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How to Remove Wax from Fabric Tied with Waxed Sinew

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Waxed sinew helps create some really beautiful pieces of fabric like the geode you see below, partially because some of that wax works its way into the fabric creating a resist effect. Although it’s not a lot of wax I feel it’s good practice to make sure that wax doesn’t make its way down your drain.

Blue geode dyed fabric

Don’t worry, it’s not too complicated! I was intimidated at first too, but it’s really not bad!

Removing Sinew Wax from Fabric

While wearing protective gloves, rinse your tied fabric under cold water until the water runs clear.

Remove the sinew by unwrapping in the opposite order that you wrapped in. Rinse again under cold water until the water runs clear.

Boil a large pot of water.

Combine the hot water, a few drops of detergent and your fabric together in a container. You can either add everything to your pot of water or pour into another container – either way once you use the container for removing wax it’s going to become your dedicated wax removal pot, so don’t use your good cookware! This is probably a good item to hit up your local thrift store for.

It’s important to note you should only add the detergent after removing the water from the heat or it might boil over making a big mess!

You should have enough water in the container to fully submerge the fabric with some room to spare. Stir the fabric using some sort of stirring stick (I use an old pair of tongs).

Now you can either skim the melted wax from the surface using a ladle or newspaper, or just keep the fabric submerged until the water has cooled and simply remove the hardened wax from the surface. We really don’t want that wax to harden in the drains, so make sure you’re tossing that wax!

I personally find it easier to let everything cool first and scoop the wax from the top.

Flakes of wax floating on surface of water in a pot

Repeat until all the wax has been removed from the fabric. You’ll know you’re done when you don’t see any more wax on the surface of the water. I usually do it twice, however there’s generally little if any wax by that point.

You’ll notice your water will turn pretty dark during this process. The added bonus is that this hot water bath is also excellent for removing excess dye. I actually use a boiling water step to remove excess dye from all my hand dyed fabrics (not just my projects tied with waxed sinew) because it’s so good at removing the dye!

After you’ve removed the wax, give your fabric one last rinse under warm water until the water runs clear. Then machine wash on hot using either Synthrapol (a professional textile detergent) or laundry detergent. Repeat machine washing as necessary.

A neat trick to see if you’ve removed all the dye is by ironing your fabric between two layers of white fabric. If the color transfers to the white fabric, more washing is necessary.

Now your fabric is ready to use in your next project! What are you going to make?

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