Spring cleaning for quilts

April 8, 2014

how to wash quilts, Ivory, Woolite, how to wash antique quilts, fabric bleed, air dry quilts, APQS, longarm quilting

Springtime means throwing open the windows and letting in the wonderful fresh air after months of a stuffy winter. Cool evenings and a gentle breeze through the window are a perfect combination for snuggling under a quilt at bedtime. But that cozy feeling can be stifled by a stale smelling quilt!

A quilt’s condition will determine whether you can launder it safely. A well-quilted, recently made quilt from pre-washed fabrics should be machine washable and dryable. Use gentle cycles, a very mild detergent such as Ivory or Woolite, and lukewarm or cool temperatures. Both polyester and cotton battings are washable. Polyester will not shrink, but cotton and other natural fiber products can shrink from 3 -5 percent.

Antique quilts require a little more TLC than a tumble in your front load washer. Fibers weaken when wet, and agitation or pulling can harm your quilt irreparably. Before you launder an antique quilt or any quilt you’re unsure about, test the fabrics for colorfastness. Rub the fabric with a dry white cloth or cotton swab. If you have no color transfer, dampen the swab or cloth and repeat the test. All looking good? Not so fast…now repeat the test with a solution of water and the soap or detergent you intend to use. Even if you see no color after this test, it’s not a guarantee that the colors will not run or bleed, since agitation can cause dyes to run.

If you encounter bleeding, you’ll have to decide if you want to risk laundering the quilt. In this circumstance “airing the quilt” may be a better choice. Lay the quilt outside on top of a stack of flat bed sheets on a mild, but breezy day. Find a shady spot to prevent sun damage. Cover the quilt with several more sheets to prevent debris from getting on it. Air the quilt for several hours, keeping pets and children at a safe distance. If you don’t have room outdoors to air your quilt, you can accomplish much the same thing by placing the quilt over a bed and directing several fans on the quilt.