Washing Your Quilt
There are many suggestions and ways quilters wash a quilt. I hope this article will help you decide how best to wash your quilt.
Before you proceed, you should consider what the quilt is made of. This doesn't mean just the fabrics but also includes the thread and batting. Check whether the quilt is made using standard cotton patchwork fabric, flannel or specialty fabrics like silk, organza and furnishing fabric. These all react differently to washing. Also consider the batting. Is it cotton, wool or polyester?
Cotton is the preferred quilt making fabric because of its natural fiber, which is soft and subtle, yet hardy enough to last for years to come. When making your quilt, I recommend you use good quality cotton fabrics, cotton batting and preferably cotton thread too, to make your quilt last longer. Many quilters wash their fabric before they make their quilt. This is a good way to reduce colour runs and shrinking, however, it is not necessary for today's high quality cotton patchwork fabric, but definitely recommended for low quality patchwork cotton, flannels and if you are mixing various types of fabric together in one quilt. I have a separate article on reasons for and against pre-washing your fabric. Click here to read more about pre-washing fabrics...
Detergents: Most detergents are harmless to cotton, however some of the additives found in detergent can be harmful if used regularly or directions provided are not followed correctly. As a guide to prevent damage to your quilt, always use an unscented, colour-free, liquid detergent that does not contain a fabric softener. What ever you do, never use bleach on your quilt. This will surely ruin the colour and can also damage the fibers.
The best way to wash your cotton quilt is in the washing machine. Use a warm or cold cycle, never hot. Start filling your washing machine and add the detergent, (preferably liquid, not powder) mixing thoroughly, before adding the quilt. Use a regular cycle for the wash. When the cycle is finished, do a second rinse cycle to ensure all detergent is removed from the quilt. Any detergent left in the quilt will break down the fibers over time and lessen the quilts life span, so this is why I recommend liquid detergent. Use the spin cycle to remove excess water, never wring your quilt out by hand, again, this can damage the fibers in the fabrics and may leave unsightly crease marks which dry in place.
Once you have finished washing your quilt, I recommend you air dry it, being careful to avoid direct sunlight as this will fade your fabrics. A tumble dryer may be used if you cannot air dry your quilt, but be sure to use a cool to warm setting if doing so.
For more delicate fabrics or quilts using specialty fabrics, it is advisable to hand wash your quilt. This is best done in a large bath tub, however can be hard work on ones arms and shoulders. Fill the tub with cool or warm water, never hot, and mix the detergent in thoroughly before emerging the quilt. Wash with gentle actions and do not rub harshly with additional detergent or hard soap. After washing, rinse your quilt at least twice allowing the water to drip out. Do not wring. To help remove excess water, lay the quilt out flat on toweling. Lay more towels on top of the quilt and press down firmly so the towels soak up the water. Air dry, avoiding direct sunlight.
For quilts that are used as wall hangings, a simple light vacuum may be used instead of washing as these quilts are not handled as much and do not pick up dirt as much as bed quilts do. You may find you never have to wash these at all, however if it is necessary, just follow the directions above.
For antique quilts and quilts that are not in good condition, please seek professional advice from someone who deals with antique quilts on a regular basis.