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Does Sewing Thread Go Bad?

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Do you have collection of old sewing threads and you not sure if it is ok to use them? It can be hard to resist purchasing sewing threads in a bundle when they are in sale. 

If you re anything like me, I am known to hoard thread in bulk when it the perfect sales arrive. Gathering quality threads for sewing machine is an essential material to complete any sewing project.

Does sewing thread of bad? Yes, sewing threads do go bad over time resulting in breakage or discoloring due to temperature, humidity and sun exposure. 

High-quality sewing machine thread can last up 50 years when kept in optimal conditions. You may use old threads, however use it in smaller tasks such as tacking to tailor or tracing to join the fabric pieces, and avoid using them in a sewing machine for heavy duty purposes.

Thread doesn’t have a specific expiry date, but the sad truth is that it doesn’t last forever. When it tears in your hands, then the shelf life is over. 

So always go out for matching threads when starting a new sewing projects. Put into consideration what supplies are perfect for use and those that you should throw away. 

If you notice bits of fluff on the throat plate of your sewing machine and fizzy bits hanging on your thread, then it has gone bad. Also, notice a difference in thickness along the length of the thread. 

Always test the usability of the thread before using an old spool. Using old thread on your current project can be very risky as it will make your seams weak and the thread will keep breaking on the sewing machine

Let’s review these life-saving sewing tips to you both save time and money.

In this article, I’ll share my experience for how to find out if the thread is bad to use and tips to keep sewing thread useable. In addition, angered below are frequently asked questions about thread expirations and tricks to restore old sewing thread to use in sewing machine without breaking. 

How Do You Know When a Thread Is Bad

There is no specific expiration date marked on thread, but you can quickly notice if it has gone wrong, as it is likely to fade and weaken. To prevent your threads from going bad, ensure you store them safely in thread racks or boxes that keep away from direct sun and humidity. 

Not only by visually noticeable differences, but there are ways to find out whether a thread is too bad to use for a sewing project. 

The two tests that I always perform to measure the condition of thread is by pulling or fuzz on sewing machine. These two method are widely used to evaluate the durability of the thread.

Pulling Test

Perform a simple test on your thread by pulling it before starting your project. 

Using scissors, cut a piece of thread around 18 inches long. In the middle, tie a knot. Hold both ends and pull to measure the strength. 

Tying the knot is crucial as it will cut the strength of the thread into two to help you get an accurate test. If the thread breaks, toss it away because it has failed the strength test and is not suitable for hand sewing or use with a sewing machine. 

Fuzz On Sewing Machines

Another way to determine if the thread has past its prime is by running it through a sewing machine to see the results afterward. Old thread tends to leave bits of fluff on the sewing machine because the fuzz shaves off the thread when passing through the eye of the needle. 

However, threads that are of low quality also shave off. If you realize that your thread is fuzzing as it passes through the needle, then it’s too weak for sewing. 

Using old thread will result in weaker seams that don’t have the proper amount of stress to hold the garment together very well.

What Is the Shelf Life of Sewing Thread

The shelf life of a thread varies depending on the quality. In general, thread can last up to twenty and occasionally as long as fifty years, depending on different factors. 

If the thread is produced with high quality materials, they tend to last longer than poorly manufactured threads. Also, the material used in the production of thread also affects its longevity. 

Twenty years ago, threads were mainly made of polyester or nylon instead of cotton. In such a case, polyester has a longer extended lifespan as its more durable compared to cotton based thread. 

Other than manufacturing quality, we are going to review other factors that affect the shelf life of thread: 

  • Light: Thread tends to weaken and fade when exposed to light. When the sewing threads are exposed to sunlight, the energy absorbs to degrade the polymeric chain resulting in loss of strength. Also, it can dry out the thread and lead to brittleness in the fiber.
  • Humidity: One of the greatest enemies of your thread is humidity. If you are stationed in a humid area, sewing thread will most likely become sticky. Also, it can start growing mold and create odor that are hard to remove because they can even dissolve into the fibers themself.
  • Dust: When dust settles on your spool, it is pretty risky as it gets pulled into the tension discs while threading which can damage your sewing machine. By building up the dust in the thread and sewing machine, there is huge negative effect on the thread tension that can impact the sewing result.

When purchasing a brand new spool of thread for your sewing project, there is no expiration date that you need to be aware of. It is best to store them properly for next project or simply write the date it was purchased inside of the spool to remind you. 

Depend on the quality of the thread, keep threads away from direct sunlight, moisture, and cover to avoid dust buildup.

Does Sewing Thread Get Too Old to Use

The choice of threads you use determines how successful your sewing is. Using thread that is too old can be risky, and cheap threads of poor quality are also not suitable for sewing. 

