Antique quilts need special care. Many quilters advise against dry cleaning
or machine washing an heirloom piece. If your quilt is very old or worn it
simply may not withstand the motion of the machine or the dry cleaning
chemicals. Instead, consider airing your quilt outside on a sunny day. Or you
might lightly vacuum with a nylon stocking over the end of vacuum hose in order
to remove any dust on its surface. If your quilt has beading, embroidery, or
appliqué, you shouldn't vacuum.
You can also hand wash the quilt following these steps. Start by checking for
colorfastness. If you are determined to clean the quilt, but don't feel
comfortable doing so yourself, or if your quilt is stained, you can search for a
qualified quilt conservation or restoration service. Make sure this service has
experience working with antique fabrics. Find out exactly how they will clean
the quilt. Any cleaning done to antique fabrics could damage or destroy your
quilt. Depending on the monetary and personal value of the quilt, you may decide
to leave it in the state that it is in rather than risk destroying a priceless
piece of work.
Cleaning Your Newly Crafted Quilt
Your newly handmade quilt can be cleaned differently than older quilts. Many
newly created quilts can be gently hand- or machine-washed or even dry cleaned.
If you purchased your handmade quilt from a quilt store or department store, it
should come with care instructions. Read these instructions before cleaning. If
you purchased your quilt at a craft fair or yard sale it may not come with care
instructions. In that case, use your best judgment and consider the
colorfastness test and washing instructions below.
Check Fabric for Colorfastness
Before you wash any handmade quilt, you need to check the fabric for
colorfastness. That involves testing the quilt fabric to insure the fabric dyes
will not run when washed. If the fabric is not colorfast, it can fade and
discolor. To test for colorfastness, rub a white piece of cloth dampened with
cold water over each color in your quilt. If any piece bleeds onto the white
cloth, don't wash your quilt, at all. If none of the different-colored patches
run when tested with cold water, try again with lukewarm water. The same rule
applies. If any patch bleeds, you'll know to wash the quilt only in cold water.
In general, it is best to wash your handmade quilt either in cold or lukewarm