For some, washing a quilt is an absolute no-no. For others, it’s expected that quilts will need to be cleaned with regular use. There’s a range of opinions on the matter, so how exactly should one wash a quilt?
What method you use likely depends on the condition of the quilt. How comfortable you feel washing a quilt that you just sewed last month, versus a quilt that your grandmother sewed 50 years ago, definitely will effect what kind of cleaning method you pick, especially because a much older quilt probably isn’t getting daily use.
First, a few cleaning tricks: Some quilters suggest washing the fabric before you start sewing so it loosens up a bit, while others suggest testing whether the color will run by patting it with a damp white cloth. If the color does run, you’ll probably want to avoid washing it with water.
And now, read below for five cleaning suggestions, which start with the most gentle.
- Air DryingSometimes, a quilt could just benefit from a little airing out. Try laying the quilt flat in a shady spot outside, on top of a plastic sheet and clean white sheet, or an airy place inside for a few hours. The University of Nebraska warns against hanging quilts on clotheslines, because it can strain the stitches.
- VacuumingVacuuming the quilt is a much more delicate way of keeping it clean, and it first requires you to lay the quilt out on a table or tables, according to The National Quilt Museum. (Cover the tables with clean sheets beforehand.)Prepare a piece of nylon window screen – 18×24 – to use as a screen between the quilt and the hose attachment of your vacuum. Then, you’ll move the screen along the quilt and vacuum through the screen little by little. A quilt in good condition could simply be vacuumed with a vacuum attachment that’s been covered with nylon hose.
- Hand WashingHand washing can be a time-consuming task, but it is also a gentler way to totally clean a quilt. About.com recommends using a bathtub for this task, filling it with cold water, and dissolving a gentle detergent in the water. (If you’d like, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to brighten and soften the quilt.)Then, soak the quilt in the water and gently move it around for about 10 minutes. Empty the tub and refill it with fresh water, repeating the process until the water is clear and free of soap suds. Then, spread the quilt out to dry flat ñ either outside or on a bed of towels.
- Machine WashingMany quilters warn against machine washing, because it can be rough on the stitching. Others say that machine washing is fine, with the right precautions. So long as the quilt isn’t an antique or starting to show signs of wear, a trip through the delicate cycle with a gentle detergent and cold water could be fine for quilts in good condition.It all depends on the current condition of the quilt — though you don’t want to throw it in the dryer at all — and the fabric itself. As Quilting 101 explains, many quilts are made of cotton ñ which is an extremely washer-friendly fabric. Something more delicate might not want to see the washing machine.
- Professional CleanerWhen it doubt, let a professional handle the cleaning. You can either trust a dry cleaner to handle the job, or you could find someone who specializes in washing and cleaning quilts. Ask friends or ask around at the local quilters guild for some ideas.
Also keep in mind that, whatever your preference, it’s always nice to include washing instructions on a label if you’re gifting a quilt to someone. And if your quilt came with instructions, simply follow those!