The Ultimate Guide to Thread Conditioner

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

Knots. Tangles. Fraying. Breakage. UGH! These are the most frustrating things that can happen while hand sewing. What can you do to prevent them? Use thread conditioner! Most thread conditioners are made with all-natural beeswax, and while using it or not is an optional and personal choice, this handy little notion has many benefits. And as an added bonus, it comes in a wide range of tantalizing fragrances!

If you're ready to stop yelling at your thread (it can't hear you!), keep reading to learn what thread conditioner is, when to use it, and where to buy it. Plus Suzy and I share our favorite conditioners! 

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

Get the Adventureland quilt pattern, pictured above!

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Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

What Is Thread Conditioner?

Thread conditioner goes by many names. Gloss, beeswax, and conditioner are all commonly used by different businesses. But each product has the same goal—to make hand sewing easier for you! 

Beeswax has been used as a thread conditioner for generations. There are synthetic competitors now that you'll learn more about soon, but almost all conditioners are made entirely or mostly using beeswax. So what's the buzz about how thread conditioner helps your hand sewing? Here are some benefits: 

  • Prevents tangles
  • Decreases fraying
  • Reduces thread drag (the resistance to pulling you can sometimes feel when moving thread through fabric)
  • Reduces static
  • Increases ease of use when sewing
  • Strengthens thread

All of this sewing magic is made possible because beeswax naturally holds the fibers in threads closer together. While there are many benefits to using thread conditioners, most people generally use them to prevent tangles and decrease fraying, two of the most frustrating parts of hand sewing! 

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

How To Use Thread Conditioner

Thread conditioner is most useful when hand sewing with natural threads, like cotton or linen. You can use conditioner for synthetic threads, but it's less necessary since most synthetic threads are designed to prevent the problems that come with natural threads. Good examples of thread types to use a conditioner with, especially for quilters, are 80 wt cotton thread, 50 wt cotton thread, and embroidery floss.

You might want to use thread condition when binding a quilt, doing needle turn appliqué, wool appliqué, or embroidery. Some hand quilters use thread conditioner, but many also find that the thickness of perle cotton can get gummy when passed through a conditioner.

To use a thread conditioner, use your thumb or finger to hold your thread on the top of the conditioner and then pull your thread across the top of the container. Two or three passes should be more than enough! If there is any extra residue on your thread, run your fingers down the thread to remove excess.  

Where To Buy Thread Conditioner

Everyone who uses thread conditioner has a favorite, and we're sharing our favorites today plus some of the most popular choices!

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

Most Creative: Ponderosa Thread Gloss

Suzy's favorite!

This lusciously fragrant thread gloss from Etsy seller Ponderosa Creative comes in 14 different scents, and each is adorably creative. Suzy's favorite is the Cascades Blend, which is a mix of beeswax and coconut oil, with blue spruce, Fraser fir, lemon, and cedar bark essential oils, giving it a smooth and elevated feel.

But the best part of each blend is the description! The Cascades Blend "smells like the hike to the Diablo Lake overlook, minus sunscreen and sweat. Or try the Daydream Blend, described as being "reminiscent of reading books on rainy days during college, looking out the window, pondering the future, with a vintage record playing in the background. A peaceful, calm scent blend."

With 12 more creatively named scents, you're sure to find one that suits your personality perfectly.

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

Most Sustainable: The Small Circle Thread Wax

Laura's favorite!

Available in three delicate and subtle scents—Rainwashed, Citrus Forest, and Winterlude—The Small Circle's signature thread wax is made with sustainably-sourced beeswax, plant wax, and essential oils. It feels better than any thread wax I've ever used, and I have noticed a significant improvement in my tangles, fraying, and ease of sewing since I started using The Small Circle's thread wax.

Not only is the quality amazing, but I love the packaging! This thread wax comes in a chapstick-style tube that you push up from the bottom instead of a tub. That means you can push the thread wax up as you're using it and clean excess fibers off of it very easily. And the packaging is even biodegradable!

