I am a quilt hoarder. No matter the style, if the price is right it's coming home with me. I've never paid more than $50 for a quilt (but only because of budget restraints, believe me, I know the more expensive ones are worth every penny!), so this means that I'm often purchasing them from yard sales or thrift shops. And this means its imperative they get a good cleaning before taking up residence in the blanket closet.
My good friend and quilt designer Amy Gibson was gracious enough to offer me a few tips on how to clean new quilts after finding out I had made the horrible mistake of taking one to the dry cleaner earlier this year. As always, proceed with caution and test a small, inconspicuous part of your quilt before cleaning with any solutions.
For newer quilts made with quality fabric, wash in the washing machine with cold water on the gentle cycle with a low sudsing, mild detergent like Dreft or Woolite. You can also throw a color catcher in if there are really saturated colors in your quilt. Line dry, or tumble dry on low if the quilt is well-made.
If your quilt has been packed away for a while and is dusty, airing it outdoors might do the trick, hang it on a clothesline or balcony on a sunny day.
If you've got a quilt made with wool fabric (sometimes you'll see these very old quilts made with recycled wool suits), lay it outside just after a good, fresh snow. Use a broom to sweep snow over the quilt, be sure its completely covered. Give the quilt a few good "whacks," then go inside and make yourself a cup of hot cocoa. Once you've finished your cocoa, go back outside and sweep the snow off. Flip the quilt over and repeat. Last, hang the quilt on a rail or clothesline for 10-15 minutes so that any remaining snow can sublimate.
If it needs a bit more attention, try vacuuming it on the lowest setting using the brush attachment. To be extra safe, pull some pantyhose over the brush and then vacuum. If your quilt is delicate, or fraying you might want to skip this step.
There are special quilt soaps you can purchase, Orvus Quilt Soap, or Charlie's Soap are fantastic and recommended by quilt enthusiasts. I used Dr. Bronner's castile soap on one of my more delicate, vintage quilts that I hand washed in the tub.
If you have a newer quilt with strong stitches you can more than likely put it in the dryer on low, however, if you are treating a vintage or antique quilt, its best to lay it flat or hang it over a clothesline or tub to dry.
Try to give your quilts some room to breathe when storing them, and never ever put them in plastic bags for extended periods of time!