Washing a quilt can be a stressful process for many quilters because the risk of ruining a quilt that you just spent hours and hours to make is scary!
However, washing your quilt doesn’t have to be as scary as we make it out to be. Plus, you can even wash and dry your quilt in your household machines.
With a little extra care, washing your quilt can be just as easy as doing your weekly household laundry.
If you prefer a video tutorial, check out my YouTube video below!
Before we wash our quilt, we’ll need to gather a few supplies.
A Finished Quilt
The first thing that we need is a finished quilt. Always wait until your quilt is completely finished before trying to wash it in your washing machine. A finished quilt is a quilt that has been quilted and the binding has been attached properly.
If you try to wash your quilt before it’s quilted and bound, you’ll end up with a frayed mess. If you need to clean any part of your quilt before it’s fully assembled, I recommend spot cleaning the fabric using dawn dish soap and a lukewarm wash cloth.
Next, we’ll need a laundry detergent. You are more than welcome to use whatever detergent you have on hand, but I prefer to use a detergent that is dye and fragrance free.
One of the reasons why I prefer this type of detergent is because it tends to be more gentle. I also like that there is no risk of the heavily dyed detergent staining my quilt and the fragrance will not be overwhelming. I find this to be especially important if I am planning to give the quilt as a gift.
The detergent I am using in this tutorial is Free & Gentle by Tide.
Dye Trapping Sheets
Lastly, we’ll need dye trapping sheets. The most popular brand of dye trapping sheets is SHOUT ColorCatcher. These are widely available in the laundry section of department stores and they’re available online.
These are the most important part of washing your quilt, so don’t skip out on them! These sheets are specifically made to catch dye from fabrics that have bled in the wash.
Before we head to the laundry room, we need to give our quilt a good inspection and make sure that nothing needs to be mended. Double-check that your binding is attached properly and that there are no bursting seams or holes. This is especially important if it is a quilt that you use often. If there is any part of your quilt that needs mending, do that before you wash your quilt.
How to Wash a Quilt in the Washing Machine
Step 1: Load your quilt into the washing machine.
Step 2: Add your dye trapping sheets. If your quilt has heavily contrasting fabric colors like red and white or navy and white, I recommend adding more than the recommended one or two sheets. I like to use three or four sheets for quilts that have a large number of contrasting fabrics.
Step 3: Add your laundry detergent to your machine (depending on your machine, you may need to add your detergent prior to the quilt). If you are only washing one quilt, there is no need to add a full amount of detergent to your machine. If you add too much detergent, there may be a soapy film that remains on your quilt. Be sure to add the appropriate amount of detergent for the number of quilts that you are washing.
Step 4: Set your washing machine to use cool water during the gentle or delicate cycle and start the cycle.
How to Machine Dry your Quilt
While you can definitely air dry your quilt, quilts can be extremely heavy after they come out of the washing machine and you need a large area to lay it out flat to dry. For this reason, I always dry my quilts in my household dryer. And the nice thing is that it’s just as easy as drying a regular load of laundry!
Step 1: Load your quilt into your dryer
Step 2: (optional) Add a couple of dryer sheets to give your quilt a fresh smell and soft feel.
Step 3: Set your dryer to low heat and start the cycle.
Now your quilt is clean, crinkly, and ready to snuggle!
HELPFUL TIP: A quilt will not look the same after it is washed. The quilt crinkle is perfectly normal and expected after a quilt is washed. The crinkle happens because the fabric will slightly shrink after it is washed and dried. To reduce the crinkled look, prewash your fabrics and air-dry your quilt.
Should you Wash a Quilt Before you Gift it?
I always recommend washing a quilt before it is gifted.
One of my main reasons for washing a quilt before I give it away is so that I can remove pet hair and dander. I have a couple of cats and I know that not everyone appreciates free cat hair with their gift!
Another great reason to wash a quilt before you give it away is so the recipient understands that quilts are meant to crinkle after they are washed. Non-quilters do not know that quilts look different after they are washed, so the recipient may think they did something wrong when the quilt comes out looking different than when it went in.
Lastly, washing a quilt is great for quality control. After a good wash, you can make sure that your seams and binding are attached securely. If your quilt comes out of the machine looking good, you can rest easy knowing that your quilt will stand up to repeated use and love by the recipient.
I always use fragrance and dye-free detergent because people can be sensitive to scents and laundry detergents. If you’re gifting a baby quilt, you may want to wash your quilt in a detergent that is specifically made for newborns like Dreft.
When gifting a quilt, I always include instructions for how to wash it. I want the recipients to know that the quilt is meant to be used often and that means it can be washed often.
Get my free printable PDFs to include with all of your gifted quilts to take the guesswork out of washing! I designed two different templates for you to use. Choose your favorite template and attach it to your next gifted quilt before you send it off to its new home!
Why Does Quilting Cotton Bleed?
When you are washing your quilt, the dyes in the quilting cotton can release and bleed onto other fabrics in your quilt. This is more prevalent with heavily dyed fabric colors like red.
Have you ever accidentally put a red sock in with a white load of laundry? Whoops! Quilts can do the exact same thing!
The thought of bleeding fabric can be especially scary when you’ve made a quilt entirely out of white and red fabric. The good thing is that we can mitigate the bleeding pretty easily.
How to Prevent your Quilt from Bleeding
The first way to prevent your fabric from bleeding is to purchase high quality quilting cotton. Quilting cotton available from popular manufacturers like Moda and Kona generally bleed less than lower quality fabric that you may get from a large department store. Of course, it’s always possible that the highest quality fabric can bleed, which is why I always use dye-trapping sheets just in case!
The other option to prevent your fabric from bleeding is to pre-wash your fabric. Pre-washing fabric means that you wash the yardage before using it.
Pre-washing works best for fabric yardage and I don’t recommend pre-washing fabric that is pre-cut or in smaller cuts. To prevent fraying, you can zigzag stitch along the raw edges of your fabric.
Pre-washing your fabric will allow the fabric dye to run off before it has a chance to damage your quilt. Some quilters pre-wash for every quilt and others never do. I rarely pre-wash my fabrics, which is why I love the color catchers.
Pre-washing is totally a personal choice whether you want to do it or not, but if you’re concerned about your fabric bleeding, it’s a great way to get some peace of mind before you start your project.
Now you have all of the information you need to wash your quilt! With these steps you’ll be able to get those lovely crinkles in your quilt and make sure that your fabric doesn’t bleed.
Remember to pin this post to your quilting Pinterest board so you can refer back to it the next time that you need to wash a quilt!
Remember to download my FREE quilt care instructions so you can send these quilt washing instructions with your handmade quilt gifts.