Quilt Care Tips from The QuiltBroker

How to Wash Patchwork Quilts!


Quilters spend countless hours making beautiful quilts, and quilts do need care. Quilts are as sturdy as they are works of art but how they will endure usage and time is up to the owner of the quilt. A quilt is NOT a blanket, to be frequently washed with the bedding linens. Some dos and don'ts...

We Do Recommend WASHING Cotton Patchwork Quilts. Wash only as often as is necessary to preserve the beauty and life of your quilt. Dirty quilts don't wear well, but a clean quilt will last longer and be much nicer to use.

However, we also have a warning regarding washing quilts. Some quilt fabrics are subject to color migration - in other words, some of the dyes used to print designs on quilt fabric gray goods can run/bleed/migrate or come out in the wash and possibly stain other lighter colors of quilt fabrics in the quilt. Some of the poor sellers among printed fabrics, are recalled to the mill to be over-dyed for a second time, and then sold in retail stores. These fabrics may be more vulnerable to color problems, due to the excess dye used, but not always.

There is absolutely no way to tell by looking if the colors in cotton quilting fabrics are color-safe to wash unless the quilt maker has gone to the extra time and effort to color test each fabric used in making the quilt and then pre-washes all the fabrics used in the quilt to get out any excess dye or color. If the quilter includes in the description that the quilt has been "pre-washed", you have reason to believe that the quilt is safe to continue washing. But not every quilter pre-washes quilt fabric because it is very time consuming to do, and the fabrics loose their 'crisp' new look.

Some non-colorfast fabrics will continue to run for a few repeated washings until the excess dye is washed out. The QuiltBroker is NOT responsible for problems with any quits sold on this web site, regarding fabrics that are not colorfast, which may run or bleed when washed. Fortunately, it is less a problem with newer cotton quilting fabrics sold in quilt shops.

DO NOT DRY CLEAN your Quilts!

If you frequently wash a 100% cotton patchwork quilt in hot water, using harsh detergents, bleach, and over dry it on high heat in your dryer, it is GUARANTEED to SHRINK, FADE, and WEAR OUT, FASTER!


• Do NOT over-wash any cotton quilt, new or older. You can gently shake or carefully vacuum both sides of the quilt, through nylon window screening... read more about the vacuuming process from the The National Quilt Museum.

• Do NOT keep quilts in direct sunlight, as the colors in cotton fabric are subject to fade, even in indirect sunlight. However, that faded, 'crinkled' or 'puckered' quilted look, from wear and washing, adds to the beauty of a utility family quilt, and is part of the old heirloom 'look' that we all love about quilts.

• Do NOT use harsh detergents!
• Do NOT use chlorine bleach.
• Do NOT use HIGH HEAT or Over-dry in dryer.
• Do NOT use (anti-static or scented) dryer sheets.

•• USE a gentle QUILT SOAP (from your local quilt shops) or a small amount of real soap (e.g. Pure Ivory Flakes, pre-dissolved).
•• USE cold or tepid water.
•• USE a GENTLE, VERY SHORT washing cycle.

••• RINSE THOROUGHLY! When in doubt, rinse AGAIN.

Wash Quilts separately, especially the FIRST washing, because some of the fabric dyes may be subject to 'run' until the excess 'over dye' from the manufacturing process has washed out. Not all of these dyes will affect other fabrics in the quilt; some will. As a precaution, use cold, cool, or room temp water, and gentle agitation settings on your machine. Make sure that a small amount of soap (not detergent) is completely dissolved in the tub of water BEFORE adding your Quilt to the washing machine. Also, a good idea to let quilt soak in the soapy tub water about 10 minutes before agitating on a short cycle. When done, rinse AGAIN. You want all of the soap out of the quilt before drying.

Partially (damp) dry the quilt in your dryer on low / cool dryer settings and remove immediately from dryer when drying cycle is over. Spread the 'almost dry' quilt(s) on a clean cotton bed sheet, flat on floor, to complete the air drying overnight, or until completely dry.

We do NOT recommend hanging your quilt on a clothes line, because: 1) sun fades cottons quickly 2) folding over a taught line or wire can weaken or break the cotton threads on the fold.

Part of the beauty of Patchwork Quilts is the 'quilted' look that comes from shrinkage of the cotton patches of fabric that shows off the quilting (stitches). Heirloom quilts that have been washed have that 'crinkled' look of antiquity and that look gives today's quilts a patchwork styling, which is missing from commercial foreign made quilts and bedspreads that require dry cleaning.


Antique, fragile, or Heirloom quilts - DO NOT WASH in a washing machine and some (with silk, velvet, or unknown fabrics) are not to be washed at all. Many antique quilts have some patches of great-great-grandpa's old silk ties, or great-grandma's silk dresses, mixed in with scraps of velvet, silk, rayon, and other fibers. The dyes were often unstable, and the fabrics may be damaged or disintegrated because of the salts used in dying or from sunlight or wear. Consult with a quilt restoration professional before doing anything.

If your older quilt is 100% cotton (e.g. feed sack quilts), and has been used in the family as a 'utility' quilt, it is safe to wash, but probably not in a washing machine IF it is well worn or damaged.

To wash an older, fragile, cotton quilt by hand, fill a CLEAN bathtub about half to three-quarters full of cool - tepid water. Use a quality Quilt Soap, found at your local quilt stores, or 'real, pure soap' (we do not recommend the popular liquid for fine or delicate washables because it is NOT real soap and can leave a residue in your quilts).