Any sewing thread can last for many years if stored properly. However, exposing thread to excess dust, moisture and sunlight can wreck it. 

If you look at old thread from a distance and see if there is any color change from light to dark, this means the thread is discolored by light. Avoid using such a thread, because it does not match with the fabric and is also weak to secure fabrics together. 

If thread easily breaks without feeling any resistance when you pull it by holding both ends, it’s unsuitable for use to secure seams in place. 

For polyester thread, color may fade over time when exposed to sunlight. However, cotton threads that are exposed to uv light makes it deteriorate, therefore synthetic fibers last longer.

Consider doing away with threads that have only a few meters or inches left on the spool as they are less likely to be enough for a project. If you need a particular color, replenishing your supply with new threads before starting a project is always a good idea.

Tips to Keep Sewing Thread from Going Bad

Keeping sewing thread organized for upper and bobbin is an important step to avoid breaking or damaging your sewing machine. Working with old thread that snags all the time is a nightmare to all sewers. 

A tidy sewing work area increases productivity and maintain life expectancy of your sewing tools. 

Here are useful tips for you to keep all sewing thread from going bad:

  • Extend the life of your thread by storing it carefully. For example, keeping your thread away from indoor lighting and direct sunlight will prevent it from weakening. 
  • Avoid storing your thread in loose bags, containers or throwing them in drawers. Jumbled storage conditions may end up loosening the spools and becoming tangled as it bangs against other items. 
  • Using plastic bags to store your thread is even worst, as bags tend to trap humidity and dust on your thread. Remember, the dusty thread can lead to the clogging of your sewing machine. The plastic bags are also likely to leach chemicals into your thread with time, causing them to become weaker. 
  • Always store your thread in areas with relatively stable humidity in your home at room temperature, and make sure you wind thread neatly around the spool. Place threads in containers that ensure spools are separated and cover them to avoid settling dust. 

Every garment is interlaced with threads too hold the shape and design. So, use these tips to organize and store your sewing threads so they are ready to sew at anytime. T

Keep threads away from light, humidity, and dust that will harm your sewing machine and weaken the durability of the thread. Old thread in not suitable to hold together seams. 

How Do You Revive Old Sewing Thread?

If your thread is too old and you don’t want to get rid of it, use it in small jobs such as thread tracing, temporary basting, and tailor’s tack. Keep it away from using in the sewing machine and shift its purpose to temporary uses instead. 

Threads tend to lose moisture while placed in a dry environment, which makes them brittle and break easily. Be aware that a brand new thread can also break, especially if it has been on display for some time. 

So, how can you restore old sewing thread? Since old sewing threads usually loses moisture with time, all you need to do is add a little moisture to restore the pliability. To moisten your old sewing thread, start by getting rid of dust using a vacuum hose or a dry cloth. 

Take your thread and put it in a re-sealable bag together with a damp paper towel. Place the bag in the fridge for several hours to allow the thread to absorb some of the moisture. 

Let the thread settle at room temperature inside the bag on a countertop. After few hours, you can use the old thread. 

After letting the spool of thread absorb the moisture, you will notice the thread is a lot stronger and does not snap easily. If you have been throwing away old thread, use this method to revive aged sewing thread that make be past its expiration. 

Does sewing thread go bad

Sewing Thread Gone Bad: Conclusion 

Whether you have a bunch of old spools of thread at home or bought irrefutable deal at the store, keeping any type of sewing thread properly is the key to extending the life expectancy. It will make your experience so much easier to pull out whenever needed to use in your sewing machine. 

Sewing thread does not come with an expiration date, however most quality threads can last between 20 and 50 years. Depending on the component make up of the thread, polyester thread does have a more prolonged shelf life compared to cotton thread. 

Always test the thread by pulling with your hands or observe fuzz on the sewing machine. This indicates that the thread is too old and may not be good for handling garment construction and durable seams. 

In this case, use the old thread for basting, or tailoring garments to use in minimal areas for temporary purposes. 

Best way to keep sewing thread from going bad is to avoid from direct exposure to sunlight, humidity, and dust. Also, avoid using plastic bag to store the thread for a long time since that may trap unwanted moisture inside the bag, which can impact the quality of thread when sewing.

In order to restore old thread, place in Ziploc bag with a damp paper towel and store them in fridge for couple hours. Then, transfer to a counter and let them sit at room temperature for a couple hours, afterwards the thread is ready to use.

Old sewing thread is easily recoverable and there are many usages available when it comes to sewing with outdated thread. Use these tips to help further your sewing knowledge, save budget and time management to proceed with your next sewing project very smoothly.

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