Whether you’ve received a beautiful, meaningful quilt as a gift from a loved one or painstakingly created it yourself, you may be apprehensive or anxious about washing it. You may even put off washing it for a year, maybe two. That’s okay. We all know how much quilts can hold sentimental value, and we certainly don’t want to do anything that could damage them.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to wash a quilt. Let’s talk about the right way.
Washing a Quilt
Before we dive into the procedure, you may be wondering how often you should be cleaning your quilts.
The answer is simple: not very often.
Don’t treat your quilt the same way you treat your sheets. It doesn’t need to be washed all of the time. Wash it as infrequently as you can get away with.
If you don’t have kids or pets, then you may be able to get away with washing a quilt once a year. You’ll know when it’s time.
Some people recommend spot cleaning before washing. This is a good idea if you can catch the spill as it happens or right after it happens. Use distilled water for this if you can, as it is free of calcium and other minerals that may damage the quilt’s fabric.
How to Clean Your Quilt
First, take the time to inspect your quilt. Check for stretched seams or loose threads that may need to be repaired before you wash it. Take care of these repairs right away – while your quilt is still dry.
If your quilt is free of loose threads and seams, you can move on to washing. You have two options here: hand and machine washing.
If you’re going the machine route, you’ll want to set the cycle to gentle or delicate. Wash on cold water only. It’s also best to use a gentle detergent. If your quilt has any embroidery you may not want to put it in a washing machine at all as you don’t want the stitching to come out.
Hand washing is typically the best option for vintage, handmade and hand-appliqued quilts. Washing by hand ensures that you can wash gently and with care.
First, make sure that the sink or tub that you’ll be using is clean. I recommend using the tub because it’s easier to maneuver the quilt and you have plenty of space.
Next, fill the tub with cold water and a gentle detergent. Place the quilt in the water, making sure that it’s completely submerged. Now, agitate the quilt by hand for about 10 minutes. Drain the soapy water, and refill the tub with fresh water.
Next, add some distilled white vinegar to the water (about a half-cup). The vinegar will remove any leftover residue from the detergent while softening the fabric and brightening the colors.
Keep emptying and refilling the tub until the water is suds-free.
Once your quilt is clean, you can start the drying process. Again, you have two options: air drying and machine drying.
Machine drying is convenient, but you have to be careful about your settings. Always use low heat. To be on the safe side, don’t let your quilt dry all of the way. Tumble dry on low until the quilt is just damp.
From here, let it air dry.
If you have the option, it’s better to let the quilt air dry completely. This is especially true for vintage, handmade and hand-appliqued quilts.
It can be difficult to air dry quilts because they can be so heavy when wet. Drying flat is usually the best way to avoid damaging the quilt. If you don’t have a quilt drying rack, you can use a thick layer of towels. Just lay the quilt on top of the towels and allow it to air dry completely. You may need to turn the quilt over once before it dries.
If it’s a dry, sunny day, you can just lay the quilt out on the grass to dry.
When the quilt is completely dry, put it back on the bed. Even if you’re not using the bed or the quilt, it’s best to store it on the bed.
If you can’t leave the quilt on the bed, store it in a dark, dry spot inside of a muslin or cotton bag. When storing quilts this way, you should remove them from the bag every month or so and fold them different ways. Some people prefer to use acid-free tissue paper to prevent creases.
Give the quilt an extra day or two to dry before putting it inside of the bag for storage. Even just a few slightly damp areas can damage the fabric of the quilt or even encourage mold growth. It’s crucial to make sure that the quilt is completely dry before storing it away for later use.
When you remove your quilt from storage, make sure that you air it out before using it again. Tumble dry in the dryer on low and cool, or allow it to sit in the warm sun for a little while. Give it some time to air out. It may take a few hours to refresh the quilt.
Quilts are treasures that we all strive to pass down to our children and grandchildren. Taking proper care of our quilts can help extend their lifespans. This means only washing when necessary and being gentle in the process. Proper drying and storage also helps to ensure that your quilt stays in good condition until you’re ready to use it again.