How to Wash a Quilt

Quilts on bed

Take it out of its cover, chuck it in the washing machine and then hang it out to dry. Simple as that right?!

Not necessarily.

During our extensive research into the wonderful world of bedding it's come to our attention that there's no silver bullet to cleaning your beloved quilt.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to methods, but what are the effects of each method and which ones suit you best?

We'll let you decide what suits best, but before that you need all the relevant information to make an informed decision, so please, read on!

Table of contents

  1. How often do I need to wash my quilt?
  2. Commonly asked questions
  3. Check the fabric of your quilt
  4. Wash your quilt before using it
  5. Quilt cleaning methods
  6. Detergent...but what type?
  7. Best-practice method for maintaining a quilt
  8. How to store your quilt
  9. What about a handmade quilt?
  10. No blanket statements here

How often do I need to wash my quilt?

How to wash a quilt Unlike how often you should wash your sheets, think of your quilt as something that ages best when left alone. Like your hair or favourite pair of jeans, you should only wash your quilt when necessary.

But what is necessary?

Well, according to Spruce, unless there's been a specific incident in which the quilt has been dirtied, washing it once or twice a year should suffice.

That is of course, provided the quilt is protected by an outer cover, if it's a standalone quilt you should be washing it every other week.

And if you're like us and have a tendency to be clumsy, have pets or children, then you may also have to wash your quilt more regularly, whenever disaster strikes.

Some commonly asked questions

Who doesn't love a quick Q&A?!

Q. Can you put quilts in the washing machine?

Yes, yes you can. Most manufacturers recommend a cold wash on a gentle setting.

Q. Can you put a quilt in the dryer?

Yes, but make sure you've got a dryer big enough. If not, your local dry cleaning store should be able to help.

Q. Can you wash quilts at home?

Absolutely you can. Spot cleaning is effective if you need a targeted clean.

Okay great, with that out of the way, let's dig a little deeper.

Check the fabric of your quilt

First quilt If you're going to be washing your quilt for the first time, it's important to take note of the fabric that it's made from.

Typically speaking, most quilts are made from 100% cotton, a cotton mix or wool. That being said, new, more eco-friendly materials are starting to enter the market, like a bamboo quilt for example.

It's important that you're aware of your quilt's material because it may dictate you having to take special steps or precautions in washing it.

If you're worried about protecting the integrity of your quilt from the outset, we advise that you take note of any special washing instructions, but most importantly, continue reading!

Wash your quilt before using it

Handmade quilt

The easiest way to explain this is for you to treat your new quilt just like new clothes.

You know when you machine wash a new piece of clothing you tend to do it by itself in case any excess colour seeps out during the wash? Well, a new quilt is much the same.

Washing it before putting it inside a cover and dozing off into dreamland is a very important component to quilt care.

Washing a quilt tends to help it stretch our mould into it's most natural form or shape. And just like your clothing, if the quilt itself is coloured, it gives you the opportunity to run off any excess dye pigments.

Quilt cleaning methods

Let us preface this by saying that washing a quilt can be quite a personal thing for some people, and although these methods will hopefully give you the results you're looking for, there may well be other more niche ways to clean your quilt.

But these are the best!

Air dry outdoors

Handmade quilts

Okay, so you can air dry your quilt outdoors for one of two reasons - either to dry it after a wash or simply to let it breathe in the fresh air.

It seems like we're doing things in two's today because along with the reasons, there are also two methods to air dry your quilt.

  1. Find yourself a nice dry sheltered area away from direct sunlight that ideally has little to no breeze flowing through. Place some towels or a mattress topper of some sort on the ground and position your quilt on top. Finally, place a bed sheet or something similar on top to prevent any kind of debris from nestling in the quilt during the airing out. If you've washed the quilt prior, be sure to flip it once the top has dried.
  2. You can hang your quilt over a clothesline or banister, as long as where you place it away from direct sunlight and it's not too windy. Be aware that drying your quilt in this manner has potential to put stress on the seams, so if this is a worry, option 1 may be your best bet!

