Tips for Washing a Quilt
So you spent hours and hours making a quilt. Or you were gifted a beautiful handmade quilt. Now what? What do you do with it when it gets dirty? How do you clean it? Are you going to ruin it if you stick it in the washer? Quilts can be fragile things and you will want to take special care when cleaning/laundering them. Here are all my tips for washing a quilt.
Tips for Washing a Quilt
Before we talk about the actual washing I want to say that in my mind there are several categories of quilts. There are the antique quilts that your great great great great grandma made. There are the quilts that you or your mom made. And there are store bought quilts. (Maybe there are a few more but those are the categories I am going to lump the quilts into for the sake of this post.)
So you want to wash great great grandmas antique quilt? Don’t. Nope. Take it to someone who specializes in this sort of thing, also known as a textile conservator. Go ahead and google it and find one locally to handle your quilt. This quilt is antique and needs extra special care. If your quilt doesn’t fall into this category then read on for washing tips and tricks!
Can You Put a Quilt in the Washing Machine?
Let’s go back to our categories of quilts. Say your mom made the quilt and it is super special and you want it to last forever. Then no, I wouldn’t put it in the washing machine. Just skip the washing and drying sections and scroll down to how to clean a handmade quilt.
I made both of my boys the quilts that they use on their beds and as young boys they get dirty frequently. For these quilts I follow the steps listed in the next paragraph. I made them to be used and I love that they enjoy them and drag them in the backyard to build forts and rough house with the dog on them. No these won’t turn into antique quilts but they will be loved and so I throw them in the washer because I am a busy mom and they need to be washed weekly and until I have a maid who can hand wash and line dry everything I make that is just how it is going to be.
If you bought it at a store and it has no real sentimental value, (or made it as described in the paragraph above,) sure go ahead and throw it in the washer. Put it on the most gentle cycle with extra gentle detergent and wash it on cold. Don’t do the extra spin or any extra agitation. Some machines have a hand wash setting, pick that.
Can You Put a Quilt in the Dryer?
No. Well, technically no. You really shouldn’t throw them in the dryer. Ideally you would lie them flat to dry or drape them over a clothes line. But for those that you were willing to throw in the washing machine you could probably get away with a low tumble air dry because again who has time for all that?
Never use fabric softener!
So if it is a special quilt don’t put it in there. I probably dry my kids quilt in the dryer about 50% of the time. Repeated drying definitely alters the quality of the quilt. You will lose some of the color and the hand of the fabric will get a bit rougher. Both the washer and dryer are really hard on the quilt so if the sewing isn’t superb you will also get some seams coming apart and some deterioration of the quilt in general.
How Do You Clean a Handmade Quilt?
So you have made the smart decision and want to treat your quilt with as much respect as possible in the washing department. Bravo! If you just have one spot that needs to be treated scroll down to the next heading for spot cleaning recommendations. Here are my recommendations for washing a quilt.
Grab a big sheet. fold it into an accordion (you know how you used to do with paper to make a fan?) Lie the accordion sheet into the bathtub. Place your quilt on top. Run cold water in the tub. Now there are several schools of thought as to what happens next. Water is a pretty good cleanser in and of itself. You could gently squish the quilt with just water.
Not happy with just water?
There are a few detergents/cleaners that you can try. Try a laundry detergent that is extra gentle and as chemical free as possible, like this Woolite, which you can probably find at the store. Or you can grab Orvus which is designed with quilts in mind, and you will probably have to order online. Use a miniscule, like seriously tiny, amount of whichever detergent you choose.
Drain the water and fill the tub again with cold water to rinse the detergent. Don’t agitate or wring the quilt. Drain the water again and gently squeeze to remove some of the excess water. Lifting the quilt is a two person job. Grab either end of the sheet and use it to pull the quilt up. Let as much water drip out of the quilt as you can (hold it up as long as your arms don’t give out!)
Lie the quilt out flat using the sheet to protect the bottom. If you place it outside use another sheet over top to protect the quilt from the sun and dirt. If you can put it in the shade do that to protect it from the sun’s rays. You can hang it from a clothes line but hang it so that it is folded in half and not from the top edge of the quilt. The weight of the wet blanket would be heavy on the stitches and the binding. And again cover it to protect it from the sun.
How Do You Remove a Stain from a Quilt?
If you have one spot that needs some love it is best to treat that spot rather than cleaning the entire quilt. This will preserve the integrity of the quilt for much longer than repeated washing of the entire quilt.
First dab with water to see if that will remove the stain. If water alone doesn’t work you can use a small dab of the detergents listed above and gently rub into the stain with your finger. Don’t use a brush or anything rough. Gently rinse with cold water several times to remove as much of the detergent as possible.
How do You Store a Quilt?
If you aren’t going to be using a quilt you will want to store it to keep it safe. You will need Acid Free Tissue Paper and some of those little silica packs from your shoe boxes! Fold and wrap the completely dry quilt in the acid free tissue paper. Store it in a wooden box (the box should have a finish, don’t store your quilt on raw wood.) You could also store it in a zippered pillowcase (like this one but with a zipper at the end) that has been washed as described above without fabric softener. Store in a dry dark temperature controlled area, so not in the storage shed or garage that freezes and gets super hot in the summer.
Do you have any tips for washing a quilt? Do you feel less intimidated about washing a quilt? Share with me in the comments below.
Looking for some quilts to make? Here are some great options!