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Spring Cleaning: Washing Your Quilts

I have pieced quilts throughout my home, including on almost every bed.

This means they get used, abused, laid on, eaten on (like chocolate eggs for instance), read on, even dirty shoes kicked off on (bad boys!) and occasionally muddy paws trod on (BAD DOG!).  So even though they are handmade, our quilts need to be washed occasionally.

Do you worry about washing your quilts?

The first time I washed a handmade quilt, I called my mom.  She was the perfect person to call because she’s smart, she’s a quilter, and she is the queen of clean. Here is her advice:

1.  The first step is to use good soap.  There are a few brands she really likes.

  • Soak Wash Laundry Detergent- Soak is a little more spendy, but is her favorite brand.  She uses it for all her sweaters and other delicates too.

She warned me not to use Woolite for my quilts- which had been my first inclination.  She feels like it’s prone to fading fabrics.

A good quality soap can sometimes be found at quilt shops and definitely online.  JoAnn’s also carries quilt soap occasionally too.

2.  She doesn’t spot clean her quilts, since you want to be careful of the fabrics.  She did say that blood can be removed with saliva… as many a good quilter with a prick to her finger knows.

3.  Wash your quilts on the delicate cycle.

4.  For hand quilted quilts she lays them out to dry on a spot of dry grass in the shade… never in the sun (which can fade the quilt).

5.  For machine quilted quilts she usually has no qualms about throwing them in the dryer… particularly for the first wash… which can really soften up the stiffness of a machine quilted quilt.  If you don’t want the fabric to shrink and puff up at the stitching a lot, dry your quilts on low heat.

6. If you are washing a quilt with high contrast fabrics- like red and white- you can use Shout Color Catcher. Color catcher absorbs the dyes that might escape the darker fabric before it can attach to the lighter fabrics in the load.

Last, but not least, my mom’s advice is that quilts are meant to used.  They are works of art, yes.  But they are practical, useful works of art.  If you use your quilts, and they are a little worse for wear, that means they have been loved, and there is no better way for a quilt to live.

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9 Responses to “Spring Cleaning: Washing Your Quilts”

  • Deserae Fiedler:

    Great advice! Thanks!

  • Janelle:

    I wish I didn’t live in the desert with nothing but scrubby grass with lots of dirt spots in front, and an all dirt yard in back – I’d LOVE to lay my quilt out (all white – yum sun-bleaching) to dry.

  • Deborah:

    Thanks! Good useful advice. Love your blog!

  • Very helpful! I firmly agree that quilts are to be used… I have small quilts on my kids toddler beds, one that gets used frequently to picnic on, and several others that get used for curling up on the couch. They need washed often! Thanks for all the tips!

  • Excellent! I’m a quilter and when I give someone a quilt I expect it to be used, or I take it back. I might start giving a bottle of this detergent with the quilt so they can clean it.

  • Lyndsey:

    I’ve been waiting for this post! I’ve been wanting to clean some special hand-quilted quilts for some time now and no one could tell me how. (Most said “don’t wash them”…ummmm, gross!) Thank you!!!

  • I made a copy of your Mom’s remarks about washing, using and loving our quilts. I am gonna read it at out next Guild meeting, with your permission.

  • Dot Sinchuk:

    I just finished my first quilt – an over-sized crib quilt for my newest grandchild. Needless to say, I was so excited to complete it and wash it. I washed it in my tub in cold water with Woolite and added a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the water. I laid it on a table on towels to dry and covered it with a sheet just in case my cats decided to sit upon it. It’s a patch work quilt with all cotton fabric and a felt backing. The next day when I looked at it the back had several stains that appear to be dye. I had per washed all the fabrics. What would you suggest to remove these stains?
    Thanks so much!!
    Dot Sinchuk

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