After taking time to make a beautiful quilt, you want to baby that quilt so it will last for many years. Part of that special, tender loving care is proper cleaning of the quilt.
For quilts made of cotton fabrics that have been machine that have been machine pieced and quilted, throwing it in the washing machine is just fine. Your laundry detergent and washer settings, however, will be the keys that make the difference.
The best way to launder your quilt is by using a mild soap. My first choice is called Orvis — it’s actually a soap that is used to wash horses.
In addition, there is a solution called Soak. You simply soak your quilt, drain it and then let it air dry. The great thing is – you don’t have to rinse!
Since you’re using a gentle detergent, you will want to use a gentle cleaning cycle on your machine. Select gentle, delicate, or “hand wash” as some machines have.
Some quilters fill their washing machines with water first, adding the detergent, then let the machine agitate briefly before adding the quilt. If you have that kind of time and patience, it’s fine to do. The idea behind that is controlling how much time your quilt spends agitating in the washer. There’s an easier way to do that.
It’s just as fine to add the quilt, start the water, and add the detergent to the water stream as the machine is filling. The detergent should distribute well throughout the water. Control how much your machine agitates by adjusting the time on your control knob to the minimal amount. If you have set the machine for gentle, delicate or “hand wash,” your machine will agitate it less anyway.
It is helpful to reposition your quilt after the washer’s spin cycle. You know, when the washer spins your quilt it ends up plastered to the side walls of the machine. Stop your washer then gently pull the quilt off the washer walls.
Gently manipulate the quilt back into the washer barrel. Don’t move it too much because the weight of the quilt against the wet stitches might result in pulled threads or holes in fabrics. Turn the machine back on and rinse the quilt.
If you ask quilters how they dry their quilts, you will discover there are many different methods. Some dry flat outside. Some dry flat inside. Some drape them over outdoor clothes lines to better distribute weight. Others simply toss them into a machine and dry.
If you plan to air dry your quilt, remember that the quilt must be evenly spread out for air to reach all areas of it. You will need to be mindful of the possibility of damaging the quilt by tugging on threads and fabric while the quilt is still wet.
The driers at laundromats are ideal because they handle large capacity loads. Most home driers do not. When I dry my quilts, I often use a combination of drying methods. I dry the wet quilt for a good while in the machine set at the lowest setting.
Since the quilt is usually large and the drier at home is not a large capacity one, I then dry it flat for a while — sometimes outdoors. For one last fluff, the quilt goes back into the drier, again on the lowest setting for a while, to make sure it is nice and dry before returning it to my bed.
If you don’t have time to throw in time for flat drying, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to leave it in the machine until it dries. It’s important to remember to set the machine at its lowest setting. And once that cycle is complete, take the quilt out then reposition it back in the drier. Fluffing and flipping it around will help the drying air reach more areas of the quilt.