What quilter doesn’t want her creation to outlive her own lifetime? We toil over these works of art investing hours of effort as well as resources. Once completed we put them to use perhaps by hanging them on our walls, covering our beds or giving them as a gift to a very special someone. No matter how much or in what way they are loved, the treatment or care they receive will play a very important part in their longevity.
How do you clean your quilts? I believe there are as many opinions on proper quilt care as there are days in the year. Which method is the best I will not say. What I will share are a few common recommendations. For further assistance simply consult with your favorite on-line quilting resource. There is a wealth of information available.
The most favored choice is a gentle cleaning with a vacuum cleaner. Using a hand-held vacuum, fitted with a small brush attachment, gently pass the attachment over the quilt. If the quilt is particularly delicate place a barrier such as a fiberglass or nylon screen between the quilt and the vacuum attachment. A nylon net secured over the end of the hose attachment would be another acceptable barrier between your quilt and the vacuum. Always be careful to avoid abrasive contact with the quilt surface.
The decision to wash a quilt must be made very carefully. There are many factors that must be considered. Ask yourself these questions:
- Were the fabrics pre-shrunk? If not, do you want to risk shrinkage?
- Are the fabrics colorfast? If not, dye from one fabric may run onto other fabrics. Damage done from dyes that bleed may be permanent.
- Is it an heirloom quilt or an everyday quilt? If it’s an heirloom quilt or one that you wish to show, laundering is not recommended. Everyday quilts may be washed using Orvus Quilt Soap or Mountain Mist Ensure. These washing agents are gentler on fibers and can either be used when washing your quilt by hand or in the machine.
- Will you wash it by hand or machine? Hand washing would be the preferred method. However, no matter which method you chose, make certain the washing container is large enough to accommodate the entire quilt. A clean bathtub would be a possible receptacle for hand laundering. Make certain your soap is completely dissolved before placing your quilt in the water. Agitation is not recommended. If you must use agitation do so with great care. Rise your quilt thoroughly. Make sure all soap residue has been removed. Carefully remove your quilt from the water. Do not lift it by the edge or corners.
How will you dry your quilt? To avoid straining or popping stitches do not dry your quilt in a dryer. If you must, then remove excess water by pressing down on your quilt with a clean, colorfast towel or a mattress pad. Next fluff the quilt in your dryer using the no heat setting. Air drying would be the least damaging method. If air drying is your choice, lay your quilt on top of a non-porous surface and allow it to dry naturally. A fan may be used to speed the process. A wet quilt should never be hung on a line to dry. The stress caused by gravity will weaken the fabrics and damage the stitching.
What about dry cleaning? Qualified textile conservators would advise against dry cleaning. They claim the dry cleaning process involves rough agitation. Rough handling is never good for quilts. They also believe that the cleaning solvents used during dry cleaning can be hazardous to your health and the fibers of the fabrics.
What Did You Decide?
As with all things quilt related, there are many, many decisions to be made. Outweigh all of the options or suggestions. Then decide whether your quilt is intended to be an heirloom or an everyday quilt and proceed accordingly.
Cindy Anderson of In A Stitch Quilting
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