You have been using that favorite quilt of yours for quite some time now, and you finally need to give it a wash. It may be that precious quilt that has been stored in a dingy box waiting to be reused again or that special antique quilt. Whatever the case may be, your quilt does need to be washed at some point. So now that you have made up your mind to wash the quilt, you realize that you don't know how to do it properly. Surely it can't be the same way that you wash your clothes, by just dumping it in the washing machine with detergent and adjusting the settings. If you were to do that, then you would have your antique quilt torn to pieces by the end of the final cycle. So how do you wash your precious quilt? Easy! Just follow my step-by-step instructions.
First, before washing your quilt, there are certain things that should be taken into consideration. You should ask yourself how you will be using your quilt. Will it be displayed folded up, hung on a wall, or laid across a bed? If you are going to display your quilt over a folded rack, you may not even have to wash it at all! But keep in mind that it is best not to subject your quilt to stress of any kind. You should also avoid letting your quilt get dirty. Dust and dirt may damage your quilt, creating tears or holes.
If you have a very delicate quilt that you would like to clean, one option is to simply air it out on a nice sunny day. This will remove the dust and freshen up the quilt. You can also lay it on the lawn on top of a clean sheet and then cover it with another clean sheet. Another option is to drape the quilt over a wide railing on top of a sheet protector. Vacuuming is another good option. In the event that you're cleaning a quilt that has elaborate embellishments, place a fine mesh screen over it, and then start cleaning.
Some Things You Need to Do Before Washing Your Quilt
Normally, a nice, dry cleaning with a vacuum is the best option when it comes to cleaning your quilt. This is ideal when you cannot wash it with water, where your quilt can face permanent and irrecoverable damages, no matter how careful you are. But, in the event that you plan on displaying your quilt on the bed or on a wall, you may need to wash your quilt with water. Here are some things to consider before washing your quilt:
Check the age and the condition of your quilt before you wash it.
Quilts that are damaged should be repaired first and then washed.
Quilts that are made with non-colorfast dyed material may cause the fabric to bleed during washing.
Some quilting material is made with iron as a mordant to set the dye. This will damage the fabric if washed.
Does Your Quilt Bleed?
Another important thing that you should do before washing your quilt is to test whether it will bleed or not. To do this, take a wet white cloth and rub it on the different parts of your quilt. Be careful not to get carried away while rubbing each part; if one part did not bleed, another one may. You should notice if your quilt bleeds when it is saturated with water. If your quilt passes this test, it's ready to be washed. The easiest way to wash a quilt is in a washing machine. Fill the water in your washing machine to the highest point, as if it were a giant wash tub. Add a small amount of mild detergent, and then agitate the quilt by hand; let it soak for a brief period. After that, spin out the excess water from the machine.
Some Natural Products
If you're unsure whether or not your detergent is mild enough, you can make your own natural "detergent" with this buttermilk recipe:
For one gallon of water, add one quart of buttermilk (fat content 1% or less) and one tablespoon of lemon juice. Follow the above steps for washing your quilt in the machine. Rinse well.
If your quilt is very dirty, then you can use a commercial detergent or enzyme cleaner. For example, for removing pencil marks, combine 1/4 cup water with 3/4 cup rubbing alcohol and 7 - 8 drops of Palmolive detergent; apply with a toothbrush. Let this soak for no more than 20 minutes. Rinse well.
Two Types of Soap Solutions
There are mainly two types of soap solutions that can be used when washing quilts:
ionic solutions -- e.g. Ivory Snow liquid and Dreft
anionic solutions -- e.g. a few enzymes with surfactants
Both of them attract different types of soil molecules. Whatever solution you use, make sure that you thoroughly rinse your quilt, because the residue of the soap will attract dirt.
Is the Washing Machine Recommended for Quilts?
There is some disagreement about whether washing machines can damage quilts. Washing machines can put stress on a quilt, which is why washing by hand is recommended. But the advantage of using the washing machine is that the quilt dries more quickly. You can dry your quilt by laying it out over a railing padded with towels. You can also cover it with a sheet and use a slow fan speed to help circulate the air. Be sure to change the position of the quilt so it will dry evenly.
Unlike regular quilts, antique quilts face their own problems, among them mold and bugs. We often mistake the stains of dead bugs as blood stains. These stains are extremely difficult to remove. Many quilts that are stored will have brown spots; these blood or rust-colored stains are actually caused by dye migration. Changes in temperature are also a factor. Sometimes more damage will be done in trying to remove these stains.
If you find the techniques described above not to your liking, you can try a traditional method that has been used by the textile industry for years -- Sodium Perborate. The major benefit of this chemical is that it will not bleach past the real color. To clean a test-spot, use a paste of Biz or Ivory Snow flakes. Brush this paste on the spot, and then vacuum it clean.