Skip to Content

Does Sewing Thread Go Bad? How to Test and Store Old Thread (2023)

This site is supported by our readers. We may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase through links.

does sewing thread go badHave you taken a good look at that spool of thread you bought ages ago? As a longtime sewer and fabric enthusiast, I know it’s tempting to hoard sewing essentials when they’re on sale. But thread does deteriorate over time, which can lead to frustrating breaks and uneven stitching.

Let’s take a minute to check if your thread is past its prime. First, inspect it closely and give it a little tug – if it feels brittle or looks discolored, it’s time to toss it. A simple knot test can confirm: cut a 12-inch piece, tie a knot in the middle, and gently pull both ends.

I know, it pains me to get rid of supplies too! But using expired thread will only create headaches in your next project. Luckily, there are ways to revive older thread and keep your new spools in tip-top shape.

Key Takeaways

  • Thread deteriorates over time from light and humidity exposure, becoming weak, brittle, discolored, and fuzzy.
  • Tug tests and knot tests let you assess thread condition. Snapping instead of stretching indicates expired thread.
  • Inspect thread before projects, replace discolored, stiff, linty spools. Store properly to extend lifespan.
  • Match color to the darkest shade in the fabric. Polyester lasts decades, while natural fibers are more delicate.

Does Sewing Thread Expire?

Does Sewing Thread Expire
You’d best tidy that tangle of twine in a timely manner, or it’ll turn to trash before you take thread to task. While sewing thread won’t spoil like milk, over time it loses strength and elasticity. Fibers become brittle from humidity and light. Knots tighten, making thread jam in the tension discs.

Attempting intricate embroidery or quilting with compromised thread leads to skipped stitches, uneven tension, and frustration.

Before starting a new project, assess your thread’s condition. Give old spools the tug test; trash any that snap. Replace discolored or lint-covered thread to prevent sew job sorrow. Run fresh thread through your machine to check tensions.

Quality threads ensure delight in your handiwork, not tattered seams down the line.

How Long Does Thread Last?

How Long Does Thread Last
Your thread’s lifespan depends on proper storage and quality.

  1. Wind thread neatly onto spools or cones and store in sealable containers. Keep away from light, humidity, dust, and extreme temperatures.
  2. Periodically tidy your thread supplies – vacuum dust and discard any that are faded, brittle, or linty.

Invest in premium quality threads in synthetic or natural fibers. These resist deterioration and create strong, even seams.

The longevity of thread varies. Quality synthetics like polyester may endure twenty-plus years with care. More delicate fibers require vigilance to prevent early decline. Regularly evaluate and update your thread; damaged thread causes headaches.

For important works, fresh high-grade threads mean confidence in lasting beauty.

How to Test Old Thread

How to Test Old Thread
Before diving into your latest sewing project, inspect the quality of the thread first. Give your spools and cones a once-over, watching for fading, discolorations, or stiff dryness indicating age. Next, knot a length of thread at its midpoint and pull the ends firmly to test strength; any snaps or frays suggest deterioration, so retire that spool.

Visual Inspection

Try running your thread between your fingers, feeling for any brittleness or weakness.

Test Result Action
Fuzzy Lint balls, frays Toss – causes skipped stitches
Weak Breaks when pulled Toss – risks seam failure
Stiff Won’t smoothly glide Toss – jams machine, uneven stitching

Fresh, quality thread is the backbone of successful sewing projects. Whether hand sewing or machine work, sturdy threads prevent frustration and create lasting beauty in your creative works.

Strength Test

Tie a knot midway then pull the ends to check a thread’s strength before trusting it in projects. Weak threads snap, risking disastrous seams. Test thrifted threads’ sturdiness. Quality matters – cheap threads jam machines, skip stitches.

Invest in fresh high-quality threads, the backbone of flawless sewing. They’ll support your creative vision beautifully.

Proper Thread Storage

Proper Thread Storage
You’ll keep threads lasting by storing ’em neatly wound in covered containers away from light, moisture, and extreme temps.

  1. Opt for plastic bins or cardboard boxes over loose bags. This keeps dust and humidity controlled.
  2. Arrange threads by type and color family. Locate frequently used ones most accessibly.
  3. Check inventory every few months. Toss any faded, stiff, or discolored spools to prevent headaches later.

Polyester thread holds up better than natural fibers against aging. But all threads have a shelf life affected by storage conditions. Keep your threads in prime stitching shape by winding tightly on spools, stashing in sealed bins, and organizing neatly so your projects turn out crisp, clean, and colorful every time.

