How to Care for Knitted Hats before You Donate to Charity

Experts from knitting charities weigh in on how to care for knitted hats before donating them to charity

How to care for knitted hats

A reader named Wendy asked:

“I would like to know, what is the next process before giving hats to charity, especially hospitals? In what manner of washing and bagging do these hats have to go through before being given to a hospital maternity ward or children’s ward?”

To be honest, I had never considered this excellent question before. When I received her email, I told her that the best option was to ask wherever she plans to donate her hats.

That’s still a good option, of course. But I thought it would also be good to get general guidelines to follow for knitters who wish to make hats for charity.

So I went to knitting charities that collect knitted and crocheted hats: Knots of Love; Head Huggers; Linda’s Hats for Hope (formerly Emily’s Hats for Hope); and Knit Aid.

I asked them all the same thing: what kind of care should handmade hats receive before they come to you? All were kind enough to offer their suggestions.

Note: Head Huggers offers hats to anyone who has lost hair, whether it’s due to cancer, brain surgery, burns, or other trauma. Knots of Love offers hats specifically to chemotherapy patients. Linda’s Hats for Hope offers hats to people who are homeless. (Knit Aid is no longer running, but when it did, it offered hats to refugees. Their advice is still valid!)

From the Experts: How to Care for Knitted Hats Before Donating Them

Sue Thompson, Head Huggers: Mostly, they should be pet-hair free. [If you are] using new yarns, it probably is not a problem. If yarn is old or donated, make sure it does not smell “moldy”…and perhaps wash the hat gently before sending it along.

Be sure it is totally dry before sending it as damp hats tend to get moldy in transit.

Karen of Knit Aid: Our general rule is that the same care should be given to the knitted garment as you would if you were knitting for a loved one. Not all of our knitters block, but we do ask that items are clean, and that you sew in all ends neatly.

The most important thing is that we uphold the dignity and humanity of those receiving the knitted gifts, so please ask yourself the question, “would I gift this to my loved one?” when you have finished.

Eager to knit for charity but unsure where to start?
Click here to sign up for my free email course, Getting Started with Charity Knitting, and subscribe to the free Knitting Nuggets Newsletter.

Christine Fabiani, Knots of Love: Caps and/or NICU blankets do not need to be washed prior to sending them to us, UNLESS there is a smoker in the home or pets come in direct contact with the yarn or finished masterpieces. (Masterpieces – a new word I am trying out in lieu of creations.) (*Editor’s note: I’m stealing this!)

If people wash their masterpieces, it is important to cool them completely and make sure they are dry to the touch before you place them in a bag. Or you can box them right from the dryer.

Also important is that they send in what they make with a submission form. We pride ourselves on telling (via email or a phone call from me) everyone where we sent their masterpieces.

Linda Babcock of Linda’s Hats for Hope: We really appreciate it if they are washed first. Pet hair, cigarette smell and unfinished ends are all issues. I hate to reject any donations and have washed or finished them myself at times. But it can take a lot of time to do this.

Bonus Advice from the Preemie Project

I did not contact the Preemie Project directly, but I visited their website and discovered the following important information from their Crafting Guidelines page.

1. In accordance with hospital policies, we cannot accept items from smoking homes to be donated to hospitalized infants. Research has proven that tobacco and tobacco smoke clings to furniture, clothes, walls. This is called “third-hand smoke.” Third-hand smoke cannot be adequately washed out of fabrics and thus raises the risks for illnesses in children. Please see the March of Dimes website for more information.

*If you knit in a home where an indoors smoker lives, it’s best for you not to make hats for premature infants.*

2. Please wash soiled items with unscented detergent before sending. Do not use fabric softener.

So if, for example, someone drops your hats onto the floor, make sure to wash the hats. And don’t use fabric softener. (That’s new information for me!)

These are good guidelines to follow for knitting preemie hats.

Knitters and crocheters, I hope these guidelines have helped you as you prepare to donate your handmade hats!

Want more free knitting patterns for charity? Click here for your copy of "4 Quick Charity Knitting Wins" and start making a difference today!

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  1. Today’s newsletter with vital information is so important–and changes from time to time. I had been knitting chemo hats for 4 years with Acrylic–now, cotton is recommended. A “no smoking” clause is also mandatory. Checking with the charity of your choice is truly the best way to know their rules/regulations is a good idea–before one puts their heart and soul into a project that might be appropriate. But, please NEVER give up your love and sharing for charity knitting. I find it most humbling and rewarding. Sandra

  2. I know it depends on the charity on what they will accept…either washed or not. I know I don’t tolerate smoke smell (I’m allergic to it) so I would never ask a smoker (or one with a family member who smokes) to donate something. I’ve received donations of scarves for the Special Olympics (WY) that smelled strongly of Perfume. That is one smell that wasn’t covered in this article.
    The SO-WY (and other Special Olympics organizations) asks that their scarf donations are each separately put in a “ziploc” bags (I find the gallon size works best) so that each one is not open to the air or touching other scarves when it is handed out to the athletes. I buy up the gallon baggies on sale and then share them with my volunteers (haven’t had many due to 2020 closures). Others will buy their own baggies and submit their scarves to me already to go.
    I also have problems hiding ends in knitting or crochet projects. Especially when I have 2 or 3 colors to work with in a scarf. Will you write something about the best way to hide the ends? Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much for the reminder about cologne. You’re right, that’s a sort of scent that many knitters probably don’t consider.

      Yes, in the future I will definitely cover how to properly weave in ends in a multiple-color project. In the meantime, you might want to take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65KVXxAdNUk

  3. Thank you for reminding people to wash and dry their Masterpieces for sending, or giving to the charity. I have had people send me items with lots of tails not woven in. Also, I once opened up a box and started to take out the items. Gross!!! Lots of long hair! It looked like someone had taken the hair out of their brush and put it in the box. Needless to say, I washed everything up. I do want to say 99% of the people who have sent me their masterpieces are totally clean and ends all woven it. Thank you all for clean items!

    1. Definitely a good reminder! Thanks for sharing (and for letting us know that the vast majority of your donations are clean and woven in)!