Washing your Modern Handmade Quilts

How Often do I Need to Wash my Quilt?

Before we get into washing instructions, let me just say that the best way to care for your quilt is to NOT wash it all the time. Wash it as infrequently as you can get away with and you'll have the most success. Only wash your quilt when you really need to, like when your child's ice pop drips all over it... 

If you’re one of those people with peaceful lives devoid of children or pets or clumsy coffee drinkers, you can probably get away with washing each quilt you own about once a year (though it’s a good idea to let it get some air a little more often than that.)

But when it’s time, it’s time! Just keep calm, and follow these steps:​

How to Wash and Care for a Quilt the RIGHT Way

  1. Inspecting - Before washing your quilt, it’s smart to give it a little once-over to make sure there are no loose threads or stretched seams that need to be fixed before you begin the laundering process. Make any minor repairs you need to while your quilt is still nice and dry.
Washing - You have two choices here: hand washing, or machine washing.
    • Machine Washing Instructions: Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle and choose cold water. I also recommend washing with a gentle detergent, such as Quilt Soap and Soak

      If you are nervous about fabric dye bleeding, throw in a couple color catches or Retayne. The Color Catchers literally catch dye that has bleed into the wash water. Retayne is a chemical that helps lock dye into the fabric. Read the packaging instructions before using it.
    • Hand Washing Instructions: I highly recommend washing all vintage quilts, hand-quilted quilts, and hand-appliquéd quilts by hand. No one is going to treat your quilt as well as you are, especially not some robot machine. The first step to hand washing is to make sure the tub or sink you will be using is clean. Next, fill up with some warm water and Quilt Soap, I perfer warm water for handwashing but you can use cold. Place your quilt in the water, and make sure every inch of it is submerged. Agitate the quilt gently for about 10 minutes, then drain the soapy water, and refill with fresh water. This time, add ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to the water. This clears the quilt of any residue from the detergent, and also softens it and keeps the colors bright! Repeat the rinsing process until the water is suds-free
    • Machine Drying Instructions: Two very important words to remember here - LOW HEAT or AIR TUMBLE. Your quilt is delicate, so you will want to use low to no heat when drying it. To be safe, don't dry it all the way. Tumble dry it on low until it is damp, and then let it air dry.
    • Air Drying Instructions: I highly recommend air drying all vintage quilts, hand-quilted/hand-appliquéd quilts and any quilts in which you want to limit fabric shrinkage, which causes puckering and crinkling. Air drying quilts can be tricky because they’re so dang heavy when they’re wet! To prevent those threads from poppin’ support the weight of the quilt well, usually by drying it flat.
    • Some people like to finish the drying process by laying their quits on a patch of grass on a sunny day, this can help freshen it up if its been drying in a basement
    • Storing - The best place to store a quilt is on a bed. This is for real! Even if you’re not using the bed, because having a quilt flat keeps creasing away. If you don’t happen to have a guest bed for your quilt, cotton or muslin bags are the best choice for storage, if using a quilt rack refold the quilt from time to time and change how its folded.