Most quilt lovers prefer to wash rather than dry clean their quilts. While all of the fabrics used in quilts are supposed to be color fast, sometimes a fabric that will run is mistakenly used. Before washing, test the fabric by rubbing it with a piece of white cotton moistened with very hot water. If the color transfers to the white cotton, don't wash the quilt -- even in cold water. Instead, get the quilt professionally dry cleaned. If you must dry clean your quilt be sure to air it (outside if possible) before using it
Wash Board and TubHand-washing is the preferred method for cleaning quilts. Even with a new quilt, machine washing can cause stitching to ravel. If you decide to machine wash, use cold water, a gentle detergent and the shortest, delicate cycle. If you have hard water or iron bacteria in your water source, you should use distilled water for washing your quilt. You don’t want to risk having minerals stain your fabric. To hand wash, fill a deep, laundry sink or bathtub with cold water. Be certain that the sink or tub is very clean and has no residue from cleaning agents that could cause damage to the quilt. Use a liquid detergent that is gentle and free of dyes and perfumes. A liquid detergent will disperse in the water and leave fewer residues on the fabric. Add ½ cup vinegar to the water to both brighten colors and soften the quilt. Place your quilt in the water, being certain that the entire quilt gets wet. Gently move your quilt around in the water. Allow the quilt to remain in the water for about 10 minutes. Next, drain the wash water and fill the tub again with fresh water. Repeat draining and refilling the tub until the water and quilt are soap free – clear water and no suds.
It is generally fine to wash your quilt in a home washing machine, though for a very large quilt you may need a commercial size machine. To wash a quilt, use cold water and a mild detergent (that is free of perfumes, brighteners, and bleach). Run the machine on a short gentle cycle. To keep the colors bright, add half a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.
Quilts are heavy when wet. Try to support its wet weight so that the threads don't pop. It is OK to partially dry a quilt in a dryer, but it is best to lay a quilt flat on rack to dry. Some people like to finish drying their quilt out on the grass on a sunny day! Do not iron your quilt. I like to lay my quilts across the top of the 4 lines of my clothesline outside.
Washing or dry cleaning a clean quilt will shorten its life. Quilts that are used every day normally only need washing once a year. But if you have pets or children, more frequent washing may be desirable. Airing quilts (on a drying rack outside) between washings is a good practice.
When not in use your quilt should be stored in a dry, dark location in a cotton or muslin bag -- never store your quilt in a plastic bag or cardboard box. A Cotton Pillow case is a good item for storing your quilt, or wall hanging. Every other month or so it is a good idea to take the quilt out and refold it another way before putting it back in the bag. When you take your quilt out of storage, air it out. You can tumble it in a cool dryer for a short time.