The Small Circle's commitment to sustainability is also a big draw, and you can read more about how they center the environment in all of the quilting and sewing supplies they make here

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

If you want to collect thread conditioners and use different scents depending on your mood, Sew Fine Thread Gloss is definitely the conditioner for you! With over 20 scents, including fun holiday scents, this gloss is stylish while smelling great. Try Pink Macaroon, Pumpkin Latte, or the fun sugar cereal inspired Floop Floop. If you're sensitive to fragrances, they also carry a Natural gloss with no added fragrances. 

Sew Fine is also known for its collaborations with quilt designers like Carolyn Friedlander and Libs Elliott which include cute stickers on the tins inspired by their fabric designs. Coordinating your thread gloss with your quilt is adorable!

Prevent tangles, knots, and frays when hand sewing with thread conditioner. Learn how to use it and our favorites! #quilting #sewing

Cult-Favorite: Thread Magic

Long-time sewists are likely to have a tiny blue cube of Thread Heaven that hoard and only bring out for the most special projects. Thread Heaven was a popular synthetic competitor to natural beeswax, and many quilters swore by it. Then...poof! It was discontinued! Quilters rioted in the streets. There were runs on quilt shops. Every tiny little blue container of this precious commodity was sold out. Some started appearing on eBay for $35 or more (that last one's not a joke!).

But don't fret, Thread Heaven loyalists, Thread Magic came along to save the day! After the makers of Thread Heaven retired, Thread Magic was introduced as its replacement. 

Why choose a synthetic conditioner over beeswax? There really isn't a right or wrong answer here. Thread Magic is great at reducing static electricity which can be more common in synthetic threads, and some people like that it can leave less excess residue on thread. A big selling point for me as someone trained in museum preservation is that it is inert and an archival-friendly option. 

But our best advice is to try it out! Pick a beeswax conditioner and sew with that for a while, then try out Thread Magic, and see which one you prefer!

Hands down, the most affordable thread conditioner on this list is the classic Dritz beeswax circle that comes in a clear plastic container. You've seen it at every big box sewing store! It may be the most economic choice, but this does have some downsides.

Cleaning the thread fibers that can accumulate after many uses is hard because of the container that is designed for pulling thread across the sides of the wax instead of the top. Because this is pure beeswax with nothing extra added, it crumbles and flakes easily, making it a messier option. It also technically requires heat-setting with an iron, which is an extra step most quilters don't want to take. With that said, it's much more affordable and a great option if you aren't sure if you'll like thread conditioner!

Keep in mind that thread conditioner lasts for a very long time. Way longer than you'd imagine when you buy a tiny container! So it's a notion that's worth investing in if you're able because you'll likely be using the same thread conditioner for months or years depending on how often you hand sew.

Try Thread Conditioner on Your Next Project!

Are you planning to try out a thread wax for your next sewing project? If you already have a favorite that isn't on our list, tell us why you like it in the comments! 

35 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Thread Conditioner

  1. Rhonda says:

    I did my first hand sewn binding and was wishing for something for my thread. After reading this, i think i might have that blue square box. 🙂 If not, you have given me great advice on purchasing. Thank you!

      • Rhonda says:

        I loved it. And then I lost it! Found an empty box under my chair! My Yorkie, Pearl, crawled up and sniped it off the side table and chewed it ALL out! I found chunks of it here, there. I put it back in box to judge how much she actually ate. I think i got 95% of it back. For the trash! **Heavy sigh**

  2. Barbara Paventi says:

    Thank you. I have a tube of it but really had no idea why. Now I know what to use it for. It will make hand binding so much easier as tangling is always a problem.

  3. Joanna Caldwell says:

    I love using thread conditioner for EPP or hand binding, but I find that after just a few uses, it begins to feel dry and cakey and much harder to coat the thread well. Any tips? I close the container after each use, but it doesn’t seem to help.

