried.
C: Vinegar soak, then machine wash and dry. This square was soaked in cool water with a bit of vinegar (1 Tbsp vinegar in 4 cups of water) for 20 minutes. It was then rinsed out twice and washed the same way as B. I used regular white vinegar (the bottle says it's 5%).
D: Shampoo and conditioner, then machine wash and dry. This square was shampooed by hand, rinsed twice, and then coated in conditioner. I just used cheap Suave products. It soaked in the conditioner for 10 minutes, then soaked in cold water overnight before being rinsed out and washed the same way as B.
E: Vinegar soak, shampoo and condition, then machine wash and dry. This square is a combination of C and D. It had a vinegar soak just like C, then got the Suave treatment just like in D, before being washed as in B.
F: This square is my positive control. I wanted to see if the yarn treatments ever made the RHSS as soft as another type of yarn: I Love This Yarn! (ILTY). ILTY is generally considered to be the closest equivalent to RHSS in terms of price, but is considerably softer and nicer to work with (in my opinion, at least). I didn't do anything to this square so that I could see how RHSS stacks up to the unaltered ILTY.
Looking at all of the squares together after the treatments, the colors didn't seem to change at all, although the experimental squares shrunk a bit (compare B through E to A) as a result of the machine washing. Since there aren't any major red flags, let's take a look at the results for each square:
A: Still scratchy and terrible. No surprise there.
B: Machine washing made the square considerably softer than A. So even if you don't want to bother with any of the other tricks, definitely run your RHSS project through the wash. It made a huge difference.
C: This square actually turned out to be one of the best. The vinegar soak really helped make the yarn feel nicer and it was a bit softer than B.
D: The shampoo/conditioner treatment did make the square softer than just machine washing alone, but isn't noticeably better than the vinegar soak. Squares C through F are so similar in feel that I had to resort to blind tests (Aka me randomly picking up two squares with my eyes closed and then rubbing them on my face...and then making my husband do it too just to be sure. We're totally normal, guys.) In our not-so-scientific blind tests, C actually ranked higher than D for overall niceness.
E: Once again, C through F were really hard to differentiate. I ranked E as the tiniest bit higher than C, but my husband ranked E as equal to C. So this might be the best RHSS option, but only by the smallest margin.
F: And now for the big question: did RHSS ever pass up ILTY? The answer: kind of...? Okay, so this one's not very definitive. It comes out basically the same as C, D, and E. My blind trial ranked F just barely behind E and my husband picked F as the softest one. Again, we're talking minuscule differences here.
So what's the overall verdict? I can definitely recommend the vinegar soak and machine washing to soften up RHSS. The shampoo/conditioner approach may give it the slightest edge in terms of softness, but the difference is so hard to recognize that I'm not sure I would bother with it. I know a lot of people swear by the conditioner method, so maybe the results are more noticeable with a larger project, but at least for these squares "that don't impress me much" (cue Shania Twain). Whichever way you lean on the shampoo issue, the softening techniques will leave you with a project that feels more or less exactly the same as one made with untreated ILTY, which is pretty great for the humble RHSS. Me personally? I think I'll stick to ILTY, but it's nice to have this trick up my sleeve for those times when the RHSS calls my name.
Are any of you yarn softening wizards? What methods work best for you? Let me know in the comment section below or find me on social media (the links are all available on my handy contact page). I'd love to hear from you!
Edit: I had the chance to test out the vinegar approach on a larger finished object and used it to soften up this lovely blanket made exclusively from RHSS:
I ended up soaking it in a vinegar dilution (I filled up my tub a few inches with cold water and added about 1/4 cup of white vinegar) for closer to an hour. Then I rinsed it twice and then machine washed and dried it. I wasn't that impressed with how it felt coming out of the washer, but after it came out of the dryer it was a LOT softer, which makes me think that the slight heat from the dryer might be the key to the machine washing approach. Either way, it's a lot softer and the colors didn't bleed at all, so I call that a win.
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