Have you ever washed a quilt in the bathtub? That is how I was taught to wash an antique quilt, but it is a little difficult to handle a heavy, soaking wet quilt. If you do wash in the bathtub, make sure you put a clean sheet on the bottom of the tub before you add the quilt or the water! Use the sheet to lift the quilt and help to press out all the excess water. Get as much water out as you can, then lift the quilt into a laundry basket, again using the sheet to eliminate stress on the quilt itself. Quilts washed in the bathtub will be extra wet so they are best dried outdoors on a warm, sunny day.
I find a better way to wash the quilt is on the gentle cycle in the machine, unless the quilt is damaged or not well quilted, this method works fine. If the quilt is delicate, just soak and spin, don’t agitate in the “wash” even on the gentle cycle. Use Ivory flake soap, Oxiclean, or Orvis Soap (a gentle soap used to wash horses!) in your washing machine and soak the quilt for an hour or two. I don’t like to soak overnight in case the dyes are not color-fast. Just in case, use a “Shout Color Catcher” to remove any excess dye in the fabrics. It is hard to know what may bleed by looking at the quilt, so add one or two color catchers every time you wash a quilt.
After soaking, spin the quilt in the washing machine to remove excess water, then rinse and spin again. Have no fear, the machine will be pretty gentle on your quilt! A twice spun quilt is pretty light and the likelihood of damage is much less than washing in the tub! However, if you wish to give your quilt a good tub soak, just use the sheet method above, and all will be well.
No matter how you washed your quilt, inspect the quilt to see the result before drying. If there are still stubborn stains, yellowing, rust spots, or bloodstains, take time to use RetroClean. Follow the instructions on the bag. We have RetroClean on the website in one-pound bags that will last through three or four washings. Wash more than one quilt at a time to make the most of each wash!
For a tub-washed quilt, gather up the four corners of the sheet and lift the wet quilt into a laundry basket. With the sheet still under the quilt, take the quilt out of the basket outside and gently press out the excess water on a clean patio or driveway. You can even gather the four corners of the sheet and swing the quilt around in a circle. The centrifugal force will help to get rid of excess water, it’s kinda fun, and your neighbors will think you have gone mad (which only adds to the fun)!!
Place a sheet under the quilt to keep it clean, and gently smooth the quilt to eliminate wrinkles. Cover with a second sheet to protect the quilt from bird droppings or curious dogs! Weight the corners down with rocks or mugs.
When drying a quilt indoors, place the quilt on a bed with a waterproof mattress pad. A fan or dehumidifier in the room will speed drying time. Either way, turn the quilt frequently (every couple of hours) until it is completely dry. Never put a quilt away until you know it is dry all the way through.
You can fluff your quilt in the clothes dryer to ensure it is completely dry and to remove any trapped lint or dust.
Your quilts will be fresh as a daisy!
I hope you liked these tips for washing your new or antique quilts. My superpower is giving quilters the confidence to make quality, gorgeous, fused applique quilts. If you love applique quilts and want to gain confidence making them in a faster way, our free mini-workshop is now ON DEMAND! Seize the day by signing up for the free mini-workshop and make this cute Mug Rug, Pin Quilt, or Coaster set as you experience the fun and ease of Rotary Cut Applique!