Vacuuming

Quilting processOver time, airborne dust and dirt can compromise the fibres in your quilt, but thankfully, vacuuming is a good way to prevent such things building up.

According to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, there is a tried and true process to vacuuming quilts.

First, set your vacuum cleaner to low suction to avoid any part of the quilt being sucked into the nozzle.

Have your quilt laid out across a flat and smooth surface, and use either some polyester fabric, cotton cheesecloth or nylon hose to place over the vacuum's nozzle. This will help to avoid the quilt getting sucked into the nozzle.

Now you're ready to vacuum!

Hovering just above the quilt, slowly move the nozzle up and down, making sure to cover both sides until the quilt is completely vacuumed.

Voilà!

Hand washing

Hand washing

Consider this your go-to option for your most delicate of quilts, and those that are not cotton quilts

Simply follow the below steps outlined by American Patchwork & Quilting to wash your quilt by hand.

  1. Find yourself a clean tub that has been disinfected and rid of any other soaps or chemicals.
  2. To help support the quilt, place a towel or even a cotton blanket at the bottom to help support the quilt.
  3. Prior to adding your quilt, be sure to completely dissolve soap in the tub and ensure you have enough water to completely submerge the quilt.
  4. Add your quilt to the tub.
  5. Without wringing or twisting, delicately churn the quilt over in your hands so as to help release any dirt and other particles.
  6. Now it's time to rinse! To do this, drain and refill the tub (without removing the quilt) as many times is necessary to completely remove any soap particles that may be clinging on for dear life via the quilt. Once all gone, drain again.
  7. Gently (but firmly) press any excess water from the quilt into the tub by moving your way across the quilt from one end to the other. If there's an abundance of excess water, towels are a good means of soaking it up.
  8. Take the quilt out of the tub by carrying it from underneath, only touching the towel or blanket that you placed in the bottom at the start of this journey.
  9. Air dry your quilt using one of the methods we mentioned earlier. Pssst, we recommend laying it flat on bed sheets or a mattress pad.

Machine wash

Washing machine

Let us first preface this by saying, if it's a new quilt you would be wise to check the packaging or tag for specific washing instructions.

But in saying that, if the quilt is primarily cotton-based then it should be machine washable, and the below process will deliver the results.

Oh, one other thing as well, if it's a vintage quilt, wool quilt, or antique quilt, we'd advise only washing if ABSOLUTELY necessary, and to perhaps go with the hand wash method outlined above. Just to be safe!

But enough of that, let's get machine washing!

  1. First things first, you want to inspect the quilt to ensure it's suitable for your washing machine. If it's got any loose seams or particularly dirty areas we recommend taking the hand washing route.
  2. Fill your washing machine with cold water and add soap to let it dissolve.
  3. Drop your quilt in the washing machine and simply let it soak for 15 minutes or so. Don't turn the machine on at this point.
  4. Turn your washing machine on and place the quilt on a short or regular, gentle cycle.
  5. After the first cycle has ended, repeat the process without adding any more soap or detergent to ensure no particles get left on the quilt.
  6. If there is still some soapy water floating around in the water or quilt, rinse the quilt on a gentle cycle, repeating the process until everything is completely soap free!
  7. You've reached the drying stage! Remove the quilt and follow one of the abovementioned air-drying methods.

Dry cleaning

Drying process

We're not going to sit here and say a dry cleaner doesn't know how to wash a quilt, but we highly recommend doing your research if dry cleaning is the route you want to go down.

Although in some cases it can be a worthy means of drying/cleaning a dirty quilt, using a tumble dry is widely considered a last resort in comparison to most other methods.

That being said, we're here to inform and inform we shall!

If you wish to dry clean your quilt, you can tumble dry it on LOW HEAT and a gentle cycle. It's a reasonable way to dry a quilt as long as it's made from quality fabric.

You can dry the quilt completely, but we would recommend only drying it to the point where it's no longer soaking wet, just damp. From there you can move it to a suitable location to air dry.

