So much work goes into making a quilt. You select your patterns, your fabrics, construct the complex quilt blocks, stitch everything together, bind it… all to create a beautiful final product. You want to keep your final quilt looking like new for as long as possible. It’s so important to properly wash and care for your quilt, so all your hard work doesn’t go to waste!
No matter how careful you are with your quilt, it will eventually need to be washed. This may come with feelings of anxiety about ruining your hard work, but never fear! We’ll provide you with all the information you need to gently clean and care for your quilt so it stays looking brand new for as long as possible.
The Wrong Way To Care For A Quilt
Unfortunately, many people love their quilts so much that they don’t ever wash them, as to not risk ruining them. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive. Quilts that go unwashed for too long can develop mold and mildew, which is not only damaging to the quilt but can even be dangerous to your health.
Some people even avoid using their quilts for fear of ruining them. This is not the right way to go about things! While quilts are beautiful works of art, they are made to be used. You should show off your quilt and love it well, don’t leave it folded up on the shelf for fear of ruining it.
How Often Should I Wash My Quilt?
While it is necessary to wash your quilt every once in a while, you shouldn’t wash it too often. Washing too often will wear away at your quilt over time and cause it to fray and fall apart. Quilts are sort of like hair: you want to wash them when they’re dirty, but washing too often isn’t good for it either.
The frequency at which you wash your quilt depends on a variety of different factors. If you live in a home with small children, pets, or just use your quilt every day, you’re going to have to wash it much more often. If your quilt only gets used periodically, you can probably get away with only washing it once every few months.
Use your best judgment to decide how often to wash your quilt. If you spill something on it or notice a funny smell, it’s probably time for a wash. If your quilt has gone a while without a wash, but you don’t notice any stains, you can simply leave your quilt outside to air out.
How to Properly Wash Your Quilt
Before you wash your quilt, you should inspect it to make sure there are no loose threads or stretched seams. These things are best fixed before washing, as the washing process can exaggerate these imperfections.
There are two different ways to go about washing your quilt. You can either hand wash or machine wash your beautiful piece. We’ll go through both methods below.
How to Machine Wash a Quilt
Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle, and choose cold water. You should also use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent. We don’t recommend using laundry pods, as they typically aren’t as powerful as regular detergent. If you’re only washing your quilt every few months, you want to make sure it’s really clean.
If you’re worried about fabric dye bleeding, throw in a color catcher. These are proven to absorb dye, and they won’t redeposit the color onto anything else. This will ensure that even if the colors do bleed from your quilt, they won’t bleed onto other, lighter-colored parts of the quilt.
How to Hand Wash a Quilt
We recommend hand washing any vintage quilt, hand-made quilt, and hand-appliqued quilt you own. These quilts are very delicate and won’t hold up inside a washing machine. Before you wash your quilt, it’s a good idea to test the fabric and the stitching for colorfastness, especially on an older, vintage quilt. To do this, wet a cotton swab with water, and rub it over any colored area on your quilt. If there’s any color transfer on the cotton swab, don’t wash your quilt with water, as it will result in discoloration and fading. Take your quilt to a dry-cleaner or other professional.
If there is no color transfer onto the cotton swab, you’re safe to hand wash your quilt. To begin hand washing your quilt, fill up a deep sink, bathtub, or washing basin with cold water. Make sure the tub is completely clean and has no residue from cleaning products that could potentially damage your quilt.
Now, add detergent to your tub. It’s best to use a mild liquid detergent, free of any perfumes and dyes. Liquid detergent will disperse more evenly in the water and leave less residue on the fabric than a powdered detergent. Add ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to the water to help brighten bold colors, and soften the quilt.
Gently place your quilt inside the tub, submerging the entire quilt under the water. Gently swish the quilt around inside the tub with your hands. Allow the quilt to soak for around ten minutes. After ten minutes, drain the washtub water, and fill the tub again with fresh water. Repeat draining and refilling the tub until both the water and the quilt are free of soap. Remove your quilt from the tub and drain.
How to Dry a Quilt
Whether you hand wash or machine wash your quilt, you should always dry a quilt by hand. Wet quilts should always be handled gently, as pulling can break seams and cause damage. Use a white sheet to create a sling, and squeeze out the excess water.
Lay down a tarp on your floor to protect your carpet or wood from water damage. Make a bed of towels on top of the tarp, and gently lay your quilt out flat on top of the towels. Cover the quilt with more dry towels, and roll up the quilt, gently squeezing to absorb the water.
Unroll the quilt from the towels, and either move the quilt to a drying rack or spread out on another bed of dry towels, spread out flat. Placing a fan in the room will help expedite the drying process. Make sure your quilt is completely dry before storing it.
How to Care for And Store Your Quilt
Properly caring for your quilt will help you prolong the time between washes. If you keep your quilt in a poorly ventilated area, hanging it outside periodically to air it out is extremely helpful. To remove dust from the surface of the quilt, vacuum the quilt with a nylon stocking over the end of the vacuum hose, holding the tube slightly above the quilt’s surface. If the quilt has beading, embroidery, or appliques, we don’t recommend vacuuming.
Proper storage is also extremely important for quilts. The best place to store a quilt is flat on a bed. Store your quilt flat in a dry part of the house, with stable temperature. You can also cover the quilt with another sheet or bedspread for protection.
If you can’t place your quilt on a bed, cotton or muslin bags are the best choice for storage. Never store your quilt in a plastic bin or cardboard box, as this doesn’t allow the quilt to breathe. Make sure your quilt is clean before you put it away, and take it out periodically to air it out fully. This will help prevent funny smells or mildew build-up.
Don’t store a quilt, especially a vintage one, in an attic or basement, as moisture and temperature levels fluctuate too much. We also don’t recommend storing a quilt in a cedar chest. If the quilt touches raw wood, the acid in the wood can eat away at the quilt. Additionally, never use mothballs when storing an antique quilt. The chemicals in mothballs can break down the quilt’s fragile fibers.
Quilts are beautiful works of art. If you’ve ever made a quilt, you know it’s an extremely work-intensive yet extremely rewarding process. You want to preserve the beauty of your quilt and keep it looking new for as long as possible. It is important to wash your quilt every so often so it doesn’t develop mold. Quilts need to be washed gently and properly dried, and stored. By caring for your quilt properly, you can ensure that your quilt has a long life and stays looking pristine.
Here at Love Sew, we are passionate about building a community of seamstresses and crafters. We offer a huge catalog of handy sewing tools, and we publish helpful crafting tutorials of all kinds to our blog. Visit us online, and join the Love Sew community today!
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