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Velcro is a brand name for what are called hook and loop fasteners that we have on clothing, household items, and even some hardware. This ubiquitous fastening system is very easy to use and works for many applications, but as the material starts to collect lint and hair, the binding stops being as effective. This makes it important that you learn how to clean velcro.
How Velcro Gets Dirty
In addition to basic dirt and grime getting into Velcro, the hook part of the fastener literally has little hooks that like to grab onto lint, pet hair, loose threads, and anything else that fits in the hook end. The softer side, composed of loops, rarely gets strings and other material stuck in it, but it can collect dirt.
One of the situations where Velcro gets dirty, strangely enough, is in the washing machine. If you leave velcro unfastened and toss it in the washer, the hooks will grab onto any type of loose threads and strings, making the hook and loop virtually unusable. With the hooks already grabbing onto something, they are not able to grab onto the loops.
Tools Used to Clean Velcro
Making sure you have the right tools available before you start is important with any task. Here are some of the common tools you can use when cleaning hook and loop fasteners.
For basic cleaning, you can use one of the following:
- A sticky lint roller
- Duck tape
- Packing tape
- Masking tape
To get lint, hair, or strings that are really caught in the hooks, try using:
- A stiff toothbrush
- Fine toothed comb
- The sharp teeth of a Scotch Tape dispenser
- A sewing needle
To begin cleaning, separate the hook side of the velcro from the loop side if you haven’t already. Laying the material on a flat surface will help you get a better grip, but it isn’t necessary.
Clean the Soft Side
The soft side of velcro, made up of tiny loops, can get dirty, but usually not quite as much as the hook side can. Using a lint roller, go back and forth along the surface. You can also wrap your hand in any type of strong tape, with the sticky side facing out. Use a lot of force if necessary, it would be very hard to damage the loop side with tape.
Avoid using some of the more aggressive tools listed when cleaning the soft loops. They can be pulled out, making the material very fuzzy, but ruining the velcro. If the loops get opened the hooks will not be able to latch onto them.
Clean the Coarse Side
The often coarse, pokey side of velcro is made up of tiny hooks that love to grab onto any type of material that it can. Lint is the typical material that gets caught in the hooks, but string, long hair, short pet hair, and even soft materials that sweaters or other clothes are made of can get stuck in opened velcro.
Begin by doing the same thing as you did with the soft loop side. Run a rolling sticky lint brush over it to remove the smaller hairs that aren’t too badly intertwined with the hooks. Again, you can also roll or ball up tape to take care of this step.
Now is the hard part. Using some type of tool listed above, with single or multiple pointy ends, drag it through the hooks, getting it under the string and lint that is bound to the material. Use a short stroke with a lifting motion at the end, pulling the lint up and away from the velcro. Be sure to clean your tool away from the velcro so you do not need to remove an item more than once.
A toothbrush is the most gentle tool to use in this situation, so if you happen to have delicate velcro, that would be the first one to try. The most efficient tool to use is a fine toothed hair comb, since you will be able to cover more area.
A really good product to use in this situation is the Snappi. These are intended as safe alternatives to safety pins for binding diapers. Because of the shape, they can be very easily used to clean out the hook side of velcro.
In strong hook and loop, like you may find for outdoor applications, the hooks can be very long and hold onto lint very powerfully. In these cases, you may need a strong, single metal needle to be able to clean it. This may take a while since it only has one grabbing point, but it can also be very effective.
Specialty hairbrush cleaning tools are available to purchase, but in many cases a simple hair comb that you probably have lying around your house is all you need. It will be cheaper, and provides similar results in the same amount of time.
One common trick for cleaning velcro hooks is to grab another item with velcro, and rub the two hook sides together. While this may prove effective, we avoid this since most of the time you then end up with two pieces of velcro with lint in them instead of just one. Then you have to clean them both with a different tool.
To keep the effectiveness of your velcro, it is important not only to clean it when it gets jammed up, but also to take care of it between uses. When Velcro wears out, it may make a piece of clothing pop open at inopportune moments, or even make something like a harness unsafe. In those cases you may be able to only replace the hook and loop, but often it ends up ruining the item and forcing you to throw it away.
Outdoor equipment suppliers like REI offer velcro replacement services. Companies like Patagonia have in-store repair services and will sometimes cover hook and loop in their warranty. Otherwise they may charge a small fee.
Regular Velcro Maintenance
- Bind the two sides together when not in use, especially when putting it into the washing machine and/or dryer.
- Brush the lint out on a regular basis.
- Avoid opening and closing the hook and loop if not necessary.
- Try not to hang items from the location of the velcro when in storage. Look for solid loops to hang an item.
- Anti-static sprays like Static Guard can extend the life of velcro.
When hook and loop fasteners lose their effectiveness, a thorough cleaning may make the difference between still being able to wear those shorts or throwing them away. Often when velcro doesn’t bind any more it is simply because the hooks have too much debris or lint that it’s already holding onto, keeping it from attaching to the loops.
Often, because of the color of the velcro, it may be hard to see any lint or hair in the loops. That does not mean there isn’t any there, so get in there with a comb or brush and see what you can clean out. We won’t guarantee that this is the only thing wrong with the hook and loop, but it is most often the case.
Using simple tools you can probably find around the house to clean velcro can also be fairly relaxing. Assemble your tools, find an open work area, put on some music, and get those hooks and loops as close to the state they were in when they were new.