It's also worth noting that you should never iron your quilts, regardless of what some people might say. Much like direct sunlight, ironing can suck the life out of a quilt and diminish it's true form and plushness.

Detergent...but what type?

Quilt soap

Some of you may think this is a stupid question considering how regulated and typically reliable most detergents on the market are. But alas, it is actually incredibly important if you want to maintain a lovely quilt.

The key is to find a gentle detergent that isn't going to leave detergent residue on your quilt.

But what type of detergent would you class as gentle?

Well, one that is liquid-based, is colourless and unscented, and doesn't have any fabric softener or brightener lurking in it's chemical makeup.

There are tailored laundry detergents designed specifically for the purpose of cleaning quilts such as castile soap, if you so wish.

And also, we cannot stress this enough, avoid using bleach at all costs!

Best-practice method for maintaining a quilt

Quilt gently

You could probably join all the dots from what we've already highlighted to formulate a great strategy for maintaining your quilt, but that takes time and we like to give back.

So without further ado, here's a great 4 step guide from wikiHow.

Only wash once a year or when necessary

Brush attachment

This way, you're preserving the quilt for as long as possible.

Even if you use it every single day alongside your winter sheets during colder months, as long as it's not specifically dirty, a once yearly clean will suffice.

You can still air it outside throughout the year, but it doesn't need to be washed regularly. A wet quilt only needs to be wet when absolutely necessary.

You could always spot clean specific stains as they pop up.

You can freshen the quilt's scent without washing

Stain remover

There's a host of fabric freshener (not fabric softener) products on the market which you can use to add some zest to your quilt.

Just to be safe though, be sure to test it on something else first.

Alternatively, some people have told us that you can reinvigorate scent by placing the quilt in a sealed bag with a standard bar of soap for a couple of days.

Personally, we haven't tried this yet so if you do, let us know it goes!

You can spot clean throughout the year

California king

White vinegar returns!

An easy and efficient way to treat little stains or spills is by giving the affected area a light dab with some distilled white vinegar.

If white vinegar isn't your thing, quilt soap like what we mentioned earlier is also good.

Keep something like a white cloth underneath the affected area and be sure to not rub the stain, simply dabbing at it should suffice!

And once again, NO BLEACH!

Vacuum's and lint rollers are your best friend

Quilt regularly

As we've already outlined the vacuuming dos and don'ts let's focus more on the lint roller.

By simply rolling one across both sides of your quilt you can easily pick up any lint (duh), loose threads and pet hair.

And that's it, a simple, effective process for maintaining world-class quilts!

"But what about storage" you ask?

How to store your quilt

Cotton bag

At the risk of sounding too obvious, the best and most efficient way to store your quilt is on your bed. We know, who would have thought!?

But in all seriousness, a bed is the place. The quilt can be laid out flatly in a dry location that has little to no temperature fluctuation, which is ideal for its overall longevity.

Alternatively, during the warmer months of the year if you don't have a spare bed to place it on, a cotton or muslin bag is the next best thing.

Never store your quilt in cardboard or plastic.

Note though, before you put it away to hibernate, ensure the quilt is clean. And be sure to wake it up from its slumber from time to time to give it some air and refold it.

What about a handmade quilt?

Quilt flat

How you choose to maintain delicate quilts is really up to you.

If you made it yourself, how good are your crafting skills?

We would recommend treating them as delicately as you can, and following best-practice maintenance that we discussed earlier.

The key is to be as gentle as possible!

No blanket statements here

Quilt flat

We need to outline that very few quilts are the same and as a result, we're not here to tell you the finite way for washing a quilt.

We hope this journal entry will serve as a handy guide for you to help assess the best way for you to wash and maintain your quilts.

Whether it's a hand wash, machine washing, air dry, or line dry, we just recommend washing your quilts at least once a year, if they can handle it.

Keep your eyes peeled for our next journal entry, it's a doozy for those of you interested in latex and memory foam!


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