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Are you using pure beeswax without any additional ingredients? Generally, pure beeswax, like the Dritz one mentioned in this post, is very flaky so that might be part of the problem. But generally, this will happen to most thread conditioners because every time you drag your thread over it, the thread leaves behind stray fibers. I like to just scrape the very top of my thread conditioner every once and a while to reveal the nice new layer underneath! I just do this with my thumb nail 🙂

  4. Beth Grijalva says:

    I bought Dritz to try because I’d never used a conditioner before and the Dritz was all that was available locally during the pandemic. I liked it when I first used it, but recently, when hemming some very full skirt dresses, it didn’t seem to help and it was leaving a white residue on the black dresses. It was cold — and nothing had told me to heat set, but I did run it between my fingers a few times because it was cold and I was trying to eliminate the residue. I was desperate! A google search led me to a video where a woman was saying she used a lip balm with beeswax — looked like the kind in a yellow tube made by a guy named Burt. I had a tube in my drawer, so I gave it a try, just putting a bit on the tip of my index finger and then pulling the thread between my finger and thumb. It may not be as good as some of the intended thread conditioners, but it’s good to know you can use it in a pinch. And it also smells good.

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Burt’s Bees is an excellent chapstick that is available at most grocery stores, so in a pinch, I’m sure it’s a good suggestion!

  5. Sara Tallas says:

    I can’t hand sew without Unicorn Thread Gloss made by Kim from @robotmomsews on Instagram. Organic Beeswax, no coconut oil, tons of scent options, super cute themes and ultra affordable. I’ve still got my first tin from 5+ years ago!!!

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Thread conditioner lasts forever! It makes it such a great investment too, it’s definitely something to get a quality version of since you’ll use it for so long!

      • Carmen says:

        I’ve always wondered what that was for (although I could have looked it up). Now I know & can think of situations where it could have been helpful. I will definitely buy some now!

  6. Marilyn T Payne says:

    Thanks for your timely assessment! I’ve been using that Dritz beeswax conditioner for so many years I can’t remember when I bought it. Whether it’s because I used it all or it’s finally old enough and crumbled away, there’s not much between those slots anymore even though there’s still a good-sized chunk that the thread can’t get to. I’ve been wondering what to replace it with. Now I know what’s available and what to look for.

  7. Diana G says:

    I love the 100% pure beeswax thread conditioner from Etsy shop, Heirloom Earth. Its natural beeswax fragrance and silkiness are heavenly; sometimes I open the tin just to take a whiff. I love that it is made locally (Wisconsin) by an independent craftswoman and that the screw-top tin is easy to open. I’ve only recently started using thread conditioner and wonder how I bound all those quilts without it.

  8. Linda K. Smith says:

    I used Thread Heaven for years when I was doing mostly hand quilting. I loved it. It helped to strengthen the thread and kept it from tangling. I only use it now when I am sewing down a binding. Still love it!

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Thread conditioner is so helpful with binding! It definitely helps binding go by faster for me since I’m spending less time de-tangling thread 🙂

  9. Ann shaw says:

    I am 1st quilter. Made ole fashion “blue bonnet sue” or Dutch Doll quilt top. Interested in getting it quilted. Do you do quilting ?

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Ann! We do not offer quilting services here at Suzy Quilts, we focus on selling digital quilt patterns. Our best recommendation is to contact the local quilt shop in your town and ask if they offer longarm quilting or if they can connect you to anyone where you live who does!

  10. Lisa Conant says:

    Which would you recommend for use with peeled cotton, if any at all? I saw your mention of it possibly getting gummy, and wondered if any were least likely to cause that?

    • Laura Hopper says:

      Suzy and I have both found that thread conditioners leave too much residue on perle cotton and can actually make it harder to quilt with. If you want to test out one, I’d try the Thread Magic since beeswax can cause more gummy-ness. But we don’t think it’s necessary!

  11. Jaime Darnall says:

    Very well written post. I use Dritz but maybe I’ll do some experimenting. I’m obsessing over the fabric used in the Adventureland quilts pictured in this post. What is it?

  12. Dorrie says:

    Hi, I’m looking for THREAD HEAVEN, not another similar product. I’ve used it for quilting for years and love it, but am out of it now. Do you sell it?


    • Laura Hopper says:

      Hi Dorrie! As noted in the Thread Magic section, Thread Heaven was discontinued when the makers of Thread Heaven retired. Thread Magic is an identical product just with a slightly different name! Hope you try it out!

  13. Nicki says:

    I have used thread magic for years. Late;y though i am not happy with it. It “dries out” super fast and i close it in between uses even if i know i will be using it off and on for a few hours. Makes me sad because i really loved it. So now i am on the hunt for a different conditioner. I ordered a tube from Small Circle so we will see.

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