How to Care for Burlap

Clean burlap bagsBurlap, also known as hessian, is a durable, rough fabric made from jute that can be used for different purposes including storage, home decorations and sandbags for  flood protection.

However, it is susceptible to fraying and disintegrating at many different methods of washing. This is problematic since burlap can often hold strong and stubborn odors and stains. Even if  it’s just being used for storage, many people can become frustrated with the unpleasant smells since odor can easily transfer to whatever is being stored.


Before storing any type of burlap, make sure you have cleaned and dried it completely. Burlap should be stored in a cool, dry environment since it readily draws moisture from the air and can mold easily even in environments with only a little humidity.  Any residue on the hessian will attract insects. If your hessian item is a garment, make sure not to fold it, since it can form stubborn creases and wrinkles. Rolling is a good solution for storing hessian clothing without taking too much space.  If you need to fold, try to fold along an existing seam.  Avoid using in direct sunlight, since it will fade and dry out, becoming brittle and fragile.


responds best to gentle washing. Using a washing machine to clean burlap is inadvisable since the burlap can easily come apart in the rough environment inside a washing machine. It can also cause problems with the machine itself, since burlap produces large amounts of lint. To wash it, fill a clean sink or bucket with cold water (warm or hot water will cause the fabric to shrink) and a small amount of gentle detergent. Leave the burlap in the water for no longer than five minutes; if it’s left to soak for too long it will start to fray and come apart. Rinse the fabric well and leave it to dry flat between two towels. Do not try to wring it out, since twisting it can damage the fabric.

For stains, blot the burlap (do not scrub or rub) with a wet sponge to try to remove the stain. Make sure to blot up the water with a towel immediately after.

Removing Odors

To take care of odors, lay the burlap item outside and sprinkle it with baking soda, turning it and adding more baking soda after a few hours. For more stubborn odors, lay the item out in sunlight and treat it with vinegar or lemon juice. The acids in lemon juice and vinegar will remove the odors without damaging the fabric. Rinse the burlap out and lay it flat to dry, preferably outside so that it will dry quickly and not mold.  With a little work, you should be able to eliminate your hessian or burlap bags of any unpleasant smells.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 at 3:14 pm and is filed under Arts and Crafts, Burlap, NYP-Corp News.

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