Pre-dissolve a small amount of 'quilt soap' or 'pure soap' in a bathtub. Gently lay the 'unfolded' quilt in layers, in the tub of water, and let it soak for about 30-40 minutes. Move or gently agitate the quilt by using your hands, so the soapy water reaches the entire quilt. Do NOT use too much soap - soap merely acts as a 'loosing agent' to release the dirt and grim from your quilt, which washes away in the multiple rinsing process. If quilt is not clean, wash and rinse again.

Drain water and refill bathtub with tepid or cool water to rinse by gently 'agitating' the quilt by hand to get out the soap residue. Repeat the drain and rinse several times until soap is completely rinsed out (bathtub water will be clear). After draining bathtub on final rinse, let the water, still in the quilt, drain for a few minutes by pressing the quilt by hand to bottom of bathtub.

Gently squeeze out remaining water and/or press between cotton terry towels to absorb excess water (but do not wring tightly, by hand). Air dry on a cotton bed sheet, flat on the floor, until complete dry. Use on a bed, or store in a clean, 100% cotton, pillow case, or wrap in Tyvek for storage in linen closet.


Always store quilts that are CLEAN - moths and bugs LOVE DIRT, GRIME and GREASE. You do not need a cedar chest to preserve bedding or quilts.

NEVER store a quilt in a plastic bag - quilts need to 'breathe'. Instead, fold your quilts and place them, individually, in cotton pillow cases, or wrap in Tyvek, so they will store well and be better preserved. If stacked in a linen closet, occasionally take out of bag and spread out on a clean bed sheet, to air and let cotton fibers breathe. Refold a different way to prevent permanent creasing of folds, or breakage of cotton fibers along the folds.

Our Quilts are meant to be USED but please do take good care of them so they will last for a very long time. Somebody who loves quilt making, spent a lot of time, effort, and money, to make your beautiful quilt, so it deserves the best from you to serve you well and be a joy to your home, family and friends.

For COMFORTABLE sleeping year around, use a cotton flannel fitted 'bottom' sheet, NO TOP SHEET, and your Cotton Patchwork Quilt - but don't tuck it in at the foot of your bed! Because quilts breathe, and because they also weigh less than heavy wool blankets, they are more comfortable for sleeping plus they serve as beautiful quilt-bedspreads / coverlets during the day. What could be easier? Quilts are made to be seen... and USED as bedding.

For more information on the proper ARCHIVAL storage of delicate Heirloom Keepsake Quilts visit our page on Quilt Storage.


The Patchwork Quilts we offer for sale are made by independent, well experienced and/or professional American Quilters and Quilt Teachers. Many are grandmothers and some are great-grandmothers, who have been quilting for decades.

Our quilts are typically 'one-of-a-kind' washable, cotton, patchwork quilts, in various sizes, styles, and patterns. Sometimes, our Quiltmakers will make 'two' quilts alike, for twins, or use the same patterns with different fabrics or different sizes.

There is NO standard finished size when it comes to patchwork quilts so make sure the size fits your bed appropriately, before buying. Baby quilts, sofa quilts, lap quilts, and quilted wall hangings can vary greatly in size, and still be very effective for interior design or as utility quilts.

Quilts are best used as a 'coverlet' with side and foot drop, for you bed size, with pillows on top of the quilt instead of a pillow tuck, as in a floor length bedspread. For best quilt size, measure the width and length of the top of your bed, then add enough inches to BOTH sides and the foot of the bed to cover the top mattress, plus an inch or two. No need to tuck in a quilt at the foot of a bed, either, if you use your quilt instead of blankets, as long as there is enough drop on sides and foot of the bed.

Smaller quilts, for taking a nap, or purely for decorative purposes, can also be used effectively as a 'throw' on top of other bed covers, blankets, and bedspreads, or folded at the foot of a bed, or over a chair or sofa back.

For the most part, fabrics used in our patchwork quilts are 100% cotton but the individual fabrics used in any cotton patchwork quilt will vary in thread count, quality, texture, and of course, style. Once in a while, quilters also use fabrics that are a blend of cotton/polyester, but it is rare among the more professional and experienced quiltmakers. Battings vary from 100% cotton, cotton-poly blends, to 100% polyester, and in weight and loft depending upon intended use of the quilt.

Quilt fabrics typically sold in American Quilt Shops are 100% cotton. The quality fabric chain stores also offer 100% cotton quilting fabrics, as well as cotton/poly blends. Cotton fabrics sold in America's quilt shops typically have better thread denier with appropriate thread counts for hand or machine quilting, and these quilting fabrics are usually more dye-safe from running, than the thinner quilt fabrics often used in the Asian or Indian manufacture of 'foreign' bedding and quilts. QUALITY cotton quilting fabrics wear better and longer, given proper care.

Always look for, and be cautious of, the 'DRY CLEAN ONLY' warnings and disclaimers where less expensive 'cotton' patchwork foreign quilts are being sold, either online or in stores. There is reason why they don't want you to wash their quilts.

In our opinion, there is also a good reason why many commercially sold patchwork quilts are 'cheaper' than a real 100% Cotton one-of-a-kind patchwork quilts, using 'quilt-shop-quality' quilting fabrics and batting, made by an experienced, individual, American Quiltmaker.

The Gift of a Quilt is a lasting gift. . . a cherished gift.

Thank you,
Design Plus