Today is Open Line Friday where everyone has a chance to ask and answer readers’ questions. Recently I was asked how I wash my quilts. I think this is a great question for everyone. Do you pre-wash your fabrics? What products do you use? Do you machine or hand wash your quilts? How do you dry them?
I separate my quilts into three “loads” for the purposes of washing:
- Heirloom Quilts--My very special quilts. Any quilt that is hand appliquéd, pieced or quilted.
- Vintage Quilts-Quilts made before 1950. We have two vintage quilts that require special care because of their sentimental value and fabric of unknown origin.
- Well-loved Quilts-By well-loved, I am referring to quilts that my family uses regularly. It is more important to me that these quilts be used and “loved” than be preserved and guarded from dirt and stains.
For today, I will limit my discussion to handling “Well-Loved Quilts”.
First of all, I pre-wash all of my fabric. All hand-dyed fabric is washed multiple times in HOT water and Synthrapol. I wash red fabric many, many times until all the dye water runs clear. Synthrapol removes dye molecules that have not chemically bonded by keeping them in suspension. The excess dye (aka fugitive dye) cannot adhere to the fabric and just rinses away.
I pre-wash all Commercial Fabrics, too. All new fabric goes directly from the store to the laundry room for a soak in HOT water and 1 teaspoon of Retayne per yard of fabric for about 30 minutes. I then wash it by machine with regular laundry detergent. The Retayne helps “fix” the dye to prevent it from bleeding into other fabric. Finally, I toss it in the dryer for a few minutes, give it a shake and hang it to dry. Fabric that is not completely dried in the dryer is easier to iron later. If I have time, I will iron the fabric while it is still slightly damp.
Once complete, I wash my quilts on a gentle cycle in a washing machine with the laundry detergent I use for clothes–Tide.
I purchased this Mary Ellen’s Best Wash this week at my local quilt dealer. I bought it because I like the scent. I’m not sure if it’s any better than any other laundry detergent, but I will let you know after I give it a try.
I pre-wash all of my fabric in Synthrapol or Retayne and then I launder all of my quilts with regular laundry detergent.
I toss quilts in the dryer for 5 minutes and then I drape them across several laundry baskets or my banister to finish drying. (Some quilters recommend directing box fans toward quilts so they dry faster.)
How do You wash Your quilts?
Later this month, I will compare spray starch, spray sizing, and Mary Ellen’s Best Press.
Next Friday, I’ll be asking and answering: What’s your favorite quilt block?