Patchworks Studio - Cleaning Your Quilts
CLEANING YOUR QUILTS
Tip from Daphne Greig & Susan Purney-Mark, Patchworks Studio, Victoria, BC
Copyright 2001-2007; If you wish to reprint this article, please contact us by
Visit our complete website at www.patchworkstudio.com.
We are often asked about how to clean a soiled or dirty quilt, and having a few of our own we
would like to offer some suggestions.
Firstly, if your quilt is old or antique, cleaning can be a tricky proposition. Often it is best to leave it alone
or try a gentle vacuuming with a low suction. Place nylon screening over top and use long strokes from top
to bottom. This will remove harmful dust and may be all that is necessary. If you absolutely must clean it,
do a test in a corner to check for colourfastness. If there is colour coming off, then do not wash it; if the
quilt is of value you may consider having it professionally cleaned by a textile conservator (some people
do laundry for a living!!)
Generally our quilts are able to be washed (experts call it "wet cleaning") and there are some ways of
making the job easier:
- Pick a day when you have lots of time and a good back! Invite a willing friend to help. Test your
fabrics for colourfastness. This is when you find out if you REALLY did pre-wash all your fabrics! Use a clean,
white cloth and sponge some water on each fabric in the quilt. If the fabric bleeds do not wash the quilt.
- Use a gentle cleaner such as Orvus Paste or Clear Ivory Liquid; don't use soap as it leaves a scummy
- Pour about 6" of lukewarm water into your bathtub and dissolve the cleaner (Orvus will not produce
suds). Lower the quilt in an accordion fashion into the tub, pressing it into the water and making sure all
areas are wetted. You may want to soak the quilt for some time to loosen the soil, or even change the water
several times. Do not rub the quilt against itself or wring but gentle squeezing may help.
- Rinse the quilt by draining the water away and pushing the quilt against the sides and bottom of the
tub to remove excess water. Refill the tub and repeat the process until the quilt appears clean. This may
take several rinses.
- Press the quilt gently to remove excess water. To remove the quilt, place a "cradle" of an old sheet
or blanket under the quilt and lift out of the tub. Roll the quilt into towels, and squeeze the excess water
out, just as you would with a hand washed sweater.
- Straighten the quilt out on a drying surface with the right side down. I use a couple of clothes drying
racks. Do this outside if you can put the quilt out of the sun and away from the birds! Turn the quilt if
possible to ensure complete drying. Do not fold or store the quilt until it is completely dry.
- Have a cup of tea....!
Lastly, do not dry clean your quilts - the chemicals are too harsh. You can wash your quilts in your machine,
but use the gentle cycle and do not let the machine agitate. If you are concerned that the fabrics may run,
use Pro-Retayne to set the colours. This must be done each time you clean the quilt. It's also good to use
as a pre-wash for your fabrics before cutting. If you have a quilt where the colour has bled, wash it
with Synthrapol to lift the excess dye out of the quilt. No guarantees with either product, but I have
found them to be successful.
Susan & Daphne
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