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Keep your quilts looking and feeling great!

Quilts are wonderful, meaningful additions to our lives. They mark occasions, remind us of loved ones and are (literally!) part of the fabric of our lives. Naturally, we want to keep them looking and feeling beautiful for as long as possible.

You might have been putting off cleaning your quilt because you're nervous about doing something wrong and ruining it. That's ok. The best way to care for your quilt is NOT to wash it all the time. It's not like your sheets and pillowcases. If you don't have pets or kids doing pet and kid things around your quilt, you might only need to wash it once a year. But regardless of the makeup of your household, your quilt will need you to step in and take care of it at some point, so here is some information to help make that intervention as stress-free as possible.

  • Examine your quilt.

    • Before you get your quilt wet, give it a good look to make sure that there are no loose threads or broken seams that need to be repaired. It's much easier to make those minor repairs while your quilt is dry, and the steps involved in washing your quilt might make them worse if you don't fix them first.

  • Decide on hand washing or machine washing.

    • Machine washing: Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle and choose cold water. Use a fragrance-free detergent for delicate fabrics. If your quilt has never been washed before, or you are at all nervous about ​colors bleeding in your quilt, add some Shout Color Catchers or some Retayne. The Color Catchers pick up dye that has bled into the water of your wash. Retayne helps to lock the dye into the fabric. Be sure to read the instructions on the label for both when using them.

    • Hand washing: Make sure that the tub or sink you will use is clean. Really. Clean it and then rinse it twice to make sure that no cleaning residue remains. Then, fill your sink with cold water and add fragrance-free, dye-free detergent. Place your quilt into the water and push it into the water until it is completely submerged. There should be enough water for your quilt to be able to move a little. Gently agitate your quilt with your hands for 10 minutes or so. Drain the soapy water and refill with fresh water. Add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the water. This will make sure there is no detergent residue in your quilt, and it will soften the quilt and help to keep the colors bright. Keep repeating the rinsing process with additional sinks of fresh water until no more suds appear when you agitate the quilt. Hand washing is recommended for hand-quilted or pieced quilts, hand-appliqued quilts, and vintage/heirloom quilts.

  • Decide​ on machine or air drying.

    • Machine drying: Don't be in a hurry. Use low heat or no heat. If you can, remove the quilt when it is damp-dry and then let it air dry.​

    • Air drying: Quilts are heavy when they are wet, so it's best to dry a quilt flat to avoid the weight of the quilt pulling on the threads and breaking them. If you don't have a large flat rack for drying, make a bed of thick towels and lay the quilt on it. Put another layer of towels on top, then roll the quilt up and press the roll. Unroll and then put the quilt on fresh, dry towels. You can repeat this process a few times before just leaving the quilt to lay flat and dry. You can put your quilt outside in the sun for a little while if you like; just remember to keep an eye on it and bring it in when it's dry.

  • Store your quilt properly.​

    • Ideally, your quilt will live on a bed in a dry place with a stable temperature. If you want to store your quilt off the bed, put it in a cotton or muslin bag, and take it out from time to time to expose it to fresh air. If you have one, you can use an archival box, but do not use plastic bags or regular cardboard boxes to store your quilts. Plastic allows no air circulation and produces gasses that can discolor and deteriorate the fabric.  Cardboard attracts bugs and absorbs moisture, which can make the quilt fabric brittle over time.

With proper care, your quilts will provide warmth and love for generations to come!

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