The Quilt Question -- Wash At Home Or Dry Clean?

Posted on

Often representing hundreds of hours of work, quilts are works of art and with proper handling can last for many years.  Cleaning and drying a quilt can be an important part of caring for it and can even help extend its life expectancy when done appropriately.  This article provides tips to help you know whether to attempt washing at home or if you should take a quilt to a professional dry cleaner.

When to Wash

When a quilt becomes dirty, the fine particles of dirt rub against the fabric, causing it to wear out more quickly.  Dirt that is allowed to stay on the fabric for an extended time is also more likely to seep into the fibers and permanently stain, decreasing the value and appearance of the quilt.  Whenever something has either been spilled on a quilt or the surface of the quilt is beginning to appear dingy, it is time to wash it.  


One of the biggest considerations in deciding how to wash a quilt relates to its size.  Small quilts, such as baby quilts or couch throws, can easily fit in a home washing machine.  Large quilts, however, generally will not.  Even if a larger quilt can be forced into a typical washing machine, they are rarely able to move adequately enough to truly get clean.

Drying also becomes a concern with large quilts.  While some people might opt to line-dry a quilt to spare it unnecessary wear in the dryer, large quilts become very heavy when wet and hanging them can put excessive strain on the seams, causing them to pull apart.  In general, for anything larger than a twin-sized quilt it's best to go to a dry cleaner.


After size, the next most important consideration is the age of the quilt.  Old fabric can become thin and fragile, making the trip through a home washing machine perilous.  Older quilts may also have sentimental value or hold heirloom status and the chances of damaging an irreplaceable quilt are much higher with home washing compared to dry cleaning. 


The presence of decorative piece work, such as lace or puffy applique, should also be taken into account when deciding whether to wash a quilt at home or take it to a dry cleaner.  These features are often the highlight of the quilt and are also often very delicate, necessitating the gentle touch of dry cleaning.

Bright Colors

An additional factor affecting the decision is whether any of the fabrics on the quilt contain dark or bright colors.  Even when supposedly colorfast fabric is used, its possible for colors to run, ruining lighter sections of a quilt, making dry cleaning once again the safer option.  

There are several things to consider when deciding how to best wash a quilt.  The points in this article can be used as a guide to help determine whether washing at home or at a dry cleaner is the safest choice for your special quilt.  Contact dry cleaners in your area for more information.