how do you wash a handmade quilt

How Do You Wash a Handmade Quilt?

Handmade quilts are often treasured keepsakes, reflecting hours of meticulous work and creativity. Over time, however, these quilts can accumulate dirt, dust, and odors. Proper cleaning is essential to maintain the beauty and longevity of a handmade quilt. Whether you’ve inherited a family heirloom or recently acquired a quilt, knowing the right way to clean it can make all the difference.

For best results, opt for gentle hand washing or machine washing on a delicate setting. Address specific stains with spot cleaning. Pre-wash new quilts to remove residues, use cold water to prevent color bleeding, and avoid fabric softeners that can leave residues. Proper drying and storage techniques will ensure your quilt remains a cherished item for years to come.

Here, we’ll explore three long-standing methods to wash a handmade quilt in full detail.

Gentle Hand Washing a Handmade Quilt

Hand washing is often the safest approach to clean a delicate handmade quilt. This method minimizes the risk of damage and ensures the quilt receives the gentle care it deserves.


  1. Preparation: Lay the handmade quilt flat to inspect for any loose threads or areas that might need mending. Address any issues before washing.
  2. Fill a Bathtub: Use cool water to fill a large basin or bathtub. Add a mild detergent and mix the water to spread the soap.
  3. Submerge the Quilt: Carefully place the quilt in the water, making sure it’s fully covered. Let it soak for about 15 minutes.
  4. Gentle Movement: Use your hands to gently move the quilt in the water. Avoid any actions that might stretch or strain the fabric.
  5. Rinse Thoroughly: Empty the soapy water and refill the tub with cool water. Swish the quilt around to remove any detergent. You might need to repeat this step to ensure all soap is gone.
  6. Remove Excess Water: Lift the handmade quilt out of the water and press it gently to release excess water. Avoid wringing it out.
  7. Drying Process: Spread the quilt flat on clean towels or a drying rack. Shape it properly and let it air dry.
  8. Fluff and Reshape: Once the quilt is almost dry, you can gently fluff and reshape it to ensure it maintains its original form.
  9. Final Check: Once completely dry, inspect the handmade quilt for any remaining soap or areas that might need additional attention.

Machine Washing a Handmade Quilt on a Delicate Cycle

Machine washing provides a convenient approach for those handmade quilts that can withstand a bit more agitation. Opting for the delicate cycle ensures the quilt remains in good condition while benefiting from a thorough clean.


  1. Preparation: Spread out the quilt to check for any stains or areas needing special attention. Address any visible spots with a gentle pre-treatment.
  2. Check for Colorfastness: Before a full wash, dampen a white cloth and test an inconspicuous area of the quilt to ensure colors remain stable.
  3. Mild Detergent Selection: Choose a detergent specifically designed for delicate fabrics or quilts.
  4. Loading the Machine: Position the quilt evenly in a front-loading washing machine. Machines without agitators are gentler on fabrics.
  5. Delicate Cycle Setting: Opt for a cold water wash with a gentle spin to protect the quilt’s integrity.
  6. Post Wash Inspection: Once the cycle finishes, inspect the quilt for any lingering stains or soap residue. If necessary, run a rinse cycle.
  7. Drying Choices: Tumble dry on a low heat setting or, for a gentler approach, spread the quilt out to air dry.
  8. Refreshing the Quilt: When the quilt is nearly dry, giving it a gentle shake can help fluff the batting and maintain its soft, plush feel.
  9. Storage: After ensuring the quilt is completely dry, fold it neatly. Storing it in a breathable cotton bag can help protect it from dust and potential damage.

Spot Cleaning a Handmade Quilt

Spot cleaning is an effective solution for addressing specific areas of concern on your handmade quilt without subjecting the entire piece to a full cleaning process.


  1. Identify Problem Areas: Lay the quilt flat and look for any stains, spills, or areas that appear dirty.
  2. Choosing a Cleaning Solution: Opt for a gentle fabric cleaner or a mild detergent to avoid causing harm to the quilt.
  3. Application: Pour a small amount of the chosen cleaner onto a clean white cloth.
  4. Dabbing Technique: Gently dab the stained area with the damp cloth. It’s essential to avoid rubbing or scrubbing, which can damage the fabric or spread the stain.
  5. Check the Progress: After treating the stain, assess the area to determine if the stain has lifted or if further treatment is needed.
  6. Rinsing the Spot: Dampen a different clean cloth with cold water and press it onto the treated spot to remove any cleaning solution residue.
  7. Air Drying: Allow the treated spot to air dry. Placing the quilt in a well-ventilated area can expedite the drying process.
  8. Inspect Once Dry: After the spot is dry, examine it to ensure the stain is gone and no residue remains.
  9. Maintenance: Regularly checking your handmade quilt for spots or stains and addressing them promptly can keep it looking pristine and prolong its life.


Should you pre-wash a handmade quilt before using it?

Absolutely. Pre-washing a handmade quilt can be beneficial for several reasons. It helps in removing any lingering residues from the fabric or manufacturing process. This step also ensures that any residual sizing, which gives new fabric its crispness, is washed away, allowing the quilt to feel softer. Plus, pre-washing can help identify if any colors might bleed in future washes, allowing you to address this issue early on.

How often should you wash a handmade quilt?

While a handmade quilt typically requires washing every 3-6 months, the frequency can vary based on its usage. If the quilt is mainly for display and rarely comes into contact with skin or dirt, annual cleaning might suffice. On the other hand, if it’s regularly used or exposed to pets, children, or outdoor elements, more frequent washing might be necessary.

What temperature should you use to wash a handmade quilt?

Cold water is the go-to choice for washing handmade quilts. It’s gentler on the fabric and reduces the chances of shrinkage and color fading. Warm or hot water might cause the fabric to deteriorate faster and could also lead to unwanted color bleeding.

Can you use fabric softener when washing a handmade quilt?

While fabric softeners can give textiles a soft feel, they might not always be the best choice for handmade quilts. Some softeners can leave a residue, which may attract dirt or reduce the quilt’s breathability. If you decide to use one, ensure it’s mild or natural and always rinse the quilt thoroughly.

How do you prevent colors from bleeding when washing a handmade quilt?

Preventing color bleed is essential to maintain the vibrant look of your quilt. Always test a patch for colorfastness before a full wash. Using a color catcher sheet in the wash can also be helpful. These sheets absorb any loose dyes, preventing them from settling on other parts of the quilt. Another tip is to wash the quilt with a pinch of salt or a cup of white vinegar, both of which can help set the colors and reduce bleeding.

Can you dry a handmade quilt in a dryer?

It’s possible, but always use a gentle cycle and low heat to avoid damaging the quilt. High temperatures can lead to fabric shrinkage and might also weaken the stitching over time. If you’re uncertain, it’s always safer to air dry the quilt by laying it flat, ensuring it maintains its shape and structure.

How do you store a handmade quilt after washing it?

Proper storage is vital to prolong the life of your quilt. Once it’s entirely dry, fold it carefully, avoiding sharp creases. Place it in a breathable environment, such as a cotton bag or an acid-free box. Keep the quilt away from direct sunlight, which can cause colors to fade, and ensure it’s stored in a location with consistent temperature and low humidity to prevent mold or mildew growth.


Properly cleaning and caring for a handmade quilt ensures it remains a cherished item for years to come. Whether you choose hand washing, machine washing, or spot cleaning, always handle your quilt with care. Regular maintenance, combined with proper storage, will keep your quilt looking its best. As always, when in doubt, consult with a textile conservation expert or experienced quilter for additional guidance.