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Thread: ;how to clean "old" quilts

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
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    I received some "old" quilts that are in decent condition but need cleaning. The probably have all cotton batting. Can I wash them on gentle in the washing maching and with what kind of soap? Can I dry them in the dryer or should I hang them out? Should I get them dry cleaned and how do they do that cleaning? Thanks

  2. #2
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    NO...you need to google but the proper way IF they need washing and just spot cleaning is to put 2-3 sheets on the floor, then lie the quilt on top.
    Meanwhile run a tub of warm water, not too hot..not too cold about 1/3 way full.
    Add some orvus soap or even dreft if you can not find orvus(sold at feed stores).
    really mix the soap into the water.

    If you need to spot treat certain areas mix you a paste from the orvus or even use ivory bar soap to gently rub on the stains.

    allow to sit for a few minutes is spot treated and then using the sheets pick the whole thing and place carefully into the tub.. you can squish it down, but do not agitate it in any way!

    allow to soak over night if you see brown or yellow liquid forming in the tub...you can change the water 2-3 times if you have to, but DO NOT agitate the quilt..

    after the water runs clear, and I have taken up to 2 days to see that if the quilt came from a smoker's house, drsin the tub and allow the quilt/sheets to remain until thoroughly drained...then gently starting on one end, or right in front of you, start to roll the sheets over the quilt, continue rolling until you reach the other side...then roll from one of the ends...then gently lift out and take out side...

    roll back out on the driveway or yard, and allow to air dry..this can take a while, so it is best to do all of this in the heat of the summer..to avoid direct sunlight, I place a sheet over the quilt when drying.

    hope that all made sense!

  3. #3
    Super Member Prism99's Avatar
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    You can wash a quilt in a top-loading machine, but you *cannot* let it go through an agitation cycle! Stop the machine before it starts agitating and just use your hands to push the quilt up and down in the soapy water. Move the control to "spin" to get rid of the soapy water. Do the rinse cycle(s) the same way. The spin cycle is gentle enough to use on quilts; machine agitation is not.

    The quilt should be laid out flat to dry. If you do this outside, place a large sheet both underneath and on top of the quilt (on top protects from bird droppings) and anchor the corners with stones. It is best to do this in the shade to minimize exposure to sunlight, which fades fabrics. If you don't have a shady spot big enough, I would put extra sheets on top and try to keep it out of the worst sunlight of the day. You will probably need to turn the quilt at least once.

    Never hang a damp quilt on a clothesline. Water is heavy, and the extra weight of water in the quilt will put undue stress on all of the seams and quilting lines (not to mention the exposure to direct sunlight).

    If you don't have a suitable spot outside, you can dry a quilt inside (carpeting works well). Again, lay it out on sheets. In this case, add a fan to speed drying, and plan on turning the quilt occasionally.

    Dry cleaning is really not particularly good for quilts. I wouldn't do it.

    Orvus is the soap usually preferred for washing quilts. If the quilts have spots or staining disfiguring them, you might want to use Retro Clean. The process for that is a little different. Here is a link to Retro Clean:
    http://www.retroclean.com/

  4. #4

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    Thank you so much for your help, I wanted to save them.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by elsa
    Thank you so much for your help, I wanted to save them.
    I hear ya...but I also forgot to ask have you had then dated? Or do you know their history.

    I recently spent time with a textile historian for the state of OK who specializes in CW era textiles. I had recently acquired 3 old quilts and thought it would be fun to have them dated/appraised.
    I nearly fainted when the lady grabbed them up and started ooohhhiiinngg...and aahhhing..and gushing...she had everyone in the room within ear shot come to see MY quilts. They are not especially pretty, rather plain really, though done well and in really fantastic shape. One I knew was really old as the reds are deteriorated, and the purples are now brown. Turns out the one that looked the newest was actually the oldest, has the most interesting story within the fabrics, and is valued the most.
    One of those old quilts was a 1870's, then a 1865'ish, and the newest looking one is more like an 1840-50! It has an amazing story and is currently being tested to get a more accurate date, and location origin! IF it comes from OK and is within the dates she believes, in the condition it is in, it will be museum quality with a value in the thousands....

    I found that quilt out in a little country town at a barn sale lieing on the trash pile...the lady said that old things was up in a barrel in the attic and nobody wanted it so out it goes! I asked if she would sell it, and she said honey it is in the trash, take it! I gave her $1.00 so that I would not have to say I was a trash digger..
    :-D

    The other two were acquired at local estate auctions. I only paid $1.00 for each of them as well!

    The most important thing that the lady told me was to NOT wash these quilts at all. I can spot clean them, but I am not wash them!
    The oldest one she did not washed until after the testing is done. Then she said for $30 the historical society would wash it.

    I can find where I put the pix of the other 2, but this is one that I thought was the oldest. They did use CW era fabrics in some of the blocks, but the background fabric is newer fabric and that gave it away, the backing is also not of the CW era but closer to the end of the century.

    I thought this was the oldest, but it the youngest of the 3
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