Reviving Dry, Brittle Thread

Reviving Dry, Brittle Thread
Revive those stale threads by stashing ’em overnight in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel to regain moisture and flexibility. Don’t just toss those desiccated spools – restoring suppleness prevents headaches down the road.

Step Supplies Needed Notes
1 Plastic bag, paper towels, water Wet paper towel thoroughly
2 Old, dry thread spools Remove paper wrappers
3 Seal bag overnight

By morning, you’ll have softened sewing thread ready for tracing, tacking, and other textile tasks. With proper storage going forward, your threads will feed smoothly for many projects to come. Treasure and revive what you have before running out to replace. A little TLC keeps your threads – and budget – humming.

When to Toss Old Thread

When to Toss Old Thread
When’s it time to bid those spools adieu? If inspecting thread shows fading, fraying, or other defects, into the bin it goes, ‘less you’re just basting.

I know it’s hard to toss thread you’ve had forever, but those aged spools won’t serve your sewing like they used to. Over time, thread accumulates dust, loses color, and gets weaker – especially if stored in a humid area.

Using expired sewing thread risks skipped stitches and weaker seams. Reserve elderly threads for non-critical tasks like tracing or tacking, and invest in fresh, quality spools for your projects.

Proper storage keeps thread working optimally longer, but even the best cared for threads reach their expiration date eventually. Retire those tired, dusty spools with gratitude for their service, and look forward to smoothly sewing with fresh threads perfectly suited to fulfill your creative vision.

Using Old Thread

Using Old Thread
Using old thread can be tempting, but take care, friend. Cotton threads are prone to color changes and brittleness over time, particularly if stored loosely in bags.

  1. Inspect spools monthly and discard any faded or discolored threads. They simply won’t sew as smoothly as fresh threads.
  2. Store threads neatly wound in sealable plastic totes or bins to block light and humidity.
  3. Consider vacuuming threads to remove accumulated dust before using.

While vintage threads may work for less precise tasks like basting, invest in quality, new spools for your important projects. Taking proper care of your thread collection helps ensure it stays vibrant and strong for all your creative endeavors.

Invest in Quality Thread

Invest in Quality Thread
Stead of relying on those thrifty finds, invest in quality threads to prevent frustrations down the road.

As any sewing enthusiast knows, quality threads can make all the difference on your machine. Resist temptation to stock up on those bargain threads, often faded or brittle. Spend a little more on fresh, specialized threads like cotton for softness or polyester for durability.

Keep an organized thread drawer to find the right spool for your project. With a selection of quality threads close at hand, you’ll stitch, quilt and craft creations to treasure for years.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the best places to buy high-quality thread online?

Your friend, Dharma Trading Co. has a rainbow of quality threads. Their organic cotton fills your soul’s fabric. Connecting Threads winds the finest silks around your heart. Marathon’s polyester remains steadfast and true during long stitching journeys.

How can I organize my thread collection to easily find and identify different types?

Wind threads neatly onto bobbins and label them clearly with the color and fiber content. Store threads of each fiber type together, arranging the storage bins by color so you can quickly find any shade needed for projects.

Keeping threads tidy and identifiable in labeled bins, drawers, or other stackable storage makes them easy to access when inspiration strikes. With a simple chromatic system for winding and storing threads by type and color, you’ll be able to lay your hands on the perfect thread for any sewing, embroidery, or craft project in an instant.

Are there any tricks to prevent thread from tangling or knotting up while sewing?

Keep tension on the thread as you sew to prevent tangling and knotting. Unwind only the amount of thread needed for each seam and hold the thread at the spool while stitching. Wind thread onto bobbins smoothly and neatly. Take time unwinding knots patiently.

What is the best way to match thread color to fabric so it blends in seamlessly?

You’ll want to match the thread to the darkest shade in the fabric’s pattern. Hold threads against the fabric in natural light to compare hues. Go a shade darker if unsure – a thread that’s slightly darker blends better than one too light.

Be sure to also match the undertone, choosing cool tones for cool fabrics and warm tones for warm fabrics.

Are there any natural or organic thread options that are durable and long-lasting?

You can try linen or silk threads. They’re natural, strong, and smooth. But beware – natural fibers lack elasticity. So reinforce buttonholes and seams prone to stress with polyester or cotton thread. Ultimately, choose threads that suit your project and principles. And test different types – your craftsmanship deserves quality materials.


Sewing thread can lose its strength and luster over time. With proper storage and maintenance, your thread supply can be a worthwhile investment. Don’t automatically discard older spools – take time to inspect, organize, and restore your threads.

A little TLC can bring back their strength and shine. By routinely updating your collection, you’ll avoid headaches and disappointment. Quality threads deserve every penny when your finished pieces turn out flawlessly.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.