How to Wash a Quilt | 5 Easy Options

When it comes to quilts, it’s all fun and games until you have to wash one. And believe me, I’m not judging you. I’ve been there. I’m always so excited when I get a new quilt, especially those soft fluffy ones, until I notice its first stain and lose it.

My OCD side always wants to wash the whole quilt immediately while the laid back side still wants to wait a while. Truth is, up to this day, washing my quilts makes me nervous, like I might destroy them somehow.

Well through tons of trials (and plenty of errors) I now have some thoughts to share about how to wash a quilt, so you don’t have to stress like I did!

What not to do

Before we get to the dos, we need to go through the don’ts. These include:

  • Not using your quilt because you don’t want to have to wash it
  • Using your quilt but never washing it
  • Pulling at your quilt’s loose threads and stains

How often should you wash a quilt?

While it can be tempting to wash your quilt often, refrain from it. Resist that urge as it surely doesn’t have your quilt’s best interests at heart. Quilts should only be washed when they are dirty. While there is no specific advisable quilt washing frequency, try to maximize the time between washes as much as you can.

What to do before washing your quilt?

When it finally is time to wash your quilt, there are several things you should do before the actual washing. First of all, it is good to inspect the quilt for any signs of stretched seams or loose threads. These need to be fixed before any washing is done.

Secondly, you need to check your quilt for dye bleeding. To do so, you need to take a piece of white fabric, dip it in water and rub it against any colored part of your quilt. If some color is transferred, your quilt’s dye is bleeding and you need to deal with that first. 

How to wash a quilt: the right ways

There are several ways that you can wash your quilt, some more recommended than others. Here is a breakdown:

  1. Hand washing your quilt

This is undoubtedly the best way to wash your quilt. It is gentle on the fabric and gives you a lot of control over a variety of factors. Hand washing is especially good for sensitive and cotton-based quilts (the ones with cotton batting).

However, I have to say, it’s a lot of work, particularly because quilts are way heavier when they’re wet. If you decide to go with this method though, here is what you need to know:

Supplies

  • Dirty quilt (in case you forget)
  • Tub
  • Running water
  • Detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Ensure that the tub you’re planning to use is clean
  2. Fill the tub up with water
  3. Add some detergent into the water and dissolve it thoroughly. There are several special quilt soaps you can use such as Charlie’s soap or Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
  4. Place the quilt in the water until it is fully submerged
  5. Agitate the quilt for around 10 minutes but don’t wring or twist it
  6. Drain the tub and refill it with water
  7. Add half a cup of distilled white vinegar into the water. This softens and brightens the fabric while getting rid of any detergent residue
  8. Rinse the quilt in the vinegar infused water and repeat this step until the water is free of suds
  9. Press the quilt to remove excess water and remove it from the tub
  10. Spread it out on a sheet outside so that it can be hit by direct sunlight
  1. Machine washing your quilt

If you feel like you truly don’t have the upper body strength required to hand wash a quilt, worry not! You can easily machine wash your quilt. Here is how:

Supplies

  • Dirty quilt
  • Water 
  • Detergent
  • Washing machine

Instructions

  1. Fill your washing machine with warm water and dissolve a good amount of detergent as indicated on its packaging
  2. Insert your quilt into the machine and soak it for around 15 minutes. Since front-loading machines don’t allow for soaking, you will have to agitate on a gentle cycle instead. Never wash your quilt with other clothes and throw in some Retayne or Shout Color Catchers if you suspect dye bleeding
  3. If your quilt is badly soiled, repeat the first two steps
  4. Rinse the quilt in a gentle cycle. Repeat until all soap is removed
  5. Remove the quilt from the washing machine and go spread it over a sheet outside so that it can dry in the sun
  6. Alternatively, you can use a tumble dryer. However,  you should use very low heat and only dry it until it is damp then go air dry it outside

Less preferable ways to wash your quilt

  1. Vacuuming your quilt

Another way to clean your quilt is by vacuuming it. While this method can be effective it is not safe for vintage and delicate quilts. However, if you still want to go this route, here is what you need to know:

Supplies

  • Dirty quilt
  • Vacuum
  • Nylon screen

Instructions 

  1. Spread your quilt over a flat surface
  2. Put the brush extension on your vacuum cleaner
  3. As a safety precaution, place a nylon net or pantyhose over the brush
  4. Start vacuuming
  1. Dry cleaning your quilt

Dry cleaning involves a lot of agitation and the use of solvents that can damage a quilt’s fibers or make it bleed and fade. As such, it is best to avoid it. But if other cleaning methods fail and you do decide to do this, always take a dry cleaner’s references. Also, ask for recommendations from other quilters. 

  1. Outdoor airing

If you just want to freshen up your quilt and have no major stains going on, you should try outdoor airing. Just hang your quilt outside on the hanging line and it will end up smelling fresh and ready to be used again.

To keep your quilts from absorbing a damp or strange smells, always store them in open spots and avoid plastic bags at all costs. When it comes to quilts, the more aerated they are the better!

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