How to Wash a Quilt Safely

Learn how to wash a quilt safely so that your quilts survive for future generations to enjoy. These simple steps will preserve your quilting legacy!

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"How to Wash a Quilt" Instructions

We assume you've tested for bleeding fabric ahead of time.

Remember that if you prewash fabrics before they are used in a quilt, this does not insure they are colorfast.

Only testing for bleeding can confirm that.

These instructions are based on piecing with 100% cottons.

If you use a batting other than cotton, wool or polyester, do check the batting for any special washing instructions.

  • Fill your washing machine full of cool to tepid water. Most manufacturers recommend washing quilt fabric in cool water. Commercially-made seems to generally bleed less in cooler water. Fabrics hand dyed with Procion MX Dyes also bleed less or not at all in cold water.
  • Add the soap to the water.
  • If you use Orvus, add 1 TABLESPOON Orvus to the wash water. (This detergent is highly concentrated so using more than a tablespoon is a waste; it won't get your quilt any cleaner.)  To learn more about Orvus, click here.
  • For patchwork made of hand dyed fabrics use Synthrapol using the amount indicated on the bottle.
  • For other soaps, make sure they are pH neutral and free of bleaches, optical brighteners, fragrances and softeners. Use the recommended amount.
  • Turn on the machine to distribute the soap throughout the water. After it's distributed turn it off.
  • Now add your patchwork. Distribute it as evenly as possible in the tub.
  • Wash on gentle/delicate for just a few short minutes. For fragile quilts, agitate by hand for a bit instead of letting the machine do it for you.
  • Turn off the machine. Let the it soak for 15-20 minutes.
  • Use the spin cycle to remove the water. If your quilt was particularly dirty, repeat this process a second time.
  • Rinse twice to remove all the detergent.
  • Lay flat to air dry on a clean sheet away from foot traffic. If you lay it outside to dry, cover with another clean sheet to prevent bird problems and shield your patchwork from direct sunlight. 

Air drying is gentler than throwing it in the dryer.

The quilt rubs/abrades itself as it tumbles in the heat. It's hard on the fabrics and quilting stitches.

If you're pressed for time, put it into the dryer, but for just a few minutes to remove some of the dampness and then lay it flat to finish drying.Use portable fans to shorten the drying time.

If you have an antique quilt, consult with a professional before washing it yourself.

Fabrics are weakened by time.

You don't know if they are colorfast or what, if any, chemicals have been applied. Consult the experts.

Wash and Drying Tips

A wet quilt is a heavy quilt

...just lifting a wet quilt puts lots of strain on your stitches.

Even more so if they are is sparse.

The less quilting, the more strain on each individual stitch. Support it as much as possible anytime it is wet to prevent your stitches from breaking or popping.

If you wash it in the bathtub...

...lay a sheet in the bottom of the tub, underneath the quilt.

Wash as usual.

Now after all the water has been drained and "smushed" out, use the sheet like handles to lift the wet quilt and eliminate the strain on the stitches.

It's handy to transport your wet patchwork in a laundry basket.

Don't hang a wet quilt to dry

...this puts too much strain on the stitching.

If you wash at the laundromat... an empty load first before washing your quilt.

It's cheap insurance.

A quilter recently told me of how she washed her king-size quilt at a laundromat. There must have been bleach left in the dispenser...the backing ended up spotted...thank goodness the top survived. But it was a close one.

Do take the time to learn how to wash a quilt safely to ensure it survives as a lasting legacy for future generations.

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